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Self-Publishing Through CreateSpace

by John Oehler

I’ve won a lot of writing contests, including a PNWA competition.  I’ve had two literary agents.  I’ve had editors interested in my novels.  And I’ve had exactly zero books published — until I decided to self-publish.

Four things convinced me to self-publish:

• frustration with the traditional path,

• contraction of the traditional publishing business, meaning that path was getting more difficult to tread,

• the rise of e-books, and

• the fact that a friend of mine has sold more than 40,000 copies of his first self-published novel.

When I took the plunge, I chose CreateSpace because that’s what my friend had used.

For those who don’t know, CreateSpace is a subsidiary of Amazon.com.  Books published through them automatically appear on Amazon.  And CreateSpace (CS) links directly to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).  So you get a trade paperback version and an e-book version.  All for free.

No, CS did not pay me to hype their service.  I’m writing because I’m very satisfied with how they step you through the process and with the quality of their 24/7, instant callback help desk.

There is, however, one hitch.  You have to convert your manuscript to publication-ready format.  You can pay to have them do this.  But with a little guidance, you can do it yourself.  Having gone through half a dozen iterations on my first novel before getting it to look the way I wanted it in print, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned with other writers who might choose to self-publish this way.

Following is my step sheet.  Some of the steps pertain to my particular style of typescript.  For instance, I double-space between sentences and put spaces before and after an em-dash.  If you don’t, then you can ignore those steps. 

Final note: these steps pertain to typescripts prepared in MS Word.  I have no experience with other word processing programs.

So here goes.

Manuscript body text (excluding front pieces and end pieces, which follow)

  1. Replace double-spaces between sentences with single spaces.  Use Find and Replace All.  Do this for all sentence-ending punctuation (.  ?  !  .” and so on).
  2. Remove spaces before and after em-dashes.  Again use Find and Replace All. 

NOTE: the New York Times uses spaces before and after em-dashes.  Traditional publishers usually don’t.  Frankly, I think it’s your choice.

  1. Activate Preferences>Spelling and Grammar.  Click Check spelling as you type and Check Grammar as you type.
  2. With Spelling/Grammar active, page through the ms looking for any mistakes, including missed spacing errors.
  3. Set tabs to 0.3 inch.
  4. Change document to single-spaced.
  5. Change page size to 6x9” (Page Setup>Settings>Custom Paper Size).
  6. Format>Paragraph>Line and Page Breaks: uncheck all boxes.
  7. Fully justify the entire ms (left and right margins).
  8. Go back and center-align chapter names (e.g. Chapter 1, Chapter 2 …).
  9. If there’s anything else you want to center-align (like scene break symbols), do it now.
  10. Format>Document>Layout, click Apply to Whole Document, then:

• set Section Start to New Page.

• under Headers and Footers, click Different Odd and Even and Different First Page.

  1. Format>Document>Margins, click Apply to Whole Document, then set:

Top               1.05”

Bottom          0.75”

Inside            0.25”

Outside          0.6”

Gutter            0.8”

Header           0.6”

Footer           0”

NOTE: Once you see the CS mock-up, you may want to change these margins.

NOTE: Any time you change these margins, click Apply to Whole Document first.








  1. Select All (body text) and change font to Garamond 12 pt (or different seraph font, if you prefer). 

NOTE: Actually, Garamond prints a little lightly for my taste.  So I’ll be looking for a different seraph font for my second novel.  But the rest of these notes assume Garamond.

  1. Change chapter headings to Garamond 24 pt (or your preference).  Space chapter headings four 24-pt spacings down from the top of the page, and space text two 24-pt spacings below chapter headings.

NOTE: By doing this, all of your chapter headings will be spaced down the same amount as your Chapter 1.

NOTE: Body text is usually a seraph font, while headers and page numbers are a sans-seraph font.

  1. Change header font to Calibri 11 pt (or other sans-seraph font, if you prefer).

NOTE: CS only allows certain fonts, which they do not specify.  If you want different fonts (including symbols) and/or images, you have to “embed” them in the document or convert the document to PDF.  DO NOT convert to PDF until you’re ready to upload the final version.

  1. Headers

• Odd-numbered pages: type book title in all caps in the center, and set page number to the right margin.

• Even-numbered pages: type author name in all caps in the center, and set page number to left margin.

NOTE: If you prefer a different style, like page numbers centered at the bottom, the same techniques apply.

NOTE: Once you’ve set the header footer for the first chapter, MS Word — usually — will do it automatically for subsequent chapters.  Ditto for the footer (if you use one).  But check to be sure, especially if each of your chapters is a separate section.

NOTE: The first page of each chapter should have a blank header, including no page number.  This is why you did Step 12.

  1. Remove initial tab on first line of each chapter, so the text starts flush-left.
  2. Change the first letter of the first line of each chapter to a drop cap (highlight letter, then Format>Drop Cap).  My friend chose 3 lines as his drop cap size.  I prefer 2 lines.
  3. All of this reformatting will likely have produced widows, orphans, and overly spaced-out lines of text.  Go back through the entire document and fix these by adding, deleting, or changing words. 

NOTE: Opinions vary on whether to hyphenate words at the ends of lines as a means of helping to fix overly spaced out lines.  Big US publishers seem rarely to use hyphens, so I didn’t.  But readers usually don’t notice things like that.  So if you want to use hyphens, go ahead.

Manuscript front pieces

There’s some latitude here.  Pull out several books and see what traditional publishers do.

Front pieces have no headers and are not counted in pagination.  Your Prologue (if any) and the first page of each chapter have no headers but are counted in pagination.

These days, it seems the Acknowledgments are among the front pieces, although they can appear as an end piece.

  1. Make each of these pages a new section, even if it is a blank page.
  2. Fill in these pages the way you see them in a traditionally published book.
  3. Type CreateSpace as your publisher (at the bottom of the second title page).  But be aware that they will not allow you to use their colophon on the spine.
  4. On the copyright page, leave the ISBN number blank (or type in some gibberish).  CS will give you a free ISBN number, which you will then type in before uploading your revised text.  Believe me, after receiving your proof copy, you will want to make revisions.

Manuscript end pieces

These are typically things like About the Author (including your website) and plugs for future books.

  1. Double-click on the header box to bring it up, chose Different from Previous, and make it blank, including no page number.
  2. Add unnumbered page(s) with author info, teasers for future books, etc.

Next comes the cover.  If there’s sufficient interest, I’ll give you my guidelines on that, as well as on how to submit, proof, and revise your book and how preparation for KDP varies from that for CS.

In the meantime, you can see how my first novel, Aphrodesia, turned out by going to Amazon and searching Books for John Oehler.  For electronic readers, here is a shortened link: http://tinyurl.com/by8wpnp

For smartphone owners, here is the QR code: 


Once on Amazon, you can “Look Inside.”  Or you can do me a favor and buy the book.

John Oehler


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