This is a story about David and Goliath. I am David and Goliath is CreateSpace, the POD publishing branch of Amazon. Only, in this story, without the help of a major news organization taking notice or this post going viral, Goliath will win.
I have created several books with CreateSpace over the years. A couple of children’s story books, a few coloring books and my true-crime novel about my cold rape case that was solved after 20 years. I have sold a number of copies of all of them but am by no means a best-selling author.
Just a few weeks ago I published a photo journal of a recent trip to Africa I took with my husband and three friends. I was so touched by the animals, landscapes and people of Africa I thought it would be fun to create a book of our trip. I knew going in that this was never going to sell more than a handful of copies and that was OK with me. I wanted to be able to look through some of my favorite photos, not sitting at a computer, but sitting in a comfortable chair.
After going through the required process set up by CreateSpace, I submitted my PDF to their site and I ordered a proof. This book shipped from Columbia, SC printed on March 21, 2018. My husband edited the text for me and I made those corrections. The photographs in the book looked washed out and fuzzy and several of the photos had printed way too red. I thought this was how the book would always look so with this in mind a made some color corrections to a few of the photographs and then I submitted the PDF again and ordered a second proof.
When this proof arrived I realized that CreateSpace/Amazon has a substantial quality-control problem.
The second book was printed in Lexington, KY on April 16, 2018. It looked beautiful. It was printed on bright white high quality full color ink paper. The photographs were rich in color, crisp and clean. It was so unlike the first proof I received that I immediately realized I had never before seen what a full-color book printed by CreateSpace should look like. I was so excited with the look, feel and quality of this proof that I OK’d my book for publishing and I ordered several copies to be shipped directly to my fellow African-adventure travelers and a few family members. I also ordered one for myself.
I was crestfallen when I saw that that the books delivered were not the fine quality produced by KY but, instead were again, the fuzzy and dull books from NC. It was then that I contacted CreateSpace to voice my concern for their lack of quality control.
What follows is back and forth correspondence that has taken place over the past couple of weeks. I realize this is a lot to read and I can understand if you get tired of making your way through this. Trust me when I say, I felt like throwing in the towel myself several days ago. But, I hope you do read all of this. If you don’t have time to read each email, at least check out the captions under each of the photographs I have included. This will give you the gist of this exchange.
This story is about taking pride in the work you do and taking responsibility in producing a product that reflects an honest work ethic. Amazon’s CreateSpace does not feel it is their responsibility to see to it that their printers send out a consistent product. Nor do they feel quality control it is something they should be doing or have any control over. Within the text that follows I offer what may seem like a simple solution to their problem. But, no changes will happen unless they stop blaming their customers and they take responsibility for a flawed business ethic. And, none of this will happen as long as they continue to make sure nobody gets two books printed by two different printers and are allowed to compare the differences.
My original message:
I recently published a photo journal book and I have a problem with the quality control or, rather, lack of quality control from one printer to another. The first proof I order was on a white, eggshell-type finish paper and the photos printed very red and dull. (Printed in Columbia, SC).
I made changes to my photographs and edited the text. I then ordered another copy. The next copy I received was beautiful. The paper was bright white and slightly shiny and the photos were true to color.(Printed in Lexington, KY) Based on the look of this second printing, I went ahead and approved my proof. I then ordered 4 copies to give to family and friends. They look awful. Most of the photos are too red and the dull paper was used. They were printed in Columbia, SC. I am really upset about this.
As a photo book, the quality of the photos is important to me. I loved the way my second proof looked (Lexington, KY). When I approved it, I had no idea that this was not the quality I would be getting all the time; the quality I could expect all the time. I paid $25 for each book and I am embarrassed to have anyone see it. This is unacceptable. It isn’t even only the money lost that really makes me mad.(although a full refund is the least you can do in this situation). What really concerns me is that I have been asked by a few people if they can buy a copy. The minimum price for this book is $49.73. With my markup, it’s $60. I cannot in good faith ask someone to pay that much for a book I cannot guarantee the quality of. I can’t guarantee it, because YOU cannot guarantee the quality or control it from one printer to another.
As a full color book, I expect good quality paper that showcases my photos. How can I be sure I will get this every time? How can I be assured that every time a copy is ordered that it will be the fine quality I received from Lexington, KY and not the crap I got from Columbia, SC?
