a blog by J.M. Cottle
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I published a book with CreateSpace (and you can, too)

Last month, I used CreateSpace to publish a book of the blog posts I wrote about my trip to Britain. The first goal was to find out what it’s like to use this service, because I will soon be publishing fiction and I am not yet sure what kind of publishing I want to use. The second goal was to have copies to give to family members who ask Yasamin and me what our trip was like. These were the only goals. I didn’t think anyone would buy it, and I really didn’t think anyone would care. I didn’t need them to care; this was just a test.

What I didn’t anticipate was the power of a physical book. When I hand people my book and tell them, I wrote this, most of the responses are full of admiration and respect. I did not get that respect for writing the posts and putting them on the internet, and I would not get the same respect for printing my posts out and stapling them together. There is something about a bound book with a glossy cover and an ISBN that impresses people, even if you put it together yourself and there was no editor, no designer, no gatekeeper making sure it wasn’t total crap.

So, it is with great surprise and pleasure that I report that so far I have sold 13 copies and made $11.94 in royalties ($4.69 if you subtract the $7.25 my proof copy cost, including shipping). That’s money that I earned because I wrote something and I put it out in the world. That is the tiny first step of a fledgling professional artist. There is no shame in that.

My readers will have to be the judges on whether or not it’s total crap.

This is how you do it

For those who are interested in self-publishing (or those who have won NaNoWriMo and have a code for a free proof copy) I am going to show you how I published my little book with CreateSpace.

Step 1: Write the book in WriteMonkey

I write almost everything in WriteMonkey, so of course I used it to write my book. I used Textile for formatting, but that’s not strictly necessary, because you can do the formatting in the next step.

Step 2: Format the interior in LibreOffice

I used LibreOffice to make the PDF file for the inside of the book. This was the part that involved the most learning and work for me, so I wanted to lay out my steps — for you, and for my own future reference. This section became so long that I cut it out and published it separately. Go have a look, then come back here to continue the process.

Step 3: Design the cover in GIMP

I wanted to design my own cover to understand the process, but I was not completely certain about the dimensions of the cover file, so I used the Cover Creator and uploaded my own back and front pictures. If you aren’t interested in doing your own design, you can customize one of the pre-made designs in Cover Creator. It’s free and it’ll look pretty good. My book’s spine was too narrow to fit words, so I just made it plain black. One less thing to mess up.

If you do design your cover yourself and you want to be just like me, use GIMP. The only thing that was hard for me was getting the DPI to be high enough, since I’d never had to worry about DPI very seriously before. To do this, create a new image that is 5 by 8 inches (not pixels), click on the little plus sign to show Advanced Options, and put in 300 pixels per inch for both the X and Y resolution.

Then design your cover. I’m afraid I can’t tell you how to do that.

Step 4: Enter the information and upload the files

The process is pretty straightforward. You need your title and subtitle, your name, a description of the book, your author bio, etc. Setting the price is tricky if you’re going to use Amazon, since Amazon takes a higher cut of your royalties. There’s a handy price calculator at the bottom of the Distribution and Royalties tab on this page to help you figure out how much a book of a certain size will cost and how much you will make in royalties with different prices. If you pay for the Pro Plan you can get more money per book, but the plan costs $39 to get started and $5 every year after that. I’m not ready to commit to that for a book that was basically a test. I set my price as low as I could without losing money, because this wasn’t about money, for me. I get $.06 for every book sold on Amazon and $1.30 for every book sold through my eStore. I just tell most people to use my eStore.

Step 5: Get your proof copy

Here is where your NaNoWriMo winner’s code can be used! My code expired in June, so I had to pay for my proof copy, but it wasn’t terribly expensive. You get a discount when buying your own books.

When your book arrives in the mail, read it over. It will say “Proof” really big on the last page, but otherwise it’ll be exactly what your customers will receive, which is a real live book with proper binding and a bar code and everything. Look at all of the things CreateSpace suggests checking. If you find a mistake, fix the files, upload them again, and order another proof copy. When it’s good, approve it.

Step 6: Put in your tax ID number

You have to show them where to send your money before you put the book up for sale. I put in my bank account information for direct deposit, and my tax number was my social security number. Royalties arrive at the end of the following month, as long as you have earned over $20. For example, the royalties I earned in October would arrive in my bank account at the end of November, but I won’t have $20 this month so I will have to wait. (Buy my book so I can get my money! Just kidding. But not really.)

Step 7: Customize your eStore and send the link to everyone!

My eStore has the regular CreateSpace banner at the top because the banner I made that went along with my blog theme didn’t work. I’m not sure why, but I don’t care too much. I just stuck with the default look and I sent the link into the world.

What I’ll do differently next time

I made the top and bottom margins slightly too big, and the text in the header and footer could be smaller. The space between the lines is a bit big, in my opinion, though some people might find it easier to read. Of course, the book is so tiny that this extra space was probably a good thing — it made it a bit longer.

If I could write the book again I would add some stories to make it a little longer and more travel memoir-ish, because people see the highly legitimate printing job and take it as a much more Serious Book than I’d intended. I would also add a map in the front, because the trip was all over the place and I think a map would make it easier to follow.

But all in all, I think this was a great success. I’ll definitely consider using CreateSpace when I’m ready to publish a novel, and if they offer codes for free proof copies to NaNo winners this year, I’ll definitely be using mine.

7 Responses to I published a book with CreateSpace (and you can, too)

  1. This was extremely helpful. Earlier last week I was introduced to CreateSpace. Reading this clarified a few questions and having seen the picture of your book, I have an idea of how it will look. Quick question: how many pages is your book? You mentioned it was a little “thin” and for the next publication, you’ll make it longer. I have a book right now in the editorial process so I’m curious to know if mine will be “thin” also.

    Congratulations on being a published author and thank you for the guidance you’ve provided.

    (Found this link on twitter @proverbsnwisdom)

    • Oh! I thought I mentioned that. Then I realized that I did mention it — in the formatting section, which I removed and will publish in a couple of days. Oops. Anyway, it’s 78 pages.

  2. Thank you sooooo much for sharing your experiences and all this valuable information. You’ve made it all sound so easy! A few people have been asking me when I might turn some of my writing into a book and I always felt there was more learning than I was willing to do to make that happen. With this info though I think I’ll try a little experiment of my own!
    Thanks so much :)

  3. Hi Jillian, great website. congrats on the book, they say the first is always the hardest. Lots of great info here on your website , thanks for sharing. It helps those of us in the process.

    Your readers might be interested in publishing a children’s book which I just recently did. Several times I almost gave up, but stuck it out and got it done. I blog my ups and downs here http://www.afathersdream.com/book/ I found full color children’s book there is not much on the internet in the way of help, so hopefully it will spare someone what I went through. It is my way of giving back. I am also doing an animation with plans to publish with createspace and blog my progress there as well. Take care.

    • Thanks! I did it with GIMP. :)

      Congratulations on your book, too, and thanks for the link to your blog. Scribus sounds like a useful program. Might have to check it out.

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