Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A self-publisher's progress

Today I submitted a 64-page chapbook to CreateSpace on behalf of Mesilla Valley Writers (MVW), which is here in New Mexico. It's my first such endeavor, and writers considering self-publishing might want to see how it goes. I'll be publishing a second chapbook very soon, and if all goes smoothly, a novel in the fall.

In previous years, MVW has published using a local print shop. We'd print a set number for a set price, and would always have unsold copies languishing in someone's garage. We decided to experiment with an online company this year because we avoid the upfront printing costs and we can buy exactly the quantity we want.

My first inclination was to go with, but they have an 84-page minimum; neither this chapbook nor the next one will meet that criterion. CreateSpace doesn't have that requirement, and their association with Amazon gave me the confidence to try them.

My software includes Word 2007 and Corel Paint Shop Pro X. No doubt other software would do just as well. Formatting the layout and page size in Word was straightforward, just changing it to the 6" x 9" dimensions planned for the book. The page count has to be a multiple of four for any printed book, so I arranged my material and illustrations accordingly. Of course, a few blank pages at the end would be no problem, but you do need to plan for it.

With CreateSpace and probably other such outfits, you have to upload your book in two separate PDFs, one for the contents and one for the cover. Word 2007 allows you to create a PDF of a word processing file, which you can then look at in Adobe. (If you don't have it, download the free Adobe 9 reader. You'll need it.) This is a good time to inspect the entire file for any formatting errors. Then you can upload the PDF to CreateSpace on their website. It's quite straightforward--you get a template into which you upload the file.

After that, I turned to the cover, which was a little more intimidating for me. My front cover graphic had to be 300 dpi and sized at 6 x 9. This was a little tricky getting just right, but mainly because of my inexperience. But it wasn't too bad. The CreateSpace instructions said to export the graphic into PDF. The trouble was, I couldn't see a way to do that using Paint Shop Pro. Maybe I just missed something.

But no matter. A number of free PDF-creating tools exist on the Web. I used, which worked beautifully. I just uploaded my graphic, and got a PDF in return. Very nice. Then it was a matter of uploading that into the cover template. You'll also need to create a back cover and the spine, which of course varies in thickness by page count. They
have a book tour video that shows the process. This is what took me the most time in the submission process, because it requires close attention to detail--and for me, a bit of trial and error. Here is the result:

That red border is not part of the cover; it's the trim area. Anything extending into the trim area will not be part of the cover. The yellow rectangle on the back cover is an area reserved for the ISBN, which CreateSpace puts in automatically.

And wouldn't you know it? After submitting, I realized I needed to make a small change in text. It turns out that all you have to do is resubmit the corrected file.

I'll post more about my experiences as time goes on. Hopefully, they may help someone.


BodieP said...

I'm glad to hear it's going well--I've done several books through CreateSpace, and been very happy with them (I use InDesign, Illustrator, and PhotoShop for my layout/pdf conversions). I use the templates a little differently--I used them to create my own layouts; you don't have to leave the ISBN box yellow, for instance, and if you like you can move it; it's just important to reserve that amount of space on the cover for the bar code and number. You can check out my catalog on my blog for some of the alternatives I've come up with. Note: CreateSpace offers a template for a square book--but it isn't supported by the major book distributors; books formatted this way are available through Amazon, and I've found mine on numerous other sites, but they aren't handled by the Big Boys in the distribution world.


Helen Ginger said...

Congratulations, Bob. Frankly, it still sound intimidating to me!

Bob Sanchez said...

I got my first attempt kicked back today because of a few problems, but nothing serious. My book intro mentioned that we were publishing with CreateSpace, and they told me that I'm not allowed to mention them. Also, I'd neglected to remove the layer with their template, because I didn't know how. I'd guessed wrongly that merging the layers would work.

Anyway, no matter. The problem seems to be solved...try, try again.

N. R. Williams said...

Very good. I hope you give some follow up information regarding sales and reception too.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Anonymous said...

Best wishes for your success. Every little tidbit helps as we are all looking for any advanyage that will help us sell books. Best wishes for your success.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Photoshop might be easier to use for the cover.

Bob Sanchez said...

Actually, Paint Shop Pro does all the graphic tasks I need, but I don't use it very often.

My resubmission came back a second time--the first time they'd said I couldn't mention CreateSpace in my document. The second time they said I couldn't mention Amazon. Now they have my third try. Hey, each time I learn something.

cindy said...

Good luck, Bob! I'll be interested to see how it goes.

Bob Sanchez said...

My third try succeeded, and the next step was for me to order a proof copy, which cost me only $2.15. Um, plus $6.25 for standard shipping. The economy shipping option would have been less, but it wouldn't have arrived in time for a show and tell at my writing group's September meeting. If it looks good the club will order 50 copies, hopefully at a decent unit price.

Anonymous said...

Great info Bob. Interesting that they DIDN'T want their name included in the intro ... Hope the process goes as smoothly for you as mine did (Running With Nick -- with a different outfit) :)

Becky Wolsk said...

Thank you for providing this detail about your experience with CreateSpace. After researching several self-publishing platforms, I've decided to publish my two novels with them.
Thanks again and best,
Becky Wolsk
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