Book information: Two Weeks In Africa, A Photo Journal
8.5″ x 8.5″ (21.59 x 21.59 cm)
Full Color on White paper
ISBN-13: 978-1978210103 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
BISAC: Photography / Subjects & Themes / Travel / General
Thank you for your help with this problem,
On Saturday, April 28, 2018, 12:14:35 PM EDT, MS: Info <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you for contacting CreateSpace, I am here to assist.
I’m really sorry to hear that the orders you received were not to your expectation.
While we have no full control as to where manufacturing will occur based on printing demands, we may transfer the order request to one of our “sister sites” to meet printing and shipping demands.
However, we would be more that happy to perform a Quality Check on any future orders per your request.
In addition, I have issued refunds to your VISA for Order # 219775973 for $25.47, Order #219775820 for $24.67, Order #219775709 for $24.74, Order #219775377 for $25.47 and Order #219775053 for $24.67.
These refunds should appear as a credit on your Credit Card with the next 1-2 business days and your next credit card or banking statement within the next two to three weeks.
Again, we sincerely apologize for any convenience this has caused you, and should you require personal assistance in the future please reach out to us directly at 866.356.2154.
I hope I have satisfied your inquiry and I wish you all the best going forward.
CreateSpace Member Services
Hi Glenn,Thank you for the refund of my recent purchase.
You say >>”However, we would be more that happy to perform a Quality Check on any future orders per your request.”<<
* How do I go about requesting a quality check on the replacement books I plan to purchase?
* What does this quality check entail?
*How do I quality check orders that are not placed by me?
Also, why is it MY responsibility to ask you to be sure the printers you use are doing the job I am paying for? I am paying for full color premium printing. EVERYONE who orders my book is also paying for full color premium printing. How in the world am I supposed to check these order?
I should not have to worry if people that place orders are not getting what they are paying for. CreateSpace is charging for full color printing and this costs considerably more. Because CreateSpace is charging for premium printing, EVERY ONE of your printers should be using good quality paper for the full color printing. It is the responsibility of CreateSpace to be sure the product someone pays for is in fact the product they are getting. Your response seems to indicate that you do not think this is the case. This is unacceptable. I plan to purchase 5 or 6 copies of my book to replace the ones I ordered a week or so ago. Please tell me how I can request Lexington, KY print my copies (and ALL copies ordered in the future) since they delivered what I was expecting.
On Tuesday, May 1, 2018, 5:08:51 PM EDT, MS: CSP Tier 2 <email@example.com> wrote:
Thank you so much for your contact. It is my pleasure to clarify your inquiries today. I apologize for the inconvenience you’ve experienced with the print quality of your books in these orders.
What happens is that as a print on demand company with thousands of members around the world, several production facilities around the United States and thousands of copies printed daily on each facility, it is not possible to revise each and every copy and compare them with the approved files. For this reason, we have the quality check option as a manual option to be requested for specific cases since it is not normal for the books to be misprinted.
Also, being a Print On Demand company, we use different printing facilities to produce your order, the interior paper finish may vary slightly from print run to print run, due to a difference in the print technology used at each location and we are unable to select a specific production facility to process an order since this will become a glitch in the production queue, your order will have to be separated from the queue and will be delayed for a long time; we would like to avoid more inconveniences to happen to you. While we are always taking steps to ensure consistent and uniform printing, as with all titles published on-demand, a small amount of variance from unit to unit is expected.
Now, I’ll be delighted to assist you placing the Quality Check if you want. Please proceed to place the replacement order and reply to this email with the order number. Once I have it, I will contact the production facility and request for this quality check.
I will keep this case open for 48 hours and if there is no response I will resolve it concluding that you don’t want to proceed with the Quality Check. I await your response!
CreateSpace Member Services
Thank you for your response. The problems with your explanation are:
*The differences between the first proof, approved 2nd proof and what I received are do not ‘vary slightly’, there are big differences between the book that was printed on the correct paper and the ones that were not. I expect slight color variations, but not extreme variations in supplies used to print the all-color books.
*It is your responsibility to utilize printers who do the job you expect, I expect and the rest of your customers expect. Now that I know all of the full color books I have received from CreateSpace (mostly printed in SC) have been done wrong, I know that there are a good many of my customers who have also been cheated out of getting what they paid for. I would never have known better if I had never received a copy that was printed correctly and looked beautiful. I may never have approved the copy with you and would have taken my business elsewhere.
