Self-Publishing on CreateSpace
A Quick Guide

Before you begin, you should go ahead and create an account with CreateSpace. It is free, and you can begin building your publication without having completed all of the steps. Some things CreateSpace can do automatically for you. Other things you have to take care of yourself. I will not go through the options in a lot of detail here… It’s best to look through some of their settings. They give a lot of options such as manuscript size, cover type, etc, that are dependent on what’s available, so it’s helpful to make yourself aware of the options before you go too far into the process. You can change almost all settings before final publication, so there’s very little risk to experimenting at the beginning.

Then the first step is to write your book. If you have submitted manuscripts to publishers, you probably tend to write in a standard submission format. While this is helpful for an editor, making it easy to read and make notes and corrections, this is not at all necessary for self-publishing, and I myself tend to write my manuscripts in Microsoft Word, keeping a rough interior layout as I go that is pretty close to what I intend my final product to look like. Microsoft Word is not free, but there are many other word processing options that are similar and some of them – such as Open Office – are freely available. There are also options – such as Scribner – that are designed specifically for writers, providing assistance with organization and formatting for submission. Scribner is not free, and I do not use it, but many writers seem to like it.

After you have written the text, the next step is to edit. As every writer and editor is unique in approach and tastes, I will leave this step up to you, but I am happy to offer advice if needed.

After editing, you will have to generate two pieces to submit to CreateSpace. One is the “interior file,” the other is the “cover file.” CreateSpace can generate a cover for you, for free, from their rather generic layouts, or you can create your own in graphic editing software (more on this later). The interior layout and cover layout are both dependent on the size of the book, which is one of the options you can choose in CreateSpace. (A common trade paperback size is 6×9).

In your word processor, you should set the size of your pages to the same as your finished book. Then carefully go through your interior file and format it the way you’d like it to appear. Be careful to include blank pages where you want them, and also a title and copyright page. After you have finished, hopefully you can preview the print, and get a good sense of what it will look like on the final page.

Now, you need to convert the interior file into a pdf. This is fairly easy to do with a utility such as CutePDF (free online) or doPDF (also free online), both of which add a “virtual printer” to your computer and allow you to print directly to a pdf file. Once that’s done, you can view your pdf file with Adobe Acrobat Reader (also free online) to make sure that it came out the way you intended.

Then, you can upload this interior file to CreateSpace, which will check to make sure it fits properly and tell you if there are any errors.

The same process – roughly – is used for creating the cover, only you’ll want to create high-resolution graphic images in graphics software as opposed to word processing software. Again, you’ll want to make your images the same size as your final book. Once you have a page count (dependent on finishing your interior), CreateSpace can create a template for you to work on top of that includes the back cover, front cover, and spine in a single image. This is how I prefer to design mine.

Again, if the design is too much for your current skills, CreateSpace will create a generic cover for you. Alternatively, many self-publishers hire a graphic designer to create the cover, or purchase a pre-made cover online. The CreateSpace option, and making your own, are both free.

The cover should also be converted into a pdf file. Once that’s created, you can upload to CreateSpace, and again, it will run checks for you and let you know if you have any errors.

The remaining things you have to do:

Title Information… you will need to provide title, author, description, etc. Much of this is required, but it should all make sense to fit it to your material.

Your book will also require an ISBN, which is a unique publication number identifying the edition. CreateSpace will assign one for free, if you’d like (and I recommend this early on), or you can purchase and manage your own (for $100). Having one assigned by CreateSpace is a simple click, and is the method most people prefer. Managing your own ISBN is not a simple thing, and usually not necessary. The only immediately tangible distinction is whether your publishing company is listed as “CreateSpace Independent Platform” or listed as your own brand.

Then you must set your pricing, and choose your distribution channels. This guide assumes you wish to sell a physical book through CreateSpace and Amazon. These channels are chosen automatically and are free. You can also publish a digital edition through CreateSpace/Amazon with no additional cost, but there are a few other things to consider when doing that.

Before finalizing your publication, you will want to proof it. I highly recommend purchasing a physical proof rather than relying on digital previews. This, then, is the minimum cost, and depends on how many proofs you end up order. I think they’re about $6 each. If you find mistakes in a proof, you will need to go back into your files and re-upload changes, and then you will probably want to order another proof. Just about every option can be changed after viewing a proof, so other than the minimal cost of each proof, the process is largely risk free. You just may end up purchasing multiple proofs if you keep trying new things or need to make many changes. But once you have approved the proof, then your book will be published, with no additional cost to you.

Many self-publishers are not publishing physical books at all, and only releasing digital editions. This reduces the work somewhat, though the basic steps remain the same.

This is really only a rough guide, but I hope it helps clarify some of the processes. If you have any questions about any particular step, please leave a comment below, and I’d be happy to try to clarify further.