The joy of self-publishing

This post is based entirely on my very limited experience with Create Space. I don’t doubt for a moment that this subject is covered better by others with more experience.

Some authors have design skills, in which case they may be able to design their own cover. TME Walsh is a case in point. I greatly admire her cover designs, for example, for The Principle of Evil. In addition to the effectiveness of the image, both the title and author’s name stand out very clearly. This is important because your design will have to make its mark in thumbnail.

However, if you lack her skills, which I certainly do, and you don’t have someone to call on, you may have to commission a cover design. Create Space offer this service and I found it very good. However, if you don’t want a photographic image included in your artwork you should say so at the outset. The simple act of removing one may incur an extra fee for ‘manipulating’ the image.

As for the content, I would advise against using their paid-for service. Despite your best efforts it is likely that your pagination will not survive the process, for example, because of the chapter style you have chosen. So when they import your file into the chosen template changes will occur and some of them will be errors. In addition to actual errors, you may well find that the number of lines per page varies on occasion – by which I mean quite frequently. The reason given for this is to ‘avoid widows and orphans’. I found this to be true on some occasions but not on others.

What do you do at this point? You can ask that specific changes be made, and they will be. But some changes are likely to cause ‘knock-on’ changes later in the chapter, and sometimes give rise to new problems. If that happens, a third round of changes may be necessary, and those might well  incur an additional fee.

You may not have caused all of these problems, or even any of these new problems, so you might contact Create Space and point this out – to be told that the project team will ‘reach out’ to you. I have heard this slightly biblical phrase twice now. What does it mean? It will depend on the circumstances, but it could easily mean that they reach out to you with a bill for additional changes.

And here is short cautionary tale. When you attempt to create a Kindle version of your physical book you may discover a pop-up alerting you to possible spelling errors, though it may be that some of them aren’t. For example, you may have used colloquial or dialect words which their spell-checker doesn’t recognise. Or an actual mistake or two may have passed you by. But all my ‘spelling errors’ bar one were caused by the fact that on several occasions two consecutive words did not have spaces between them. How careless, I hear you say! Except for the fact that in the file I had uploaded these mistakes were not to be found. The words had been run together as the file I had uploaded was poured into the template. But while the Kindle process alerted me to this, the physical book process did not.

Faced with this problem I phoned Create Space and was advised to download their version of the file, correct it, and resubmit it. But when I did I found that the downloaded file did not show the previous round of corrections. What was I supposed to do at this point – correct everything over again? I phoned a second time and got the advice I should have received in the first place – to send an email listing the specific corrections still to be made.

What do I conclude from all this? If you use their service it is very important to check your first physical proof with the utmost care. Since there is no way you will notice everything, have others check it too.

But it is better to keep the interior fully under your own control. That way you can correct any errors yourself whenever you want. But remember that if you do that it is essential to keep track of your file versions. You should know, without taking two hours to figure it out, what the most recent version is.

And you may well have to acquire a better handle on your software to get things the way you want them. For example, you may want each chapter to begin with an unnumbered page. But though these pages will be unnumbered they will not be uncounted, and you may find Word fighting you all the way when you try to achieve this. If that happens, and you ask it nicely, Youtube will come to your aid. And what if you want each chapter to begin on a right hand page? That may present problems too.

Nobody said it would easy.

4 thoughts on “The joy of self-publishing

  1. Thank you for the lovely comments about my cover designs!

    The whole formatting can be an absolute nightmare when self-publishing. Best of luck with it.

    Going back to the cover design – there is a website called Fiverr ( where you can commission an artist to design a cover for you (for around £5) I’ve not used the service but I’ve heard good things about the site. Might be worth checking it out.

  2. Thanks, this is very interesting. I am hovering between going back to the relative to whom I paid a small sum for setting the text (and designing the cover) of novel 2, or spending the money on some publishing software and having a go myself. Your experience with CreateSpace is just a little too reminiscent of the hassles with the small publisher of novel 1 and I’m not sure I have the mental stamina for that. You are absolutely right about getting a handle on the software. I find you can do almost anything in Word (with the help of Office X: The Missing Manual) but it is just not up to publishing standards.

  3. Word is not up to publishing standards, that is true, but apart from some things like kerning it can get quite close. I’ve had a look at publishing software and have decided not to go down that route. It’s designed for much more complicated tasks than novels – magzines, for example – and will always have many more functions than we are ever likely to use. I find I don’t have the motivation to work on yet another new set of skills. Having said all that, I don’t a good solution.

    BTW If you have Office, you will probably have Publisher included.

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