Starting out as an indie author: Formatting the interior of your book for print / CreateSpace

Formatting your self-published book for print on demand (POD) is very different than for ebook publication, another level of difficulty entirely. But as with most things, the first book is the hardest, and after that it gets progressively easier. In this installment of my series, I will be referring exclusively to CreateSpace because that is the only POD publisher I have experience with. I suspect most of the these instructions will be similar for other POD publishers, however.

Preparing you book for POD consists of two main steps: formatting the book’s interior, and making the wrap-around cover. This week, I will only go into interior formatting. Next week (hopefully) I will explain what is involved in creating a wrap-around cover for your physical book using the ebook cover you already have.

Formatting the book’s interior

For hard copy publication, Createspace requires a correctly formatted PDF file. There are different ways to get from manuscript to PDF. People with that skill set swear by InDesign, but I am not one of them. In the following, I will be telling you how to format using Word. If you want to use InDesign, Hugh Howey has a video tutorial here.

First, a confession: I have not done all of these steps myself from start to finish, although I do understand the process. But since I wanted the interiors of my hard copy books to look as professional as possible, I splurged and bought a template from Joel Friedlander, which you can see here.

I think it was an excellent investment. Friedlander is a professional book designer, and his templates are gorgeous. But what I have done is mess with the template I bought a bit, so that I can vary it depending on the type of project at hand (no worries, I did buy an unlimited license, so I’m legal.) But in my opinion, the template saved me a lot of time and also gives my books the professional look I want:

Interior of Yseult

And in messing with the template I bought, I have come to understand more about the principles of book formatting, which I will share with you here.

CreateSpace also offers templates for formatting the interior of your book, but they are very bare bones. Still, if you want to go that route, they will save you from many of the steps below. On the other hand, they suggest cutting and pasting your book into the appropriate template chapter by chapter, which is a lot of work. In my experience, it is much easier to work with styles.

For this article, I will walk you through the formatting process for my novel Chameleon in a Mirror — which I have been meaning to format for CreateSpace for some time now and am only getting around to now. 🙂 For the sake of simplicity, however, some screenshots will be from other works of mine for which the print version is already complete.

Steps to formatting the print version of your book

1) Page size and margins

Without a template, the first thing you will have to do for the print version of your manuscript is change the page formatting.

As you can see here, I used 5 1/4 x 8 for Island of Glass, a YA novella. For my monster epic novels, Yseult and Shadow of Stone, however, I chose 6 x 9 — otherwise the page count would have been far beyond anything affordable for a POD book. The thing is, CreateSpace requires that you charge a minimum amount for any book you publish, depending on the number of pages, type of paper, and whether or not the interior is in color or black and white.

Next, the margins for the book must be defined. On the CreateSpace site, you can find margin recommendations based on the length of the book — the longer the book, the wider the inside margins must be. Here the settings I used for Island of Glass:

(BTW, I apologize for my ancient version of Word, but it is not my word processor of choice, and I only use it for tasks like this where I don’t have a choice. As a result, it isn’t worth it for me to buy the most recent version.)

Important for the margins is to chose “Mirror margins” which means that even and odd pages will be different.

CreateSpace requires the following minimum margins:

In my experience, however, these are not enough and will lead to your book being rejected, after which you will have to go back, reformat, and submit the new PDF file again. If you are particularly unlucky, the new page count will also require that you redo the wraparound cover to conform with the new spine width.

If you look again at the image above for the margins of Island of Glass, the inside margin is 0.76″ — even though the book is only a little over 150 pages long. But this seems to be the magic number for inside margins for books between 150 and 500 pages. For Shadow of Stone, for example, which I “formatted down” (font size, margins, etc.) to 510 pages so that the print version would be affordable, I still had to use an inside margin of 1.06″. Which unfortunately means that you cannot take the CreateSpace “minimums” at face value and may be forced to reformat the interior of your book if it is rejected.

2) Headers and page numbering

Most books these days have running headers with the title of the book on one page and the author name on the facing page. I do the same thing for my books. The page numbers I put at the bottom on the page, so I won’t have to mess with suppressing them and that kind of thing. Here is what this looks like in Word for Chameleon in a Mirror:

If you want to have different headers on even and odd pages, it is important to check that option in the headers section. I also choose “different first page” so that my headers will not show up at the beginnings of chapters.

3) Creating styles and formatting text

The great thing about defining styles is that once I have done so, all I have to do is go through the text and apply them to the different sections of my book. I have styles for body text normal, body no indent, chapter numbers, quotes, scene break, and several more that I don’t use as often. In the screen shot below, for example, there are three styles: chapter number, quote, and body (no indent). Instead of reformatting each time, all I have to do is place the cursor at the beginning of the paragraph and choose the style I need.

If you haven’t worked with syles before, it’s not that difficult. In my ancient version of Word, I access it through the “Format” menu. Here you can see the description of my “no indent” style, which I use for the first paragraphs of my chapters:

You can see from the description that it is based on the body indent style, but with the first line 0″. Modifying a style is as easy as formatting a paragraph — you simply change what you want and then save it with an appropriate name so you’ll know where to look for it when you need it.

Once you have formatted the pages and created your styles, you can create a template from the file of your book by renaming it something like “POD template.doc” and deleting most of the text (but not before you’ve saved a copy of your completed book!). Then, the next time you need to format a book for CreateSpace, all you have to do is open the template, copy in the text, and go through the book applying the appropriate styles.

4) Making black and white images for your book

If you have a map or any other images in your book, I highly recommend making black and white copies for the print version. Defining the interior of your book as color rather than black and white makes for a much more expensive book and might just keep potential readers from purchasing. And a map that is in black and white rather than color looks fine in a paperback book:

5) Save you file as PDF and upload!

There are a number of Word to PDF converters out there to choose from. I use DoPDF. Whatever you use, it is important that it embeds the fonts during the conversion.

And that’s it! Well, yes, for me, all of this still takes several hours per book. I have made print copies for 6 of my books so far, so the practice is still lacking a bit. But with Yseult, it took me a couple of days, so I’m definitely improving!

Here are some other resources for formatting text for print. Several of these folks go about formatting differently than I do, so if your brain is wired differently than mine, they might be of more help than I am *g*:

If you found this blog post helpful, perhaps you would be interested in the book, Starting Out as an Indie Author! You can learn more here.

11 thoughts on “Starting out as an indie author: Formatting the interior of your book for print / CreateSpace”

  1. Thanks for these posts, Ruth! This is where I’m up to at the moment. Those templates are rather pretty, I might have to take a closer look when I’m not at work.

    1. I don’t think it’s a matter of “skipping” — I just think that with the template I bought my books look much more professional than I would be able to do myself. I’m not a word expert, and the templates have all the styles for all the different parts of the book already set up — all you have to do is apply them.

  2. Hi, thanks for this article. Did you use white or cream for your paper colour? Does CreateSpace produce books with that traditional cream book paper with this option? I used Lulu once with white paper and it created a book where the pages felt like photocopier paper!
    Thanks 🙂

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