After publishing Wingéd for the first time, I took a short hiatus from writing. I was burnt out. And it took four years for me to get back to writing and self-publishing again. When I finally got back, I found that the landscape had changed considerably. BookSurge was now CreateSpace, but the name change wasn’t the most notable. Instead of shelling out $600 for someone else to put together my brand new manuscript, I could do it myself. So of course, I thought, how hard could it be? Well, it might not be what I would consider to be $600 hard, but it’s a really large time commitment that I’m going to walk you through. It’s the unsexy side of self-publishing.
Before I start, I should probably mention that CreateSpace still offers a lot of great services. They all cost, but they are available if you aren’t comfortable doing certain things yourself. They have various editing services, cover art creation, and even the full service that my parents paid for back in 2006. They even offer to send your finished product to the Kirkus book review. They also have free tutorials. CreateSpace hasn’t paid me to say this, it’s just good to be aware of all the things that they do offer. Everything you can think of, they do. Except that they no longer offer hardbacks… I don’t know why.
The first stop on the tour is title information. This is basically filling out everything about your book including: title, subtitle, primary author, contributors, if it’s part of a series, series title, edition number, language, and publication date.
Here it’s important to make sure that everything is spelled correctly and that your title and name matches where you’ve put it elsewhere. Once these things are locked in, you can’t change them, so be careful.
You have the choice of either paying for your own ISBN that you own (I think it costs $5) or having CreateSpace assign you one for free. Be aware that once an ISBN has been used and your novel has been finalized and put into production, if you want to make any changes to the interior, you can’t keep the same number. You’ll have to make a “new title” and start from scratch.
This is where you choose the size of your book, the type and color of paper (this affects book thickness), and whether you want a full color interior or black and white. All of this will affect your price.
Based on these characteristics, you’ll want to download the corresponding template. You’ll need Microsoft Word or Open Office. There’s the option of doing this all by yourself too, but you’d have to be a Word whiz. Even to use the template, you’ll have to be more than a little familiar with Word. Be ready to yell, “Why is it doing that?! Stop that!” over and over again. The template has a lot of things programmed into it that if your not careful will mess up everything, but operating under it’s oppressive programming was easier for me than trying to figure it out from scratch. As long as you don’t touch the margin settings, it also guarantees that your interior will fit all of the CreateSpace guidelines.
What I have had the most trouble with was that the template only goes to chapter ten, and simply copy and pasting won’t work. When I’m formatting, I first have to copy and past the template pages, which doesn’t even guarantee that the formatting will stick. Then I go chapter by chapter, copy and pasting my manuscript text into the template. Please note some quirky things.
1) In order to get the proper first page of a chapter formatting, you might have to backspace and insert a new “next page”. Note: next page is different from a page break and will affect the formatting differently.
2) Sometimes, Word likes to suddenly make the last paragraph justified weird and will also screw up the paragraph spacing. Just pressing “Enter” afterward usually fixes the problem, but sometimes you might have to fix it manually.
3) Deleting pages from the template is tricky but doable. I delete the acknowledgements and about the author pages that are built in, but it always messes up my page numbers.
Once you’re done tearing your hair out, you’ll need to convert the document to a PDF file. I like using www.freepdfconvert.com. It’s fast, and it’s free. I tried using Primo before, and it was bad. The converter messed up the margins which is the most important part. After that, upload the file. CreateSpace has an interior checker that you can use. If you didn’t touch the margins, everything should line up alright. And in case I haven’t emphasized this enough, don’t touch the margins.
Now we wait. The CreateSpace team has to approve your interior files, which can take up to 24 hours. If you want to make any changes, you’ll have to upload it again, and the approval process starts over.
One of the great things about CreateSpace is that they have a lot of great cover templates, but if you want a little more control over the look of your cover, they also have the option to upload your own. You have to be sure to match the guidelines for your book size and that there’s nothing important in the last quarter inch around the edges. Your image needs to be 300 dpi (dots per inch). Anything less than that might not have the clarity you want. Having Photoshop comes in very handy at this point.
When all of your files are uploaded and approved, you can order your proof. Back in the days of BookSurge, proofs were free, and they sent you a free final copy of your book. Not anymore. You buy the proof for how much it costs to print plus shipping. This is where you get the chance to check everything over, but if you find anything you’re not happy about, you’ll have to go through the approval process again and order another proof. Recently, they’ve added the ability to approve a digital proof, but I don’t recommend this at all especially if you’ve created your own cover. The colors might come out different. They might center it differently. It’s just better for everyone if you order the proof so you can see it for yourself.
But when you’re done, you get to push the “approve” button.
I don’t know why pushing the final button is so hard for me. Maybe because it’s so final. Anyway, push the button; you’ll feel better.