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  • What’s the Difference between She Writes Press and CreateSpace?
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What’s the Difference between She Writes Press and CreateSpace?
Written by
Brooke Warner
October 2013
Written by
Brooke Warner
October 2013

This question—how are you different from CreateSpace?—has been posed to me by a number of authors who’ve submitted to SWP, so I decided it was time to buckle down and write a post about this.

To answer this question, I first have to back up and explain what CreateSpace is, and by extension what Lightning Source/IngramSpark is—and then spell out some of the primary differences between self-publishing and partnership publishing.

CreateSpace and Lightning Source are both print-on-demand printers—CreateSpace owned by Amazon and Lightning Source by Ingram. Ingram just launched IngramSpark, which is billed as a more user-friendly and simple platform and will most likely replace Lightning Source for first-time self-published authors. The primary purpose of these publishing platforms is to print books.

Both companies offer a la carte services to authors to help them create their books. CreateSpace also offers packages that ostensibly have them do everything from start to finish, which, on the outside, might look a lot like SWP’s package. But there are some big differences.

When you print with CreateSpace or IngramSpark, you can be fully autonomous, or you can lean on them. They will even provide you with one of their ISBNs if you want, meaning that you are in essence affiliated with them out in the book world and recognized as an author who’s not only printed with one of these companies but published with them. (Most savvy self-published authors opt not to do this in order to retain their autonomy.)


CreateSpace and IngramSpark are both great for printing. I personally think Ingram’s paper quality is better, but CreateSpace is a little cheaper. A benefit of CreateSpace, according to some, is that because it’s affiliated with Amazon, Amazon ships those books faster, so consumers get your books sooner. SWP works with Lightning Source, and I love having them as our POD partner. They’re responsive and the books are beautiful.

So now—how are CreateSpace and SWP different from one another? Well, to start with, CreateSpace is not a publisher. Like I said, they are a POD printer. They do offer those a la carte and package services, so you can use their team to edit, design, and help you with your book. But this does not make them a publisher. When you go this route YOU are the publisher, and don’t let CreateSpace tell you otherwise. You want to retain control of your product, so you will want to make sure that you have a checklist of all the things that need to be done beyond just the editorial and design pieces of your book—because there is much much more behind the scenes.

She Writes Press is a partnership publisher. The farther along we’ve gotten, the more traditional we’ve started to look. I’ve modeled SWP off of Seal Press’s processes, because that’s what I know, and now that we've signed a traditional distribution deal with IPS, only two things differentiate us from a traditional small press: the author pays, and we don’t have in-house publicists.

When you sign with SWP, it’s a lot like signing with a traditional press. You are not left trying to figure out what you need. And yet there are some specific and obvious things to pay attention to, of course, the big three being editorial, production, and project management.


We vet our books, so the editorial quality of what we publish is not arbitrary. The stable of editors we work with are industry professionals, so the finished product is always publish-ready. There are too many editors out in the world hanging their hats as editorial experts when really they’re not. You need an editor who understands both book structure, genre-specific issues, and The Chicago Manual of Style. We also require that every book be proofread. This is part of our package. When necessary, our books are edited two or three times.

At CreateSpace, editorial is optional. They make their money through printing and “distributing” your book, so they actually don’t really care that much about the quality. (I intentionally put distributing in quotes here because the distribution they offer is very limited.) They will hire you an editor, but their direction to that editor may be to do their best to “fix” your book. When outsourcing your editorial work, you need to be careful that you aren’t just turning it over to someone to do the best they can with it. That’s often not enough.


We have a team of cover and interior designers that are trusted and vetted professionals. They know book design, and I am super proud of our covers, which you can see at the SWP bookstore if you’re interested. As the publisher, it’s my responsibility to make sure the author is happy with their cover, but also to steer them away from making decisions that would negatively impact their book. For instance, many authors, especially of memoir, want a family photo on their book. I generally advise against this unless it’s a perfect image. Just because you’re attached to a personal photo doesn’t mean the impact on the reader is going to be as meaningful.

CreateSpace offers cover and interior design a la carte. I’m sure the quality is sometimes good, sometimes not. The biggest issue here is that you are not working with industry experts who are giving you opinions and feedback about your covers. If we have a designer who doesn’t execute a good cover, we go back to the drawing board. CreateSpace is going to mostly be interested in getting you a simple cover that you’re happy with. This might be enough, but I think covers are a place to splurge. There is far too much competition out there to have a mediocre cover. Obviously you can print with CreateSpace and hire your own interior and cover designers, and I recommend this if you’re going this route. Interior design is almost as important as cover design, and when you work with a designer who doesn’t know the mechanics of good interior design, you can and will compromise your book. 

