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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Self-Publishing With Create Space

I chose Create Space for my self-publishing ventures because they allow you to make your self-published work available in paperback form with no sneaky charges. Though there are several options for paid services (for editing, professional cover design, marketing promotions, etc), none of these are required and unless you  are very bad at reading, it will be obvious to you which services are free and which involve a charge and you can choose to avoid any extra costs.

The only "non-free" option I chose was ordering a physical proof which cost me only $7 late in the process. I found this to be a worthwhile expense. Others might choose to go with the "electronic proof" they provide for free.

So, let's get started!
Once you have gone to Create Space's website and signed up you will have what is called a "Member Dashboard."

We can play around here another day, but I'm going to get right into book creating fast lane!

I currently have two projects on my Member Dashboard (for the sake of expedience, I'll be showing you screenshots from the Dragon's Curse project). As you can see one is "Incomplete" and the other is "Available."  Even when you novel is "available" meaning people can go to Amazon and order it or you can order copies for yourself, you can still go and make adjustments to any of the sections you desire (with a few exceptions such as the ISBN which once assigned cannot be changed).

As my professionally added black arrow shows you, at this point you want to push "Add New Title" so you can get started.

Here we are on the "Title Information" page. If you are familiar with online forms in general, most of this is going to be easy for you. Things marked with an asterisk (*) are required. Things without this mark are optional.

The only part of this page that was confusing to me, personally, was the "Add Contributors" bit. I left it blank the first time and the page told me "You must have at least one contributor." I  had assumed since they have a box for "primary author" that was that, but you also need to select "Authored by" from the contributors drop down menu and put your name in that box as well.

In the case of Dragon's Curse I had my cover art worked on by another individual, so this is one place I need to give her credit.

Other people you may want to give "contributor" credit to include people who gave editing help, wrote a prologue for you, or provided you with research, etc. The drop down menu has a ton  of options.

The next page is for your ISBN. I'm not an expert on this by any means, so here is a link to wikipedia. Your book cannot finish the process without an ISBN and Create Space with assign you one for free if you like. I chose to go with this. If you already registered your work somewhere else, you can type in your existing ISBN. Let's move on to the next screen where I have some more input to give.

Here is the first screen that is going to involve an investment of time. Here you have several options for your book's layout. They recommend the 6''x9'' size. You can flip through the options if you would like.

Now, at this point, you kind of need a book to work with. Up until this point, you could  just have had an idea for a book, but here is where they want you  to upload a file. I do recommend downloading their template (inside the green ellipse I so cleverly placed for you). It will automatically set margins for you to their specifications. If you are very good with Word and like to do things manually, that is great, but to me that is kind of reinventing the wheel. If you already have a formatted, ready to go novel, however, click the "Upload your Book File" box (marked by  a black arrow. My paint skills are so ridiculously 1337).

Here, in the red oval, is one of the first instances of "professional services" they will offer you for a serious financial investment. For a little under $400 you can have them professionally format and design your book. Now, there are reasons for these services, and they don't really apply  to a self-published novelist, in my opinion.

A lot of Create Space users are not traditional writers. They are, instead, people who may want a book to give as a gift, as a marketing tool, or even as part of a resume. These people are more interested in having something that looks professional than actually making money and chances are they are writing off the cost of editing as a "business expense" anyway. It just impresses people to have a book with your name on it and whether you are a college professor or a real estate agent, being an author can be a big star on a resume.

So if you have a prepared manuscript file at this point, click upload, select the file from your computer, and then click save. This will start the automatic checker which will look for anything blatantly wrong with your formatting (ie it doesn't fit the page size you selected at the top of this screen), and it will ask you if you want to move on to working on the cover while you wait (which you can, but it is only a few minutes for the checker to do its checking, so let's be patient and wait it out. Besides, covers are probably going to involve their own post because there is a lot to do there.).

