ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Bring On The Pain #5: CREATESPACE —

When we last left my adventure into digitial distribution, I said that I was going to report things as they hit crossroads or conclusions, just to not cause too much noise in the process. Well, all the people (well, all dozen of you) wondering how that is going can now hear about Createspace.

Createspace is an Amazon.com company that functions basically as an on-demand publisher for books, movies, and music. They seem to set themselves up as a sort of Vanity Press 3.0, where you get the extra bonus of being hooked into Amazon.com’s other properties, including Video on Demand (VOD) and being able to have your stuff sold through the main Amazon.com site.  Now, bear in mind that I already sell my documentary through Amazon but this was the only way to get it digitally offered through them.

I suspected that the process would be all fucked up because I’m not a desperate teenager selling a 1 hour movie about how his friends are all able to play hard-boiled cops in their city’s alleys but still can’t shave. I wasn’t disappointed in that measure.

This whole “I finished my project and produced a nice package for it and it’s actually a massive mini-series” thing isn’t really going to do me any favors. For one thing, everybody thinks in the basic unit of the Amray Case, that shitball black plastic thing with the plastic sleeve that you can shove the crappy one-sided paper label into and drop off for a buck. I used to get annoyed with people putting their documentaries out this way but everybody wants them to do this: the duplication people, the selling people, even people who would otherwise benefit from nicer packaging. So yeah, having this crazy custom package kind of messes the little machine up.

Additionally, the fact it’s not one but 8 documentaries, that REALLY messes stuff up.

So here’s the details.

I filled out the createspace form and got assigned a title ID. I was given some stuff to sign out and mail along with my submission. For my submission I sent in a shrinkwrapped copy of the documentary. I mean, why not do it right, right? This was in late December of 2008. On January 14, I got the following letter:

Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2009 00:10:14 -0800 (PST)
From: "donotreply_1@createspace.com"
To: jason@textfiles.com

Subject: Materials Received
We have received your materials for "BBS: The Documentary".
We are now in the process of setting up your title(s) in our
system. Our normal setup times are as follows:
DVD source copy - 10 business days from receipt of all
necessary materials including artwork.
Tape source copy - 15 business days from receipt of all
necessary materials including artwork.
Amazon Video On Demand - 60 days.
This is the length of time from when we receive all of your
materials to when we ship your proof.
Once we have finished setting up your title(s), we will
produce a proof copy and mail it to you. These proofs are
exactly the same as the final units that will be sold to your
customers. Your title(s) will remain on hold until you
receive the proof copies and approve the title within your
account. If you have a multi-disc set or collection please
approve all discs/titles in the set or collection.

Instructions on how to approve the title and make it
available will be included in the package with the proofs.
For support, please visit https://www.CreateSpace.com/Help
Sincerely,

CreateSpace, Member Services

Note that line about multi-disc productions: “If you have a multi-disc set or collection please approve all discs/titles in the set or collection.”  Seems pretty straightforward.

So now it’s February, and I got this in the mail:

Hello Jason,

Thank you for using CreateSpace for your self-publishing needs.

We are sending this message to notify you that your title 260216 has
been rejected as a Video On Demand- only title.  I sincerely apologize
for any inconvenience.

You have sent in three discs under the same title ID. Yet, at this time
 we do not offer support for multi-disc sets for Video On Demand.

If you would like complete a title setup for each disc, please feel free
to attempt submission as such.

As stated, I apologize for any difficulties or inconveniences. Thank
 you for your patience and attention to this matter.

If you encounter any questions or concerns, please feel free to send
us a follow-up support request via the following
address.

http://www.createspace.com/Support

Thank you and best regards,

Kelly
CreateSpace Member Services

Several things to note here.

First of all, the time from sending it in to “we can’t use this” was roughly 2 months. So understand that this is how things tend to function; you have a completed project, and you could shove it into any DVD player in the world and watch it, but even under this optimum condition, you still have this extra two-month tumor between finished and finished. It’s no wonder people like the immediacy of video upload services like Youtube and Vimeo (and now both support high def to various degrees).

Second of all, this is quite the bait and switch. Apparently my multi-disc project I sent in CAN’T be used as it is. If, perhaps, I took each of my three discs and submitted THOSE? Could I THEN do it? Obviously I would have to whip up three different “part 1, part 2″ covers and so on.

So then I wonder if I can do something to fix all this, and more importantly, will I ever see that copy I sent in again? So I mailed a question about this and what the deal was. Here’s that letter:

Hello Jason,

Thank you for contacting us regarding multi-disc sets.

Through Amazon Video On Demand, we cannot accommodate
multi-disc sets. In order to list these discs as AVOD titles
then you will need to create three separate titles and pair a
disc to each title. If the DVDs you submitted are
distinguishable as three separate titles then you all you
need to do is indicate which disc goes which title. However,
if all the discs were submitted under a single title, then
you will need to resend materials indicating which disc
should be paired with which title ID.

For future reference, we do offer the option of creating
mutli-disc sets, but only in physical DVD format.

I hope this information is helpful. Feel free to contact us
with any additional questions or concerns.

If you need more help with this issue, click here:

http://www.createspace.com/Support

When contacting us, please be sure to reference your Case
Number: 00330810

To be honest, talking to people through this fucked-up cut-and-paste language with all sorts of back-from-10-feet language kind of turns me off. At this juncture, it sounds like I would have to go through a number of hoops to make this go video on demand, and I’m not really interested in those hoops. Maybe in the future I’ll do it, but for the moment, meh.

So there we go:

CREATESPACE RESULT: STALLED.

Yeah, I could take advantage of their put-it-in-shitty-amray approach, but that really doesn’t do it for me.  I have a little less than a thousand copies of this movie in the attic and I’d rather those go out the door. If I make a shitty “you missed the boat and now we’re in re-issue-land” version, I’ll take some effort to make it so.  When I have time, maybe I’ll go through the machine again, but for now it seems like too much work for little benefit.

AND THERE WE GO.

How awesome will my other digital distribution attemps go? Stay tuned!


Categorised as: documentary

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5 Comments

  1. bureaucracy sucks. I’m sad that you have to go through this pain. Here is my hypothesis why customer service can drop so low.

    Maybe it’s because the supporters are without any power to resolve this kind of issues and they are paid too little and not interested in making the companys reputation any better.

    Same in a supermarket, nobody cares, only the guy who owns the store.

    Good luck with the distribution.

  2. Matthew says:

    I just learned about CreateSpace the other day and was wanting to look into it further for book publishing. In that medium, at least, it seems like the simplest way to get POD published and listed on Amazon; apparently, Lulu.com’s means of getting you on Amazon cost a lot more, so people have been self-publishing through both sites simultaneously. Get more money from direct sales through Lulu, but listed cheaply on Amazon through CreateSpace.

    Such a PITA, but it might be worth it… maybe. Have you looked into Lulu before? They do DVDs as well, but I haven’t yet done any business with them so I can’t say whether their service is better or not.

  3. Church says:

    OK, read it twice and still not sure what the problem was exactly (yeah, yeah, multi-disc. That never happens. Nobody could have anticipated that when trying to set up the mother of all distribution systems…)

    Looking forward to the next installment (also, crossing my fingers.)

    • Jason Scott says:

      The big WTF in the whole thing is I just want the streaming bit to work. Like I said, it can probably be worked out but not right now.