Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to Create a Print Book

(Here's me holding my proof copy. Almost as exciting as giving birth to my children, and not quite as painful!)

Today I'll share how I created my print copy of The Boy Who Loved Fire!

There are many reasons why I think print books are a giant bonus, even in the digital age. I'll share more on that topic in my 4/24 guest post on Janice Hardy's blog. For now I'll discuss the how instead of the why.

For the purpose of this post, I'll focus on CreateSpace--the company I used for my print book. I've been really happy with the outcome.

Here's a step by step guide to creating a print book:

Cover Design

Print covers require a spine and info for the back cover. I used J. Allen Fielder to design all my covers, including print. For a small extra fee, he adjusted my digital cover for print. He knew exactly what to do. All he needed was the book size, page count, and ISBN. This was one of the many benefits of working with a cover pro! If you're working with a cover designer, let them know you're doing print and discuss the details.


Before you even sign on to CreateSpace, you'll need to format your final, super duper edited manuscript for print.

  • Choose a book size: I pulled favorite YA contemporary books off my shelves and whipped out the measuring tape. I chose 5.25" x 8". Another popular size is 6" x 9".
  • Format to size: I write with Apple Pages. I updated my page size in Inspector>Document>Page Setup. (CreateSpace offers help to Word users in this link)
  • Choose margin sizes: I used a ruler to size up my shelved books, then changed the margin settings. In Pages it's Inspector>Document>Facing Pages and >Headers, >Footers.
  • Chapter headings: I moved my chapter numbers to almost mid page of each new chapter. I also increased the font size of the chapter numbers.
  • First lines: remove indent from the first sentence of each new chapter and after each scene break.
  • Delete unnecessary data: remove the table of contents from the front matter, and digital links from the back matter.
  • Save as a .pdf
Upload to CreateSpace

Once you have a nifty cover with a spine, and a re-formatted document, you're ready to upload your book. This part moves easily from one step to the next. Here's a short breakdown.
  • Open a CreateSpace account: some of your information from Amazon will transfer over. Everything else is self-explanatory.
  • Title page is self explanatory
  • Interior: choose paper color (cream is most common for fiction) and type color (black and white). This is also where you upload your .pdf file.
  • ISBN: I chose the free ISBN offered by CreateSpace. For more info about the ins and outs of ISBN numbers, read this post on Janice Hardy's blog.
  • Cover: choose matte or glossy finish (I chose glossy). Upload your cool cover with spine.
  • Complete setup: this is where you review all the info you've entered.
Once you've completed all the steps, CreateSpace then reviews your book for quality. You'll receive a message when it's approved.

  • Review your book online: click through each page and see how it will look once printed. 
  • Browse through errors: in your online book review, you will likely see errors off to the right. Click through those to figure out what needs to be changed. If you're unsure about these changes, or can't see anything wrong where an error message appears, visit the forums. Many of these "errors" are simply glitches that don't need to be fixed.
  • Proof copy: once you've reviewed your online book and can't find any errors, it's time to order your proof copy. Once you receive your proof copy by mail (a totally exciting experience, by the way), go through each page of the book. Look for anything wonky.
  • Change and re-upload: make any necessary adjustments to your main document, save to .pdf, then upload a new copy.
  • Channels: I made my book available everywhere.
  • Pricing: I made my book as cheap as CreateSpace would allow. Print books are already more expensive than digital. I wanted it to be as affordable as possible.
  • Description: this is where you add your book summary and author bio.
  • Keywords: very important! If someone wanted to search for your book, what would they put in the search engine? I used teen, arson, hispanic, burn victims, romance

Once your online book and physical proof have been reviewed for accuracy and beauty, click Publish and get that baby out there!

Yes, print books require additional work, but it's soooo worth it. My biggest advice is this: use the forums. Click here and search for anything you're up against when creating a print book. CreateSpace authors have done and seen just about anything, and they generously share solutions. Forums are an indie author's best friend.

For more tips on self publishing, including ideas for a professional print book, I'd highly recommend James Scott Bell's Self Publishing Attack.

If you're indie or traditionally published, is there a print copy of your book out there? If you've used CreateSpace, or another print service, can you think of anything I've missed?


  1. So much to learn. That's an excellent check list though. Will share!

    1. Steep learning curve, but sooo worth it! Thanks, Alex

  2. This post is an amazing resource. My mind reels with all the details. Double brava to you for going successfully through this process.

    1. Can I just tell you how proud I felt to have done this all by my little old self? And to hold it? Oy.

  3. I've always wondered how Createspace works, thx for the breakdown. And you guys look fab! ;)

    1. Leandra, once the hard work of editing and formatting the ebook was done, this part was easy!

  4. Congratulations! Thank you for the info, i am thinking of using Createspace in the future. All the best.

    1. Murees, good luck with your project! Using CreateSpace was a cool experience.

  5. Congratulations Julie. This is not only informative but it has inspired me to go for Createspace. I've thought about it, but just thinking is not enough.
    Thank you for sharing the process.

    1. Fanny, go for it! I'm soooo glad I created a print book. Good luck!

  6. I was initially considering CS, but decided to go with Lightning Source for print versions. At the moment, since I don't have the disposable income or a longterm address, I don't think I'll be starting my own publishing company. Since LS requires you bring your own ISBN, and they're so sodding expensive from Bowker, I think I'll go with the Canadian-based IndieBookLauncher, which offers a bundled set of 5 ISBNs for each book at only $25 each. Lucky Canadians get free ISBNs, and they're nice enough to offer them to non-Canadians to avoid being gouged by Bowker. I might, however, initially use CS in addition to LS, or for my first ARCs just to see how it goes.

    1. Carrie-Anne...interesting information about Lightning Source. I'd heard about them but hadn't researched them. Sounds like you have an excellent plan. Good luck!

  7. Hi, Julie. I just used CreateSpace to get all three of my novels done. I paid them to format one, but did the other two myself. I wanted to have paperbacks because my stories take place in my hometown and I wanted to focus my attention this year on reaching that audience. We'll see.


    1. Jimmy,

      I'll bet your locals will LOOOOOOVE having your books in print!

  8. I'm bookmarking this post for future use. I'm on a learning curve here. Thanks so much Julie!

    1. Nas, that's what I was hoping for...that writers would bookmark this and pull it up when they need it. I know all about that learning curve, but I know you can do it. Good luck!

  9. I prefer REAL books… there's more magic to them…

    (And Julie, you are a BABE. Just saying. Seriously so gorgeous) :)

  10. Morgan, you are waaaaaaaaaaay too kind! *mwah*

  11. Nice info, Julie. Thanks. How does your agent fit in with self-publishing your book?