Advent of the Insurgent Creative, Day Eleven – Spoonflower

Going a bit outside the box on this entry. When we talk about Insurgent Creatives, we’re usually focusing on writers, artists, musicians… but what about clothing and textile designers? Today, we take a look at Spoonflower.

Spoonflower is a service that started in 2008 and offers digital printing of fabric, allowing designers to create and order custom fabrics for use in the making of curtains, quilts, clothes, bags, furniture, dolls, pillows, framed artwork, costumes, banners or whatever else they can think of. They offer different fabric stock (quilting-weight, upholstery-weight, and organic cotton sateen) at different prices, and print up to 5 yard lengths at a time (although you can order multiple 5y lengths). They take your digital file (JPG, PNG, GIF, TIF, SVG, AI and EPS format), at a minimum resolution of 150dpi and a maximum file size of 40mb, and run the blank cloth through an inkjet printer (which produces finer detail than screen printing of fabric is capable of).

Here’s a video made by the North Carolina Arts Council about Spoonflower:

In addition to producing custom fabric for designers, Spoonflower also serves as a marketplace for designers to sell their fabrics, although this is largely an afterthought: Designers only earn a 10% royalty on sales of yardage of their fabrics. So the focus of the site for designers, really, is for the production of custom fabric for use in your designs — which you then must sell through other means, whether on your own site, or craft storefronts like Etsy.

For an example of an Insurgent Creative using Spoonflower as a major tool in their business, check out the dice bags produced by Lyndsay Peters at Dragon Chow Dice Bags, who has turned her custom designs into an Award-nominated successful business.

Storm the gates!

Advent of the Insurgent Creative, Day Ten – Createspace

In the second of our two-part feature on Amazon’s offerings for Insurgent Creatives, today we talk about Createspace, the production and distribution tool for physical product (well, initially, but there’s more to it, as I’ll discuss below).

Createspace began as CustomFlix Labs, a service that made distribution easier for independent filmmakers by providing on-demand DVD production, and Booksurge, a print-on-demand book service. Both companies were acquired by Amazon in 2005, and four years later, they were combined under the banner of Createspace, offering on-demand manufacturing of books, DVD’s and music formats, and distribution through the storefront.

Essentially, the process works along similar lines to Kindle Direct Publishing, which I covered yesterday. The creative uploads their particular file (although, given that we’re talking about physical merchandise here, manufacturing specs are much more important — and Createspace provides clear guidelines on these for each category), provides the details, and then activates the product, which is then made available for sale via the Createspace storefront (which earns you the highest royalty rate), the main Amazon storefront (which earns you a slightly lower royalty rate — but still good, and obvious reaches more customers), and, in the case of books that have signed up for the Pro Plan, wholesale sales to other retailers (bookstores, etc.).

The site is no longer limited to physical merchandise. Music can now be offered not only via CDs sold on Amazon, but as DRM-free mp3 downloads via AmazonMP3, which launched in 2008. Films have the option of being sold as DVDs on the site, or being made available as Video-on-Demand via Amazon’s streaming service. Books, however, remain physical — if you wish to digitally release, that must be done via the separate KDP program — it is my hope that eventually they fold all of their independent production and distribution functionality under a single site.

Obviously, given the wider array of product, along with the variables due to formats, size, distribution options, etc., Createspace is far more complex than the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program — and I’m only barely touching on the tools offered and resources available. I urge you to kick around the site for yourself. Certainly, there is also an argument to be made for not putting all of your eggs in one basket. However, when a distribution source has as massive a market share as Amazon does, an Insurgent Creative could easily make a comfortable living just by focusing on having product available there. There are many other platforms available, and you should take advantage of as many as you are comfortable using — but the old marketing adage holds true: Fish where the fish are. Getting your products available via Amazon will definitely drop your line in the most heavily-trafficked waters.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

Advent of the Insurgent Creative, Day Nine: Kindle Direct Publishing

This one may be a bit of a no-brainer, but I want this series to be as comprehensive as possible, and there is perhaps no bigger tool in the kit of an Insurgent Creative writer than Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (formerly the Digital Text Platform).

KDP is the platform by which rights-holders — whether publishers or independent creators — can upload their books to be sold in the Kindle format on Given that Kindle sales represent approximately 60-70% of all eBook revenues (depending on who is reporting the analysis), it is absolutely crucial for any Insurgent Creative writer to get their material available there.

Creators can upload their books in any number of formats, to be converted by KDP into Amazon’s proprietary Kindle format. Certain files have a better success rate for conversion — I’d recommend (as does KDP) the MOBI format, which is identical to the Kindle format, minus the added DRM. Files uploaded as MOBI files have a shorter journey to make in conversion, and will have the most success. If you follow the directions provided in David Hewson’s “Writing a Novel With Scrivener”, which I discussed in this entry, you’ll be able to generate a MOBI file with ease — in addition, KDP provides extensive tutorials and FAQs via the Kindle Publishing Guide on the site.

Once you’ve uploaded the file, you enter the title information — author, publisher, publication date, ISBN. A quick note on ISBNs — I’d recommend purchasing a block of ISBNs for your work (they’re available via Bowker Identification Services). Yes, they’re expensive, and yes, Amazon lists an ISBN as “optional” in the KDP process. The reason for this is because if you don’t have one, Amazon will generate a placeholder ISBN for your book in their system. The problem I have with this is that it identifies Amazon as the publisher. I would rather pay the money to have the book internationally registered and identified as my own, just in case rights issues pop up later on. Keep in mind as well that if you publish a book in different formats, each format (print, Kindle, EPUB, etc.) is considered a separate edition, and as such requires its own ISBN.

The other issue which is important to note here is pricing. Amazon would very much like to drive sales of ebooks, since it benefits them as the largest source of those sales. They recognize that the best way to drive those sales are to make them affordable — however many of the larger publishers prefer to price ebooks similarly to how they price print, which leads to mass-market ebooks released for $15 or more. Amazon and the Big Six had a knock-down drag-out over this issue a while back, and Amazon lost. So, the big publishing houses continue to release high-priced electronic editions. Amazon decided to combat this via the small publishers and self-publishers. They rolled out a two-tiered pricing system on KDP. If you price your ebook from 99 cents to $2.98, or for more than $10.00, you will earn a 35% royalty on all sales. If, however, you price your ebook in Amazon’s preferred “sweet spot” of $2.99 to $9.99, you earn double that — a royalty rate of 70%. The 70% royalty is only available in certain territories — if you sell a book outside that territory, you’ll earn the standard 35%, but the territory list is constantly expanding (and currently covers all of the top-selling regions worldwide).

You provide Amazon with bank account information, and you’re paid via bank transfer approximately 2 months later (August sales paid in late October/early November, for example). They do not currently offer payment to Paypal accounts, or, strangely, to Amazon Payments either — bank account only (and they don’t limit it to US bank accounts, either. They do transfers to international banks).

One last word — this week, Amazon rolled out a program they’re calling “KDP Select”, which is an opt-in for creators to allow their books to be added to a lending library for Amazon Prime members (where members can ‘borrow’ Kindle books and read them without purchase). Supposedly, they’re earmarking money to be divided among creators in lieu of royalties for books consumed through this program, but honestly, given the numbers involved, coupled with the terms you must agree to (not having your product available anywhere else — which would include your own website, as well as competing services like Barnes & Noble’s Nook, etc.), it really isn’t worth it. So just ignore that for now.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the physical flip-side of KDP, the Createspace program.

Storm the gates!