What NOT to do on CreateSpace

Fisheye Scorn - You're in Deep TroubleWhen you’re getting ready to release a new title, it might seem handy to hop onto CreateSpace first to craft your print version and then hit the big magic button allowing them to format your e-book. Automation is more awesome than videos of tap-dancing kittens, right? Um, in this case, not so much. Allowing CreateSpace to make an e-book out of your print version is asking for trouble, and here’s why.

When you format an e-book directly from the word processing document you used to prepare your final manuscript, you have a good measure of control. Or as much control as you can have over a process in which the user can modify the appearance of the product and you’re trying to satisfy the quirks of a multitude of e-reading devices. If you choose to do your own formatting, and follow the guidelines supplied by your online retailer, you can prepare that document for upload to Amazon or a spin through Smashwords’ meatgrinder with tidy results and few if any formatting errors. (The Smashwords style guide is particularly user friendly, or see Melinda Clayton’s tutorial on how to use the “nuclear” option to zap weird coding errors out of your document.)

When you select CreateSpace’s equivalent of “you want fries with that?” and ask it to make an e-book, you’re going in blind. If you’ve loaded up a Microsoft Word document to create your print book, know that Word is notorious for making ugly, ugly code. If you think that’s ugly, you should see what CreateSpace can do to a PDF. A PDF is fine for your print book, but it’s about the most unworkable file when it comes to e-book conversion and can cause problems with text reflow, among other things. Couple file conversion problems with choices you might have made in the print book process–cheating a few lines here and there to make the pagination fall better, adding blank pages to start new chapters on a right-hand page, adding drop caps, using scene separators with odd fonts and dingbats—and you could be looking at an e-book full of formatting errors and wacky characters. Definitely not as amusing as tap-dancing kittens.

Best practice that I’ve found is to make the word processing document e-book ready first. Then copy and paste into a CreateSpace template, tinkering around as you go through to paginate, set up chapter headings and folios (headers/footers with page number, author name, title of book) to your preference.

Even doing this, it’s a good idea to check out that final product (especially the epub version) before you tell your fans that your shiny new title is available.

Author: Laurie Boris

Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of four novels. She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley. Learn more about Laurie at her website and her Amazon author page.

32 thoughts on “What NOT to do on CreateSpace”

  1. Yup! I always format the file for ebook first. Then I take a clean copy of the file and format it for print. Seems to work just fine. 🙂 Thanks for the tips, Laurie.

  2. I do the same – ebook first, copy into paperback template last. Thanks for this, Laurie – I’m sharing and helping to spread the word. Nearly every week I see someone on the KDP forum wondering why their CreateSpace-to-Kindle document is so messed up.

    1. I’d like to think it’s because they’ve been so busy fixing the “We can’t take Word for Mac files” problem that they haven’t had time to tackle that one.

  3. I always do my print book first, then the e-book, but I format it myself and upload to KDP. I would never trust an automatic service. Great post, Laurie.

  4. I do the e-book first, proofing it in the Kindle Previewer–which I find enormously helpful. MS Word glitches will show up right away and can be corrected simply, providing you’ve done the “nuclear option.” If you allow CreateSpace to convert your document to an e-book, you’re going to have issues.

  5. Very good advice. I don’t even number the pages in my initial manuscript. No headers, no footers, no nothing…except page breaks at each chapter. If I upload the file to Draft2Digital, I can download an epub or mobi file and see exactly what it’s going to look like to my readers.

    1. I’ve never tried Draft2Digital, Joe. Sounds interesting. I just keep my page numbers on until I’m done with paper drafts…I’m old school that way. All it takes is one spill to wish you’d put some headers on the thing.

  6. Thank you, Laurie! I allowed Createspace to format my ebook and have had terrible results. It’s time to do it right..and by doing it right, I mean doing it myself!

