Self-Publishing a Craft Beading Book in Full Color at CreateSpace

by Joel Friedlander on January 6, 2012 · 22 comments

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by Karen Williams

I met Karen Williams while I was in Seattle recently for the CreateSpace Pitch 2.0 event. When she told me about the book she had published through CreateSpace, I was quite curious to see it. Karen generously sent me a copy, and the book shows the amount of work that went into the design, layout and illustrations she created for it. I also liked the choice she made to print the book on uncoated paper, making it much more affordable without sacrificing very much in color, since the illustrations are meant for instruction. I asked her to tell how the book came to be, and here’s her story.


In 2006 I was asked to share my experiences about freeform peyote beading, an abstract, organic art form built using tiny seed beads. The class was a grand success and the students loved it. Except they wanted to know where they could find more information.

At that time there were no books available on the subject; my class handouts grew and grew to compensate for that lack. Over the next two years my handouts grew to forty pages.

Believing there was strong niche market for a book, I put together submission packets for all the major craft publishers, crafting each proposal to the publisher’s specifications. Wherever possible I addressed my cover letter to the editor I thought most likely to be interested in my project.

Then there was silence. My proposals had disappeared into a black hole. Follow-up queries garnered exactly one response.

Karen Williams

Disheartened, I very nearly shelved the project until I chanced upon CreateSpace. Leery of self-publishing—who hasn’t heard the stories of the friend of a friend with ten thousand copies of his memoir in his garage?—the idea still intrigued me.

Especially when I discovered I could create a full-color interior, with no up front fees, and the opportunity to purchase as many or as few books as I wanted, when I wanted, at a reasonable price. They would even list my book on Amazon if I wanted. And because I retained the copyright, I could use it as an example of what I was capable of producing, should I decide to approach traditional publishers again for a different project.

Best of all, I could complete the project myself, without waiting for the proverbial green light from anyone else.

Searching Amazon and the other major online booksellers once more for freeform beading, I determined there were still no other books on the topic. But fear probably would have kept me sitting on the fence if Createspace hadn’t happened to offer a special package deal for their Author Express service.

Their promise of technical support if I needed it was exactly the push I needed to start the project rolling. That was December of 2009.

Karen Williams ocean waves

Why the Project Made Sense

My original intent was to help others succeed with freeform peyote and provide a follow-up resource for my students focusing on jewelry creation.

Starting the project I had several things working in my favor.

  1. Because of my teaching, I already had a preliminary draft for the content and a strong idea of what was important to include based upon the areas where my students had the most difficulties.
  2. I had step-by-step photos for a number of my completed projects, which reduced the number of new designs I needed to create.
  3. I already owned and was somewhat familiar with the software I planned to use as well.

Even so, the project took me the better part of nine months to complete.

It Can Be Hard to Keep Going

I came a hair’s breadth from abandoning the project several times. Exhausted from the enormity of my project, it was often hard to continue.

A circle of friends and fellow artists kept me going by asking for regular updates, holding me accountable for ‘showing up’ when my own drive simply wasn’t enough. I doubt I would have completed the project without that community support.

Freeform beading is not a fast medium; a bracelet can take up to ten or twenty hours depending upon its complexity, while a larger project such as a collar can easily take upwards of a hundred hours to complete.

What Publishing Has Done For Me

Karen WilliamsNot surprisingly, I produce a relatively small body of work in any given year. With my book’s availability on Amazon, I have reached a far wider audience.

There is no doubt that my book has helped to establish my credentials as an artist. I find that people seem better able to recognize the value of this work. People who love my work often purchase my book to learn how to do it themselves.

Today, my blog, website and book all work together in a sort of synergy:

  • My blog chronicles my creative life as a working artist and craftsperson.
  • My website, a continual work in progress, hopefully provides additional support, inspiration and encouragement while also promoting my book.
  • My web address is prominently displayed on the back cover and copyright page of my book for those interested in finding out more.

