Printing Your Book With CreateSpace: Part I

This is Part I of a two-part series on my experiences printing my short story collection one bad twelve. This initial post covers the reason for printing my title, why I went with CreateSpace, and some beginning knowledge you might need if you want to do so yourself.

Why Print?
In a recent blog post, writer and publisher Dean Wesley Smith talked about the importance of making sure your writing is available in print as well as digitally. E-readers, he points out, are the wave of the future, but,

“…electronic publishing is hovering around 20% of all books sold. Higher in some genres, lower in others, higher in some months, lower in others. That means in general that 80% of all books sold are paper, through either online bookstores like Amazon or indie bookstores or box stores.”

Put aside for a moment the romance of having your own words professionally printed and resting in your trembling little paws–surely a dream of every writer out there–Dean’s numbers are a clear reminder: we’re not in the future yet. It’s understandable that most indie authors are eating, sleeping, and breathing digital right now; it’s the format that’s easiest to break into and the one that, with a few clicks, can result in instant gratification (and, let’s face it, money). But a writer would be foolish to ignore an entire market–the print market–for his or her work, especially when the tools to go to print are so readily available.

So…I threw my hat in the print ring this week by going to CreateSpace and taking a shot with my short story collection one bad twelve. And, despite a background in web design with a little dabbling into print work, I found a few challenges that I hadn’t anticipated. Overall, I was amazed at how easy the process was, but there enough pitfalls to the process that I created a checklist.

There are better and more comprehensive guides to Createspace and certainly most questions can be answered by searching the CreateSpace community board, but I hope some of my thoughts are of help, as well.

Why CreateSpace?
I’d heard very good things about the ease of use of CreateSpace, the support through the community, and–of course–the fact that it is a division of Amazon doesn’t hurt. I can’t compare it to competing services (LightningSource and Lulu), but I can say the workflow and entire process is straightforward, well documented, and supported. Being entirely web-based, your project requires no software to download, is saved as you go, and can be worked on in stages.

Pleasant Surprises
CreateSpace extends a helping hand precisely when it’s needed. One of the more intimidating hurdles in printing your work is page layout. It’s easy enough to pick a “trim size” (overall size of your book), but when it comes to formatting your Word document to fit precisely into those dimensions–with the thought that any mistakes might result in your novel having all the right-most words chopped in half–things can get dicey.

Although CS offered boilerplate templates for my chosen trim size, I wanted to see what would happen if I simply gave them my source document to work with. I uploaded my standard 8.5 x 11 Word file, asked the CreateSpace wizard to try it, and received an immediate error. Instead of leaving it at that, however, the wizard reconfigured my document into the pre-existing template for my chosen trim size, and offered it for download. I grabbed it, opened it up, and had a functional document with exactly the correct dimensions (including proper left/right gutters) in about 3 minutes.

The Tools You’ll Need
I’m lucky enough to have worked as a web-designer and a wife who has too, so I’ve got a lot of the skills that make the overall process easier, but spend some time learning the intricacies of Word and a few graphic skills (or farm out the cover work to a designer), and you should be fine.

For Word, you should be comfortable:

  • Working with Styles
  • Using Sections and Page Breaks and how Sections relate to each other
  • Using Headers and Footers
  • Manipulating kerning and leading (line spacing)

If you’re going to do your own covers, at a minimum you should:

  • Understand the concept of resolution (dpi), especially the differences between screen and print resolutions
  • Know how to use layers in the graphic program you use*
  • Be comfortable manipulating type and moving selections

* You don’t need to spend a thousand dollars on a graphic suite, but you also won’t get great results in MS Paint. You’re probably looking for programs such as Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro, or GIMP (check this article for free image editing software).

That’s it for a start! Part II will cover the “short list” of tips and tricks that helped me get my title to CreateSpace.


Writer of crime fiction, psychological drama, and dark humor.

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Posted in Tips for eAuthors
15 comments on “Printing Your Book With CreateSpace: Part I
  1. yoga-adan says:

    matthew, i’ve gone ahead and “liked” this right off, cause this is a subject i’ve been wanting to know more about, and from glancing at your sub-headings etc, this looks really interesting to me; will post again after reading (later today i hope!) –


    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Adan – Thanks so much. I hope the posts help; the process is quite easy, but I’ve only touched on some of the topics. If you see something you want me to dig a little deeper on, please let me know and I’ll post.

