Formatting a CreateSpace Book in 2014: One Quick Tip

I’ve gotten some good feedback from the post touting the still-timely advice of Guido Henkel and his e-book formatting guide. But what about formatting for print-on-demand? That’s no less confusing – and I never found a Guido Henkel to serve as my Virgil.

So it’s Googling, and more Googling, and a lot of trial and error. Eventually I came up with something I was very happy with and a second try that turned out even better, so I thought I’d mention at least one CreateSpace trick that worked for me.

Like many readers, I was frustrated by the faintness of the text in my initial attempt. Comparing it with the paperbacks on my shelf, I would say the print readability was somewhere in the third quartile of printed books (is that the right way to say worse than half but still better than about a quarter?). But was it a problem with the font? The pdf creation? Or was it merely a CreateSpace issue I would have no control over? Online research took me in circles and got me nowhere.

I’m happy to say it’s fixed in The Promotion, and I’m so pleased I have a retro project in store for The Race.

For the font of The Race, I went with the default font employed in the CreateSpace template, which was Garamond 11. As I said, I thought it looked pretty good, but I thought it could be improved. On some Internet advice I tried Palatino Linotype, which is a bigger font, so I reduced to 10 point. And then – and this is really the key – I switched the line height setting from 1.0 to 1.2. I gather this is an obvious move for an experienced typographer, but I was not experienced. (I don’t know why the CreateSpace template didn’t help me out a little more here. Seems like an obvious move.)

In any case, the difference (based on my sample size of five books of each) is striking. The Promotion‘s text looks darker and more professional, and (most importantly) is much more legible. I’ve seen some who complain about adding to page length (and therefore cost of printing), so maybe that’s why the template is what it is. But for me, because these are novellas, the added length is actually a plus. I’m getting close to the out-of-danger zone of 130 pages, which will let me put text on the spine without fear of the dreaded “slippage” running the text onto the front or back cover.

In any case, I thought I’d share my results, which I’ll update if subsequent printings prove me wrong. And since with print-on-demand, every book has the chance to be a little bit different, I’ll need to count on reader feedback to let me know if the print becomes feeble. Let’s channel our inner Mario Soldati and try to view that as a feature and not a bug, and keep things moving onward. (And upward. Cannot forget that part!)

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2 thoughts on “Formatting a CreateSpace Book in 2014: One Quick Tip

  1. I didn’t use the Garamond template for my book, although I much prefer the shape of that font’s question mark. And because my book was already a behemoth, try as I might, I couldn’t afford the luxury of widened line spacing. Eventually I settled for plain vanilla 12-point Times New Roman, slightly condensed, which alleviated the eyestrain complaints by Beta readers, but still managed to keep it just under 500 pages. Palatino Linotype lacks some of the elegance of Garamond, but it has more character than Times New Roman, so it’s a definite contender, next time around. Thanks for the tip!

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    1. You’re welcome – and the funny thing is, I just looked at the Garamond one again, and now it looks much better to me. They definitely have a different feel. Most readers will blow right past any distinction (hopefully), as long as there’s not eyestrain issues or anything like that, but I guess the real advice is to try different styles and see which one works best for the book.

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