Even though it has been a lot of work, would I consider self-publishing again? Most definitely!

Karen WilliamsKaren Williams has spent the past twenty years exploring the myriad possibilities of working with fiber and beads. Her mixed media art is a celebration in color and texture of the natural world. Residing in Seattle, Washington, Karen tries to balance her roles as artist, author and workshop presenter. She can be found on the web at www.skunkhillstudio.com, or her blog at baublicious.blogspot.com.

FreeForm Peyote Beading: Design and Creation of Original Wearable Art Jewelry is available at Amazon.com

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    { 20 comments… read them below or add one }

    Karen Williams July 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Robert,

    I used InDesign for all of the page layout. I am currently working on my third craft book and am using InDesign (CS5) once again. With a less complex layout, you might be able to use Publisher, but I found myself spending far too much time fighting the program.

    I am also using Illustrator to create the how-to diagrams, Photoshop to edit photographs and Scrivener to keep all of my text files in order.

    Reply

    Robert Lair July 18, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    What template/program (Word, Publisher, In-Design) did you use to create your book?

    Reply

    Karen Williams October 19, 2013 at 7:08 am

    Nick – You are right that very detailed images show up best on coated papers. I would not recommend printing a book on photography (or any other book where the photographs themselves were the main focus of the book) through Createspace. However coated paper is necessarily more expensive than non-coated. From a vanity standpoint, I would have loved coated pages. That said, for my purposes Createspace’s print quality was more than sufficient.

    Several of the people who have purchased my book have wished it were longer, or that it included even more photographs. No one has complained about their quality.

    Reply

    Nick October 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    I wouldn’t say such glowing things about Createspace – they seem to have the same greed motive as all the other traditional publishers but they try to hide it. I ended up doing most of the work, and though they were very attentive, they did not seem to understand many aspects of the publishing world. Detailed images cannot be printed on uncoated paper – it loses so much detail. They are too young to be given an entirely bad review. But someday I’d like to see a publishing format run by writers FOR writers that isn’t trying ti screw the writer.

    Reply

    book printing April 4, 2012 at 3:07 am

    More and more people are self publishing a book now, mainly because of the relatively in-expense compared to book printing say 5 years ago.

    Reply

    Steve VR March 1, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    You all seem to have had good luck with createspace color, which I so far have not. I do like their program, but so far three proofs have all turned out unacceptable color. Interior photos have all turned out far too red and dark, so much that much of the details do not show up at all. My discussions with CS tech support gives no information except the standard “variance” and does not look like on screen stuff, but no suggestions on how to dial in the color. I understand and accept “variance” and know well the difference between print color and monitor color, but it seems to me that their printing should come out reasonably as good as printing the PDF on the cheapest Wal Mart ink jet.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on what I may do to get the color at least marginally acceptable? I am just about to abandon createspace and look for alternatives, but would prefer to just figure out how to make it work because of their other positives.

    Reply

    Karen Williams March 5, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Steve,

    I might recommend checking out Color Calibration software. If all of your images are turning up too dark and red, then the problem could easily be on your end. If you use an industry standard calibration software package like Pantone, in my experience it definitely helps decrease variance in out-sourced print jobs.

    I can tell you from experience, that if you print the same picture out on five different inkjet printers, you will get five different color palettes – with greater or lessor variation. If you adjust the colors to suit your monitor and printer at home without regard for industry calibration, you may be worsening the color shifts rather than improving them.

    As an alternative, you could of course see if other print on demand publishers will print a proof copy without any additional fees, and see what you come up with.