Now, if you have chosen to  use the template that they have provided, chances are you have a decent amount of work to do before you can hit upload. You may even want to save that for later and skip ahead to the cover section of this tutorial. I will cover this in more detail in a future post, but basically, you are going to have to insert your text, type chapter titles and page numbers into the "table of contents" section in the front, make sure you have added appropriate page breaks, make sure you have chosen a legible font, make sure that your chapter headings stand out, fill in the information for  the author page, the dedication page, etc.

In other words, I'll tell you about that later. Let's move on.

For the majority of your process the "Interior" spot inside the red square I have drawn for you  is going to be stuck at "action required." That is okay. A lot of time that action is simply you waiting on them to approve the file (which takes about 24 hours) or them waiting on you to approve the files. I  had to get mine approved multiple times because of my interior title/author information not matching those I provided on the "Title  Information" screen (I had changed my use of initials and one small word in the title but forgotten to update those on one of the document pages).

Now at any point, even after publication, you can go back and change your work. You just have to upload a new file (which you do by pushing on the red words marked by  my black arrow.) and let it go through the approval process again. It takes about 24 hours for your updated book to be available, but this is handy especially if you happen to notice a typo you missed during your first hundred or so read-through-edits (it happens. After you've read the text a dozen or so times you start seeing the words you expect to be there rather than the words you may have actually typed so that a "they" that is supposed to be "the" may slip by you several times before you see it and think, "How the heck did I miss that?").

Now let's click the "Launch Interior Reviewer" button (green rectangle) and see what your book looks like inside.

The main point to the interior reviewer is checking layout. I would not suggest checking grammar and spelling in this format. For one thing, the words are kind of tiny. For another, you can't edit it, so you might as well do editing reads on the document on your computer (or print it out. Having it on paper gives a fresh look at the words and helps you find those last few pesky mistakes). What you are going to want to do is scan each page looking to see if the margins are all set right, that there are no empty lines or pages, things like that. Also, you should evaluate your font choice. If it isn't readable in this format, you are probably going to want to change it.

An example of something you will want to look out for?

Do you see that space between the paragraphs? That should not be there and I swear it wasn't there when I uploaded the file, but somewhere during my font alterations and margin tweaking, that space appeared and it must be eliminated! I'll go get it and then upload a new file and start over again.

By the way, if you are paying attention, you are getting some awesome spoilers to my next novel in here.

Admittedly, this is a boring process but essential and it shouldn't really take that long because you are not reading the text, just noting how it appears on the page.

So I fixed the spaces and uploaded the altered file and now I'm moving on to the cover.

I've done a few posts on cover art (you can see the graphic my friend Jennifer designed for me here). Since this is a rather wordy post I'll just cover this quickly and maybe make another post in with more detail later.

Here is the "Cover" page on Create Space:

If you are extremely independent and confident in your ability to create a cover from scratch unaided, the green arrow points your way.  You can upload a pdf at this point. I'm not that good. That scares me a little bit.

If you are terrified of designing on your own (and rich) check out the red arrow and pay your way to a better cover design (what's $400 in today's economy, anyway?).

Fortunately for the rest of us, there is the black arrow option. Go ahead and hit  "Launch Cover Creator."

They have 30 different cover layouts in total to choose from though each can be personalized by changing the colors, font styles, and pictures (you can provide your own picture or choose from a stock image they will provide). I'm not exactly sure which one I want at this point, but for your sake I'll just grab one and get to work (You can also go back and change it at any point, just like with your interior files).

This really deserves its own post, so I'll just give you the cliff note version here.

Once again we are faced with a basic internet form. You can go down the list in order or skip around. For instance, if you have an "Author Photo" ready but not a "Front Image Cover" you can upload one and leave the other for later. You can also choose not to have some of the fields visible (you may not want a picture of yourself, especially if you are choosing to publish under a pseudonym or are writing about your love of Furbies. The Furbies fad is over. I'm sorry. You just need to let it go.).

Also which cover design you choose may  limit or expand your options. The cover design shown above is one of the most basic. Here are some of the options provided on another cover layout:

You notice the green dots next to some of the items? These mean that a default is already selected or I have already provided what is required. This does not mean that they cannot be changed. It just means that, if I so choose, I can let that part be. Red arrow and blue arrow point to two fields that are optional that I do not plan to use. Just click on them and deselect the "visible" box and they won't bother you any  more.

