Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Idiot's Guide to POD

The original title was going to be The Idiot's Guide to Making PDF Interiors for CreateSpace using MS Word, but I think shorter is catchier.

Last December I made paperback version of Dead in L.A. I think I've sold two copies, but that doesn't matter. My main reason to do it was because I could and since it's Print On Demand all it cost me was the proof copy. However, it was a slightly painful process.

Recently I decided to make others, and realized I'd forgotten everything I figured out last time. Duh! Idiot.

So I decided to write things down this time, and since I've gone that far, I thought I'd share it. This guide is for those who don't have the skills and/or means to use fancy-pants software like InDesign. It's MS Word all the way, baby. It's really not so bad once you know what you're doing.

Here it goes:

You'll be messing around with formatting and alignments will get screwed up. For that reason, you'll save yourself some trouble if you use blank lines as scene separatros (instead of *** or similar). If you write in Scrivener, you can compile that way.

Have the Formatting Palette open in Word.

1.     Download template of your chosen dimension from CS web site . (
Get the basic template, not the formatted one. The formatted one will give you error messages regarding headers and footers, plus you'll end up with multiple PDF files when you try to save.

2.     In your original Word document turn on "Show all nonprinting characters." (It's a backwards P looking icon and should be on the top of your page.) Make sure there are no section breaks in the file. You can delete them by putting the cursor to the left of them and clicking the delete button that's between the keypad and the numpad (it has a sort of arrow icon pointing right). You can replace the section breaks with page breaks, if you want. (Menu: Insert->Break->Page Break.) Add the front matter, like copyright, dedication, etc. (To add the ISBN you have to start the book making process on CreateSpace. They'll assign one for your book early on.)

3.     Select all->Copy the text and paste it into the template you've downloaded.

4.     It's time to fix the formatting. Select all.
Alignment and Spacing:
Horizontal: Justify
Line spacing: Single Space
Before: 0
After: 3
Left: 0
Right: 0
First 0.15
(These are settings for 5.25"x8" book. You might chose different for other dimensions.)
Document Margins
Inside: 0.75
Top: 0.75
Outside: 0.5
Bottom: 0.75
Header: 0.35
Footer: 0.35

For font chose something simple like Times or Garamond. Set the font size to at least 12 pt.

5.     At this point you should go through the document and switch the alignment from Justified to Center where you want it centered. It'll be mostly the front matter, like title, etc. Also chapter headings and scene dividers if you didn't go with the blank line option. You also might want to set "After" And "First" in some of the front matter to zero.

6.     Insert page breaks at the end of each chapter if they aren't there already. You might also want the chapter headers to be a certain size, maybe bold. You can create a custom style for it under styles to speed up the process. That way you just have to select the text and click on the style.

7.     Scroll through your book to see if everything looks right.  You might find that on some of your pages the text ends long before the bottom. That's because Word decided to keep paragraphs together. To undo this, go Menu: Format->Paragraph and uncheck the "Keep lines together" radio button.

8.     You may want to add to the end of the book an "About the Author" and/or blurbs, excerpts to your other books. Make sure their formatting matches the rest of the book.

9.     It's time to add headers and footers. Menu: View->Header and Footer. Those sections will became available for editing. If you're using the CreateSpace template, it's already set up for odd/even pages. Use the headers for author name and title. (One for the odd pages, other for the evens.) The font will be something stupid like Arial Unicode. Just select the text, set font type, size, alignment to what you like. 

10.  Menu: Insert->Page Numbers. Again, change settings to your liking. Word by default inserts a stupid line above the page number. To delete it in the Formatting Palette go to Borders and Shading and under Type select the one with nothing. Unless, you like lines around the page numbers, in which case, knock yourself out. Whatever you do, do it both for the odd and even pages, or they'll look different. When you're done, hit close.

11.  Okay, now you're ready to save the book as a PDF file. If you're using Mac, go Menu: File->Print (or the keyboard shortcut). When the window pops up, first click on the Page Setup button. Ignore everything, except Paper Size. Click on that and select Manage Custom Sizes. Make the page size match your template. For "nonprintable area" select "User Defined" and set them all to zero. You can save your settings as a template for future use. Click okay. You'll be back at the print window. At the bottom click on the PDF button and select Print as PDF. Ta-daa! You're done.
I've been told that in Word 2010 for PC—and possibly for Mac as well—PDf is on of the format options under File->Save as. PC users with older versions of Word need to use a program to convert the file. There are bunch of them around for free, like CutePDF.

You can now upload your PDF file to CreateSpace.

Now you also know how many pages your book has, so you can create and download a template for the cover here:

Miscellaneous stuff
If you want to get fancy, you can use some graphics inside the book. Just don't go overboard. I usually do the title.


  1. Nice summary!

    I'd add one thing I learned somewhere along the way. When you have your text right-and-left-justified, you'll find some lines that have overly large gaps between the words. In Word,you can go into Format, then Font, and click on the Character Spacing tab. By either compressing or expanding characters, you can usually get a better-looking line. (I usually try .3 pt. first, and go to a higher number if necessary.)

    1. That's an excellent tip! The wider the book, the less likely this problem will pop up-assuming the font size is the same. With long novels going trade paper size has advantages.

  2. I've been hoping to use this guide myself, Lou, but even after finally updating my version of Scrivener for Windows, it still doesn't have some of these features like the front matter folder and some of the compile functions.

    I wish they'd catch up with the Mac version!

    1. You should be able to put all those pages at the beginning of the manuscript to the same effect. Let me know if you learn any PC-specific tricks, so I can include them in the next version of the guide.