Top 10 Tips For Self-Publishing Print Books On Createspace

I recently returned to print and because I have absolutely no patience for page layout, Dean Fetzer from Gunboss did the interior for my non-fiction book, Career Change: Stop hating your job, discover what you really want to do with your life, and start doing it!

bookbindingToday, he shares some tips for how you can do it yourself.

There are a number of services you can use to publish your book – they all have different attractions and merits— but I’ve been using CreateSpace’s publishing tools a lot lately, both for myself and for authors I’ve been helping.

It has the advantage of being quite flexible, it manages the process quite logically and just about anyone can get to grips with it – and books appear on Amazon without the delay you get with other services!

So, without further ado, here are my tips for getting the best results from the service.

(1) Plan your book

This might seem obvious, but a little planning can go a long way to getting best result for your book. I’m not talking about the actual writing of it – you’ve probably got that under control.

Note: if you haven’t done it already, you will want to register an account with CreateSpace so you don’t hold up the process later.

Five things to think about when you’re planning your book:

-       What size should it be?

-       Have you got all the images you need for the book?

-       Do you have your own ISBN?

-       Is your book ready or nearly ready?

-       Do you need any professional services?

This last one is probably the most important, as this will add time to your project and needs to be taken into account.

(2) Get your information together before you start

So you’re ready to start – what next? Take a few minutes to think about what you’re going to need to tell people about your book. You need to have this information ready before you submit your book.

-       Title

-       Author

-       Series (Is it part of a series? If so, is it the first?)

-       Publication date (this can’t be before today’s date)

-       ISBN (If you’re supplying your own) [also see What you need to know about ISBNs ]

-       Description (A tight, concise blurb for your book that makes people want to read it!)

-       Author biography (Who are you? What makes you interesting as an author?)

-       Category (Critical to helping people find it and also helps Amazon classify it accordingly)

-       Keywords (These are essential to help people find your book)

-       How much to charge?

(3) Pick a category

You will need to pick a category for your book to help people find it. Known as a BISAC or Book Industry Standards and Communications category, they’re used by the book-selling industry to help identify and group books by their subject matter. Picking this can have a strategic advantage, too, as some categories are over-saturated and it’s difficult to get books into the top 100, much less the top 10 (if that’s your goal, of course!).

If you’ve written a historical thriller romance, then putting it under “Romance/Historical” is likely to give you a better result than lumping it in with all the millions in “Thrillers” that are already out there. And “Thrillers” doesn’t have sub-categories like “Romance”, so this is probably a better fit. You may need to play around with it a bit to find the best category for your book.

(4) Decide on keywords

Another critical way for people to find your book is keywords. These are words that, the more unique they are the more likely people will search on them, whether through Amazon or even Google. You need to think hard about what you put in as keywords, as you can only add five words here. Putting in “Nazi treasure” or “Degas art heist” is much more specific than “thriller”, “first novel” or “vampire romance” and should result in more people finding your book.

Read more about keywords for your book here.

(5) What should you charge for your book?

This is a tricky one, but much more straightforward than pricing an ebook. A simple way to decide what the price should be is to look at other books in your chosen category and see what the average cover price is.

CreateSpace helps with this, as once you’ve submitted your manuscript and chosen the printing size and processes, it will tell you what the minimum price is for you to cover the costs of printing it. As a guide, average paperback prices in the UK are around £7.99-8.99 and $12.99-14.99 in the US. Obviously, the lower the price, the more likely you’ll get someone to buy it.

(6) Choose an industry standard size for your book

Part of determining the price of your book will be the size you choose to publish it at – it can also affect your distribution, as only standard sizes can be set for “expanded distribution”.

Known as “trim size”, as that’s the size of the book once it’s been cut out of the paper stock, a normal paperback size is 5.06”x7.81”. Trade paperbacks come in at 6”x9” and cost more to produce, of course. But the critical point is that they’re known as “Industry Standard”. More information on sizes is available on CreateSpace’s Trim Size chart.