Background color (black arrow) can be one of the fun ones to tweak. If I'm counting right they have 80 different color options ranging from boring beige to blaring purple. I encourage you to play around with it. You can go impulsive and just pick your favorite color or you can think analytically and research how colors influence buying decisions. It is up to you.

I'm not ready to submit this novel so I'll have to switch to my completed project (The Ordinary Knight and the Invisible Princess: A Tale in Two Parts available now on Amazon in paperback and ebook) to show you what happens next.

You will have to stop and wait for them to approve your cover and interior files at this point which can take a day or two (more if they find something they want you to fix), but once that is done you will have to approve the proof of your book.

As you can see in the above image after you complete setup, they do the file review, and once that is complete you have to "Proof Your Book." At this point they will offer you three options "Digital Proofer" which is very similar to the interior reviewer you dealt with after you submitted your interior files, download a pdf of your book, or purchase their physical proof for what comes to about $7 including shipping. I chose the later because I wanted something I could write on and I feel it was worth it. Some errors and alterations were much more obvious when seen on a printed page than they were when I was staring at computer files for the umpteenth time. (You can check out my reaction to getting my printed proof here as well as get a glimpse of it). Getting the proof in your hands is also very good for cover lay out issues. 

Once you have approved the proof (or made changes and resubmitted it and then approved it), you can start working on distribution. You  basically select where you want your book to be available for purchase. Free options are Amazon, Amazon-Europe, and the CreateSpace eStore. You  should probably select them all. If you pay $25 you  can get expanded distribution which makes your work available to be purchased by bookstores and libraries. I plan to pay for this eventually. It just makes sense to be available in more markets and the price is not prohibitive. My plan is to wait until I've actually made $25 on the book and then purchase it as a reward for myself . I priced my ebook so cheaply, however, that this might take a little while. 

Pricing is where we get to the disadvantage of Create Space: you don't make a ton of money per book. The minimum list price is $6.09. If you choose the minimum to  be your book price, you don't make anything. I chose to make my price $7.99 of which I get $1.14 every time someone purchases it through Amazon and $2.74 for each purchase through the CreateSpace eStore. I chose to price my book low and I'm not really that concerned about the large chunk they are taking out of my "profits" because I put the book up for free and if I hadn't been able to do that, not only would I be making nothing at all, but I wouldn't be able to call myself a "self-published" author. You can also choose to publish on Kindle. I get a much larger chunk of that money, though my ebook is very cheap, and a large chunk of $1.99 is still not very  much money.

This was all somewhat intentional. At this point in my "career" I am much more interested in being read than making money. A lot of self-publishing firms charge you for their services. Create Space does not, and therefore I  am shouldering no financial risk to make my book available. For me, the low royalties are worth the peace of mind and also seeing my book on Amazon. 

Moving on:

The description section is basically what people will see when they look at your book on Amazon. Click on the link below to see what that looks like.

I chose for mine to be a synopsis and of course you have the author bio which I've been told can be an important marketing tool, but  I hate writing the dang things, and mine is pretty cheesy. You can also pick your "BISAC Category" (mine is Fiction/Fantasy/General) and search keywords for your book.  

On another note, I just noticed that I finally have a review! Of course, it is from my aunt. Still counts, though, right?


  1. Congratz! Thanks for this useful tip you shared at CAL link party :)

  2. Um, totally bookmarking this whole page.

    1. It's actually really fun to play with. I am getting ready to order a proof of Dragon's Curse just so I can edit it. I decided with the cost of printer ink and the inconvenience of having it printed out on loose paper, it was kind of worth the $7 to be able to do some of my final edits with it in book form.

  3. Pinned! Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  4. Thank you for posting this. I learned a great deal! I do wish the pictures showed up though. I think I finally decided on the invisible princess to buy. Looking forward to the read!

    1. Not sure why the pictures are gone. I've noticed this happens on a lot of older posts. Like after a year Blogger decides I don't need my pictures any more and takes them away.