5 Days to a Self-Published Book: Day 4 – An Upload Extravaganza


It’s been a busy week/two and a half months, hasn’t it?

Monday we wrote our book, got rejected by professional publishing types all over town and changed our mind about self-publishing, i.e. decided to do it. Tuesday morning we drove ourselves nuts looking for wayward hyphens, spelling mistakes and sentences that could only ever make sense to us and even then only in the early hours of a Sunday morning and after a tour of cocktail bars, and Tuesday afternoon we made it look like a proper book, wrote a copyright notice we hoped would fend off litigation and wrote an Acknowledgements that won’t have anybody crossing us off their Christmas e-card list. Anyone we actually like, anyway. Finally yesterday, we tried to design a cover that didn’t make our eyes bleed and Photoshopped our Author Photo into Jennifer Aniston.

We are ready now to sprinkle fairy dust over our project, click our heels together three times, whisper a prayer and turn all our hopes, dreams and literary aspirations into a real, live book that we can hold in our hands, smell, leave out on coffee tables for people to see and imagine in Oprah’s hands (or Richard’s hands, or Gok Wan’s hands; lower your ambitions accordingly) as they say, ‘I’m so excited about our next book club selection…’

This step is also known as uploading your files to CreateSpace or whatever POD service you’ve decided to use. (The process is pretty much the same, it’ll just look different.) 

(Click on any of the images for larger version.)

Step I: Preparation

Before we begin, you’ll need to have:

  • Your interior file, formatted, correctly-sized and free of errors
  • Your cover file in PDF format
  • Your book’s description (maximum of 2,000 characters)
  • Your author bio (maximum of 2,500 characters)
  • Knowledge of what category (on Amazon) your book fits into
  • Decided on up to 5 keywords that would help someone find your book in an online search
  • Already created a free CreateSpace account
  • A fridge full of ground coffee, at least medium strength
  • Your wits about you. This is not something you should do while simultaneously catching up on all those 30 Rock episodes you’ve recorded. If you make a mistake, you’ll have to amend it and after each round of changes, you’ll have to order another proof. Be careful and take your time.

Title Set-Up: Title Information

Step II:  Title Setup

*Be very careful entering details on this page. Mistakes cannot be rectified after publishing.*

Title Information

  1. On your CS dashboard, select Add New Title -> Paperback book. This will bring you to the Title Set-up page, and prompt you to enter your title information.
  2. Enter your book’s title and subtitle, if you have one.
  3. DO NOT enter a value in the ‘Volume’ field; I learned this the hard way. Unable to take my own advice, I ran through this process and mistakenly entered a ‘1.’ When my book appeared on Amazon, it was called Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida (Volume 1). After recovering from the mild coronary that subsequently occurred, the nice people at Amazon.com (through Author Central) and CS tech support helped out, but it’s taking time. Try not to be as stupid as me, okay? Unless of course, this is volume 1 of your opus, in which case I’m suddenly highly suspicious you’re writing about Rafellius the Great.
  4. Either accept your free ISBN from CreateSpace (I did, and I could find no reason why not to) or enter the ISBN you already own. If you have your own ISBN, you can also enter the name you want to appear as ‘Publisher’ on your books listing. Take note of your ISBN.
  5. Pick the BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) category you want your book to be listed under. This is a bit annoying as you can only pick one  – I went with Travel -> United States -> General so as to show up on as many search results as possible while keeping it relative – but remember you can also tag your book when it goes live on Amazon.
  6. Enter the primary language of the book and the country you wanted it listed as published in. (Clue: your own.)
  7. Some things you can ignore: where the book was previously published, if it was, reading level and publication date.
  8. Now you have an opportunity to enter up to five keywords or phrases that will help people find your book. It doesn’t say it, but I think each one has to be under 25 characters.
  9. Author name and author bio, which has to be under 2,500 characters. Remember that the book description and author bio you enter here is exactly what will appear on your Amazon.com listing. Take the time to get it right.
  10. When you’re all done, hit Save and Continue.

Title Set-Up: Physical Properties

Physical Properties

  1. Select an interior type; for novels, this is black and white.
  2. Select a trim size. Most popular seems to be 6 x 9; I went with 5.5. x 8.5 as I felt like it looked and felt more like a ‘proper’ book.
  3. Enter the number of pages. It has to be an even number.
  4. Select paper color. Again, I went with cream because this is what you find in real published books.
  5. Click on Save and Continue.

Title Set-Up: Add Files

Add Files

  1. Before you upload anything, you need to open your interior file and add your assigned ISBN to your copyright page. Have one more check over it for luck’s sake and then convert to PDF in preparation for uploading.
  2. Upload your interior PDF.
  3. Upload your cover PDF.
  4. Click Save and Continue.