Project Management:

At SWP, we project manage your book from start to finish. We push it through a production schedule that involves all of what I discussed above: proofreading; query integration; cover design and rounds of corrections/polishes; interior design and rounds of corrections. When you publish with us you are a SWP author. You are assigned a SWP ISBN. We apply for your Library of Congress Control Number for you. We register your book with Bowker and we file for your copyright. You retain all the rights to your book, and if/when you want to pull out of a relationship with us, you fully own the content (as well as the interior and cover files), and we make extraction easy. But we also make it so that you don’t have to think about all the things you shouldn’t need to think about as an author.

With CreateSpace, especially if you’re hiring your own team, you are the publisher and there are a lot of little details to figure out. It’s not that it’s hard; there’s just a learning curve, and you don’t want to forget anything. Don’t trust that CreateSpace is going to take care of all of the details for you. Make sure to get a checklist of everything you need to consider so you know they are crossing all their t’s and dotting all their i’s.

Due to our recent deal with IPS, I also want to list some other major perks we offer that are not even on CreateSpace’s radar because they are not trying to compete with us in the space of moving increasingly toward a traditional publishing model. As a result of our distribution deal with Ingram, we have a number of new opportunities that don’t exist for other self-publishing entities:

1. Because we look like a traditional press, and our books are vetted and gorgeous, we qualify as a traditional press to the major review outlets. We can and do submit our books for consideration to be reviewed by the following major review outlets: PW, Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness. When you self-publish, you can submit to PW and Kirkus for a paid review.

2. We have a sales force. Twice a year Kamy Wicoff and I go to IPS headquarters in Tennessee to pitch our authors’ work to a sales force of fifty or so representatives whose job it is to “sell in” books to the trade. Getting this kind of face time with reps is invaluable.

3. We manage your metadata. This alone is massive! And I didn’t realize how much so until we ran into metadata issues last year. (I write about this here.) Now, due to traditional distribution, we have an ONIX feed, which means that corrections and updates to any and all data goes out EVERY NIGHT across every major platform—and we distribute to the following partners: Amazon Kindle, Apple®, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Goodreads, Page Foundry, Rethink Books/Bookshout!, Sony, Chegg, VitalSource, Gardners (United Kingdom), Blinkbox Books (United Kingdom), Sainsbury’s (United Kingdom), and Txtr (Germany).

4. Our books get into libraries. When you self-publish, libraries are generally off-limits. A few savvy authors may figure out how to get in, but libraries mostly have not wanted to navigate the total clusterfrack that is self-publishing’s quality control problems and so have stayed away altogether.

5. We put press releases out on the wires on behalf of our authors for each and every book. We have access to MediaHub, a database of 700K media subscribers, which means that when we get a major media hit it reverberates and is seen.

6. We have access to iPage, a business-to-business tool where buyers can order direct. This site features all of our books and gets approximately 30K visitors a day.

7. Our books are featured in Edelweiss, an online catalog reviewed by the heavy hitters in the industry—book buyers; reviewers; and some media.

8. We will nominate (where appropriate) authors for programs like B&N’s Discover Great New Writers program and IndieBound’s Indiessential’s program—still off-limits to self-published authors.

9. We give our authors dedicated attention. You have access to me, the publisher, and/or your project manager and our managing editor, at any time. We edit and proofread your back cover copy and catalog materials, and make sure that everything that’s going out into the world is well-presented and polished.

10. We give each author access to resources, including MJ Rose’s “Buzz Your Book” class (available for anyone to purchase) and templates for galley letters, press releases, media kits, and more. You also get to be a part of the SWP author group on She Writes, where you can connect with other authors, many of whom have been working to cross-promote one another’s books.

Price Difference?

Obviously when all is said and done you will want to know how this all breaks down along financial lines. SWP’s package is $3900. Because this doesn’t include publicity, we are recommending that our authors either purchase our marketing-publicity booster at $1000, or hire a publicist for a campaign, which generally ranges from about $3000-$5000 for the publicists we recommend on our site.

