Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Two Cent Tuesday: Paperback Writer

Shiny new paperbacks!
Last month I finally started to get around to making paperbacks for some of my most recent books.  Before that the only paperbacks I'd made were for Where You Belong and The Carnival Papers.  Both were a nightmare.  Where You Belong was the first one I made, so there was a big learning curve there.  For The Carnival Papers it was difficult to pull together all these separate files since it was a book of short stories.  Then unlike some lazy people I set different headers and footers for each story.  That along with the table of contents was a real pain in the ass.

I thought this time would be easier, but there were still some hiccups.  But now that I'm done with the Scarlet Knight ones I've gotten it down to almost a science.  So I can share my wisdom with you on how to format your novel for CreateSpace.  Most of these principles would probably work on Lulu or somewhere else too.

If you're like me then the first thing you do is reread the manuscript.  Then you find 40-50 head-scratching errors that you somehow missed the other four or five times you read the manuscript previously.  Seriously, what the hell is that?  After I correct those I post a revised ebook version of each book just because I can.

Then you want to format your manuscript.  Let's assume you're using MS Word.  Now what I realized from the dong the Chances Are books is the first thing you should do is change your font and size.  The CreateSpace template uses Garamond, which is fine.  I use Palatino Linotype for mine.  That's what I used for Where You Belong, so why change?  It seems a little bigger than Times New Roman so I shrank it to 11point.  You want to do this first before you start fiddling with titles, chapter headings, drop caps and all that.

It should go without saying that your manuscript should be single-spaced, but let me say that:  Single-spaced!  Set the first line tabs for about a half-inch (I use .33").  If you have scene breaks, you can use whatever symbol you like.  I use ***, centered.  For ebooks I use underlines instead of italics but in a printed book I go back to italics because you can see them better on paper than on a screen and it looks better than an underline.  So go through and Find underlined text and Replace it with no underline, italics.  A lot of that stuff you can find in my post about formatting ebooks.

OK, now for the title I like to use 20-point font.  Subtitle I use 14-point font.  The first page is the title page and the second page is the copyright page with the ISBN numbers and anything else you want to throw in there.  The third page is either Part 1 or the start of Chapter 1 or the Prologue depending on the book.

A really, REALLY important thing is the margins.  No matter what size your book is, the margins are the same (or I assume; the two sizes I've used have the same margins).  Here's what your margins should be:
That's the screen from Word 2000.  In Word 2007 the header and footer are under the Layout tab.  Anyway, the thing that really fucked me up when I was doing the Chances Are books is I forgot to change the Paper Size.  It seems obvious but I just didn't think of it.  For the Chances Are books I used a size of 5.5" x 8.5" which matches the oversized paperbacks I have on my shelves for the most part.  So under the paper size tab I'd change the width to 5.5 and height to 8.5.  The default size is 6x9 which is what the lazy jerks who formatted A Hero's Journey used, so it looks stupid compared to other paperbacks on my shelf.  You can use that if you want; I am for the other Scarlet Knight books just for symmetry.  Again, the margins are same no matter the paper size.

The next biggest thing is formatting chapter pages.  At least if you want to do it right.  If you're lazy like some people you can just half-ass it.  What I do is I make the chapter title (Chapter 1, Chaper 2, etc.) 20 point font and then right click it and go to Paragraph.  On the Before box I change it to 36pt and on the After box I change it to 96pt.  This sets the Chapter title off from the text, which makes it look nicer.  Pro Tip:  You can go to Replace and under Format click Paragraph and set the Before and After.  Then just tell it to Find/Replace "Chapter" with the format and boom it's all done!  (Except for prologues, epilogues, or anything like that.)

Next I insert a Drop Cap.  That makes the first letter of the chapter bigger than the others.  You don't have to do that but again it makes it look nicer.  It's under Insert in Word 2007 but it's a little different for older Word versions.  Just click the Help if you can't find it on your program.