I ran an A.B.Dick offset printing press for a few years in the 80’s. It was my responsibility to be sure that each job was printed on the paper requested with the colors a customer wanted. Sure, this was dark-ages printing compared to the technology today. However, consistency in the product, printing the run correctly and taking pride in your work should not have to be sacrificed just because the equipment is different. Just because the company you are doing the job for is so big the little guys (like me) should not be taken advantage of. I would guess there are thousands of little guys like me who make up your business. We should get what we pay for (what you charge for).
It is my belief that there are thousands of printers in this country who would love to score a printing contract with you & who would do the job consistently. From your response, I gather that my getting a proof of my book printed the way everyone should expect it to be is rare. If I were someone who would be buying and selling millions of copies and I had approved a proof that looked beautiful only to discover all subsequent printings were nothing like the approved copy, and I voiced a complaint, I suppose my displeasure would be taken much more seriously. Having to refund the cost of only a handful of books rather than hundreds seems to be the easy response to my concern. CreateSpace/Amazon performing quality checks with the people who print their jobs…well, that’s too much like hard work. One more question since I have to be in charge of the quality control-how do I go about future requests about quality control of my book(s) since a long-term solution can’t be anticipated?
I have placed an order for 10 copies of my book. I anticipate that these books will be printed on the appropriate gloss white paper. If they are not, I will be requesting a refund for these books as well. This is the order: Your order number is #221046374. Please print out this page to serve as a receipt.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Your credit card statement will show CREATESPACE as the merchant name for this order.
Jennifer Wheatley Wolf
I’m really sorry about the problem you had with your shipments.
I have passed your feedback to our concerned department for review. We’re aware that our choice of delivery services reflects on our business as a whole, and we appreciate your feedback.
It is always important for us to hear how our Members react to all aspects of the services and products provided by our company. Strong feedback like yours helps us continue to improve the service we provide, and we appreciate the time you took to write us.
In this case, I see that your order #221046374 has already been shipped on May 03, 2018 hence, we are unable to perform quality check on this order. If in case, the issue still persist with this shipment kindly let us know so that we can take further action accordingly.
We appreciate your patience and understanding in this regard.
CreateSpace Member Services
I just received the 10 copies of my book Two Weeks In Africa, A Photo Journal and, as I anticipated, they are not printed on the correct paper. The photos are dull and fuzzy because the paper isn’t suitable for color printing. I am extremely disappointed and frustrated by all of this.
It seems to me that the easiest solution to CreateSpace/Amazon’s lack of quality control between your printers isn’t to continually refund a dissatisfied customer (which I expect will be the case here). The solution is to model every one of the print shops you employ after the shop that is getting it right, Lexington, KY.
If I were in charge of this task I would have the shop in KY, that printed my book beautifully, make a list of all the equipment, inks, paper types and suppliers they use. I would then send this list to all the printing facilities employed by Amazon/CreateSpace and insist that all of them use the same. This could probably be done within a few emails and phone calls. Anyone who does not or will not use the supplies you ask should be replaced by a facility that is willing to produce a quality product all of your customers should be receiving (not just the ones lucky enough to have their books printed in KY). I bet you you will find plenty of facilities more than willing to score a big contract with you guys even if it means making a few changes.
Maybe I’m naive but this lack of quality control isn’t something that should be overlooked or left to me and other authors to insist on. Because of the volume of work you produce for writers and authors like me, It is something you should be demanding from everyone who does your printing for you.Although I am feeling defeated by this continuing problem, I do not intend to be quiet about it.
Thank you for your help,
I trust this email finds you well.
I’m sorry to hear about your book order. In order to investigate this issue more thoroughly, I’d like to get more details regarding the condition of the books you received.
Please provide the following information to help with the investigation:
Pictures of the defect
The Product ID of the defective books (the Product ID can be found on the last physical page of the book under the barcode. If there are multiple defective books, please provide the
product IDs for each book.)
You can send this information to us at this link: https://www.createspace.com/support
Have a great day further.
CreateSpace Member Services
Below you will find the list of ID codes you asked for and the ID code for the book that was printed correctly and this entire email thread. I have also included a photo from my book for you to see that compare the books I have received from SC to the book that was printed beautifully by KY. (I would include several more, but your form will only allow for one attachment). Since this book IS a photo journal (hence the name), it is impossible for me to include every photo from every page of the 250+ page book. Rest assured that all pages of each of the 10 books I just received were printed on the same incorrect paper.
