It used to be the case that if you self published a book you had to pay for a print run of, say, 500 or a 1000 copies. After giving away a handful to your family and friends at Christmas, the rest would languish at the back of the garage, under threat from damp and inquisitive rodents who were only interested in the nutritional value of the paper, not the intellectual value of your prose. Although the vast majority of my sales are of ebooks, many people still ask if I publish “proper books”, meaning the paper variety. The answer is yes, but I use Print on Demand at CreateSpace. Here’s how it works.
What is CreateSpace?
The simplest way to produce a print on demand paperback edition of your book as a self published author is to use CreateSpace.
Print on demand means that the book doesn’t get physically produced until someone orders a copy. The book is then printed and shipped. It’s an environmentally-friendly way to produce books because you never end up with hundreds of unwanted books that need pulping.
CreateSpace is an Amazon-owned company so producing a paperback this way will automatically get your book into Amazon stores where it can appear alongside your Kindle edition:
CreateSpace offers Standard Distribution and Expanded Distribution.
With Standard Distribution your book is available at Amazon in America, Canada and Europe and also the CreateSpace eStore.
Expanded Distribution makes your book available for order through bookstores and online retailers, like Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace Direct (which sells wholesale to certified resellers) and libraries / academic institutions, although this latter option is only available if you’ve used a CreateSpace-assigned ISBN.
So the paperback version of your book can be available in multiple outlets, even if the Kindle version is enrolled in KDP Select and is therefore exclusive to Amazon.
Basic details about your book
Uploading your book to CreateSpace is very similar to uploading your book to Kindle Direct Publishing.
The first step to to provide all the title information. This includes book title, author, other contributors, series title, edition number and so forth.
The next step is to enter the ISBN. You can purchase your own ISBNs from Bowker in the US or Nielsen in the UK, or you can let CreateSpace assign you a free ISBN. This option has the advantage of making your book available to libraries and academic institutions. If you use a CreateSpace ISBN then the publisher will appear as CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform rather than your own name or company.
If you used your own ISBN for the Kindle edition then you must use a different number for the paperback version. ISBNs are unique to editions, not titles.
Trim size and interior type (i.e. black and white or colour on white or cream paper) are associated with your book’s ISBN and cannot be changed so make sure you select a trim size that is commonly used for the type of book you are publishing.
The book itself
The next step is to upload the interior file. This is the actual content of the book. The way I like to do this is to download a Word template for the trim size that I have chosen, typically 5″ x 8″. I then, very carefully, cut and paste the chapters of my book into the Word template, taking care not to mess up the formatting.
The template is designed so that the front matter, back matter and chapters are properly laid out. This is a bit of a black art, but traditional publishers do this stuff to the letter and to look pro indies should follow the same rules.
Here’s a bit of industry jargon:
- The right hand page of a book is called recto.
- The left hand page of a book is called verso (i.e. the reverse of the recto page.)
To lay your book out properly, certain pages should appear on a recto page and others appear on a verso page.
For example, the title page, epigraph (if you have one) and dedication (if you have one) should all appear on their own recto pages. The copyright information goes on the verso of the title page.
Some of the verso pages in the front matter will therefore be blank.
The front matter of my own novels goes like this:
- Recto – title page
- Verso – copyright information
- Recto – dedication
- Verso – blank
- Recto – contents
- Verso – blank
- Recto – epigraph
- Verso – blank
- Recto – Chapter 1
Chapter 1 always starts on a recto page (numbered page 1) but subsequent chapters can start on a verso if that’s how they happen to fall.
It’s worth taking a look at some traditionally published books so you can see how the layout works.
Once you’re happy with your formatted Word document, upload it to CreateSpace. It will be checked automatically to ensure that everything is in the correct place and the text will print comfortably within the margins of the page.
The next step is to upload your cover.
There’s an option in CreateSpace to create a cover yourself, but unless you’re a professional graphics designer, this really is the time to call in the experts.
However, there’s a bit of a catch 22 situation here if someone else is designing your cover for you.
A paperback cover, unlike an ebook cover, requires a front, spine and back. A print-ready PDF cover will be formatted like this (the white space on the back cover is for the bar code):
The problem is that you won’t know how wide the spine needs to be until you’ve uploaded your interior file. Only when you’ve uploaded your interior file will you know how many pages your book is going to have.
Your designer can calculate the spine width based on the number of pages and whether you’ve selected white or cream paper.
If you’ve got a designer who’s happy to design the cover and then tweak the spine width once you’ve finalised your interior file, then this is not a problem.
However, if you’re using a design service like 99Designs then you really need to finalise your interior file and upload it to CreateSpace before launching a 99Designs contest for your book cover. 99Designs work to strict deadlines and if you’re not organised ahead of schedule with the interior file then you’ll have a book cover done before you’re ready for it and before you know precisely what size it should be. The Sleeping Angel book cover shown above was created at 99Designs.
You can upload your interior file and then save everything in draft whilst you wait for your cover to be finalised.
CreateSpace will now check everything to make sure that your cover is an exact fit for your interior file. You can check how the book is going to look online, but it’s also a good idea to order a proof copy, especially if you’re doing this for the first time.
Distribute your book
The next step is to distribute your book. As discussed above, your distribution options will depend on whether you are using your own ISBN or a CreateSpace-assigned ISBN. The latter actually gives you more distribution options because it allows your book to be made available to libraries and academic institutions.
In the pricing section you need to set the price in US dollars, British pounds and euros. CreateSpace will set a minimum price and show you the royalties from different types of sales. For example:
The final steps are to choose your cover finish (matte or gloss) and write the product description which will appear on Amazon.
Once you press Publish, it will take 3-5 business days for your book to appear in the Amazon store.
There is an optional step to publish your book as a Kindle ebook, but I would suggest simply going to Kindle Direct Publishing and doing the ebook from there.
If your paperback and Kindle ebook don’t automatically appear on the same sales page then you can contact Amazon via KDP and ask them to link both editions.
Best of luck with creating your print on demand paperback 🙂