Createspace and Paperback Sales: Does Page Count Matter?

Before I go on about Createspace, I must admit to a personal reason for writing this blog post. I’m looking for feedback from not only authors, but avid readers as well.

If you know a lot about Createspace or have used them in the past, you may wish to skip down to the section labeled My Dilemma where I discuss the reason for this post.

In the Beginning

cheap books for Createspace postOne of the many reasons I chose self-publishing was the potential to sell books at such a discounted rate. I grew up in a family without much money, one where my parents provided for our needs, but we often went without extras and this often included books.

I couldn’t believe it was possible to sell eBooks for fewer than three dollars and still make a profit. An intriguing concept for those of us conscientious of our spending. I’d hoped to find a way to do the same with paperbacks, at least sell them cheaper than what we’d typically see in a bookstore, but I’m having a tough time deciding between the business aspects and what I wish to offer the reader.

Quick Overview of Createspace for Paperback Book Production

As many self-published authors have, I chose Createspace as a printing and distribution site for the paperback version of my book. The author uploads a PDF file, cover art, and a few other details. Createspace can then create a paperback copy of your book for low cost.

Probably the best aspect of Createspace is its ability to distribute your title to multiple sources. They’re affiliated with Amazon and quickly send out information regarding your title so it can be bought from their site.

There is also an option to spend $25 for expanded distribution. Your book becomes available to other online bookstores such as Barnes and Noble. If you choose an ISBN directly from Createspace they’ll also make your book available to libraries throughout the United States.

(Note: I bought my own ISBN for more control over my book’s future distribution.)

How Createspace Makes Money

Createspace doesn’t charge the author any money until a book is actually ordered. No longer must self-published authors purchase hundreds of their own books to sell from amazon money for Createspace posttheir house. Once a sale is made Createspace takes the production cost from the income, sends a cut to whichever site the book was bought from, and then takes their percentage from whatever is left.

This may seem like a lot at first, but compared to traditionally published books, I’ll still average more royalties per sale on Amazon for a $10 book.

How Much Does Createspace Charge for Each Book Printed?

There are a few factors I’m probably missing, but I know the basics. The price is dependent on the color of paper used (cream or white), page count, and a minimum base value. I’m not 100% on that last part, but that’s been my experience so far.

My Dilemma

As I just mentioned above, Createspace charges according to page count. The more pages to print, the more I must charge as an author to bring in at least some royalties.

Right now, the minimum I can charge for a paperback copy of The Fall of Billy Hitchings is $10.99. This means that if my book sells through an expanded distribution site, I make somewhere around $0.12. Making bunches of money off paperback sales wasn’t my original goal, but my issue is with the pricing.

$10.99 for a newbie author’s book? While not exorbitant, I’m assuming sales would be better at a lower price point, at least for now, and I’m all about making books available at as low a price as possible.

Lowering the Page Count

The word count for The Fall of Billy Hitchings is around 80K words. If you’re not an author, you probably haven’t thought much about word count. Unless you’re an author, you’ve probably never thought about how you can change the page count of a book either.

When I tell people I wrote a book, one of their first questions is usually, “How many pages is it?” Without directing them to this blog post, it’s hard explaining that the more important number is word count.

To lower the word count you can increase the actual size of each page or lower the font size.

The Fall of Billy Hitchings as an Example

I set the page size to 5 inches by 8 inches and used a size 11.5 font. This makes my book end up around 282 pages, typical for a beginning author.

Without actually making the changes in my account, I’m not able to tell exactly how much I’d have to charge, but I can calculate how much it would cost to print each book. When I charge $10.99 per paperback book, the initial cost Createspace takes out is $4.23.

If I were to use another option, let’s say 6 inches by 9 inches, this would bring the page count down to 220 and the print cost to $3.49 giving us a savings of $.074 per book. This should mean I can charge that much less for my book as well, bringing it down to about $10.25.

If we took this even further and I went with an eight by ten inch book, this would bring the page count down to 142, the print cost to $2.55 each. I could technically charge $9.31 for a paperback copy and make as much on royalties as I do now at $10.99.