At CreateSpace, they offer a few different packages that range from $998 to $2,835. There are some caveats in their pricing that have to do with a book's length and complexity. They must outsource their interior design to the Philippines (common practice) to get a base price of $349. I don't want any designer working on one of my books who's only going to charge $349 for a layout. Too much is at stake! They include the Kirkus review in their custom advanced package, which is interesting. Kirkus does charge $425 for a self-published review, so they must have cut a deal with CreateSpace for this service. You are guaranteed a review if you submit to them through Kirkus Indie Review, but it might well be a bad review. So be prepared. (Note: I personally that this "service" is way too expensive.)

If you were to do it all yourself—and do it well—I would argue that our price is pretty comparable. A proofread is typically $400-$550. A cover design (and I mean a good one) will cost you anywhere from $600-$1000. Interior designers worth their salt will charge anywhere from $600-$1000 to design an interior. And then there’s the project management, which you can take on yourself, but I’d advise working with someone to at least make sure you’re not forgetting anything. Anyone who’s self-publishing for the first time should hire a consultant who knows something about books and the book industry. As I write in my book, you don’t know what you don’t know. And sometimes those mistakes you don’t know you’re making can be costly. I’ve worked with a number of authors over the years who’ve had to reprint their book and who’ve lost entire print runs because of egregious mistakes that could have been avoided. And as a self-published author, you still need to be thinking about publicity and how to get your book out into the world. It’s not a cheap endeavor, getting published. But do it well and you will earn your money back. At She Writes Press, the break-even point is 500 books—and that’s a lot of books to sell, though it may not seem like a lot. But our expectation is that authors will sell this many books in one year, and we’re making every effort to make sure that happens. With a team on your side helping to push those books in any way possible, it’s a wild—but fun—world out there.

I appreciate the opportunity to share this information with all of you this week, and I hope you’ll ask whatever other questions or points of clarification you’re hoping to understand better. You guys are my inspiration for these posts, btw. Thanks for reading!

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  • Valerie Bonham Moon

    The latest book I've read from SWP is Army Wife by Vicki Cody.  I found the quality of the production to be indistinguishable from other contemporary off the rack trade paperbacks from traditional publishers.  The book was an enjoyable read and felt like it.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Thanks for the feedback, Sherrey. We really appreciate this!

  • Sherrey Meyer

    Brooke, thanks for this informative post. I've been reviewing and studying SWP's package for the past several months as I draw closer to finishing my manuscript. One of the strongest factors for considering SWP is the quality of the books I've read coming out of SWP. The feel of the finished printed book is beyond anything else I find in today's publishing market. Thanks for bringing a quality press to authors like myself who don't want to do it all but want to be competitive by offering a quality finished product.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Susan, we use a system very much like that used at traditional houses. We read all the submissions for quality and we place the books on a track. We explain our rationale. Of course, readers are not completely objective, but we are all book professionals, and so a Track 1 author's writing is considered to be publish-ready by our team. Thanks for asking.

  • Nancy Chadwick Publishing

    so glad for this post...updated and all! I will be referring to it many times as it has already answered many of my questions about SWP.

  • Susan B Marcus

    You vet the books you publish. What are your vetting criteria?

  • Michelle Cox


  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Thanks, Dhana!

  • Dhana Musil Querying

    clusterfrack! love it. 

  • Dhana Musil Querying

    wow. This is such an important post. I am going to read it and re-read it. And when I am at this stage, hopefully in about 8 weeks, I will read it again and figure out my next step. Thanks so much for the valuable break-down of information. 

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    @Avril, no, we aren't offering that "booster package" for $1000 anymore. None of the authors thought it was valuable. It didn't do enough. What's included in the $4900 can be found here: http://shewritespress.com/how-it-works/


  • Avril Somerville

    Revisiting this after a while. I appreciate the thorough breakdown.

    Question: is the $4900 currently stated at SheWritesPress.com inclusive of the $1000 publicity fee? 

  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    Great post, Brooke! It's cool learning how this works. Thanks for breaking it down so clearly.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Awesome, Beth! Feel free to email me if you have more questions. Welcome to She Writes too!

  • Beth Teliho

    Hi Brooke! This was very informative, thank you. I'm a new member and have been very busy editing my finished novel, so I've barely been on the site. Today I thought, I should jump on She Writes and learn the ropes. I'm currently completely overwhelmed by the publishing process (first timer)....and I find your post FIRST. Kismet? :)

    My original plan has always been to selfpub my novel as an ebook because I didn't want to lose creative control, time, money, etc. going the traditional route. Now I'm wondering if She Writes is exactly what I've been looking for in a publishing process? I'm intrigued. Very.


  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    @Nancy. Thank you and we will welcome you with open arms when you're ready!

