The Manuscript: Preparations The process begins with the manuscript. The genre or content of the manuscript is not the important thing. All manuscripts must go through the same process. There are choices along the way to deal with appropriate treatment for different genres or special circumstances. The general procedure will be the same for books in general here. The baseline for this procedure is of course my method for bringing my manuscripts to print. For most POD providers the form and method for printing will be very similar. Assuming one has a finished manuscript in hand, the first thing to understand is file format. There are numerous writing programs available. The one attribute that will be very important in this process is the ability to save your manuscript file as a .pdf file. This format system was created by Adobe, and stands for Portable Document Format. The part you need to know about this file format is that it can be opened and read across any computer platform. This file format carries with it all the instructions embedded within the document as you intended, without changing or losing formatting or other document information of the original. It is also the file format POD publishers use for printing your manuscript. Simply use the 'Save As' option in your program, then under the file name listed, is the window listing for file type. Open that and select 'Save As' PDF. You can still choose the name of your file when doing this, or change it to show it is in a different format. Your choice. The manuscript, your book, is the 'Interior' of your book. I have no doubt it is an awesome read. The second half of your book is the cover. In self-publishing you are also the cover designer. If you should have a very old friend who happens to be a graphic artist, and who is willing to take on the task of designing your book, as I was blessed to have, you are one lucky person. I suggest a celebration is in order. For those authors who also love taking charge of every facet of your potential book, micro-managers and control freaks included, you will need to create a cover file. Easier said than done, yes. Depending on one's ability to envision the finished product, layout, color coordination, font/size and other design variables, it can be fun to full on intimidating. Fear not, all who are up to a challenge. We now have two sections to your book. The first is the interior; your manuscript. Another consideration to a finished book form to your manuscript, is the forwarding pages. They might include copyright page, title page, author's note, forward, acknowledgments, quote page and any other statement that may be appropriate to the book. A good way to decide what you want in your book, and how to phrase it, is to look through any publication you have that is similar to your book. You will see how another publisher handles their declarations and openings to give you direction. My way of doing things is to keep the manuscript and the forwarding section of the book separate until they are both ready, then combine them into one file and save a copy in pdf format. Once your manuscript is polished go to the page layout of your writing program and choose your layout size. Standard sizes are 5"x 8" and 6"x9". There are several others. For photo books or art books standard sizes are 8"x10" or 11"x13". If you don't see a size listed, use the custom size option and make the page size equal to a trade size you want. I chose 5.25"x 8" for som of my books. You will also want to adjust the margins accordingly, as well as choose a font size. In Word, use the "Mirrored Pages" selection from the Page Layout> then Margins menu. (Word 2007) Set your inside margin a quarter inch more and the outside margin a quarter inch less, shifting the text outward, for the 'gutter'. More on book "cut size" a bit later. Final consideration should be given to headers, with your name & name of book if you like, and page numbering. When you finally have your manuscript in final form, which is every page that will be printed inside the cover, saved as a pdf file, your are ready for the cover. The second section to your manuscript is the cover file. Cover as in cover to your book. The layout of your entire cover, would be as seen if a book was opened and laid flat on the table, cover up. The back of the cover to the left, the front cover on the right and the spine text centered on the center line of the layout. The cover design size has to do with trade publication sizes, or they become 'custom', not a good idea. Create Space offers a 'Cover Creator' application (part of the uploading procession) which offers design layout options on the spot, or ability to download various cover templates of different styles. There is also a converter to tell you the increased width area needed to accommodate the thickness of the spine; based upon your page count. For those hearty souls who prefer using their own design software to lay out the cover, then the layout should be done at the book cover's 'final size', which equals the original book size (i.e. 5"x8") laid out flat which would be 10"x8" horizontal, plus, the added width of the spine thickness. The spine width on my 390 page memoir measures 7/8", therefore my finished layout size, or "Cut Size" was 11 1/2"x 8 1/4". I fudge the verticle height a smidgeon for cut purposes, using a design 'bleed' for cut error, which can be an eighth inch total. The quarter inch adds 1/8" top & bottom. Create Space offers several book formats, all to trade standards. 5"x8", 5 1/4"x8", 5 1/2"x8, 6"x9", 8"x10" and likely more. I have used four different cut formats over the course of seven books. Chose the one which best fits your book.
When the front cover, spine and back cover has been laid out, save the file as a pdf file. If you also happen to have Adobe Acrobat software you can further add a 'bleed line' outside the borders of the base size. That goes a long way towards getting your book passed as printable. That is the final step for book acceptance at Create Space. Choosing your POD provider is something you should look at closely. I have used different platform providers for different printing needs. Create does not, as yet, offer hard cover printing options. For that, I turn to Blurb. As a photographer utilizing digital tools, I was able to offer clients a beautifully executed photographic record of their event, in Coffee Table book quality, and cheaper than doing so in a photographic medium. The color fidelity would last ten times longer. I was able to do that through a provider for hard bound books, in this case Blurb. The quality is excellent. The downside to that is I can do this on a per-person basis because a client is willing to pay $75 or more for a large custom photographic hard bound book. I have yet to see a commercial market for this type of book, although I continue to look. The system I am unfolding above is along the guidelines needed to become 'published' on Create Space. It is also the system by which you would also be dealing with, in any digital form of your book to any other printer or publisher. The pdf file is universally seen and used for this purpose. Whichever provider you use, and you will likely use more than one, this form will be of use to you. This part of the process now leads to the next, which is finding the right provider, and getting your work to them, in the form they want.
I will later be include a post on the Create Space Kindle section, which is also free. There are conversion methods and avenues available, with some being far superior to others for the final look of a finished ebook; Mobi for Kindle.