The Conundrum

I’m looking at this from a reader’s perspective. If you go to Amazon to order a book (all things being equal), are you more likely to spend $10.99 on a 282 page book, or $9.31 for a 142 page book?

Even though both books have the exact same number of words, it appears as if you get a better deal with the $10.99 book.

This is my issue. I wish to give readers the best deal, but it doesn’t matter how big of a deal I give readers if they don’t buy my book because it doesn’t appear that good of a deal.

Your thoughts? How much do page counts matter? Do you pay attention to trim size when buying a book? Does the page count matter more for new authors than established authors?

Thanks for all your feedback!

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Createspace and Paperback Sales: Does Page Count Matter? — 33 Comments

  1. Hmm, It looks like the information for my comment is a bit outdated. Things have changed. To get the latest on the whole conundrum, I would strongly recommend checking out Aaron Shepard’s blog. I still highly recommend his ebooks, Aiming at Amazon and POD for Profit, (which you can download for free). He keeps updated with what’s happening in the biz of POD and self-publishing.

  2. Dear Kirkus, I am sorry for your dilemma. I didn’t read every single comment but it seems that there is a tremendous amount that could be gained by your reading Aaron Shepard’s books. He walks you step by step through the maze of working with amazon, Createspace, Lightning Source, etc. He has worked with amazon for over 20 years so he knows the territory well. Space does not permit me to answer all of your issues but let me start by expressing my condolences at your only getting a few cents per copy for your books sold on amazon. One of the big mistakes you made was to use the expanded distribution channels. (Has it gained you any book sales relative to the cost?) Secondly, by using CS and LS (Createspace and Lightning Source) and then taking a smaller percentage of profit at LS, ( sells 1/5 the number of books as amazon, so the sacrifice of profit at is worth the added revenue from amazon sales) amazon will drop their sale price of your book, even if it means they won’t make money. (They will match or beat’s prices.) My $12.00 list price book on amazon is selling for $10.80 (It was actually selling for less. I’m not sure why they raised the price) and I get $4.30 per book sold. Check out Aaron Shepard’s blog and you will get an idea of the wealth of information to be found in his resources-

  3. Here’s another “conundrum”… why in the HELL do you think people want to pay $10 for a damn book??? Dude, unless you’re a famous author and it’s a thick hardback book, NO ONE wants to pay $10 for your novel. I don’t care if it’s 181 pages or 203 pages or whatever meaningless bs you’re having a problem with. Forget that and realize asking for $10+ for a gad damn book is just ridiculous. And don’t bother trying to justify it either, just because you want to publish so bad that you can’t just submit your work to publishing houses like everyone else that have to get their talent APPROVED before their work is published, because everyone knows if you self-publish then there’s a 99.9% chance either your writing sucks and would never be published by a publishing house, or YOU KNOW your writing sucks so bad that you don’t bother submitting it at all so you can “claim” you chose to self-publish instead of admitting you only self-published because you had to.
    Give up worrying about the page count. You have more important things to worry about if you’re going to stop pretending to be a writer and actually try to become one.

    • It looks as though Blogsux should focus more on his or her grammar skills then ridicule people on this site. I own a publishing house and only take on new writers, so the assumption this idiot is trying to convey is absolutely senseless.

    • You clearly know nothing of what you write about, fairly poorly.

      Createspace charges a LOT for PoD. If you sell a book at the amount you believe, you end up PAYING for each copy instead of making any money at all. CS also prints at trade paperback standard not mass market – I suggest you go and look all that up, too, as print quality affects price on books.

      Not sure why the insecure and random attack on the author’s writing skill came about – unless you have read the books you’re not in a position to cast judgement.

      I suggest you engage your brain and research things before coming out with crass and badly written statements with nothing to back them up, because you sound like an incompetent fool.

      Talent “approved”? You have NO idea how publishing works 😀

  4. I write picture books through novels. I have just a few questions for anyone who has published with Createspace. If anyone is still out there and has the patience to help out a newbie . . .

