Tag Archives: CreateSpace

Save $150 and a week – quick how-to format a CreateSpace book interior yourself

When I published Shizzle, Inc last year, I paid somebody to format the PDF interior layout. It cost me about $150 and a week of back-and-forth with a reputable company, that did a good job. Eventually. The problem is, now I have to pay them again because I have had the book re-edited by an American editor. And again if I want to change a single comma – they did it on a Mac, and even though they were nice enough to provide the Word file, it looks like garbage when I open it on my PC.

In case you’ve never had to deal with an interior file and don’t know what it is – it’s a PDF of your book, laid out exactly the way your book will look, from the first page to the last. It includes the title page, page numbers, book name and your name at the top of each page, drop-caps (the first letter of the chapter being ten times bigger than other letters), the exact font, and all that. It sounds easy, but it takes time to make your book look beautiful, and that’s why the pros charge you for it.

So anyway, this time around, I was determined to tackle the formatting of Indiot myself. I mean, there are templates for this kind of thing, so how difficult could it be?

Try two days of pulling hair, yelling at your computer, and yelling “I’m busy!” at the phone when it dings just as you’ve discovered an odd blank page in your document. When you (I mean, I) do anything the first time around, it takes five times longer and hurts ten times worse than it should. I spent two days working on the file but, after an emergency nap, I can assure you that it could have been done in two hours if one (I mean, I) knew what they were doing.

The following is not intended to be a complete guide, it’s more of the step-by-step blueprint of what I will do next time to complete the file formatting process. Just so that I don’t forget how I did it or what lessons I’ve learned. It assumes that you’re using Word, and none of them fancy-shmancy designer thingamajigs.

  1. Download an interior template from CreateSpace. I chose a 6×9 preformatted template. I did try to use a blank template at first, but that would require more Word skills that I currently possess. The preformatted template already looks like a book, so you can understand what it is you’re supposed to do.
  2. On the title page, type in the title and author name, changing the fonts to match the book cover.
  3. Copy and paste the copyright page and the dedication. Make sure the ISBN numbers match that of the paperback edition, not the ebook format!
  4. Type in your name and book name in the header. Title font in header should match the font used for the body of text, for a clean look. I’ve tried doing the same title font as the cover, but it’s distracting.
  5. If you have few chapters, copy and paste each chapter in place of the “placeholder chapters” text using “merge formatting” option. DO NOT use “text only” – I realised only later that it meant ALL my italicised text became un-italicised and had to re-do it ALL.
  6. If you have lots of short chapters (Lord, Indiot has 44 of those), delete all chapters except for one, the copy and paste your entire book into one chapter. You now have to manually find each chapter heading, highlight it and apply appropriate style. If that’s a pain, just do each chapter manually.
  7. When adding more chapters, make sure to include section breaks at the end of each chapter – they keep the header from appearing above your chapter title. Go to Page Layout-Page Set Up-Breaks-Next Page. DO NOT USE “Odd Page” option. It’s supposed to ensure all your chapters start on the right-hand-side of the book, but it was giving my layout seizures – the pages kept changing places as I scrolled up and down, and even made the first page disappear, giving me repetitive heart attacks. I had to painstakingly go back and re-insert all those breaks to stop the nightmare. And in any case, I have now decided not to start all chapters on the right, as I’ve previously done – a quick scan of a few professionally published titles showed that only the first chapter has to start on the right.
  8. SAVE VERSIONS AS YOU GO. You’ll thank me later.
  9. Change font to a desired one, using Styles. DO NOT highlight the text and change any attributes of it from the menu, use Styles for ALL changes.
  10. I chose Minion Pro at 11pt for the body, as it’s a bit heavier and easier to read, plus I think italics look better in it. This font, along with the template’s original Garamond is one of the most common fonts used in print books. By all means, Google more about what fonts to use, but don’t use anything too quirky – you don’t want the reader to be distracted by the actual text, you want them to be lost in the story.
  11. Change paragraph settings. With Minion Pro, I chose to make spacing 1.1 instead of single at 1.0. Again, I think it’s just a touch easier to read. I made all first lines indent at 0.2.
  12. Make sure you’ve hit “Enter” enough times after the last sentence of the previous chapter, otherwise it will center on the page. Make sure that on all pages the first sentence starts at the very top of the page.
  13. Chapter titles – if you pasted each one separately, you should be okay, but if you did the whole book as one dump, highlight the chapter name text and apply the Chapter Heading style. Hit “Enter” 6 times to move the title down (or whatever number is appropriate for your font size). The idea is that each chapter starts a bit down the page – have a look at a professionally published book to see what I mean, or here is what mine looks like: Fist page of paperback
  14. Insert drop cap at the beginning of each chapter (you can opt for other ways to highlight the beginning, but I love the classic “big fat letter” look, as in the snapshot above.) Do it ONLY after you’ve done all paragraph editing, such as spacing, otherwise you’ll end up doing it all over again.
  15. Insert table of contents: the template used “chapters” instead of headings, so I could not do it automatically. I had to highlight each chapter title and click on “Add text” in the table of contents menu, then update the table. This also meant careful checking afterwards, to make sure all chapters made it into the table.
  16. DO NOT use automatic orphan/window control, instead adjust pages manually. Orphans and widows are the lonely, single lines of text either at the bottom or the top of pages. Well-formatted books don’t have those, but I allowed a few, when I thought separating a line made more of an impact with a punchline of a joke.
  17. Turn on the pilcrows and check through the whole document, making sure the section breaks are where they are supposed to be, and there are the same number of pilcrows before each new chapter, and that they are the same size and font (to make them start at the same spot on each page).
  18. Finally, READ THROUGH the entire PDF before uploading it – for some reason, italicising was dropped here and there anyway, and I managed to find even more tiny fixes. It took about eight hours, including all the fussin’ and fixin’, but was so worth it.