If you don’t know how to set your document up to the correct size, CreateSpace gives you the option to download a Word template once you’ve picked a trim size or you can find a generic one here. I can recommend these templates as it’s much easier to take the text of your book and paste it into one of these than trying to get Word to cough up the right size by yourself.

[ From Joanna - you can also check out the new book design templates from Joel Friedlander, TheBookdesigner]

(7) Formatting needs to be within their guidelines

The next issue is formatting: this is critical to making your book look its best. And a word of warning, too, that a badly formatted book will turn people off as quickly as a badly edited one.

I could devote a whole article to formatting, but I’ll save that for another post. Any formatting issues will be flagged up once you’ve submitted your book for review, but the more you can anticipate these, the smoother the approval process will be. The three main things to remember are:

-       Don’t put any page elements outside the guides for content; whether page numbers or other header or footer info, it all needs to be within the content area.

-       Use print resolution images. If you don’t, the results can be blurry or worse, badly pixilated.

-       Check pagination before you submit anything – one missed page and your whole book needs redoing.

(8) Get your cover professional designed

A professional cover design is critical. I know Joanna’s talked about this before and I can only agree – even in this age of everything digital, a good cover design says a lot about your book even before anyone reads the blurb. More importantly, it can convince them to buy.

So get your cover designed by a professional. CreateSpace offers this as an option, so even if you don’t know a designer, you can get a good cover designed by someone who knows what they’re doing. And they’ll send you a PDF version with all the proper ‘bleeds’ so it will print correctly and make the approval process smoother.

You can find more book cover design options here.

(9) Make sure you have print resolution images

There is quite a difference between images prepared for viewing over the internet and those intended to be printed, even by digital printing methods. If your images aren’t “high resolution” or “high-res”, you won’t get the best results from the printing process and CreateSpace will flag it as an issue.

Your cover and any images you use inside your book need to be at least 300dpi (dots per inch) to ensure they look good once they’re printed in black and white. As a comparison, screen resolution images are only 72dpi on average. And if you’re printing those images in color, this is even more critical. Okay, if the look you’re going for is blurry and/or pixelated, then that’s a conscious decision – just remember there are ways to achieve this and still have a high-res image.

(10) Submit a PDF

Your book is formatted correctly, all your images are print resolution and you’ve checked the pagination to make sure it’s all there. Now you need to submit your file to CreateSpace for approval and printing. While you can submit your interior file as a Word document, I don’t find this as satisfactory as submitting a PDF. Things are less likely to “move” or change if your file is a PDF, as it’s meant for this sort of thing. Word will allow you to generate a PDF these days, but if you haven’t got the latest version, there are conversion programs or even websites that will do the job for you.

If you don’t own a full copy of Adobe Acrobat (not just the reader, that’s not sufficient) and you plan on producing more than one book, I’d suggest getting a copy – it has saved my bacon on more than one occasion!

(11) Order two proofs

Okay, that’s 11.

Still, you should order at least two proof copies of your book – things never look the same on screen as they do in print. You don’t have to read it through, but you do need to look at most pages to make sure everything is as it should be. And get someone else to look at it, too as you may miss something critical.

When you’re happy with the way it looks in print, approve it and you’re done!

Do you have any questions about print publishing on Createspace or any other service? Please do leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to answer them.

I can help!

Finally, if all this seems daunting, I can help. Whether you just need a cover file produced, or your book formatted so it looks professional or you need it copy-edited, you can get in touch with me and I’ll provide as much (or as little) help with your project as you need. And I’m reasonable!

dean_fetzer_lgYou can find more information on the services I provide at or contact me through the form on the site [ ]

Dean Fetzer is the author of three thrillers, a former pub reviewer and has been a graphic designer for more than 20 years, designing for print and then the internet before naturally moving into book design.