    1. I’m leaning toward 8.5 x 11 for a few kids books I’ve written. One full color – I assume they call it full color because it has small colored photos and colored text [no bleed for the illustrations]. When we calculate what our page count is, does Createspace count the cover [front and back] and the end pages? How many count is one end page – one because it is one sheet of paper, or two because there is a front and back even though it does not have printing on it?
    (So if I have 28 printed pages beginning with inside title page, copyright info, acknowledgement, then the stories, does Createspace then add to their count how many pages[?] to get my author total page count and price?)

    2. I am going to publish my fantasy novel at roughly 77K words. I like the 6 x 9 book size – I know, that’s weird, but more affordable. What font do people recommend? I want it to be an easy to read, regular font that novels use. With picture books, you can look in the front and they usually show the font used and what medium the artist used. But with novels, I have not been able to find this info. in the front of any books.

    3. Can you send a word.doc file, or does it have to be .pdf?

    4. Do they resize jpeg photos, if we use photos?

    5. When they say ‘order a proof’, is that the author ordering one copy before we submit to publishing so we can see how our book physically looks? Or is this a charge we pay to examine the book only on line? Haven’t found these answers in their literature.

    6. I don’t have docx, so can’t use Calibre to convert to e-books. I can’t even download it anyways – it cuts out half way through. Any free conversion software out there for Win32, MS Vista 7 / 8 so I don’t have to pay the money for Createspace to offer as kindle, etc. The software has to be a lot less than 49MB (like Calibre is.)

    Any advice?

    Thank you.


  5. Great thought provoking post, and awesome discussion. I’m working on my first novel and plan to self publish, so I really appreciate the questions you brought up, Kirkus. I’m also a huge reader, and honestly, I never pay attention to whether a book is a debut or not. If the plot description appeals to me, I’ll buy it. That said, I am moving from doing a bit of part-time work to being a stay-at-home mom/full time writer. This means I won’t be buying nearly as many books, and when I do, I tend to go for the lower priced ones. I also only purchase e-books. I get really irritated when an e-book cost as much as a paperback. Anyway, I digress. I will look for the more expensive books at the library before I will purchase them.

  6. I’ve done books with CreateSpace and have been very satisfied with their work. Their price is better than Lulu and way better than Blurb.

    You can manipulate the page count in a number of ways: change the margins, change the point size/leading, or change the font. Some fonts take up much more space than others, even when they are the same point size (compare Georgia with Garamond). But the goal, as you noted, is to make a book that seems “normal.” A novel of 100 pages at 8×10 is weird and flimsy and feels more like a magazine. A 5×8 of 600 pages is too thick.

    But I think the real problem is the lack of haptic experience. Online, nobody can pick up your book, and I doubt they pay much attention to the page count. As an aside, I think people are sometimes put off by a book that has a large page count — our attention spans seem to be getting shorter.

    I am working with an author now that is in a very unique circumstance, and we don’t care about selling the paperback on Amazon — we figure Amazon is mostly good for the ebook. We sell the paperback in his bookstore. Like I said, unique circumstance.

    We have a 6×9 of 400+ pages. We set the price ridiculously high on Amazon ($20). But we can buy it from CS at just $6. So in his bookstore we sell it for $10 and proudly proclaim HALF PRICE!

    I know you don’t have a bookstore, but you could try this: buy a few copies of “Billy Hitchens” at your cost. Take a photo that shows the spine and cover (a 3/4 view, if you will) so people can see how thick it is, maybe a photo of you holding it in your hand, for spatial comparison, then offer that copy AUTOGRAPHED. You can easily undercut the Amazon price (which you should point out), keeping the same royalty.

    Let’s do the math. BH is selling at 2.99 for the ebook and 10.54 for the paperback. The fact that these two prices are right on top of each other is the biggest obstacle to selling the paperback on Amazon. I’m betting that you sell many more ebooks.