One thing you want to note is any widows or orphans on the page before the new chapter.  This means where you end up with only a line or two on a page at the end of a chapter.  It looks really bad and it costs extra to have pages with almost nothing on them.  So if you see a page with only a couple lines on it (less than a paragraph or two) then go back and maybe see about trimming some words here or there to squeeze it onto a full page.  I don't update the ebook with those changes; just consider it a Special Exclusive Version for people who buy the paperback.

Here's another thing with the chapters that's important for the headers and footers:  if you used a regular page break (which you probably did if you're like me) to separate chapters then you want to delete that and change it to a Section Break.  In Word 2007 you go to Page Layout-Breaks-Next Page.  Again it's a little different in older Word versions so use the Help if you can't find it.  This will make sure that the headers and footers don't show up on the first page of the chapter.  Again it just looks better that way.  Also use the Section Break for the title page, copyright page, Part 1/etc pages, and anything else where you don't want a header or footer to show.

Another thing about this is that if you have a Part 1, Part 2, etc. you want it to show up on an odd-numbered page so the reader can see it right away.  If it falls on an even number page then add a Section Break ahead of it.  If you want to waste more paper you can also do this for chapters, but remember that every page you add to the book adds to the cost of it, so you might want to go sparingly.  I make sure the "Also By Me" page is on an odd page.  I don't really care where the About the Author shows up.  That's just my personal preference.

Headers and Footers are a real pain in the ass and I still don't really get how it all works.  You'd think Microsoft could have made it easier after like 20 years but you'd be wrong.  It's still the same clunky way in 2007 as it is in 2000 and I'm pretty sure that holds true for 2013 as well.  It sucks, but just deal with it.

Anyway, if you got all your Section Breaks in right then this will hopefully not be too difficult.  Just go to the first page where you want the header or footer and then put in how you want it.  If you're lazy you can just put one header or footer for everything.  I like to use one header for even pages and one header for odd pages.  If you do that, make sure to check the box that says Different Even and Odd.  Here's what my headers look like:
Odd Header

Even Header

You can make them whatever size or font you want.  I use Palatino Linotype 9-point so it's a little smaller.  I like to italicize them too.  To each his own.  You can use footers if you want and generally the same thing would apply.  If the header is still showing up somewhere you don't want it to, make sure the Different First Page is checked and that should make it go away.  (Really would it be that hard for stupid Microsoft programmers to just have a button to say I want to suppress headers/footers on that particular page?  Who beta tests this shit?)

Whew, so now that your file is formatted you need to make it into a PDF.  There are utilities like PDF995 that can do that if you don't have something to save it as a PDF.
My books are in good company.

The next big thing is the cover.  Chances Are (punny!) you already have a cover if you've made an ebook, so you just need to modify it.  What was a bear for me is that CreateSpace lists the image size in INCHES and Paint Shop Pro uses PIXELS and it's really hard to convert them.  I looked it up and finally found a way to figure it out with some basic math.

Here's the formula:
Pixels = Size in inches x dpi (dots per inch)

Now to drop some basic algebra here, we know two of these variables.  The size is 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 9, though in reality it has to be slightly bigger.  For a 6x9 book it actually wants margins of 6.26x9.5".  And for the dpi what we want is 300dpi, otherwise CreateSpace bitches at you that it's low resolution.  (Actually it does even if you have exactly 300dpi, which makes no sense.) 

We drop those in there and we get:
6.26 x 300 = 1878
9.5 x 300 = 2850

So you want your image to be 1878 x 2850 pixels.

Now to take the math lesson a little further, let's say I want to convert the images I created in PowerPoint to be big enough.  How many inches would that be?  Well, what I found out is PowerPoint uses 96dpi (because Microsoft still thinks it's the 90s) and we want 300dpi.  So if you take 96 and divide it by 300 you get 0.32.

Now I can take my 6.26x9.5" cover and make it big enough.  All I have to do is divide and conquer!

6.26/0.32 = 19.56
9.5/0.32 = 29.69

So my presentation should be 19.56" x 29.69" (amounts rounded to 2 decimals so it might be just a slight bit off), which is pretty damned huge.  Now I get why Smashwords and the like want you to have such ginormous cover images.

