Self-Publishing: Paperback

by Neil Chopra

This is an entry in a series of articles describing the process I went through to self-publish my first book: Perpetual Patterns. Instead of providing generic tutorials, these articles focus on describing exactly what I did in detail.

This article will go over the process I went through to get a paperback version of Perpetual Patterns published through CreateSpace. The website itself is very easy to navigate, so I will focus more on the document setup necessary outside of CreateSpace. I should also mention that the CreateSpace forums are a treasure trove of information driven by the community. If you run into a problem, most likely someone else has run into something similar.

Interior Design

Once the text of my book was finalized, I had to choose a trim size for the paperback before moving forward. I settled on 5.25”x8”, and downloaded the corresponding interior template from CreateSpace. I happened to already have Microsoft Word, so I utilized that for all the formatting work (a free alternative to this is Open Office). The formatted template (as opposed to the basic one) was a better starting point for me as it included headers and footers that I could fiddle with.

I started with one chapter and modified the four different styles I needed (chapter heading, poetry, normal paragraph, bullet points) before tossing in the rest of the text. A couple things to point out about the template:

  • It already has mirrored margins setup, this automatically shifts odd pages to the right and even pages to the left.
  • It already has clean section breaks setup that properly hide the header on new chapters. I ended up needing to manually mess with this later on, but it looks like out of the box it is correct.
  • It starts out with a normal font of Garamond 11pt. Once I got my first proof, that font was a bit small, so I bumped it up to 12pt in the final version.

There were a lot of small details I tried to pay attention to when formatting the book, your eye is the best judge of whether something looks correct. It took me a good amount of time, but I was happy with the result. Once I had the document finalized, I wanted to convert it to PDF for uploading to CreateSpace. You have the option to upload Word documents, but I prefer getting the final PDF ready myself. I’ve been using PrimoPDF for a long time which allows you to simply print to it as if it was a printer. Note that by default it will print a normal 8.5”x11” page. To change this, I had to go to Printer Properties -> Advanced -> Paper/Output -> Paper Size and change the PostScript Custom Page Size to my desired 5.25”x8” (screenshot to the right). When the PrimoPDF dialog came up, I made sure to use the Prepress setting to get the highest quality (especially if images are included).

At this point, I had a proper interior that could be uploaded. CreateSpace has a spectacular Interior Reviewer that shows you exactly how it will look when printed. You can go through each page and make sure everything is to your liking (and they will require you to approve what you see).

Cover Design

I lucked out with the cover for the book because a good friend (who is a crazy talented designer) agreed to help me with it. He uses Adobe Photoshop for all his work. As we were playing around with ideas, I was able to open his PSD files in the free Paint.NET application using the PSD Plugin. This proved to be really useful so I could fiddle with low quality layers and he could translate a screenshot into a high quality version. Once the design idea got finalized, we downloaded a cover template from CreateSpace that had nice guidelines on what needed to fit where (scaled down version of the one we used shown on the right). A few things to note about it:

  • It provides you a spine width based on the number of pages in the book.
  • It gives you a bleed area where artwork should extend through and essential text should avoid.
  • It shows you exactly where the barcode is going to go if you choose to let CreateSpace add it (you can do this even if you have a custom ISBN, which I did in this case). Otherwise, you will need to make the barcode part of your cover design.

A scaled down version of the final cover design can be seen here (the barcode was added after the fact to fill in the screenshot). My friend sent me a high resolution PDF of the cover to upload, and I was on my way to getting the package approved.

Approval

Once I uploaded both the interior and cover to CreateSpace (and filled out the required meta information), I had to wait for CreateSpace to approve it. There were no problems with the interior, but they had a problem with the spine of the cover. The book at that point was only 100 pages (ended up being 108 pages with the font size change), and they suggested getting rid of the spine text altogether. We were able to shrink the text down some and resubmit it, at which point CreateSpace approved it with a warning that they suggested against it.

After CreateSpace approves it, you must order at least one proof copy. If you make subsequent changes, CreateSpace has to approve the content again, and you are allowed to skip the proof if you like. I went through three revisions:

  • First revision (ordered proof): Cover had a white texture that wasn’t printing well, interior font was too small.
  • Second revision (ordered proof): New cover and font looked great.
  • Third revision (skipped proof): Small text fix in interior for finalized version.

CreateSpace was pretty good with the turnaround on approval on their end, normally within half a day. The cost of a proof copy is very small, but the shipping is quite expensive if you want to get it as soon as possible (roughly $15) for a quicker turnaround.

Distribution

You have a couple distribution options for your paperback. For free, the title will appear on the CreateSpace eStore and Amazon. The eStore seems pretty worthless since the only way to get to it is if you have a direct link to your title. Amazon was what I was shooting for anyway.

For an additional $25, all of your paperback titles become available to be sold through expanded distribution channels. This means online retailers and bookstores can choose to stock up on your book. Note that this simply makes it available for other retailers to list and sell if they want to, this doesn’t actually cause them to do so. I decided to enable this option, and found that the minimum list price I could set was increased due to the decreased royalty through the expanded channels.

Once published through CreateSpace, it took 3-4 days for it to show up on Amazon. I never got any notice for this, I just kept looking up the ISBN on Amazon until it magically popped up! Even then, it still took a couple more days for it to actually become available to order (again, no notice, just continually checking).

Amazon Extras

Once the book became available on Amazon, there were a few extra things to setup. I needed to sign up with Author Central, claim my book (can only happen when it’s available), and get my author page setup. I also published the Kindle version at the same time, but unfortunately it didn’t get automatically linked up with the paperback version. Author Central seems to be the place to go for any of these inquiries, and once they linked them up, it took about two days for it to filter through their system. In this case, I did get notified by a customer service rep exactly when they were linked and ready on the website, that was pleasant surprise!

In addition, I wanted to get the paperback version hooked up with the Search Inside the Book program. As described in their FAQ, I needed to have them create a Seller Central upload account for me by sending an email request. Once that was setup (happened pretty fast), I worked on getting a PDF ready to upload.

For the fastest processing, Amazon suggests you provide them with a single bookmarked PDF with everything they need, and name the file with just the ISBN number. Sounds good, I already had a CreateSpace interior PDF. I just needed to tack on the front and back cover. I started by trying to insert them into the Word document itself, but that completely screwed up the page numbering. Then I remembered there’s a neat feature in PrimoPDF where you have the option to either overwrite or append when replacing an existing PDF file. So I created a separate document with the front and back cover, and printed into the same PDF file in the order of: front cover, full interior, back cover. Boom!

No bookmarks though! Adobe Reader (nor the free version of PrimoPDF) allow you to add bookmarks, so I found a nice free piece of software called Foxit Reader. With the PDF open, I was able to add bookmarks for the things I felt needed it: front cover, copyright, table of contents, and back cover. This was ready to go, so I renamed it to 9780985086008.pdf, logged into Seller Central, and uploaded it. In about a week, it was hooked up to the website! Again, didn’t get a notification, I had to send them an inquiry about it myself.

If you end up using CreateSpace for your work, I hope this article helps! Feel free to comment or send me an email if you have any questions.

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