Paperback Writer

Book Cover

Since publishing my book in eBook format in March 2015, I’ve been keen to produce a paperback version.  eBooks are a great way of getting your book published with the minimum amount of additional effort but the format is limited, particularly for non-fiction as there is no way of creating a proper index, and nothing compares to the satisfaction that comes from holding a physical copy of your book in your own hands.  It also makes sound commercial sense, as eBook sales have recently begun to fall in both the UK and US while paperback sales are rising for the first time in years.

For self-published authors, there are a number of options available based on the print-on-demand (POD) model, where no stock is held and a copy is only printed when an order for the book is received.  The latest of these is KDP Print, an extension of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform which allows authors of eBooks published through KDP to publish a paperback version which is then automatically linked to their eBook in the Amazon store.  KDP Print also provides various tools and guides for formatting the manuscript and creating the cover.  As my own eBook was published through KDP, this appeared to be the most straightforward route but closer inspection revealed that KDP Print still lacks some important features, such as the ability to order proof copies and to purchase author copies at wholesale prices.  Instead, I decided to use another Amazon POD service, CreateSpace, which does provide these features and also allows paperback and eBook versions to be linked in the Amazon store.

The next stage was to produce a suitably formatted manuscript in PDF format for uploading to the CreateSpace site.  I wanted to do this myself rather than use a book formatting service but I knew it would involve considerable time and effort, which is one of the reasons why it had taken me a couple of years to get around to doing it in the first place.  I’d used Microsoft Word when writing the manuscript so I could have simply tidied up the Word file and converted it to PDF but Word is very limited in its ability to perform the type of formatting required for books, such as setting up different page headers for different chapters or using Roman numerals for numbering pages in the front matter.  In order to create a high quality manuscript I would need access to professional desktop publishing software so, after exploring the options, I installed Adobe InDesign CC.  InDesign is expensive but I was able to minimise the cost by taking advantage of the free trial (which lasts for 7 days) and then taking out a monthly subscription which I then cancelled as soon as I’d completed the formatting.

Learning to use InDesign was a formidable challenge, as the user interface is not intuitive and was clearly designed for the Apple Mac environment rather than Windows.  I learned the basics from an excellent video tutorial on YouTube by Sean Foushee but learning how to create an index was much less straightforward, as this is a more specialised task and isn’t covered in most of the InDesign tutorial material available online.  Adobe’s support pages on indexing provided the necessary instructions but creating an index is a highly labour-intensive task which required weeks of effort to complete.  On the plus side, the process of creating the index highlighted several inconsistencies in the spelling of terms used throughout the book which I was able to correct.

Having completed the formatting of the manuscript, I then turned my attention to the cover.  It wasn’t possible to use my eBook cover directly, as the proportions and pixel resolution requirements were different, so I recreated the cover to the new requirements in InDesign.  I also added a spine and back cover, making sure to follow the detailed requirements for cover design given in the CreateSpace Submission Specification.  For the blurb on the back cover, I simply reused the book description I’d written for the eBook.

For printed books, an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is required in order to identify the edition, publisher and physical properties such as trim size, page count, and binding type.  With CreateSpace there is the choice of using your own ISBN, which can either be purchased through CreateSpace or from an ISBN agency, or allowing CreateSpace to assign a free ISBN to your book.  The main difference is that the CreateSpace-assigned ISBN will record the publisher as CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, so the book is effectively tied to the CreateSpace platform and a new ISBN would be required if changing to a different publisher.  As I’m not planning to use other POD platforms anytime soon, I opted for the CreateSpace-assigned ISBN.

Having completed the manuscript and cover files, I uploaded them to the CreateSpace site at the end of May.  The platform has a digital proofing tool which creates an online proof copy for checking but it’s always a good idea to order a physical proof copy to make absolutely sure there are no formatting errors.  For some reason CreateSpace proof copies are expensive and delivery is slow unless you pay extra for air mail but I was very glad I ordered one, as it showed I’d accidentally omitted the bleed (the area to be trimmed off) when outputting my InDesign cover file to PDF.  I was then able to correct this before finally releasing the book for publishing.  You can see the finished product here:-


Author: Stephen J Marshall

Writer and speaker on the history of technology with a background in engineering R&D, IP commercialisation and knowledge exchange.

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