On CreateSpace I used the template called "Spruce" for the Chances Are books where I only wanted to import a front cover.  For the Scarlet Knight ones I wanted to use a front and back cover image, the back having the same riveted red metal as on the front cover, only with no picture. And then I made the spine too so I could number each one at the top plus put in both the book title and series title.  (I even made a version of the first book just for myself.)  It was kind of a hassle as I made the front cover, back cover, and spine all separately in PowerPoint and then spliced them together in Paint Shop Pro.  You could probably do it easier in just a graphics program.

To find out how big the spine is (because obviously that depends on the size of the book) you have to go into CreateSpace and go to this page to calculate how big the spine will be.   As I said I made mine in PowerPoint so I had to use the math up above to calculate how big it should be in pixels.  The length should always be 9.5" or 2850 pixels but the width is what varies.

If your brain hasn't melted from all that math and stuff, the rest is pretty easy.  You go onto CreateSpace, you put in your title, description, all that good stuff.  One thing that's annoying is unless you have an ISBN number you have to save it for the thing to bring those up, then put them in your Word document on the copyright page, and then save it as a PDF to load.

If you want to pay $25 you can get the "expanded distribution" which allows you to sell the book on B&N and other non-Amazon sites.  This makes your book $4-$5 more expensive than just selling it through Amazon.  Plus it costs you $25 so if you're doing a series like me then that can really add up.  I generally charge as little as I can because no one buys my paperbacks so I figure I'm not making money off them anyway.  Generally I just round it up to X.99, so if the cost is $7.04 I charge $7.99.  It won't make me much money but as I said no one buys these.

That should be all you need to know.  Once CreateSpace approves your files you can look at the proof online.  This is good because in the past you'd have to order a physical proof and then wait around for it to show up.  Now you can look at it online, which saves time and money.  When you look at the proof, make sure to check your headers and chapter titles and all the stuff you changed.  If you have time you can read the whole book, but mostly I just look over the format and then approve them or make more changes.  Then you can buy a copy for yourself and all your friends and family!  Or to sell out of your trunk or something.  Just remember you don't get royalties for copies you buy on CreateSpace.  For someone like me that has Amazon Prime with its free shipping, it's usually not much more to wait and buy it right off Amazon rather than CreateSpace, but if you don't want to wait a couple days and save yourself 50 cents or so then you can buy it immediately off CreateSpace.

A new wrinkle is Amazon has created this thing called "Matchbook" where apparently if someone buys the print version of your book you can set it so they can get the ebook version for as little as nothing.  I went through on Amazon's Kindle site to enroll all the Chances Are and Scarlet Knight books as well as Where You Belong and The Carnival Papers.  I guess it doesn't start until October so I'm not really sure how exactly it all works.  Why would you want the ebook if you already have the print version?  Well I guess if you want to reread it without dragging the paperback around or conversely if you want a hard copy to go with the Kindle version you could buy the paperback and then get the ebook for a low cost.  I did that with a couple of CDs just because the CD was pretty much the same price as the MP3 album and if I got the MP3 album included for free, why not?  Anyway, that's just another thing to think about.

That is all.


  1. It could be for people that want to give the hard copy as a gift and get a free e-copy for themselves, too.

    For the last Charter Shorts and for Shadow Spinner, I just downloaded CreateSpace's template and worked my document into it.

  2. I used to do paperbacks, too, but you're right: it's a bear to do and takes longer to preview, etc.

    I was thinking about starting to do fancier versions of my books, though: like collecting up a couple of books into one fancy hard-bound version. I don't like paper books, but I do like fancier, coffee-table type books, and I saw that McSweeney's and Grantland do quarterlies. Have you ever seen anything like that? I forget if Createspace does those.

    1. Createspace only does paperbacks. Lulu might do hardcovers.

    2. Lulu does do hardcovers, I've only used them for paperbacks, as the hardcovers can be expensive. But if you're willing to pay, they can do color pages, coffee table worthy items.

  3. So much good information here. I'm working on several collections of posts/stories and I'm saving your post for when I get closer to publishing. Thanks for the great info.



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