    @Pamela. It varies, and this is spelled out on our website. There are lots of ways to sell the book, and the price points vary. If authors sell directly, they clear over $11. If they sell through the trade, it's more like $3/book. For ebooks it's $5-$6/book. So 500 is a rough estimate and obviously not totally accurate for trade-only sales, but all of our authors are doing some form of direct selling at events. Interestingly, my most successful sales of my own book (for a single day) was a California Writers Club talk where I sold 25 books and cleared $8/book (only less than $11 because my price point is so low). Pretty awesome.

  • Pamela Olson

    If the break event point is 500 books, and the package (not including publicity) costs $3900, does that mean authors clear $8 per book?

  • Nancy G. Shapiro

    Thank you for your in-depth analysis, Brooke; I now have a clear picture of just what SWP offers its authors—an amazing package to say the least. Having just self-published my first e-book using KDP on Amazon (at your timely suggestion), there's no doubt in my mind that when the "big book" is finished, I'll be using SWP. And bravo for creating such a safe haven for authors and having the flexibility, wisdom, and inquiring stance to grow, change and nurture SWP into the best partnership publisher it can be. 

  • Rossandra White

    As someone whose memoir, Loveyoubye, SWP is publishing next March/April and as someone who's always looking to make sure I made the right decision, it's reassuring to read this analysis. From my experience so far, I would never have made it going alone with CS, BookBaby etal.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Hi Audry, thanks for the question. It's a good one. The math goes that if you sell 500 copies you'll break even and then move into the black. But 500 copies is no small number. A lot of authors think that 500 copies is easy, but you really have to work at it. You need a marketing and publicity strategy of some sort. So we really are working on that with our authors, but of course we can't guarantee 500 sales. We've had some great success stories, though. One of our authors, Judith Newton, wrote something for HuffPo that went viral and ended up resulting in about 200 sales just from one post. You never know what can happen. We have an author who will be in Modern Love next weekend. Can't wait to see what happens there. You need the publicity to move the books, and so we're trying every angle and learning more at every turn.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Thanks for the feedback, Carol. This makes me happy!

  • Audry Fryer

    Brooke, thank you so much for this article.  I have two e-books that I self-published directly to Kindle and Nook.  Due to a lack of marketing experience and a platform that's in its early stages of development, I have only sold around a hundred books over two years' time.  As of recently, I have been considering submitting my second book to She Writes Press, but have been hesitant because of the price (I am working with a limited budget).  I hadn't realized until I read this article how much you help the authors you accept.  My question is:  How feasible would it be for a beginner in this "publishing game" such as myself, to earn back the amount I would pay your services?   

  • Carol Hogan

    Brooke, Thanks so much for your input. I have gotten more good help and exciting ideas from She Writes than almost any other medium. Keep up the good work, and when I feel my book is ready, it will be coming directly to SWP. Aloha, Carol Hogan

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    @S. Ramos O'Briant. Congratulations, first of all. Always great to get good feedback and praise for a cover! And I'm sorry about your bookstore experience. Obviously it depends on the bookstore, and I don't think it's good that authors get punished for using CreateSpace, but some bookstore owners understandably feel that Amazon is out to get them and then take a strong stance against their products.

    To your questions:

    1. You list w/Amazon Kindle, but the book will/cannot be listed on Amazon?

    We list with Amazon Kindle as just one of our ebook platforms, among many. So our books are on Amazon, available as print books and as Kindle ebooks.

    The submissions to Booklist and others are included in the price?

    That's included in the price of the marketing booster. But for us the marketing booster is just an option, and it's really meant to be in lieu of hiring a publicist. Many of our authors hire publicists, and if and when they do this they really don't need the booster. Your  publicist will send out to the major reviewers on your behalf, or we will do it for you if you don't have a publicist. Thanks for your comment and questions.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    @Birdie, thanks for weighing in here. Always love to hear from designers. Where production is concerned, we do custom covers and interior designs and our ebooks are designed from the InDesign files to match the print books. It's totally true (of course) that some/many books are going to sell more ebooks than trade paperback books, but we haven't yet figured out the numbers on how we will/would do ebook-only products. We are looking to offer this, but it's going to be pretty hard to compete with BookBaby and others. I feel that an ebook is a platform-builder, or a quick opportunity to make a little money, or drive a little traffic. For the most part we are really focused on authors who want to put a mark out there with a major work. But we're only a year and a half old, so we'll see where we go with this. Thanks again!