Making Your Own Paperback : ISBNs, Interior Formatting, and Cover Design

irevuo is about art. And art is about learning new things. The how-to of making the stuff that we like to call art.

Today’s tutorial? Something I quite enjoy creating. Paperbacks. All about publishing and creating them.

Let’s analyze the paperback edition of my debut novel, Jazz.

Why Createspace?

Because I find that its platform is more user friendly than Lulu. This is just a matter of preference, after all, but there are other factors to consider, such as the overall manufacturing cost of a book (I’ve played around with Lulu and the cost of just one copy is too high, especially when considering that we’re talking about self-published authors here.) Also, your royalties are higher on Createspave versus Lulu. And there’s this other thing to consider: Createspace is owned by Amazon – this allows for your books to be available in all of Amazon’s e-stores – US, UK, France, etc.

Oh, and they’re incredibly fast as well. Especially when it comes to reviewing your files.


The process of creating a print version for your self-published title is pretty straightforward: you set up an account, then you create your title. There are two setup processes: Guided and Expert. I suggest you use the guided one… there’s not a lot of difference between the two, but the Guided process is easier to follow and understand.

You set up your title information: book title, author, book description/blurb. The usual stuff. And then you get to the part where you have to choose your ISBN.

There are two options to choose from:

  • A Createspace assigned ISBN. The great thing about this one is that it’s free. The only problem with this option, if you can call it that, is that Createspace will be listed as the publisher of your book. This doesn’t affect anything other than the listing on Amazon and other retailers, and your book’s registration on
  • You provide your own ISBN, from Bowker and other ISBN agencies. But this is a pretty expensive option, especially when buying a single ISBN. Bowker charges $150 for one and $250 for a batch of 10 ISBNs. 100 ISBNs (which will probably cover your need of ISBNs for the rest of your career) cost $575.

You can’t use other ISBNs, such as the one you bought for your e-book (if you chose to do so) or the one Smashwords gives you for free when you submit your book to their premium catalog.

My advice? Unless you own a Publishing House, use the free ISBN from Createspace. Nothing bad is going to happen.

Book Interior Design

After you choose your ISBN, there’s the interior design thingy. Here you have to select your interior type (black and white, full color), the paper color (for B&W books you can select white paper or cream paper), and your trim size – how big your book’s going to be. I suggest you select one of the industry standard trim sizes – there are more distribution options available for these.

You can download a simple Word template you can use to make a basic interior design. And you can also calculate manufacturing costs.

If you don’t feel like spending a lot of time, I suggest you use that template.

I use Adobe InDesign. Of course, there’s a much steeper learning curve involved. But you can create beautiful interior designs – basically there’s no limit to what you can do with this software.

There’s a lot to talk about. Really. Fonts, chapter openings, margins, all kinds of stuff. That’s why there are a lot of books on this subject. But since I like to keep it simple, here are the basics.

Don’t put too much front matter. That’s simply because of the Look Inside feature on Amazon. People want to get to the story as fast as possible, without having to skim through a ton of other stuff.

Title Page

I use the following type of layout for the front matter:

  • Half-title page (this should contain the title of your book, subtitle (if any) and the author – I don’t even put the author’s name on this one). This is the first page the readers sees when he opens the book. And, of course, it’s on the right side. You can make a pretty basic one, like I used, or a more fancy one that reflects the way your book’s cover design
  • Copyright Notice – this one goes on the verso (the other side) of your half-title page
  • Title page
  • Dedication
  • Foreword/Preface/etc.

Then the damn book starts. Always on the right side page.

I put a bio and a more by this author page at the end.  I suggest you put all other stuff, such as a table of contents, appendices, acknowledgements, blurbs/samples from other books into your back matter.

And, please, don’t go over the edge with the praise section. Three pages of it is way too much.

Chapter Opening

The Chapter openings are also very important. It’s where you can put your creativity and love for typography to great use.

As you can see, I used a pretty simple layout. No running heads (the parts on the top or bottom of a page with book title/author name), just a simple page numbering. For chapter headings I used the font Jenson, and for the body of the book I used Garamond. And a nice glyph of a musical note to mark breaks in the sections of chapters.

After you upload your interior design, you can launch an online reviewer. You can see how your book looks like on print, and also, the reviewer will automatically search for any formatting errors – but only those errors that would conflict with your book being properly printed.

The Cover

Jazz, Paperback Cover

The next step is cover design.

There are three options available:

  • The very basic, very limited, very free Online Cover Creator from Createspace
  • Paying Createspace to design a professional cover for you.
  • You upload your own cover.

The most important thing here is this: don’t you ever make your cover before you know your book’s print length. Because there’s the spine to consider.

If you decide to do your own cover, Createspace has this great tool which generates templates based on the length of your book, trim size, and paper color.

For cover design, I use Adobe Photoshop. I know it’s expensive, I know it’s difficult to work around the many options, but like I said about InDesign, it’s worth the trouble if you’re passionate about it.

In the end, it all breaks down to how much time (and money) you’re willing to spend on software and research. Time you could spend writing. But you should keep in mind that your aim should be to make your book look as professional as possible. Because, whether you like it or not, you’re competing with traditionally published books.

So, if you feel like things aren’t working, then pay someone to do your cover and interior designs for you. There are a lot of great designers out there.


11 thoughts on “Making Your Own Paperback : ISBNs, Interior Formatting, and Cover Design

    1. Most books published in Romania have the ToC in the back matter.

      I could only find Kindle Editions of your books. Formatting for Kindle is not that difficult. If you follow the guide they provide, it’s quite easy.


      1. Hi, I’m still working on some updates to the print editions. You are correct about using their formatting guide. The community forums for both KDP and Createspace are great assistance as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The guide I read which I follow says to put the table of contents and the acknowledgment in the front matter. Doing the headers, footers and page numbers are a pain in the neck but it looks more professional with them on the pages.

    Liked by 1 person

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