I’m taking a break from the Optimizing CreateSpace series of posts to talk a bit about how to make your CreateSpace interiors look more like a book you might find on the shelf of your local bookstore (because, ideally, that’s where you want your book to end up, right?). When you are ready to put together the interior layout of your book, you have three basic options:
- Use the Word templates provided by CreateSpace without any modification.
- Hire a professional who will use pro-level design software like Adobe InDesign.
- Modify the Word templates provided by CreateSpace so that they actually look decent.
Here’s an example of Option 1:
An example of Option 2:
Finally, an example of Option 3:
Option 2 is the ideal: a book interior that has been thoughtfully designed using professional publishing software (a service that I offer). However, for a first-time indie author on a tight budget, the real ideal might be anything that is both better than Option 1 and, more importantly, free. A professionally designed interior isn’t necessarily expensive, but for those just testing the waters of self-publishing, any expense might be too great.
The question, then, is how to get to Option 3, which has a whole host of differences both obvious and subtle that make it much more visually appealing that Option 1. Keep reading to see how to recreate Option 3 on your own in only a handful of steps.
One note before we begin: I switched the position of the gutter (the wider margin in the center of the book) in the images throughout this post from the way it appears in the CreateSpace template files. Word doesn’t have a setting to start with Page 1 on the right side, but open up any book and you’ll see that odd-numbered pages are always on the right-hand side. When working in a CreateSpace template, your gutter will be on the outer edges when looking at pages two at a time, but for illustrative purposes, I switched that here, putting odd-numbered pages on the left and even-numbered pages on the right so that the gutter could be in the center.
1. Let’s Look At The Original CreateSpace Template Again
I sincerely hope that no one ever actually uses these templates as-is because…wow. