Wednesday, May 4, 2016

How to Self Publish a Paperback for Free

Self Publish a Paperback for free
My last post was about self publishing an ebook, so I thought I should follow up with how to get your book in print.

Publishing your book through CreateSpace (a site associated with Amazon) is super easy and it's totally free.

How to do it

  1. Create an account.
  2. Under "My Account" on your "Member Dashboard" click "Add New Title."
  3. Enter the title of your book, and I recommend selecting the "Guided" option. It breaks everything down into easily manageable chunks.


  1. Title Information. Here is where they ask for you to fill in all the information for you book.
  2. ISBN. Then you get to the ISBN screen and here is the only place where you may consider  spending some money. But it is completely acceptable to go with the free option here. Scroll down for more of a discussion on ISBNs. 
    • One thing to note is that you must be absolutely sure before you select one of these options. The ISBN selection cannot be changed later.
  3. Interior. Next you get to upload your book file. Acceptable formats are .pdf, .doc, .docx, or .rtf. This page has a Word Template you can download and compare with your .doc file. It's going to take a few minutes for this process and they even tell you that you can continue on to cover set up while you wait.
    • This is also the page where you decide the size you want your printed book to be, if it's black and white or color, and if you want the pages printed on white or cream colored paper.
    • One thing to note - you can edit this later, even after it is officially been published. So if you find you have a bunch of typo's that somehow got missed, you can go back and upload a new file. It will just have to go through the review process again and may take a few days before it is available on Amazon.
  4. Cover. Now, if you already have a cover design here is where you upload it as a single page PDF with the back, spine and front cover as a single image. There are guidelines for how to make sure you have the correct dimensions. They sound overwhelming, but they really are not.
    • You also have to option to use their cover designer. This designer is free, and provides you with a few different styles that you can then customize, slightly. You are able to upload your own images and change the text and background color, but are otherwise pretty much unable to fully customize their designs. Which isn't so much of a bad thing, because they really do have some good starting points.
    • With the cover designer, you are also provided with some stock photos, absolutely free. So if you don't really have an idea what you want your cover to be, this is really a good tool.
  5. Complete Setup. You can't do much here, just check and make sure everything looks right and hit submit. Your files will have to be reviewed to make sure that everything is acceptable. They say to give them 24 hours, but it is usually less than that. You will get an email once they are done reviewing.

Review and Proof

Now you get a chance to check over what you have done. You are able to view a digital version for free, and you are also able to order a printed proof for you to look at before the book is made available to publish. 

The proof is going to be the "author price" for your book, which is to say that once you publish it that is the price that you will pay if you want to order copies. That price depends on the size of your book. That is not the price that your book will sell for. You will set that up later. The Shrine of Arthis was around 480 pages as a 6 x 9 book and the proof copies were around $6.70.

You can either order a proof copy, and wait until you get that before officially publishing, or take a look at the digital copy and approve that, then your book will be immediately available for purchase through CreateSpace. It takes a little longer for it to show up in the Amazon store, but not more than a few days. I recommend ordering a proof and making sure everything is formatted correctly before you set it out there to sell.


Here is where you select the sales channels that you want your book to be distributed in. Selecting all the options under standard distribution isn't going to change anything.

The expanded distribution options, however, will affect the price that you can sell you book for. If you hit save and continue, the following page will show you how these channels will affect your price. 

I would also like to note here that the only way that all of these channels will be available to you is if you have used a free CreateSpace assigned ISBN. 

Why would you want to select any of these options? Well, because it get's you book out to a larger audience. These are the channels that some of the bookstores will buy from. My local book store refuses to purchase books from Amazon. However, by distributing to these other channels, the royalties that you make from them are significantly reduced. I believe when I had The Shrine of Arthis listed at 17.99, distributing to these channels would only give me $.40 for each book sold through them.

So is it worth it to reduce your royalties to get your book available in more places? I can't answer that for you, but for me, the answer was no.

This section also has you confirm your cover finish and add a description for your book. The description is important, that's what people will see when they view your book's Amazon or CreateSpace page. What I used for that is what is the description off of the back of the book.

They also show you what they call an option to "Publish on Kindle." However, all this page does is allow you to download your file and your cover file as formats that you can later use when you go to Amazon to publish for kindle. It doesn't actually do anything for you except give you a few more files to keep organized. So I would basically ignore this option. Check out my post on publishing an ebook for a walk through of publishing for kindle.

Making Your Book Available for Purchase

Once your book has been accepted, the last step that you have to do is approve your proof. That's it, once you do that, it is available for anyone to buy from the CreateSpace store, and within a few days it is on Amazon.

And that's how to publish a paperback for free. 

Some Things to Note

While you can do this 100% for free there are still some things to consider. I talk about these things at the end of my post on ebook publishing so head over there to read more about it. Here I'll just sum it up.
  1. Author Website
  2. Editing
  3. Cover Design.
I would also like to add for the print book, ISBN. It's something that's not really required for an ebook, so I did not discuss it there so I will discuss it below.


Should you pay for an ISBN or use a free one? I am somewhat divided on the answer to that. Using a free ISBN is easy, it's free and it seems to be accepted most anywhere. Some of my research I came across said that some of the local bookstores will not accept a CreateSpace ISBN, but my local bookstore only said that she would not purchase form CreateSpace or Amazon. Her reasoning was that Amazon is killing local bookstores and artists. She had no problem buying the book from me, however, even though I purchased it from CreateSpace and CreateSpace and Amazon make it about the easiest thing in the world for an author to publish a book... 

But anyway, I can see that the big chain bookstores would have a problem with the free ISBNs. So if you have dreams of seeing your book in a chain bookstore, (of course, what author wouldn't?! So what I should say is if you think it might be realistic someday...) then I would suggest purchasing an ISBN for your book. 

But don't buy it from the site that you are publishing on - ie don't pay the 100 to buy it from CreateSpace. Because that's basically the same thing as using a free one. You still technically do not own it. 

So what you want to do is go directly to the source and buy your own. You want to buy your ISBN's from Bowker. This way you are buying directly from the source, no third parties, and you are able to retain complete control of how your book is presented. You do have to do a little work for this, but their website walks you through everything.

So from Bowker, one ISBN actually costs $125. But your best bet, if you intend to publish more than one book, is to buy 10 of them for $295. That's what I did. And then I ended up using one for the ebook version too, even though you don't have to. But if you do want to assign an ISBN to your ebook, it has to be one completely different from the one you assign to your printed book. Also if you decide to publish a hardcover version, it must have it's own unique ISBN.

I hope that I have at least been of some help here, and I hope that you see how easy it is to publish a book. The hard part comes from actually getting it to sell...

Any thoughts or suggestions? How did you go about getting your book published?

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