      • yoga-adan says:

        i will matthew, thanks!

        dpi etc i know, it’s just a matter of reading your post then seeing what else i might need

        one, and maybe you’be covering it, is the double page thing, i use Pages from apple, and so my one inch borders are set etc

        so i guess, for now, would i have to change all my 72 dpi digital images to 200 or 300 dpi?

        and, it sounds like it’s worth the work, but having a hard copy sounds truly worth doing?

        anyway, more later, i’ve needed to re-do my posts on my site for various reasons, and it’s taking me a bit 😉

        thanks matthew, talk w/you more later, this is a valuable post you’ve put up, thanks again

  2. Yeah, I think anyone who is serious about promoting their work should definitely get their books into print one way or another. The trade paperback of my novella The Painted Darkness was published just about a month ago and has moved 241 units since then. That’s $700+ in royalties in addition to the eBook sales. Not bad considering how easy it was to take the hardcover files and reformat them for CreateSpace’s requirements for the trade paperback.

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Brian, that is impressive. Did you do anything different or special to promote that the print copy was available to your readers?

      • 90% of those sales are because I made arrangements to sign any copies ordered in the first 10 days. I haven’t had a chance to do much else yet, but I’m hoping to build from there with my other backlist titles I’ll be getting out there this spring and summer!

  3. One other thought on the topic of covers: if you’re not comfortable with making your own, or you recognize that you don’t have the skills to make a professional looking cover, there are MANY skilled designers out there and they’re not as expensive as you might fear. A great cover is very important to selling your book, so don’t just skimp on this step.

    For example, your covers, Matthew, are great. Very professional and definitely enticing. 🙂

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hey, Brian. Thank you! I have about 15 years of web design work behind me, but I wouldn’t call myself a graphic designer, so was a bit nervous doing them myself. I appreciate the compliment!

      RE: signing your copies. That is a cool promo idea. So did you have them shipped to your home, then pay for shipping post-autograph?

      • Your covers look great. I had assumed you hired someone!

      • For the signed copies of The Painted Darkness, I arranged for my usual publisher (full disclosure: also my day job) to offer them for 10 days. The book was offered on the website like any other book from “another” publisher since I’m self publishing my trade paperbacks, and I posted a note on my blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts to point readers toward the product page.

        There was a collector’s hardcover edition of the book in 2010 that sold out very quickly, and I’ve always wanted to self publish my own edition of something, so this seemed like a good place to start. I was very happy with how things went with CreateSpace, so I’ll definitely be using them for the rest of my backlist.

  4. yoga-adan says:

    okaaay, finally read what i knew was a short part one post, but wanted to be able to sit and absorb the information

    # 1 to stick out at me, 80% of sales are still print, wow, actually WOW 😉

    and, i like the links to other info

    looking fwd to part 2

    i guess i’m finally “almost” ready to spend a the learning curve time to prepare and format an initial work for CS

    there are still a few works from the 90s i need to digitize into ebooks, but i can feel i have a chunk that’s representative of my poetry and photography (the fiction will still need to wait a bit)

    the part i suspect will be most time consuming for me, is reformatting my photoshop files into the needed dpi etc – i’ve a “lot” of images, and some ebooks are photo-poem books

    also, i can convert to word from pages or openoffice, but not gonna buy a word doc program right now

    all in all, perfect timing of this article for me i think! yay! 😉 thanks matthew

  5. […] If you’re interested, I talk about my experiences and provide some tips and expected pitfalls here (Part I) and here (Part II). I’ll be posting a Part III of the experience […]

  6. […] my attempt to print my short story collection, one bad twelve, using Amazon’s CreateSpace method. Part I covered many of the basics; Part II covered the “short list” of tips and tricks that helped me […]

  7. […] story collection one bad twelve printed through Amazon’s CreateSpace program (I document it here: Part I, Part II, Part III). The process is easy, quick, and frankly pretty fun when you get the final […]

  8. […] for it While ACX handles all of the distribution aspects of your audio project, much like CreateSpace handles it for print, the heart of the endeavor is the voice narration of your book. ACX acts as a match maker, putting […]

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