Monday, December 5, 2011

CreateSpace, or: You Ought To Be In Paperbacks

Once again I return to share with you all the wisdom I gained from beating my head against the formatting wall. Once again I found out that formatting is easy, but the instructions are scary.

Today's topic is 'CreateSpace', a website much like Smashwords that translates your online manuscript into a book and then lets you sell it through online sources. The difference is that CreateSpace is a pay-to-print service. That is, you're not turning your manuscript into an ereader file, you're turning your manuscript into a paperback book. People will order the book from CreateSpace or Amazon as if it were any regular paperback, and a copy will be printed up and sent to them. Your overhead cost is buying one copy of the book itself so that you can look at it and send back a 'yes, I'm satisfied' message to CreateSpace.

This is a pretty great service, but there is one downside, and it is a BIG downside. The paperback will cost much more than a normal paperback. I'm going to have to charge 19.99 for Wild Children, because Amazon will take a whopping 17.24 for printing (and whatever else) costs for each book. That is based on a 6"x9" (standard paperback size) 441 page book. Lower page count means less cost, but I did some experimenting and it looks like Amazon won't take less than 12 bucks no matter what you do, so the basic situation is the same: Your paperbacks will cost much more than legacy paperbacks.

Having decided it's worth it for the few copies I will sell and to tickle my vanity, I plunged into the formatting. Createspace ( walks you through the process step by step pretty easily, giving you pages to assign a title and formal sales information, getting you a free ISBN if you want it and explaining how specific the ISBN is, uploading your manuscript and creating a cover. They have a wonderful 'review the interior of your book' page that shows you what it'll look like, so you can see if you did it right. They accept very standard formats, although you'll be most confident the end product looks like what's in your word processor if you make a .pdf. They have a couple of nice instruction pages in case you can't figure out how to do anything. They have a sample manuscript so you can see what the layout should look like.


Here are the things I had to do to format my manuscript. The most important was to change the page size to 6"x9", which is standard paperback size. There's a link to instructions on the website, but it's easy. Under 'page layout' Word has an option for page size. Set it to 6"x9", and Word will convert. Done. Change font size and type. I found a great web page that explains not just what fonts to use, but why. I ended up using Palatino Linotype (didn't have Helvetica) for the body of my text and Calibri for my headers. Body of text should be 11 point. That's the really crucial, mysterious information right there, isn't it? Make sure you have page numbers in the footer, and that your page numbers match up with your table of contents, because you just completely rearranged the size of your manuscript. Decide if and what you want for headers, because professional paperbacks do have those.

That's about it. When I uploaded my .pdf the reviewer squawked that I hadn't imbedded my fonts - but that didn't matter. The interior review program showed that it knew my fonts and everything looked good. If it does matter for you, there's a link on the site telling you how. I went back and added a blank page here and there until it looked the way I wanted. Looked great in the review page. Done and dusted.

Creating a cover is even easier. They have a webpage program that helps you build it, and hopefully you already have a cover image from your ebooks ready to use. One warning so it doesn't catch you by surprise: The names of their templates are all ridiculous and inscrutable. No help at all. I had to poke around for awhile until I found the template that let me submit an image for my front cover with nothing added to it, and put simple text on the back cover. That option is there, as is a separate image for front and back covers, as is a single prepared image for the whole cover. Once you find the template you want, it goes back to simple step by step stuff.

I hit one land mine there, by the way: The review information came back saying they want the title and my author name half an inch from the edge of the image. So be ready for that niggling detail!

That was it. I gave them information on where to send my royalties, then sent the book to their reviewers. 48 hours was predicted for review times, they got back to me within 12. I'll have to fix the cover and resend, of course. After that I'll order (and pay for) my review copy, and when I get it send them a confirmation 'I Like What I See' message.

Good luck to anyone else who wants to try this! It was less complicated than I feared. Less complicated than ebook formatting, actually.