    If you order 10 copies from CS, your cost is around 4.25 plus 80c for shipping it to you — call it 5 bucks. To ship it to someone else will cost you a couple of bucks (make sure you mark it as “Media Mail”), so we’re up to $7. Add 2 bucks for profit (same as the ebook) and you’re at $9. A dollar for the envelope makes it $10 final costs to the reader. Now go back to CreateSpace and raise the Amazon price to say, $15.

    On your site, you advertise it for $10: a 1/3 discount with free shipping, and it’s autographed!

    If you sign up for an Amazon Payments account, you can even get an Amazon button for your site to make the transaction. You’ll also get the name and address of this reader so you can send them a postcard when the next book comes out.

    With your most excellent blog and Facebook page, and your tireless Twitter feed, you can let your loyal fans know about this offer, and I bet you’ll sell more this way than on Amazon. And you’ll make more money, get better information, and you know you’ll enjoy signing copies.

    • I think it’s important to consider what the physical book looks like. The ultimate product that CS developed for my novel, Standing on the Corner of Lost and Found was professional, attractive, of good quality and really couldn’t be distinguished from big house published books on a bookstore shelf. I think you have to be careful when you mess with font, shrink margins, etc.

      • Thanks for sharing. :) And I agree. Looking like the stereotypical “indie author” can sometimes have a negative effect. Always about finding that happy medium.

    • Welcome back, Gideon! Sorry it’s taken a bit to get back with you. Have I mentioned I love your ideas? Your mind must be flowing with them. Every time you leave a comment it’s basically a guest post, lol. This is a good thing in my opinion. And here’s my pitch again… would you like to write this same response as a guest post? You can play around with it a bit if you’d like, but it’s fine as is too. Let me know, and thanks for another great idea! Now I just need to find time to implement some of these ideas…

  7. I’m working on my first novel. I was considering self-publishing as a last resort if rejected by publishers. This article is good, but it made my head hurt to think about all the factors to consider like page size and book length when all I’ve been focusing on is writing the best novel I can in no less than 80,000 words. Plus, I want to get paid for all the sacrifices I’m making and for all the time and effort I’m putting into my novel. I always thought it was better all around to be published rather than to self-publish. Am I wrong? I want to choose the best path, but now I’m confused.

    As a reader, I would pay up to $12 for a well packaged book regardless of whether it’s a 1st time author. I get where you’re coming from, wanting to make your books affordable. I never thought about that because whenever my family was struggling, we just went to the library to get books for free. Most people pay for what they want without regard for what they can actually afford, so I don’t worry too much about that. If they’re not spending the $10-$11 for your book, then they will spend it on a cup of coffee or a bottle of wine. It’s all relative, and not for me to concern myself with trying to guess what people will pay as long as it’s reasonable. I work for a dental office part-time and there’s a patient who we’ve been begging to get a rotting tooth pulled for months. She keeps putting it off saying that she can’t afford the cost of the surgery or the crown bridge needed. But, as soon as she found out that the dentist was offering Botox, she made an appointment and paid $800 cash for facial injections to look younger for a high school reunion. I’m off topic here, but my point is that you can’t second guess people’s spending habits. They will find the money to buy what they want, so I would just focus on putting out the best books you can without compromising the look and feel of the book because that is an important marketing factor. I know I would be less likely to buy an 8 by 10 sized book at any price because I would think that the content was not worth my time to read. Too small or too big just doesn’t seem worth the trouble to me.

    This is the opinion of a complete novice so please don’t be offended. Sorry my comment is so long. Now you see why I will probably be frantically trimming my manuscript when it’s all over. 😉 Anyway, I’m kind of thinking about this stuff for the first time, and your article is very helpful to me. I will keep this article in my files for future reference in case I do decide to self-publish, especially the part about purchasing my own ISBN. Thanks for tweeting it!

    • Hey there, Yaina! Never apologize for long comments when hanging out over here. I figure it’s a nice break from the 140 characters over on Twitter, haha. Plus, it kind of comes with the territory. :)

      Self-publishing really is a lot of work, a different kind of work than what is expected of someone traditionally published, but those lines come closer together each month. I always mention Brandon Sanderson on my blog so I’ll use him as an example again. He’s an extremely successful traditionally published fantasy author. I swear the guy is a machine! Besides putting out 800+ page novels every year, he somehow finds the time for social media as well.

