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 a problem with inappropriate books being associated with my title. The Kidnapping of Inda Jackson is a contemporary young adult romance/adventure with a clean MO. The offending books are naked biker males on the cover. I understand that “kidnapping” is in their title and the author’s last name is Jackson, HOWEVER, we have absolutely nothing in common. This is destructive to my book. I have tried to explain my problem to the good folks at Amazon Author but there is a lack of understanding.
    How can I resolve this?

    • says

      Here’s a radical thought, and you are not going to like it…

      Meg Jackson and a couple of other Jacksons are definitely causing problems for you. As you have said, the combination of the word kidnapping and Jackson is what is bringing up those unwelcome erotica covers.

      So what if you republish your book as “The Kidnapping of Inda”. Leave off the Jackson altogether. Of course, you could give her a different last name, but unless it is something pretty unique, you’re going to find it pulling up other authors’ names. (I tried Johnson, for example, and yeah, another erotica pops up as third choice.)

      You don’ t have any reviews or track record yet, you have not yet established your brand, so now is the best time to regroup and republish it.

      Of course, the other option would be to dash off a dozen or so “Inda Jackson” short stories, to crowd any of the other kidnapping/jackson books out of the search results…

      I note that you’re also in the teen contemporary romance category. Lots of topless men there too…

      • Joanna Penn says

        I think more indies should do title changes – it’s one of the bonuses of being indie. I’ll be doing some myself soon.

    • says

      Thank you for the comments and advice. I did run a Google search on title with nothing negative coming up. I never thought about an Amazon search, though. Live and learn!

  2. says

    Hi! This is my first attempt at self-publishing. The dimensions & aesthetics I’m envisioning are a cross between and which is a sweet little hard cover book (same size as Steal Like An Artist) with printed images of photos from blog posts. Could you see it being practical for me to use Createspace for this project? Is there another tool or company you could recommend? Thanks!!

    • James Simmons says

      The problem with printed images from blog posts is that the images are likely to be 72 DPI and Create Space wants 300-600 DPI. You probably want color pictures, which costs 4 times as much and would be charged for every page of your book, whether it had color on it or not. Also, Create Space does not offer hardbound books.

      I cannot suggest a better alternative myself, but I understand that they exist.

        • says

          Hi Shoshanna, meant to suggest this earlier, but time has slipped away again…

          You could also try, as their hardback books are quite reasonable and the quality is pretty good.

          They also do a better job than IngramSpark on colour interiors, as the paper’s thicker – IngramSpark suffers the same problems as CreateSpace, I’m afraid: too thin paper that doesn’t handle colour ink very well. Any saturated images bleed through to the other side of the page in my experience.

          Hope this helps,


  3. Amelia says

    Hello Joanna, Can you use createspace from the UK? The site keeps asking me to enter an IRS Tax Identification Number.
    Amelia :-)

  4. says

    Dear Joanna,

    When I first put up my 495-page book on Create Space in 2012, they were willing to price it at 18.99. Today, I tried to put up the same book again (after several months off promoting other books) and I have to charge $60 to make about $1.50 in royalty. Why has CreateSpace upped the price by a factor of three?? Is there anything I can do to lower the price?

    Best, Cynthia

    • says

      Hi Cynthia,

      That sounds odd, indeed. Does your book have any special formatting, i.e. full colour interior? Is it a large book? Price changes like this would seem to be something that has changed in the settings for the format of your book.

      Are you just replacing the book, or is it a new edition? If it’s a new edition, it might be just as well to delete the old one and set up a new link for it. It might be advisable to set up a new version on CreateSpace just to test the pricing issue – you don’t have to publish it, but it might show you where the issue is.

      Alternatively, if you can send me a file at dean at, I can have a look and see what the problem might be.

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

  5. Rick Lecoat says

    I’m just going down the CreateSpace road for the first time (long time reader, first time author…) and I’ve been trying to work out if there are any obvious disadvantages to choosing a custom book size /other/ than being barred from the extended distribution option. At this point I’m only looking to publish on CreateSpace, so alternative distribution avenues are not a factor in this particular decision. Are there any other unwelcome issues that might arise from choosing a custom size (I’m thinking of a pocket-sized 125mm x 155mm).

  6. says

    I’m surprised you said nothing about copyright. Authors really should register their books with the Copyright Office to gain the additional protection that registration provides. And, of course, we must obtain permission, from the legitimate rightsholders, to use all materials that we ourselves haven’t created. It’s especially easy to forget this with text and images we have found on the web, but we are legally and ethically bound to do it.

    Oh, and I wish you had said that using CreateSpace can be difficult if a writer isn’t comfortable with book production and business management. Self-publishing can be a tangle for the unwary. For instance, if you don’t calculate your costs accurately in CreateSpace, you can easily price your book too low for publishing it to be worthwhile.

  7. Oluwasina Emmanuel Oluwaleke says

    I don’t live in the U.S.A; I live in Lagos, Nigeria, Africa. Can I publish, distribute and market my book through Createspace? please let me know if this is possible before I start the process.



  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, […]