19 October 2012

How to convert your eBook to paperback in six simple steps

Some people will never read an ebook. People have told me they would happily read my novel Queen Sacrifice if it was ‘a proper book, not an ebook’.  I have yet to interest a conventional publisher, despite (or perhaps because of?) the relative success of the eBook on Amazon and Smashwords, so I needed an alternative. I know the advice is to use professional designers, both for the cover and the interior, but I was really interested to see what you can do for free. Here is my experience of successfully using CreateSpace:

Step 1.  Make sure your MSS is as good as it can possibly be. Your starting point needs to be the edited version of your book, ideally in Word, with all the front pages, copyright wording, dedications, foreword etc. sorted. (I looked at a range of printed books by my favourite authors and copied the layout). This is the time to make any changes.  Just as with eBooks it is easy to make any changes later - but your book will show as ‘out of stock’ while it goes through the checking and review process.

Step 2. Set up a free publishing account on CreateSpace and start a Project for your book.  This was easy, as the screens are well laid out and I simply used all the information from the eBook.  There is plenty of help and guidance if you need it, including links to articles on how to write an effective book description (recommends 150 words max – I managed to get mine down to 200) and some advice on titles.  You can also opt for CreateSpace to assign a free ISBN to your book. (This ISBN can only be used with the CreateSpace Publishing Platform, but as that includes Amazon it was OK for me).

Step 3. Upload the Interior content. Before you upload the file there are a few important decisions to make. Black and white will keep the costs down and the size is also important, as some distributors insist on stock sizes.  The default is 6 x 9 but I got the ruler out and found that most are more like 5.25 x 8 so that’s the one I chose.  (If you change your mind it means starting all over again!)  Next upload your book file and wait while they ‘process’ it into the chosen template. You can then preview it online using the special viewer. Look out for little yellow pointers that show you if any changes are needed. I saved the template and edited it in Word, adding a few page breaks and tidying the page numbering until it looked right.   If you need any help there is a detailed guide to formatting your book's interior, with full information about gutter margins and layouts.

Step 4. Use the online cover creator.  If you already have a great cover or can use Photoshop take a look at Ceri Clark’s post  on making print book cover designs for CreateSpace. If, like me, you were never really happy with your eBook cover, this is a great time to do something about it.  There at 30 templates to choose from and you can use your own photos, logos and text. The ‘cover creator’ automatically formats the cover based on your book's size and page count. The problem with templates, however, is you want control over how your book looks – and for it to stand out from the rest. Sadly, people DO judge a book by its cover. I chose the ‘Palm’ template that allows you to upload images for the front and back covers, then sorts out the rest:
You need to make sure nothing important is in the shaded area, as it may be ‘cut off’ in the publishing process. You also need to make sure your uploaded covers are at the highest resolution possible – anything less than 300 dpi will be rejected. (I decided to pay for an image from a specialist agency and used layers in Paint Shop Pro to add the title).  

Step 5. Review the Proof of your book and update.  CreateSpace recommend you buy a copy of your book to approve the proof, which I did.  The problem was that as soon as I had it in my hands I saw several things I wanted to change, such as removing the header on the chapter start pages.  My recommendation is that you download the pdf proof and study it carefully first, making any changes and going round the loop again (you can do this as many times as you like) until it is as good as you can get it, then buy a copy.

Step 6. Decide your pricing and distribution. There is plenty of advice on book pricing strategies, much of it contradictory. I decided to set my paperback price at about three times the cost of the eBook version. The way the CreateSpace distribution works is that people viewing the paperback version on Amazon are informed if an eBook version is available, so it could actually lead to more eBook sales.  As well as Amazon, you are also offered the free CreateSpace ‘estore’ and the option to pay for wider distribution. It takes a few days for CreateSpace to set up the printing and distribution after you confirm approval of the proof, then you should get an email letting you know it’s available.

Conclusions:  Good things were it was easier than I expected, it was great to actually hold my book in my hands at last - and people started buying the paperback version as soon as it was available. Not so good things were high shipping costs (I live in the UK), insistence on high resolution graphics (min 300dpi) and fiddling with the page numbering in Word using section breaks.

All things considered, this is well within the skills of anyone who has already created an eBook and doesn’t cost anything other than the cost of your one copy - which is nice to have anyway, unless you pay for graphics or design. Although it will never compete against a professionally designed book, the finished book is professionally bound, with a nice glossy cover and can easily be updated at no extra cost.

Click HERE to visit CreateSpace Publishing


  1. Really excellent advice, Tony! I hope your writing readers will all check it out, as there are still some readers out there who don't own ereaders.

    1. Thanks Richard - it's nice to be able to offer readers the choice.

  2. Can you put a link to Ceri Clark's post?

    1. It is on the word 'post' but here it is anyway:


  3. Timely advice, especially for me, Tony. In the middle of creating my first paperback - I've successfully uploaded the interior and so far has two problems - the page number started at chapter one, minus my prologue; all the italics in my texts disappeared. Advice on how to sort these out will be much appreciated - I really do struggle with the technical aspects, despite help from other people, but it would be handy for me to learnt to do it properly, as I have at least two more books, which I want to turn into printed versions.

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Junying it is worth learning how to set up a new section for each chapter - see


      ...then you can make the first page of each chapter different and continue the page numbering. I also added different headers for odd and even pages.

      Not sure what happened to your italics - if you have a lot of things in italics you could define a special style and apply it.

      I used to teach Word to advanced level so if you are really having problems feel free to email me tonyriches@live.com happy to help :)

  4. Thanks a lot, Tony. I may very well take up the offer and contact you via email.

    Good evening to you!

  5. Thanks Tony, I found that article really interesting as I soon plan (hope :-) to publish an e book and was wondering what to do then to provide a 'paper' book for people without e readers. Re Indie publishing there are so many new things for me to learn - which I don't think I'd ever have considered if I hadn't felt I 'had' to , but the upside is hearing from people like you, who offer so much having been through the process themselves. Thanks very much and may I wish you very good luck with your own works.

    All the best in all that matters to you, Dana

  6. Hii...this is such good advice. I've been going back and forth whether to use Creatspace or not, so this has helped a lot. Thank you!


    1. Thanks Pamela - I've had great results with CreateSpace and they are so easy to update.

  7. Hi Tony,
    I just started to look for help and your advice did it for me. I don't think that I need to go any farther. Thanks a lot.