Cover The site’s cover design tools are actually quite good; they even provide images you can use for free. For instance, the image on our cover of a roll of dollar bills comes from their free-for-use collection. They also provide multiple cover layout options, so you can experiment with different looks until you find the one that’s right for you. They walk you through the process one step at a time, from choosing your book size, to adding text to the back cover, to uploading an optional photo of yourself to include on the back cover. You can immediately see the results on-screen as you complete each step. Green checkmarks indicate the steps you’ve completed so far.
Inside Pages This is where the real work is. The easiest approach is to format your book directly in Microsoft Word; that's what CreateSpace is primarily set up for. The stronger your skills in Word, the better off you’ll be. You’ll need to use mirrored margins, for example, so that inside margins are slightly wider than outside margins (to account for the space lost to the spine). You'll also want to set up separate headers for left- and right-facing pages. For a professional look, consider using odd-page section breaks so each new chapter starts on a right- facing (odd-numbered) page.
I recommend using another paperback you admire from a formatting standpoint as a sort of template. Try to mirror the formatting of that book as much as possible. Note: Several how-to books are available for purchase on Amazon that provide a detailed step-by-step approach if you’re not sure your Word skills are quite up to the task.
Graphics can sometimes be a challenge. A resolution of 300 dots per inch or higher is required before CreateSpace considers them good enough for printing. Blurry graphics certainly don't make your book look professional so it's wise to spend the time to make them look sharp. Remember that your graphics need to be in black and white if you want to keep the price of your paperback reasonably low.
Once you have a solid draft of your book, you can upload it to CreateSpace and see a nice electronic demo of what your book will look like once it's printed. This can help you discover problem areas so you can go back and fix them. Of course, the more professional your book looks, the more likely it is to reach its target audience, so it's worth going through several iterations before hitting the publish key.
Copyright You always own the copyright to your own work so the only thing you really need to do is include a basic copyright page that has the copyright symbol, the year, and your name on it, along with the words "All rights reserved." You can register your book with the Library of Congress if you so choose, but this isn't necessary. When I looked into it, it seemed like too much effort for too little return, so I didn't bother. Again, it's easiest to find an example of a copyright page from a book similar to your own and use it as a model.
Royalties CreateSpace provides a helpful tool that lets you calculate your royalties based on book size (i.e., dimensions), number of pages, and black and white vs. color for internal pages. You can set your own book price -- it's completely up to you, except that the price cannot be lower than what it costs to produce the book. We set the list price of our book at $12.95, for example, and the royalty we receive per paperback book is $3.90.
You can experiment with different pricing points on the CreateSpace website to see what your royalty would be. For instance, we tried plugging in list prices of $9.99, $12.95, $14.95, and $19.95 to see what the results would be. Amazon incentivizes you to charge a bit more for your book by giving you a higher percentage of the returns. You might only get one-quarter of the list price at $9.99, for example, but one-third of the list price at $14.95. You can look at the list prices of other books in your category to get an idea of what to charge.
If Amazon chooses to lower the selling price of your book at some point, that has no effect on your royalty. For example, Amazon frequently lists our book for $11.66 (10% off) but we continue to receive the full royalty payment ($3.90) for each paperback sold. On the downside, we have no control over whether Amazon discounts our book or not. For the first month or so the book sold at full list price, then it came down by 10%. For awhile it was offered at 15% off, then returned to 10% off. Authors have no say in the process -- nor should they, in a sense, since the discount comes out of Amazon's share of the profits. But you can always change the list price of your book.
Proof Copy You can order a proof copy at significantly reduced cost plus shipping. This lets you see the physical layout of your book with your own eyes before you hit the "Publish" key and put it out there for the world to see. After reviewing the proof copy, I went back and made several last-minute changes to the book before deciding it was ready to publish.
Ordering Book Copies You can order copies for yourself if you want to distribute them to friends and family or for marketing purposes. You get these copies at a significantly reduced price, but you don't make any royalties off them, obviously.
Getting Listed on Amazon The book is automatically listed on Amazon.com usually within a day or two after you hit the "Publish" key. Paperback books are published on demand so there is no inventory. Amazingly, Amazon is able to print each book as it is ordered and send it out the next day in most cases.
Picking a Title It makes sense to pick a title for your book that is highly searchable on Amazon and Google. For instance, we chose a completely obvious title --"How to Retire Early" (along with a more specific subtitle) -- because no other books showed up on Amazon with that title (amazingly enough) and because people are likely to type in words like "retire early" or "early retirement" in search engines. Your book will appear higher in the listings if the title has keywords in it that people frequently search for. This is contrary to the prior wisdom which suggested you pick an obscure but eye-catching title like "What Color is Your Parachute?"
I'm not sure what the exact algorithm is that Amazon uses to rank its books when a search is performed, but it seems to be a combination of title keywords, positive customer reviews, book sales, and possibly publication date (newer being better). You might as well do all you can, therefore, to make your book appear as high as possible in the listings.
Our book currently appears first on the Amazon website if the words "retire early" or “early retirement” are typed into Amazon, but earlier on, before positive customer reviews started rolling in, it appeared much lower in the rankings. Since the title has remained unchanged, this must be the result of other factors such as customer reviews and book sales.
Benefits of Self-Publishing First and foremost, you're your own boss: you don't have to wait for an editor to tell you your book is ready. It's ready when you say it is: you simply hit the "Publish" key. Getting published is no longer a measure of success in and of itself: rather, success is measured by how well your book sells and what kind of reviews it receives.
You actually get a higher royalty payment per book than you would with most traditional publishing options. Unless you're already famous, there's a lot to be said for this approach. Royalty payments can be set up to transfer automatically into your bank account once per month. The whole process is surprisingly easy and transparent, and we would definitely recommend it based on our own experience.
Why Amazon? Well, it's the biggest and best distributor of books these days, in our opinion. Just about everyone uses Amazon, and book orders can be combined with orders for other stuff to get over the $35 free shipping mark. The CreateSpace tools are genuinely useful, and Amazon has made the process of self- publishing about as painless as possible.
Amazon's powerful online presence also helps when it comes to marketing. For instance, if someone clicks on your book, it may appear later on in a Facebook sidebar ad for that person without your having to pay a dime. Their listings also tend to appear higher up in Google searches.
Amazon has an international presence, so you can even sell copies of your book overseas without any special effort on your part. And CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution option lets you make your book available for order to other online retailers, bookstores, libraries, and academic institutions.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and publish that paperback!
If you've ever dreamed of seeing your book published on Amazon, that dream may be within easier reach than you thought. My wife and I published the paperback version of our book, How to Retire Early, using a subsidiary of Amazon called CreateSpace. You can go to their website and watch a great little tutorial on how it all works.
Using the free features on Create- Space, I was able to put together and self-publish our book at no cost whatsoever since I did my own editing, formatting, and cover creation. Each of these steps can be farmed out for a fee if you prefer, but if you have decent Microsoft Word skills and are willing to push your knowledge boundaries a bit, you should be good to go.