Friday, May 17, 2013

CreateSpace: Why would you not?

While e-books are likely the wave of the future, many people I know have no interest in adding a Kindle or Nook or whatever to their electronic library. Some don't like e-books for what are to them, perfectly valid reasons. And some reserve their savvy for other than computer-based work. Probably, you have friends in one or more of those categories. And there are potential readers out there who also fit. Given the small amount of additional work needed to create paperback copies of your wonderful novel, doesn't it make sense to do so? No, I'm not acting as a shill for Amazon; it just seems like a no-brainer to me.

Of course, the decision is yours. I'm relating my experience to give you an idea about the effort needed to take a book already available in e-book format to CreateSpace. If you do it, and sell enough to clear the (low) royalty hurdle, congratulations! If not, at least you didn't close off the path.

I spent about ten hours over the past several weeks formatting and proofing Mercenaries; A Love Story for the print on demand service CreateSpace. Most of that time was spent on learning the (admittedly few) ropes needed to select a trim size - I based my selection on a survey of the paperback books in my library and the page count estimates from the processor. That was probably the most difficult task.

For printing, the things you need to choose are the trim size (the actual page size) of the book, the font and size of the interior text, and the line spacing. Assuming you are not planning a different edit for print, these are the major determiners of the page count, which drives the cost, and therefore the sell price.

I went back and forth a few times in making these choices for my book, and I plan to keep them for other books in the series, to keep them cosmetically the same.

I asked my wife, an avid reader,  for input on the font and size by printing a few pages in the same size and layout as the book in different fonts and sizes, and having her review them. Between us we selected Georgia in 10 pt for the font, with 1.1 x line spacing.

CreateSpace takes PDF files for the internal text. I created these directly from Scrivener, using their compile option to override the project page set-up with a specific one for pdf. Along with the page size, I set up the headers and footers as I wanted and ’pressed the button, Max!’ (Apologies to Dr. Fate.)

After a review of the resulting PDF file, I selected it in the internal file section of the CreateSpace process. It was then a matter of waiting until their review process ground its wheels. Any errors are flagged. The first time I tried this, I didn’t understand the requirement that the size of the pages in the PDF file had to match the page size selected in CreateSpace. I know, I know, it's obvious, right?

I fixed that in the Scrivener options by choosing the 6 x 9 page size with margins* to fit CreateSpace suggestions, and lo, my file came back error free!

I would note that while Scrivener makes the process of changing the page set-up easy, your own experience may vary. I believe that it would be as simple if using Word, but my experience with Word is several years old. I have been unable to accomplish this with Open Office, since they tie the page size to Styles, and I haven't ever figured out how to use Styles. My guess is that LibreOffice is the same as OO. To be fair, since Scrivener does the job, I've spent very little time on it.

Other choices affecting page count are requiring chapters to begin on "a recto page" (the right hand side), the font size of the Chapter headings and the padding used to lower the Chapter heading toward the center of the page. These, however, won't affect the page count by more than five percent, in my experience, if you make reasonable choices. Starting on a recto page will have the biggest effect; with optimal bad luck, it could amount to an extra page per chapter. Plan on half that.

Here are photos of the interior, showing a chapter opening, and a two page spread. Focus isn't too good, sorry.

The second hurdle was creating a table of contents. In the ebook version, I had entries only for  individual sections, but I wanted to add the chapters in the print version. This was more trouble, because of the various options for TOC creation in Scrivener, and rather than detail it here, if you need or want more detail on that, contact me.

The last item is the cover. Once you've chosen a trim size, it also defines the cover size, and therefore the requirements for the image. For the 6x9 trim size, the image you select must be 6.25" x 9.5" with a resolution of 300 DPI. Another requirement is that there be no useful information within a quarter-inch of the edge. This typically means the title and the author's name must be well within the finished printed area. Other trim sizes will have their own requirements, determined when you begin the process. You will select one of the templates that allow you to add your own cover image.

An Author photo is nice to include, but not required. The image should be 1.5" x 1.5", again with a 300 DPI resolution. I haven't checked, but this requirement probably fits all trim sizes.

You'll need the text for the back cover (the book description may be what you want), and if you choose, an author biography to go with the picture.

That's really about it. The CreateSpace process is dead easy to follow, and it gives you feedback at every step to keep you headed true.

Once everything's been approved, proof the result. I suggest you order the physical book at least once. When you receive it, make sure it's what you expect. Check the cover: front, back and spine. Check the front material to make sure you got the one for the printed version! Inside, make sure the chapter first pages look the way you want, including whether they start correctly, and have the font and size you expect. Make sure the padding is the same from chapter to chapter. Several places through the text, check the page numbers and the other header/footer text you added. Make sure it doesn't overrun the text.

Before finishing the process for Mercenaries, I did the same process for an editing copy of my WIP, Freedom Does Matter. For this copy, I printed it myself, on my overworked HP inkjet printer.

Because I didn't want to cut the sheets down, I bought a ream of legal paper and set Scrivener for a trim size of 7" x 8.5", half a sheet. I used Cheap Impostor to do the imposting (the re-ordering of pages into signatures). It makes a nice package... especially if a duplex printer is available. For Freedom, 292 pages the way I printed it, I had 73 sheets of paper (four pages per sheet) to fold, which took something over an hour.

Because my printer is not duplex, I first printed the even pages, then turned them over and printed the odd pages. For whatever reason, the HP printer doesn't pick up freshly printed pages as well as it does unprinted sheets; I had to help the printer pick up each of the sheets when printing the odd sheets. That added about an hour, so the marked-up copy in the photo required three plus hours to put together. You can tell that it is not glued--much better for editing.

I was glad I went through the exercise. Not only did I get a different format (making editing easier for me), I got additional experience in the process of making input files for CreateSpace.
If this seems like it would be useful to you, feel free to experiment. At the least, if you decide to have someone else do this work, I hope you'll have some insight into the work they will be doing for you. If you’d like more details on any part of the process, contact me. And as usual, comments are welcome!

*The inside margin (the left in Scrivener) is determined by the page count, to allow the text to be read when the book is bound. As the page count increases, so does the depth of the inside margin.

Photos of Freedom Does Matter editing copy:

Binder Clips. That's what they're for, right?
With the beat-up cover-don't mind where the cat licked!

Two piles of folded signatures. I did edit, see!

One of the signatures, open


  1. There is a public community for people who use Scrivener on Google Plus. We have over 800 members. Because this is a public community, you can read the posts and comments even if you do not choose to join us.

    1. Thanks for the comment and the reminder. I;m not a fan of G+ or FB, for a variety of reasons, but since this group is public, I will certainly check it out. I appreciate your reading and leaving this information.