  7. All excellent points, Laurie. Being that I’m uber-helicopter-writer with what I put in print, I had a professional formatter (referred by you, I might add, and he was great!), format both versions of my book – ebook and paperback – and I approved both before hitting the publish button. I would never be comfortable leaving something that important up to others… it’d be like asking strangers to birth your baby while you were in the other room. OK, I know that’s physically impossible, but you get the gist… 🙂

  8. I had been warned ahead of time about conversion problems. I was fortunate enough to get put in touch with a book designer who is thoroughly versed in all aspects of e-publishing. One stop shopping for cover & interior design for print and conversion to mobi and epub. (bradytypesetting.com)

    No, it wasn’t cheap but it was seamless and perfect. The kindle version looks exactly like the print from the font we chose, right down to the graphics on the chapter headings. It was money well spent, in my opinion.

  9. I’m a geek – I hand-code my ebook version in html, for maximum control and minimum formatting issues. (I had 10+ years experience with html before I started self-publishing, plus Paul Salvette’s ebook designer’s guide is very helpful.) Just the thought of putting my CreateSpace PDF into kindle makes me want to run screaming. I’ve seen PDFs converted into ebooks, and it ain’t pretty. I only use Word where I absolutely have to – Smashwords and doing the CreateSpace layout.

  10. Isn’t the nuclear option wonderful? Clears out all that pesky hidden formatting lurking in my clients’ Word docs where they’ve tabbed their paras, hit the return key for every new line, and have margins that leap across the page at random. I prepare simple book files for Createspace and ebooks from a single immaculate Word doc and it makes life so much easier. Can’t bear those ‘we found some technical issues with your file’ error messages – oh the shame!

      1. Completely agree. I did one once… never again. Might be OK if you don’t have an MS full of italics. Or something where style formatting matters.

        1. I agree with Linton, the nuclear method would be a great option if it didn’t mess with italics. There’s just too great a chance of it accidentally removing italic text and it’s easy to overlook if it happens.

  11. I wouldn’t do this with LSI or Lulu, either. It’s like anything else, the more steps you take, the bigger chance you’ll make a mistake. Do your ebook formatting right on the spot with the interface that will produce the ebook file for sale.

  12. I uploaded my pdf to createspace and made the cover using its cover builder template. Then I (tried to) export that book to KDP with a single click. Didn’t work. But I was able to reupload a html file to KDP and still use the same cover exported from createspace. Same cover + different text files did it for me.

  13. I always do my e-books first – partly because they sell the fastest and partly because I still quite cack-handed when it comes to formatting for Createspace. Each new paperback is a labor involving intense concentration, the gradual reinvention of the wheel and a furious focus on how I hold my tongue.

    I have looked at that “Why don’t you let us do it for you?” button more than a few times – but like you I feel that is better to do it yourself so that you can check and double-check and make sure that you’ve got everything set to your liking.

    I still make mistakes, of course, but at least they are my own mistakes and I can readily kick my own butt – rather than attempting to kick some computer program’s butt – which generally ends up with toe-sized dents in my monitor screen.

    Good article, Laurie.

  14. Urgh, I’m appalled that Createspace even offers that option! How many times have it actually turned out well?
    You can format one file for ebooks and convert it to different formats, but never try to convert your print file to an ebook format! Formatting for print and for digital are two very different things and they should stay that way!

    Great article 🙂

      1. I had a few minor problems at first, but my last four Createspace books had no formatting errors and when I did the auto transfer to Kindle, the Kindle version came out with no errors. Maybe I’m must lucky.

  15. Thank you for the sound advice. I was advised to create the ebook first, and then move on to Createspace, so I’m on the right track.I am just about to create my first paperback, so this came at the perfect time.

    1. I would suggest doing the paperback first. It’s less “alien”… uses your WP files more “naturally”. And you get a proof copy (or several) early on. The greatest editing tool ever is a paperback book, not just for your own ease in editing, but to hand out to “betas”. You don’t have to publish it first; it’s good to have the ebook on amazon first, generally. But once you get to your real “launch”, you should have to two online and hooked up. But trying to save time and effort by having a POD printer crank out an ebook file is a big mistake, as Laurie points out.

      1. Good point. That’s what I do, Lin. Mainly because I like to launch at my local independent bookstore, with an assist from local media, so I need to get them print copies well in advance. So I create the two files concurrently and publish them at the same time.

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