A Guide to CreateSpace

 

Here’s a resouce I put together for authors looking to use CreateSpace.  Instead of reading it, listen to the podcast.  Click on the audio button below.  To save, right click the link below it.  Enjoy!

CreateSpace Podcast

A Layman’s Guide to CreateSpace: One Author’s Journey

Now some have said that the self publishing process isn’t quite as bad as getting kicked in the jewels, but it can be.  But then again, trying to find a reputable agent and a traditional publisher can, and often will, lead to internal hemorrhaging, confusion, panic attacks, or, at the very least, wild highs followed by near suicidal lows.  Trust me, I know.

That being said, landing a traditional publisher is usually most desirable.  So start there.  Do your homework, perfect your manuscript and write a very, very good query letter.  But if it doesn’t work out, and if you’re set on proving the world wrong, or seeing your book in print, or if you want to try to rake in greater proceeds per book, then go the other route.  I did.  And so far, I’m quite pleased with the results. 

Now I’m no expert, but having scavenged the internet in search of information, it appears that most self-published authors don’t make it big.  In fact, the vast majority only sell a few copies to their mom, Aunt Ruthie and maybe a few reluctant friends.  This is especially the case with fiction.  Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way.  It just means that you’re going to have to put in some serious time and energy.  It’s an uphill battle.  And so you need to know what to expect and prepare accordingly. 

So that’s what this little guide is designed to do.  It’s my humble attempt to help budding authors make their way through the labyrinth of self-publishing.  Actually, that’s not true.  I can only tell you what I know about CreateSpace… although many of the concepts outlined here relate to all self-publishing endeavors.  With that in mind, allow me to highlight a few of the things that stumped me along the way.

Why CreateSpace?

At the end of the day, I went with CreateSpace.  Something like Lightening Source, while impressive, was a bit more than I wanted to tackle.  On the other hand, Lulu, while apparently easy to use, wouldn’t put as much money in my pocket.  That’s important, right?  Here I would simply direct readers to the handy dandy CreateSpace calculator.  See this link (Look at Sales and Royalties).  Compare it with Lulu and let the facts speak for themselves.

Other Costs: Now you’ll want to purchase the $40 Pro Plan through Amazon.  It’s a no-brainer upgrade.  In addition to this, you’ll be required to purchase at least one proof of your book.  It will probably cost you between $10-15.  Odds are good, however, that you’ll go through this process 2 or 3 times.  So all in all, costs are not bad. 

Pitfall: Interior Formatting

Microsoft Word may very well be the single most heinously frustrating program in the world.  Still to this day, I have no idea how to properly align this one small section of indented numbers with paragraphs in my manuscript.  It simply won’t do what I want it to do, even with the “show paragraph” markers turned on. 

But never mind that.  The end result of my manuscript, in actual printed form, looks absolutely great.  Seriously, it looks just like any other traditionally published book on your shelf (though mine has a purely black and white interior.  I have no idea what color interiors look like).  

There’s a catch, however.  You have to do all the formatting yourself.  All of it!  And you will need to publish the manuscript as a PDF. 

As far as specifics are concerned, here’s what I went with: 

First, I chose 6X9 as the trim size.  Unfortunately, I wrote up my entire manuscript BEFORE working through the page layout options.  This created a lot of extra work.  Don’t do this.  Establish size, indents, headers, footers, font, font size, everything, before typing away.  Let me repeat.  Figure all this out beforehand.    

To do this, go to “Page Layout” and click “Size.”  At the bottom, click “More paper sizes.”  Once there, set the width and height.  Set the “margins” as well.  SET THE MARGINS!  Here’s what I chose (for a 6X9 book):

Top [.75]
Bottom [.5]
Left [.75]
Right [.75]    

I also mirrored the margins.

Headers and Footers [.3]

Justify the text.

You might find this video series helpful:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boP5po6aMDk&feature=channel

As far as fonts are concerned, there are many good options.  Most prefer a serif of some variety.  I went with “Goudy Old Style,” 12 point.  That being said, don’t make everything the same font size/style.  Here I would recommend studying five or six books on your shelf.  Note how they position chapter headings.  Note font sizes.  Note font selections.  Carefully examine all subtleties and pick the look you like and pattern yours after it.  There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.  Professionals are professionals for a reason.

Pitfall: PDFs and Page Breaks

Keep a close eye on page breaks.  When you convert your document to a PDF, a page break will create a blank page.  In order to start page numbers and headers at a later point in the document, which you will want to do, you’ll be required to insert a page break (Or many more if you want multiple headers).  So just keep this in mind.

