by Esther Park of Kirkus Reviews
In late November of 2016, the world of independent publishing was surprised by the news that Amazon had announced plans to close its CreateSpace fulfillment center in North Charleston, South Carolina. Less than a year later, CreateSpace shuttered its e-store. In January of 2018, Amazon announced its decision to discontinue CreateSpace’s paid professional editing, design and marketing services. At that time, CreateSpace notified its self-publishing clients via email that they would no longer be offering any paid professional services as of April 20, 2018. The final deadline for authors to submit changes to their CreateSpace design files was March 15, 2018.
While authors with projects in progress at the time of the CreateSpace closure were encouraged to submit their changes by the March 15 deadline, CreateSpace agreed to issue a full refund for the purchase price of any services that could not be completed by April 20. CreateSpace’s print-on-demand (POD) functionality was not affected by the changes announced for spring 2018. As of today, POD tools are still available through CreateSpace.
Authors seeking the editing, design, and marketing services formerly provided by CreateSpace still have many options, and independent authors can choose one or more service firms based on their project’s needs.
For independent authors seeking editorial services:
Kirkus Editorial: For more than 80 years, Kirkus—publisher of Kirkus Reviews—has been a trusted source of thoughtful literary criticism and editorial excellence. The company’s book editing division offers independent authors access to top editors, all of whom have edited manuscripts for Big Five publishers or leading independent houses. With three editorial services packages—two of which include an opportunity to talk with your editor—authors can choose the level of editing that suits their project. author to get insightful, useful feedback, notes and corrections
Scribendi: Founded in 1997, Scribendi offers editing and proofreading services for independent authors, businesses, academics and students, and writers for whom English is not their primary language. Their team of hand-picked and vetted editors work with a variety of style guides and pride themselves on their commitment to ISO-certified quality standards.
True Editors: With offices in both London, England, and San Francisco, True Editors offers editing and proofreading services for documents of all types, whether academic, corporate, creative, or personal. Each member of their editorial team has a minimum of 10 years of experience and holds a master’s or doctoral degree.
For polished manuscripts in need of interior and cover design services:
The Book Designers: With more than a decade in business, 1,000 trade publishers and independent authors served, and 16 awards to their credit, The Book Designers offer a one-stop shop for print and ebook design. Their portfolio includes book covers, interior layouts, book trailers, author websites, publisher branding, and more.
The Book Makers: Drawing from centuries-old bookmaking traditions to create modern, compelling book covers, typesetting, and interior layouts, The Book Makers position themselves as the firm that melds history with innovation. All designs are crafted or overseen by award-winning designer and co-founder Joel Friedlander, and each project is assigned a book production coordinator to assist the author through the project.
Damonza: Founded by Damon Freeman in 2012, Damonza specializes in cover design for print and ebooks and has produced book covers for many New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. In addition, they offer services for interior formatting and layout, copyediting and proofreading, and book trailer creation.
For finished manuscripts ready for publication or in need of distribution:
Ingram Spark: Born out of renowned book distributor Ingram, Ingram Spark offers fully integrated POD and ebook publishing and distribution at competitive prices for independent authors. Authors can create a free account and then upload and manage all their titles—print and digital—through one convenient portal.
Kindle Direct Publishing: With Kindle Direct Publishing, authors can leverage the speed to market and distribution reach of Amazon.com to release both ebooks and POD books. Authors keep control of their rights and set their own prices, can see their ebook live on Kindle devices in roughly 2 days, and can sell their paperbacks through Amazon websites in the United States, Europe, and Japan.
Smashwords: Founded in 2008 by Mark Coker, Smashwords is a free ebook publishing and distribution platform, giving authors access to most of the largest ebook retailers and libraries, as well as marketing, distribution, metadata management, and sales reporting tools. Authors retain full control of their work, and Smashwords earns income only by selling the authors’ books to readers, either through retailers or directly on Smashwords.com.
For one-stop service packages (editorial, design, production and/or distribution):
Book Baby: With the mission of simplifying self-publishing, Book Baby houses just about every service an independent author might need, including both ebook conversion and full-color POD publishing, global distribution and direct-to-reader sales, editorial and design, and marketing help. Services can be purchased a la carte or through their Complete Self-Publishing Package.
Girl Friday Productions: Girl Friday edits, designs, and produces print and ebooks for both independent authors and publishing houses. Three service levels—Custom, White Glove, and Deluxe—are designed to fit any project’s publishing needs. This firm is so hands-on, they’ll even write the book as part of their top service tier.
Radius Book Group: A division of Diversion Publishing Corp., Radius Book Group packages editorial, design, production, marketing, and publicity services together based on the needs of each manuscript. Their partnership with Ingram Spark rounds out their offerings by providing customers with POD and distribution services.
Though the tidal waves created by the closing of CreateSpace are still being felt as ripples through the independent publishing community, the outlook for authors appears bright. “The surge of DIY movements has restored respect to the act of creating things once deemed ‘best left to the experts’ and reminded consumers that the greatest mark of quality is quality itself—not necessarily a logo or label,” says Lauren Bailey, director of Kirkus Editorial. “Exciting, moving work can come from any creative who’s passionate and talented, not just from companies with slick brands and huge ad campaigns. Now more than ever, readers are trusting themselves and each other to be tastemakers, relying on customer reviews and word of mouth to point out the stars in the vast literary sky. That openness creates opportunity. It’s an exciting time to be an indie author.”
A recent study conducted by the website Author Earnings found that, while overall ebook sales declined over the past year, the indie share of the market grew. “The indie share of the entire US ebook market … now looks like what the indie share of Amazon alone used to be,” Author Earnings concluded.
Unwilling to settle for the either/or paradigms of the past, more and more authors are moving away from both traditional publishing and self-publishing toward a hybrid publishing model in which authors receive the support of traditional publishing with the freedom and flexibility of indie publishing. Hybrid publishers like Inkshares, Evolved, and Ever After all use unique models to offer authors a chance to gain access to the market without having to scale the high barriers presented by the traditional publishing model, and without the stigma associated with what was once derisively called “vanity publishing.”
Female authors may also find their chances at success enhanced in an indie publishing environment. A recent study conducted by researchers from Queens College-CUNY found more overall pay equality for female indie authors compared to their traditional publishing counterparts. The relatively level playing field was attributed in part to indie writers’ ability to set their own prices for their books. Independent presses, like Kore Press, Shade Mountain Press, and Aunt Lute Books, and hybrid publishers like She Writes Press, are dedicated to publishing and promoting the work of women writers specifically and offer not only an opportunity to enter the marketplace but also to find support and community.
Finally, in another encouraging trend, the demise of indie bookstores appears to have been greatly exaggerated. Millennial readers, in particular, appear to be flocking to independent bookstores as a refuge from the digital space, a place to hang out, get book recommendations, and cultivate the experiences that give meaning to their lives.