This is all. I will update this page if something else comes to mind, but I’ve been able to upload the final product and it looks fine in CreateSpace preview.

Now I have to order a proof copy. Wish me luck!


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing

The differences (however slight) between CreateSpace and Lightning Source paperbacks

Have you worried yourself sick over which one of these companies to pick as your PoD? Well, the good news is that there’s no need to stress – if you are planning to publish a fiction novel without graphics (as in the case of my book), then, in my opinion, one is as good as the other.

I have now published with both, mainly to:

  1. Save on shipping costs. When I run Goodreads giveaways, I can now send a book to the winner directly from either publisher, depending on which option is cheaper. I also get to order cheaper, locally printed copies for my promotional mayhem in Australia.
  2. Lightning Source allows a “return” option, which means I stand a chance of having my book ordered by bookstores, even though I take a risk of them returning my books at my expense.

Publishing with both was extremely easy, although Lightning Source does charge a small fee upfront (was $50 AUD for me). There are very slight differences in appearance of the paperbacks, and I’ve tried to document them below.

Let’s start with the first impression. Can you spot any differences? The Australian Lightning Source (ALS) version is on the left, the American CreateSpace (ACS) one is on the right:


The ALS version (left) is slightly lighter/brighter – noticeable in the red and gold of the title. Ignore the spacing between my first and last name and the position of the small gold line near the spine – I did those tweaks. The slight difference in color can also be seen on the back cover:


In both cases the printing is crisp – any differences/fuzziness of the font is purely due to my poor photography skills. The interiors are also very similar, if not identical (again, ALS is on the left/top):


The paper feels identical, although maybe, just maybe, the ALS is slightly smoother and ACS is slightly softer. The only (annoying) difference was that ACS did not want to lie flat, whereas ALS opened easier. This may be due to the differences in binding.

Speaking of binding, this is where I finally noticed a difference. In the photo below ALS is at the back (so the top of the photo). The ACS is next to my thumb.


ACS is thicker! Not by a huge amount, but it is probably due to the thickness of paper, so please make your own conclusions. For me, this is good news for when I mail signed books – both can be mailed as a “letter” at 248 pages (6×9 inch format), but it may mean that if my next one is slightly thicker, I may still be able to pay cheaper postage for the thinner book. The thicker book, on other hand, may appeal to others as more substantive? Also, not sure if it will last longer – but does that really matter with fiction paperbacks?

One last small difference in binding is the groove along the seam. ALS is on the bottom/left:


The groove is much more pronounced on ACS and is further from the spine (which explains why it is harder to keep ACS open). Does this mean it’s a better/more secure binding? I don’t know, but so far it doesn’t seem like either one will be losing pages soon.

So there you go, more info for you to mull over. Or, perhaps, to ignore? I’d say take a plunge and publish with either one – you won’t be disappointed 🙂



Filed under Shizzle, Inc.

New and improved paperback cover

Hi, everyone,

Just a quick update – I finished fiddling with my cover and uploaded all files to CreateSpace! To remind you, this is what the old cover looked like:

Shizzle, Inc paperback cover 14 November

This is what I’d ended up uploading:

Shizzle paperback final for production

The main changes are:

  1. I went back to a gold leaf title – it doesn’t look flash in a thumbnail, and I will probably leave ebook cover as it is – but it makes more sense when printed, improves the illusion that it is the title embossed into the leather cover.
  2. Darkened back half – it looks more dramatic somehow. Hey, matter of preference.
  3. Fiddled endlessly with the rip – see if you can spot the change!
  4. Could not get the quotes on the back to read properly when printed in red – the only drawback of the darker version.
  5. Gave the leather “cover” a more pronounced “spine”.
  6. My photo is smaller and bio wording slightly changed.

I was all set to publish, but unfortunately CreateSpace picked up a major oops on my part – I’d left the ebook ISBNs on the copyright page, instead of the paper version ones. The problem was, I had the document formatted by somebody else and so now it would be an additional cost and a day or two of delays. I couldn’t have that, of course, so, like any old school Russian, I found a workaround. For some reason Adobe would not let me change the text, so the final solution involved extracting the pdf page into Photoshop, finding a close enough font, fixing it up in Photoshop, saving as a pdf and inserting the updated page back to the original pdf. Whew!

There’s another little bit to sort out with CreateSpace – I bought my own barcode, but there was no prompt to upload it, like I thought. I’m now not sure if I’m supposed to add it to the cover myself, or if I will just go with the CreateSpace barcode, even though I have my own ISBN. Aargh!

So now I’m waiting again for CreateSpace to review and approve the files. If I get an email thumbs up tomorrow, I’ll order a proof copy – with expedited shipping, it will be in Australia in 3 business days! This means that if all goes well, the paperback will be available for sale in just about a week! Can’t quite believe it…


Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Shizzle, Inc.