Pitfall: Proof Read, Proof Read, Proof Read

I must have carefully read through my manuscript, after it was supposedly finished, three or four more times.  Maybe five.  Seriously, mistakes are inevitable.  And you won’t catch them at first.  

Allow time to pass between the readings as well.  There’s something peculiarly powerful about getting away from your manuscript and revisiting it later.  Awkward/lame sentences/paragraphs, as well as typos and grammatical errors, are far more easily caught.    

Another crucial step is to give your manuscript to half a dozen proof readers.  Tell them to make you mad, because if they come back and tell you nothing’s wrong, they are either blind or lying.  So be sure to choose intelligent, thoughtful, trustworthy screeners.  And for goodness sake, take the hard working editors out to eat or something.          

Pitfall: Cover Design

A person can certainly create a cover using the program supplied by CreateSpace, but it’s not going to look professional.  And for some, maybe that’s ok.  Maybe you aren’t looking to sell your book to a wide audience.  If, however, you want to run with the big boys, and if you don’t want your book to look hokey or like some freshman JV basketball player, then you’re going to have to create your own cover. 

But of course this is no small thing. 

There are plenty of businesses out there willing to make your book shine with the glow of professional quality, but it will require, quite naturally, a very shiny penny.  Here the author must seriously weigh the reality of books sells against the cost.  Is it worth it?  Really?  Be objective here. 

For myself, I created my own.  A friend at my church, Tom Dinkledine, (www.dinkledinephotography.com), happens to be a professional photographer.  I approached him with my idea and he shot the picture at a very reasonable cost.  My brother, who likewise enjoys photography, was willing and able to edit the cover (add text, lighten, crop, etc.).  Check out the cover here: Link.

If you know people who are proficient with editing and photography, then you may want to explore that.  If not, you’re in a tough spot.  You might be able to obtain permission from someone on Flickr, in the event you find a picture you like.  In that case, only editing is required.     

The process of editing and preparing a cover is challenging, to say the least.  But it’s certainly do-able. 

First obtain a template from the CreateSpace website.  Punch in trim size, page count, etc. and download a template.  It will be a single image of your back cover, the spine and the front cover.  It’s all one piece.     

Let’s hit the pause button. 

You had better make darn sure you know what your page count truly is, because if after further editing you decide to change your page count, the spine width is going to either decrease or increase.  And if you make these changes after designing your cover, well, you get the idea.  The cover has to be changed to accommodate the new spine width.  It may be a simple fix, but it might not be.  So get your manuscript in near perfect working order before tackling the cover. 

Can you tell I made this mistake?    

Ok, back to the template.  After downloading the template, follow it carefully and precisely.  Make sure the image completely covers the outer red line.  Make sure text isn’t too close to the edges, specifically, the cutting line.  Here’s how the CreateSpace email instructed me when I made this mistake:

“The cover contains a live element that may be trimmed on the front cover. Please make sure that the text appears .375″ away from the outer edges. All elements you wish to appear on the cover, such as text and graphics, need to appear within the live graphics area. Only background that can be cut off should extend through the bleed area.”

When you finish your cover, sleep on the finished product.  Ask others to nick pick and make suggestions.    

If there’s a formatting mistake, CreateSpace will let you know.  Within 24-48 hours (usually 12-24 hours), you will receive an email detailing what is incorrect.  This is very helpful.  And if perchance the problem can’t be resolved, you can contact customer support for further assistance.  And let me tell you, their customer support is excellent.  Zero complaints (I called three times).    

Ordering a Proof

Once the manuscript and cover pass the test, you will then need to order a proof.  Unfortunately, shipping is a little slow.  My first proof took 10 days to reach me, and I upgraded shipping to standard.  That being said, the second proof took 3 days.  I’m not sure what’s up with that, but anyway, plan accordingly… and try to get it right the first time. 

If perchance you don’t like the cover or want to make a correction, simply upload another PDF file and repeat the process.  Simple as that.  The same is true with the interior file.  Upload the PDF and Voila!  But note: You will be required to order a proof each and every time. 

Also don’t fear pushing the “submit for publishing” button when ordering a proof.  Your book is not going to pop up on Amazon.  Only after accepting the proof will you be able to launch it into the public domain.  There will be an “Approve Proof button.”  

Additional Resources:

I found the Absolute Write Forum extremely helpful.  The place is teeming with good ideas and discussions.  Thank you Absolute Write!

The forums over at CreateSpace are helpful as well.  There’s a fairly large community of people willing to answer questions.  But most issues have already been addressed, so utilize the search archives feature. 

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line.  You can reach me through this website. 

May your publishing success cause Harry Potter to tremble in his boots!

All the best,

Austin Brown

Order Walking with the Mailman today!  Link to Amazon.

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