Top image: Flickr Creative Commons Bookbinding tiny books by Solsken

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  1. says

    I have co-authored a historical novel/modern detective story, which has been published by a small press in Boston which now uses CreateSpace for its printing. The paperback book looks great until you take a peek inside. The print is tiny and there are huge side margins (and even the top and bottom margins are on the large side.) The publisher says he did everything by CreatSpace’s rules but each time the book formatted for 6″ x 9″ with font 12 is submitted to CreateSpace it comes back the same: font 8 or 9 and all that white space. We thought it might be that our Word file (and pdf) was European sized (we live in Italy) and not American-sized, but even having the publisher create the Pdf on his American computer hasn’t helped much. For CeateSpace all is OK. But we have a book that is almost impossible to read…despite good reader response. It is maddening and the publisher doesn’t seem to have any ideas. Any advice on what to do? What kind of file to submit? (p.s. even the kindle version has problems with irregular paragraph indentations!)

    • says

      I did this by mistake once – had my page size set for 8.5×11 instead of 6×9, so they reduced the image to fit the page. Figured it out when I got the proof, so it didn’t go to print that way. At least with Createspace, even though you’ve gone to print, you can change it any time, so get the publisher or someone who knows how to format it properly to reformat it and resubmit to Createspace.

    • says

      Hi Gayle,

      PD’s right, it’s a formatting issue. Somewhere in the setup process, you’ve got a page that isn’t set to 6″x9″ – when setting the page size, you need to make sure that you’ve selected the whole document to set to that size. Regardless of what it looks like on screen, if you haven’t told it to make the whole document 6″x9″, it’ll appear when the final file is generated.

      This just highlights the need to generate – and proof – a PDF before you submit it.

      Hope this helps, but let me know if you need more information.


  2. Sunny says

    How does this apply to children’s books regarding format? Is that any different? I have several children’s/comic books that I am attempting to publish and am hoping to switch from Lulu, as the prices are too high.

    • says

      Hi Sunny,

      Well, I’d say it depends: the question is more about the content when it comes to children’s books – if they’re black and white they should be fine. I’d urge caution with colour, as the paper’s not very heavy, even with colour printing; a lot of reports suggest it’s not that great for full colour printing.

      If you’re unsure, give it a go and see what happens. Personally, I’m suggesting clients go to Lulu for better quality colour printing. It’s not Blurb perfect, but the quality is better than I’ve seen with CreateSpace or Ingram Spark.

      Hope that helps, but let me know if you have any other questions.


      • Laura De La Cruz says

        I see that the royalties are different if people buy the book from CreateSpace vs. Amazon. Should I encourage people to go to CreateSpace?
        Probably a “duh” question, but if yes, then I just use that URL to send (I do a bunch of marketing of my book on FB).
        Thanks and thanks for responding!

        • says

          Hi Laura, many apologies for the delay in getting back to you – it’s been a busy summer!

          You can encourage people to buy direct from CreateSpace, but it’s a fact of nature that people are basically lazy – if they’ve already got an Amazon account (and most people do) they’re more likely to buy it there, rather than set up an account at CreateSpace.

          And you could just end up upsetting people if they don’t want to go down that route. By all means do what you can, but I think you’ll find the Amazon links better received.

          Hope that helps, but let me know if you have any other questions.


  3. says

    I am thinking of converting my ebooks to paper books on createspace. Since their royalty setup depends a lot on page count, can you tell me how many words go on their average page?

    • says

      Hi Mark,

      Very sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you.

      It’s not the royalties that are affected by page count as much as the price to produce the book, which means you may have to charge more for a book, possibly making it uncompetitive on price. I admit it’s a balancing act – whether to charge enough to make a profit or keep the price down to remain competitive and still convince people to buy it, taking a much reduced royalty.

      Word count is a tricky one as it depends on things like fonts used (they have different sizes, even when you specify the same pt size), letter and line spacing, page size – all of these affect how many words you can get on a page.

      That said, my rule of thumb is that 250-300 words per page is about normal in your average paperback . If you use 250 as a worst case scenario, you should be fine.

      Hope this helps, but let me know if you have any more questions.