If I worked for CreateSpace/Amazon and I was assigned this complaint, I would order a book from each of the printers and compare the two. Actually, I might just select several others in addition to the two my books have been printed by. This would give me a sampling to choose from to compare for myself. The difference is night and day. It’s like getting an engraved invitation printed on regular computer paper. While it displays all the information, it lacks the expected elegance. This lack of quality is not what I paid for or agreed to, it’s not what anyone who orders this book is paying for. You are, in effect charging for the engraved invitation and providing something quite a bit different.
While I have done the best I can to capture with my camera the differences between the books printed on the wrong paper and those printed on paper suitable for full color photographs, the picture does not do the differences justice. That being said, there is an obvious and disappointing difference.
Here are the I codes from all 10 books I received printed on May 3rd 2018 in Columbia, SC:
This is the ID # for the 2nd book I ordered that is printed correctly and I approved after making a few editing corrections. It was printed in Lexington, KY on April, 16, 2018:
I really do not understand why every printer you employ cannot produce the exact same quality product. The achievement of every successful business model is constancy of their product. Every successful chain restaurant has one thing in common. That is, I can go anywhere in the world and eat in their restaurant and already know what to expect when I walk in the door. The one I walk in to that does not follow the model is the the one that suffers and closes
Thank you for your help,
On Friday, May 11, 2018, 11:00:59 PM EDT, MS: CSP Tier 2 <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
I hope this email finds you well.
I have compared your files with the printed copies of your book, Two Weeks In Africa.
The copies printed on May 3rd 2018 in Columbia, SC that you notified us about are within the allowable printing variances. This means that since some small spaces may be slightly different in print than they are in electronic files, some variability is acceptable. This difference falls within the acceptable variance. Occasionally, these slight differences from copy to copy are expected.
We pride ourselves on the quality of books printed on-demand in our manufacturing facilities. We are constantly innovating and adopting new technologies in the on-demand arena. However, as with all books printed-on-demand, a small amount of variance among each book is expected.
In order to address this concern, you may consider updating your files and submitting them in CMYK vs RGB mode if you have not already. We recommend maintaining all original artwork in CMYK, which allows the most accurate color management for our digital, CMYK printers. If your files are already submitted in CMYK, we suggest that you adjust the colors as necessary until the desired color is achieved in print.
If you need additional assistance, please let us know.
CreateSpace Member Services
My complaint about the printing of my books is not about ‘slight variances’ in margins or even slight color differences. These are expected. My complaint is that EVERY book I have had printed in SC has been printed on the WRONG PAPER. I’m not sure why this is so difficult for (all of) you to understand. This is not anything I have any control over. It is, however something that CreateSpace/Amazon should be able to address very easily. The lack of quality control is unbelievable.
You charge premium prices for full-color printing on high quality paper. This means the minimum I have to charge for the books is much higher. But, I am not not receiving books printed on the paper I have approved in my proofs. I suspect no one who’s books are printed in SC are being printed on quality paper. This means, simply, that we are being ripped off.
Your suggestion that the problem is on my end is ludicrous. The EXACT same PDF file was used to print the books in SC and KY. The difference is that Lexington, KY printed the file on the correct paper resulting in a book that is the quality I am paying for; the quality I expect. SC is not. The quality of product sent from SC is inferior because the paper they are using is NOT suitable for color photographs. This is a simple problem to fix on your end by making sure EVERYONE who prints books for you is using the same full color photo paper.
I am attaching several photos that show how the books printed in SC (top on each photo) compare to the book printed in KY (bottom of each photo). The SC books, because they are printed on the wrong paper result in fuzzy and dull photographs. This is unacceptable. The book printed in KY, ON THE CORRECT FULL COLOR PHOTO PAPER, result in photos that are rich color, crisp and clean. If the ALL of your printers were using the same paper KY was using, ALL books would look beautiful irrespective of small variances in margins or color differences. Since you are charging me (and everyone who orders this book) higher prices for quality printing, this is what all of us expect to receive. I am very unhappy not only with the inferior quality of the books but, more importantly, the lack of concern by CreateSpace/Amazon to address this complaint seriously. The lack of quality control on your end is the cause of the problem and can be solved by you quite simply buy insisting everyone who prints orders for full color books all use the same paper and equipment.
I would really appreciate if CreateSpace would resolve this problem.
On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 10:55:23 AM EDT, MS: Info <email@example.com> wrote:
Greetings from CreateSpace. I am contacting you regarding the variance in print copies.
Our technical team has confirmed that the books are printed on the same type of paper, they are just printed with different printers. In the print on demand industry, there is a small amount of variance between different types of printers but the differences are usually minuscule and are rarely ever noticeable to readers who usually are not purchasing books to compare print quality.
