How to self-publish – and earn royalties – free!

Many thanks to author Duncan Lane for taking the time to pass on his invaluable experience and tips in self-publishing in our blog. Very useful info, and well worth a read …

We have to add this disclaimer - the opinions in this post belong to its author, Duncan Lane, alone. WriteStars does not recommend particular publishing companies or methods.

How to self-publish a paperback edition of your book for free and earn royalties!

I recently self-published a paperback edition of one of my books and I thought I’d share my experiences. And yes, you really can do it for free. I used CreateSpace (, an Amazon company that is heavily integrated with Amazon. CreateSpace does offer fee-based services to assist with editing, formatting and design, but if you are willing to do everything yourself, you can publish a paperback with zero cost and earn royalties on the sales.

Right up front, let me be honest with respect to royalties and say that in the first month of having my paperback on Amazon, I have so far sold zero copies. But this article is not about my abysmal marketing abilities, it’s about providing you with information on how to create a high-quality, professional looking paperback version of your book.

The process is relatively simple and took me only about eight hours of work.

I had previously released my novel, a sci-fi thriller, as an eBook formatted for Kindle and marketed on So my starting point for releasing the paperback version was that I had a fully completed, professionally edited manuscript and a front cover design already in hand. The main tasks were to reformat the manuscript and create a full cover design (front, back and spine). You can see the results of my efforts here:

Formatting: The CreateSpace website allows you to choose what size paperback you want to produce (I chose 5.25” x 8” for my book) and it provides excellent guidance on how to setup your word processor to reformat your manuscript to your chosen page size. However, you will have numerous other decisions to make about the aesthetics of your book: font selection, text justification, margin widths, header content, footer content, format of chapter titles.

Cover design: Since I had previously published my novel as an eBook, I already had a front cover design. I also had a brief description of the book on that I could use as text for the back cover. That gave me an enormous head start on creating the full cover. CreateSpace provides a cover template – you simply specify the size of your book (5.25” x 8” for mine) and the number of pages (470 for mine). You download the template as either a PDF or PNG file and overlay the images and text for your cover on it (front, back and spine).

Getting the cover to look exactly the way I wanted was not trivial—it was, by far, the most time- consuming part of the entire process.

Publishing: Once you have your formatted manuscript and cover design, you simply upload everything to the CreateSpace website. They do some basic checking of your formatting and alert you to any problems. You can do your own checking of the finished product using a preview tool to step through a virtual copy page-by-page. You can also order a proof copy. When you are satisfied with your book, you release it for publication.

Note: If you order a proof copy, that is the first time you have to pay for anything – they only charge the cost of print-on-demand ($6.51 for my book) and the cost of shipping. I think it is well worth getting a proof copy, in particular it allows you to verify the exact colors and quality of your cover design.

Pricing and Distribution:  CreateSpace allows you to specify the sales price and select the distribution channels for your book. The list price must be high enough to cover production costs, profit for CreateSpace, and profit for any intermediate distributor and reseller, plus any profit you want to make on each sale. The website is very good at helping you through the pricing options, and you can adjust your selections after publication if you decide you made the wrong choices.

For my book, I decided to sell it on Amazon, at a list price of $16. Out of that, I get $3.09 per sale – not bad considering it cost me nothing to create the paperback edition and CreateSpace/Amazon handle all the order taking, production, and shipping. I can also order copies directly from my CreateSpace account for just the production cost, which is $6.51.

Production quality: I am absolutely delighted with the quality of the finished product. It has the look and feel of a high quality trade paperback. The only thing that gives it away as a self-published book is the absence of publisher name.

Overall: If you want to self-publish a paperback, I highly recommend using CreateSpace. You get a high-quality product that will look good online or in any bookstore. Of course, marketing and driving sales is up to you…

Duncan Lane is an author living in San Francisco, CA. Check out his blog for more details of his experiences with self-publishing eBooks and paperbacks:


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