      Though I chose to go the self-publishing route, I really can’t say which way is better. There are benefits on both sides, and with the way my life has been the last four months (sickness, moving, spouses new job, etc.), just concentrating on writing sounds heavenly. It’s kind of like the example you gave about the lady who bought the botox; it’s really a matter of preference and what you’re willing to put into it.

      Speaking of the lady who bought the botox treatment… LOL! Isn’t that crazy? People are obviously allowed to spend their money any way they want, but sometimes the money decisions I see confuse me. Like complaining about not having enough money for bills, then you see the same person say how they just spent $1k on Christmas. Or they don’t have money to put gas in their vehicle, yet somehow they have enough for cable and all the movie channels.

      You made a good point there. If people want the book, they’ll buy it. Within means of course.

      The one piece of advice I’d like to throw out here is to keep doing what you’re doing. Writing the best book you can write is the single most important thing you can do as a writer, regardless of whether you self-publish or go the traditional route. If nobody wants to read your work then you won’t get the sales anyway!

      Thanks for the great comment, and I hope my equally long response helps in some way. I’m always here for questions, if a bit behind. Thanks for stopping over and I wish you the best whichever route you take!

      • Thanks for the advice, Kirkus! I wanna be like Brandon Sanderson! I could totally do that if I didn’t have to worry about keeping a roof over my head. I wish you the best as well. I’ll check in later to see how it all turns out for you.

        • Haha, wouldn’t being a Brandon Sanderson be amazing? Yeah, those darn things like a house really put a damper on our creative writing careers, lol. I’m at that point right now. Just moved into a rental while we wait for the bank to finish the financing on our new house. Either I get to spend more time writing, or unpack more boxes…

  8. I have this conversation with authors who I help get books published for. The problem we have in the UK is we can walk into a supermarket and buy fat novels like 50 Shades for less than £4. With print costs a self publishing author just cannot compete. I write ‘how to’ books and the feedback I got from readers was that they wanted 5×8 to fit into their bookshelves. I’ve actually advised authors against print and suggested they stick to Kindle as readers just won’t pay the high prices that would be needed to generate a small royalty on an unknown author.

    • Really? I had no idea you could get newer paperbacks for that cheap in the UK. That would explain my lack of paperback sales over there, haha! Interesting. I would think a paperback distributor like Createspace would try to find a way to fit in the market over there financially. If they could, they would make a killing even with lower royalties simply because they could actually compete. Thanks for sharing. :) With the market changing as quickly as it has the past few years, I’m curious to see how things change.

      • Createspace has evolved quite a lot for UK authors over the last 18 months, I now use them exclusively over other companies such as Lulu and Blurb for that reason. As you say the market is changing so rapidly, I look forward to whatever new enhancements they make available to us.

  9. It is indeed a dilemma. I used Lulu for the paperback versions of my books, well, two of them so far, but was intending to use Createspace for the new ones. The issue you didn’t mention is one I encountered from readers who bought the paperbacks; complaints that the print size was too small. Now, it wasn’t any smaller than the majority of trade paperbacks but one rather curmudgeonly critic said she’d need a microscope to read it. Making the font slightly bigger for the next one meant the page count increased, as did the cost.
    Now I am approaching getting the newer books onto paperback as well, I wanted to try Createspace and to at least see if there was any appreciable difference in quality. I’ve no complaints about Lulu’s quality but rather their customer services have declined a little since I began; they messed up getting one book onto Amazon and it was an anxious time waiting for them to sort it out.

    • Hey, Viv! Thanks for stopping over, and thanks for the wonderful comment.

      I hadn’t thought too much about a reader complaining about the font size. I’ve been comtemplating releasing another version of my books with the larger print, just so I can maybe hit the crowd with vision problems, or those who prefer larger print. But, as you said, bigger fonts mean more pages and more cost for us. I was thinking about increasing the book size, maybe to six by nine, just for this version.