They have reviewed the printer metrics and it appears the titles printed within variance, so these are not print defects.
In this case the level of quality seems to be purely subjective and based on the comparisons but, when when looking at the prints individually it is clear that there is a slight color variance but, both books are printing in full color and resolution with no print defects. It doesn’t appear that either site is printing at a lower quality and the same type of paper is used at all our manufacturing facilities. We can guarantee that the print books will have good quality but, we cannot guarantee that every printed book will look exactly the same; we leave some room for print shift and color variance as it is unavoidable with-in Print-On-Demand.
Please know that there will always be slight variations in color and this goes for all print types, not just books. Printing variance is not only common it’s almost completely unavoidable.
I understand that this might not be the response you were waiting for and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. I strongly regret that I am not of much help in this case, I hope you will understand our limitations.
I appreciate your time and understanding. Thank you for using CreateSpace.
CreateSpace Member Services
May 16 at 12:19 PM
It is really a shame that you are unable to be much help in this case even if you recognize the problem for what it really is and not the ‘small amount of variance’ as it is being labeled.
A company as large as Amazon should take immediate action to correct a problem that is well within their ability to correct. Your response indicates to me that Amazon is OK with shipping books that do not meet the approved proof quality of the writer because, well, who’s going to know anyway? This is disgraceful.
When I first mentioned this problem to a friend of mine his response about the differences in the printing quality was “How will you ever know if Amazon corrects the problem since you won’t be able to see all the books?” My response was that it is unlikely that this book will sell many copies. It is very likely that I will be the only one who buys this book so I will be seeing nearly every copy sold. I am not delusional. I know CreateSpace isn’t going to have to print millions of copies of my book; it will not become a best seller. This being said, everyone who orders this book should be receiving a copy of the book that is like the proof I approved. This is not the case.
If I had never received a book printed beautifully and had I not approved this copy of my book for printing and had I not expected it to be printed like this all the time, I would never have known that you do not consider product quality control something you should concern yourself with. This is unacceptable.
CreateSpace and Amazon believe that as long as no one knows the problem exists, it’s OK to avoid correcting it.
My complaint is not about a ‘slight variance in color’ but, instead, is about a dramatically different product sent from one of your facilities than another. The fact that several of the people responding to this ongoing saga have used the exact same words in answer to my complaint indicates to me that:
#1-All of the CreateSpace Member Service representatives have been given a list of scripted responses to use whenever a particular complaint seems to fall within the boundaries of these answers.
#2-None of the CreateSpace Member Service representatives is really seeing the problem.
#3-No one has actually seen a copy of my book printed by SC & KY to compare for themselves.
#4-None of the CreateSpace Member Service representatives can really do anything that will affect change.
If the differences I noted between the books was in fact ‘slight’ as all of the CreateSpace representatives keep referring to them, I would not have complained. Having experience in a printing facility myself I know that colors can indeed change slightly and margins can be slightly different because of trimming. This is not my complaint. My complaint is that the differences between the books printed in your different facilities are quite dramatic. Night and day. These differences should not be accepted by you and they should not be passed on to the consumer. This brings me all the way back to my original complaint of your lack of concern regarding quality control.
CreateSpace/Amazon should step up and take responsibility for the quality of their products insisting that all of their printers use the same supplies and equipment to ensure consistency in their products. It’s a simple solution to the problem that would genuinely reflect what are now only hollow words written on your standard responses form-“We pride ourselves on the quality of books printed on-demand in our manufacturing facilities. ”
I thank you for making it to the end of this exchange. If you feel as frustrated by this as I do perhaps you will share this post on your social media page? No doubt this David and Goliath story will not knock the current headlines off the front pages of news outlets, but I think it’s important to know that one of the biggest companies in this country is ripping off every one of their customers who aren’t lucky enough to get their books printed by the folks in KY.
In addition to the obvious issues I have with this whole situation, what I find really frustrating is how quickly CreateSpace managed to clip my creative wings. I was just beginning to put together a photo book of a recent trip to the Panama Canal. I have put this on hold. I was also really excited about putting together another photo book of an upcoming Machu Picchu and Galapagos Island trip. I have been given the name of another POD site. I will be checking them out. Here’s the link. http://www.ingramspark.com
Although I cannot guarantee the quality of the books you will receive and CreateSpace will not guarantee the quality of the books you receive, here is the link to my author’s page on Amazon. Leave me a note if you order a book. Thanks!