What questions should I be asking before I commit to a Print-On-Demand Publishing service?

I am thinking of going with CreateSpace, an Amazon company, for self-publishing my chidren's book. They have 3 packages for this category, and I'm contemplating the middle-of-the-road package for around $2K.  

What questions should I be asking myself or them before I commit to this process? I was able to write and illustrate the book, but that is the extne of my expertise.Layout design, cover, editing etc. will need their experience. What would be on your checklist? Input appreciated, let me know. Thanks in advance.

P.S. How would I go about obtaining an "eStore"?
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David BruggeCommented:
The very first question that you should ask yourself is "Can you afford to loose $2K?"

Not saying that you will, but realize that self publishing is a very risky business, and YOU are the one taking all of the risks.

The old adage "build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door," is untrue. There are lots of "better" mousetraps out there that the world has never heard of. It takes marketing and distribution to sell products. CreateSpace promises the help with both, but their efforts are limited by the fact that they don't have any financial incentive to commit much to either because the only profit for them is the reprint fees which don't really add up to much when it comes to marketing.

In Hollywood, it now takes more money to market and distribute a film than it does to make one. That means that for every hundred million spent on productions, another hundred million plus, must be set aside for promoting it.

Have you gone the traditional route and submitted it to some agents to get their reaction? If so, what was their reaction? Any suggestion that you have a marketable commodity? If you haven't, I would strongly suggest that you try that approach first. You have nothing to loose (other than your pride getting kicked a bit if you get rejected) and everything to gain. Even if you get rejected, you might get some helpful suggestions.

All in all, I would try self publishing as a last resort. By biggest fear is that you are a very talented writer and illustrator, and that you will have a bad experience self publishing and get discouraged.

That being said, find yourself a good editor -- they're very much worth it. If you're a good illustrator, you probably have a good feel for layout, but you can always post some mock-ups here and perhaps some design forums and get free feedback.

Seek the advice of non-traditional experts. Take a mock-up to your library and ask them for feedback. Seek out the children's book reviewer at a local paper and buy them or her lunch in exchange for looking at your book. Test it out with teachers and parents.

Whatever direction that you go, the very best of luck to you.
sheana11Author Commented:
You've given me a lot to think about, and I've decided, based on your advice, to explore other routes before plunging in with this company. I think your suggestion to contact a local children's book reviewer is a very good one, and I know someone who fits the bill.

I did have a free consultation with an excellent book editor, Here is what she said: that my book wouldn't be accepted because it is not in the "standard format" as it is too long. Also, she said many publishers want children as the main characters and not animals,(my dog is the lead character in the book), because children want a main character with whom they can identify. Lastly, my book is a combination of prose and rhyme, and she said that while rhyme was all the rage up until a few years ago, it no longer is. She said that based on that, self-publishing was the only route. Not a very encouraging critique. But she had many positive things to say about my writing,(illustrations were not done at the time), that my leading character was " very engaging and earnest, and that the book had good movement and energy".

Also, many of my friends and relatives who have read the book are very enthusiastic in their praise, and I know you may think that they are partial, and they are, but I have asked them to be very honest with me, and I believe them.

Again, that being said, your words have made me pause and try to find other avenues and do a more thorough investigation of my options.
sheana11Author Commented:
Thank you for your insightful commentary, and also for your good wishes.
David BruggeCommented:
Once again, best wishes to you on your endeavors. I wouldn't be particularly discouraged by your editor's remarks regarding animals as lead characters and rhyme vs prose. The only way trends change is by someone leading the way. However it is much harder for a new comer to get backing when trying to lead the way.

Please go to my profile and contact me at my email address. I would very much like to see an excerpt of your book and perhaps a sample illustration. One of my clients owns several large children's stores and I know that she would be more than happy to share an honest and unbiased assessment if you are willing to share.
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