  4. says

    Hi, I have my book of photography printed already. Can I still use Createspace to sell it in amazon? or I have to print the book with Createspace?
    Juan Mayer

    • says

      Hi Juan,

      If you’ve already printed a book does it include an ISBN? If you reprint it with CreateSpace, you will need a new ISBN as they’re very strict about reusing and ISBN from another version.

      You will also need to lay out your book to their guidelines as it won’t pass the approval process if it breaks basic things like margin specifications or colour specifications.

      So, basically, you’re going to have to do it all again!

      Let me know if you have any other questions.


    • Princila M says

      To the best of my knowledge, you can get published from anywhere in the world. All you need is access to the Internet, good writing and communication skills.

    • says

      Hi Eshaal,

      If you mean can you publish via CreateSpace in Pakistan, I have to admit to not being sure.

      Have you tried to set up an account? If not, your best bet is to contact CreateSpace direct and ask the question. You may have to take any earnings in dollars or euros, from the pages a quick search turned up.

      Sorry I can’t be more help, but I am aware that this is an issue outside Europe and the US.


    • says

      Hi Susan,

      There are numerous ways to provide the interior of your book to CreateSpace, but the most foolproof in terms of retaining the layout is to create a PDF of the final manuscript when you’ve got it set out. This is easily done with Microsoft Word now, as it allows you to save a file as a PDF. You can download Word templates from CreateSpace for the interior files.

      In terms of the cover, you will need a full wrap-around cover that comprises the front, back and spine, including an ISBN barcode. There are templates available from CreateSpace to help with this, but you really need to have an image programme like Photoshop or at least Gimp to do it justice.

      When you get to the submission stage, there are lots of things to have ready which I think are all covered in this article, so have another read.

      Hope this helps,


  5. Yve says

    I just received my first book proof from Amazon’s CreateSpace. The cover looks great, but they said they had to add a plain white binding and back cover.
    Was the cover I uploaded supposed to include a binding? I don’t so much mind the blank back. Or will the actual book that people buy have the title, etc on it? I only uploaded a front cover for the size of the book.
    Thank you in advance for any help!

    • says

      Hi Yve,

      You will need a full wrap-around cover for your book – if the spine and back are blank, it looks like a mistake! People are used to books that have text on the spine and information on the back, which you are hoping will help persuade them to buy it if they picked it up in a bookstore. It also doesn’t present your book as well as you might like, and the last thing you want to do is make your book look bad.

      Ian’s right, yes, you can use the cover generator from CreateSpace to generate the full wrap around cover. There are also templates you can download from CreateSpace to fit your book and edit with Photoshop or one of the alternatives (as you can see from the earlier post, there are other programmes, I just always use Photoshop because it’s what I know).

      Alternatively, you can find a cover designer and get them to do the cover for you. And getting a professionally designed cover done can make your book look all the better for it. Remember you want your book to look as professional as possible and a good cover is part of the package.

      I can’t stress highly enough how important this is – and if you need any help, just let me know, as I’m happy to answer questions.

      Hope that helps,


  6. says

    I had a book published my books were sent to and when I read one I found out I could not market them do to the fact none of my research information was put on the books so now I was told I cannot sell them nor market them and it is going to cost me again to republish them I don’t want to be sued for not putting research information and there are so many grammar errors what can I do is there a publisher who I can get to redo my books with out paying a arm and a leg ?

  7. Don Chatfield says

    Ready to publish my mystery, like what I hear of CreateSpace, but dismayed by the bad experience reported at CreateSpace Sucks (100% of his print copies arrived in terrible condition).

    Has that all been corrected since 2010, do you know?



    • says

      Hi Don, I’ve been using Createspace for a number of years now and I am SUPER happy with them. But your other option for print on demand is Ingram Spark so check them out too.


  1. [...] into a book with them? Dean Fetzer (@deanfetzer) of British publisher GunBoss Books provides his Top 10 Tips For Self-Publishing Print Books On CreateSpace on The Creative Penn. While posts like this have appeared before, what I like about these (11, [...]

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