      So many things to think about as an indie author. :) Whenever I’m formatting or making decisions like this, that’s when I turn to my wife and say, “Maybe being tradtionally published wouldn’t be so bad.” Lol!

      Thanks again. :)

      • You are welcome. One was an old friend (she’s 80) who got a Kindle for Christmas this year and proceeded to buy all my books on it. The other was someone who was looking for an excuse to hate me!
        And while sometimes I regret that my near miss with traditional publishers meant I have to think of everything, somehow, on my good days, I feel rather like I am part of a pioneering movement.

        • We are part of a pioneering movement! I love to look at it that way too. As an author, especially if we make it to the heights of James Patterson or Steven King, getting used to people finding a reason to hate us is part of the game, lol.

  10. I am fascinated by your thoughts here, Kirkus, because I also use CreateSpace. As a reader, I cringe to pay a full price ($10.99 for example) if a book is a “novella” – that is, 40-70 pages. I feel cheated. Likewise, a $2.99 price on a 50K word ebook feels like arrogance on the author’s part. Aside from that, I don’t get too worked up on page count. 150+ pages, it’s a novel for me, and I’ll pay for it. I read something the other day – someone saying we will pay a barista $7.49 for a latte, and ten minutes to make it, while we whine over 10.99 on a book it took a writer a year to make. Of course, many readers don’t think about that…. my point is, I don’t think readers (as opposed to writers) look that closely at page count, unless as I say it is half a novel – a novella.

    • Thanks for the input! I never thought about the price of a latte as compared to a book. And the satisfaction is much shorter than what one can get from a book as well. What a great comparison, haha. I think I’ll use it! Have a great day, and I hope to see you back again soon. :)

  11. I think page count matters less than a professional look. If you make the book really large in order to decrease the number of pages, I might think one of two things: A. The story is too short to really sink my teeth into, and B. This does not look as professional as the other books on my book shelf. When I was determining the size of my book, I consulted the other books in my genre to make sure mine does not stick out in a bad way against my competition.

    • Great point. I admit the genre comparisons swayed my opinion as well. That’s the toss up as an Indie author. Finding the happy medium between producing a professional product yet keeping in line with what both Indie and traditionally published authors put out there. Thanks for the comment!

  12. Page count does matter when it comes to printed books, simply because of production cost. I worked in the publishing industry designing and laying out YA books. Publishers have set page (word) count in order to keep production cost down as well as determine shelf space. As an Indie Author, you won’t have to worry about shelf space in a book store, but you do have to worry about cost of printing.
    I’m also an indie author and don’t like the idea of placing restrictions on my story just to make a sale, however, readers are accustomed to paying less than $10 for a book that is 80K pages long. If your book is priced considerably more, it may prevent sales, especially if you are targeting a younger audience with limited money.

    • Great input, thanks for sharing. I personally don’t target the younger audience, but my book is more of a mass market paperback, even in style. The hope was to make it as close to a traditionally published mass market paperback as possible and that included price. I thought about using a different distributor than Createspace, but the closest I’ve found in overall value is Lightning Source and I think Createspace comes out on top. Thanks again!

  13. There’s two things I think are important. The first is recognition for your work. 80,000 words don’t come out of nowhere you worked hard and that should be acknowledged so you should be able to collect a decent royalty. The second, and this might just be me, is a matter of aesthetic. Yes making your book bigger will bring cost down but it also defies audience expectations and might make it feel a little less professional, certainly at lot more awkward in hand. If its well written and comes with strong reviews trust the readers. That’s what I’m going to do.

    • Thanks for stopping over and for the input Dave!

      I agree on the recognition. I admit knowing little about business tactics, but my hope is that I’ll get my name out there, maybe take a loss now, then make more money in the long run. Who knows? My eyes cross every time I think about it, haha.

      I also agree with your statement about aesthetics and that’s kind of the reason I went with the original 5 X 8 print copy. It’s good to hear others thinking the same thing about this.

      Thanks again!

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