A word on CS Cover Creator: if you can’t/won’t design your own cover or pay/beg/bribe someone else to do it, this is where you’ll use Cover Creator to create your own crappy cover using CS stunningly terrible templates, of which they are about 9, of which only one or two are even usable. (CreateSpace, if you’re reading this, Cover Creator and international shipping costs is what you need to focus on, because it’s dragging down what really is a great service otherwise.) This is Cover Creator looks like (with a cover I prepared earlier, for The Adventures of Rafellius the Great.)


It hurts my eyes.

Sales Channel

This is where you decide how and where you want to sell your book, and set its list price. CS has very clear calculators on this page that will update automatically and tell you exactly what royalties you’ll get from each type of sale: direct from your CS e-store, from Amazon.com and from expanded distribution channels (EDC) like international Amazons, for example.

When it comes to your list price, don’t be greedy. Royalties drop off considerably once you get to EDC, but that doesn’t mean you should set your list price to $50.99. How much do you pay for books? I know that the paperbacks I buy range from about €9.99 to €12.99. I wouldn’t be willing to pay much more. I set my list price at $14.95 which is just a few cent off €10.99.

This is also where you can elect to upgrade to the ProPlan. For a one-off payment of $39 per title, you can avail of higher royalties, cheaper books (when you purchase them yourself to sell on) and expanded distribution. You must purchase the ProPlan to avail of expanded distribution.

If you’re a non-US resident and you don’t want to get onto the IRS and fill out a wad of tax forms, CS will automatically retain about 30% of your royalties in place of taxable income, a sort of emergency tax rate. Some countries – including the UK and Ireland, last time I checked, but I could be wrong – have tax treaties in place with the United States, so it might be worth filling out all those forms. Remember though that there’s no such thing as tax-free income – unless you’re, like, a criminal. If you get out of paying tax to the U.S, you’ll still have to pay it at home. I’m sucking up the 30% and saving myself the stress.

Review Setup

Now that everything is in place – title description, physical properties, interior and cover files, list price and sales channel management, CS gives you a chance to double-check everything you’ve entered. Once you’re confident everything is as it should be, click on ‘Save.’

Step III: File Review

CreateSpace will now review everything you’ve submitted. They’ll be checking that your interior file has the right ISBN on the copyright page, that your cover is the right size for the number of pages – those kind of things. This can take between 24-48 hours but in my experience, it takes only a few. They’ll kindly send you an e-mail with the results of this review and if everything is okay, we move can move onto the next step.

(If it’s not – WTF?! Why do I even bother?)

Step IV: Order Proof Copy

The only thing CreateSpace insists you spend money on is a single proof copy of your book. This will cost you the same as copies of your book will cost later on, but usually has a high shipping cost, especially for international customers. Chances are you want your proof as soon as possible so you can proceed with publication, and shelling out for priority shipping can cost a small fortune.

If there’s a problem with your proof copy, you’ll have to upload new files and almost start all over again, so be very hesitant to place that order. Once it’s done, have something strong to drink and settle in for a week or so of stalking the postman.

My crappy proof copies. Lulu/6 x 9 on left of photo, CreateSpace, 5.5 x 8.5 on right.

My Approach

Seeing your book in book form is very exciting, and you might rush through your preparation and upload process just because you simply can’t wait to hold a copy – albeit a proof – of your book in your hands. Furthermore, your proof is the first time you’ll see the quality of the book CS (or whatever POD you’re using) is producing and how things like your paper colour, font and size choices have panned out. For all these reasons, I didn’t hold off on ordering a proof. I ordered a total of three crappy proofs, i.e. ones I knew weren’t right or final, just to see what the books were like, before I ordered my ‘actual’ proof. I recommend you do the same.

Read the next post, 5 Days to a Self-Published Book: Day 5 – Click ‘Publish.’ I need a lie down now.

Read all my self-printing posts or read about the book I’m self-printing.

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3 thoughts on “5 Days to a Self-Published Book: Day 4 – An Upload Extravaganza

  1. judimoore says:

    Hi Catherine, really interesting stuff about self-publishing. I am wondering how hard it can really be to get something produced by CreateSpace (I’m in Britain). The website send me reeling in the direction of a large vodka. But after the vodka it occured to me that I only really have 2 questions. So – if I may? – 1) do you need to be able to create your own PDFs, or does CreateSpace do that for you? And 2) if you already have editing and cover design done, how much do you need to have burning a hole in your hip pocket for the project? Hope you’re still passing by here off and on. I can see I’m well behind the breaking wave, here!

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Judi I’d recommend you look elsewhere on this site (look up and you should see a link to all my self-publishing posts) as these questions have already been answered many times. I also have a 120,000 word book that costs about the price of 2 lattes that takes you through the process step by step. The quick answers are that you make your own PDF, but Microsoft Word does that for you, and there are no upfront costs with CreateSpace although I would recommend you buy at least one proof copy to check yourself before you release it for sale. And Createspace is super easy to use (I’m in Ireland).

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