    Reply

    patricia February 22, 2012 at 4:59 am

    I have been impressed with CreateSpace and the color quality, but I wonder if you can recommend a printing option for a semi-glossy color interior. Ideally, I would like to find a print on demand option, but I’ve had no luck so far. Thanks, and good luck with the book!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Patricia, Lightning Source offers color books on coated paper, you might have a look at their choices at http://www.lightningsource.com

    Reply

    patricia February 24, 2012 at 5:31 am

    thanks, Joel. I checked with LS, and they said they had only uncoated 70# paper for color interior. While it looks ok, it’s not exactly what I have in mind. She did say they hoped to offer coated paper soon. Do you have any other suggestions?
    Thanks, Patricia

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 24, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Patricia,

    Thanks for the update, and sorry LSI couldn’t do the book you’re looking for. I don’t expect you’ll find a print on demand option, although there are numerous digital printers who can print your book on coated paper. The problem is they don’t do the distribution part. If you are willing to order a digital short run you can sign up and do your own distribution to the e-retailers. Here you’ll face the problem that everyone faces who wants to do short-run books in color: the price is usually prohibitive and won’t allow for wholesale discounts.

    On the other hand, if you can get some preorders together, you could probably afford to do a short run offset book. A friend just printed a full color book on coated paper in China and paid about $2 per copy, a very low price.

    Reply

    Sharon Beck February 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Joel, how much did the books form China cost including the shipping? Also, do you have a link for the company in China that printed your friend’s full color book? Thanks.

    Patricia March 5, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Joel, thanks for the information. I’ll be checking digital printing, but I think that the cost will be prohibitive. On another note, I love your blog – you always provide useful information which I appreciate. Thanks for putting all this out here for us. Patricia

    Karen Williams February 4, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Carole, in my experience the print quality from Createspace is quite high. Besides my experiences with my own book, I have purchased print copies of books by a couple of other Createspace authors as well. Based on this (admittedly small) sampling, I’m willing to believe that any apparent deficits are more likely the fault of the author/designer than the printer.

    One thing to note: Createspace’s color interiors are matte-finish instead of high gloss, but the color’s print spot on. So as I stated in my earlier comment, their color printing is probably more suited to an instructional book like mine, or a catalog, where the color is illustrative in nature rather than the sole focus of the book. If you’re looking to produce a hard-cover art book, then another pod publisher might be a better choice.

    Reply

    Carole Pivarnik February 4, 2012 at 6:37 am

    This article has been really helpful to me in figuring out whether to go with CreateSpace (easier but have some concerns about color quality) or Lightning Source (harder but no quality concerns). I think Karen’s lovely book has just tipped the scales back in favor of CreateSpace.

    Reply

    JJ Jacobs January 7, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Karen’s work is amazing and her story about self-publishing is very inspiring to artist’s everywhere. Thank you for sharing this information!

    Reply

    Bruce Wilson January 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Hi Karen,

    Just stunning, such a gorgeous book! And your example (your success) is inspiring. Good to have another credible reference for CreateSpace as well.

    thank you,
    – Bruce

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

    I was pretty impressed with the quality of the printing in Karen’s book, and it’s opened up some possibilities for other instructional books I’ve been working on. This is a reasonably-priced way to get a color book to market, as you can see from the layouts here.

    Reply

    Karen Williams January 6, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Sharon,

    Thank you very much for your kind words!

    As Joel noted in his intro, Createspace’s uncoated paper stock is definitely sufficient for an instructional book of this nature. The print quality is quite high. That said, I would not go with uncoated stock if you are designing a ‘coffee table’ art book where the artwork is the sole focus of the book. You really do want glossy stock for that.

    I did and am considering Kindle/epub versions. My two largest concerns are file size, the interior PDF is over 100MB, and image placement on the digital page, since most of my layouts include multiple images and illustrations.

    Reply

    Sharon Beck January 6, 2012 at 5:03 am

    What a beautiful book! The Look-Inside feature of Amazon shows it well. She also has a nice set of reviews there, and made good use of her Amazon author page to publicize her upcoming event. I was wondering which CreateSpace authoring package Karen used. Also, how is the color rendition and picture quality from CreateSpace?

    We are thinking about creating a book of digital artwork but don’t know if the quality from CreateSpace is good enough for art. You know, strong colors do look better on a monitor than on paper. Did Karen consider doing an epub/Kindle version? Why or why not?

    Reply

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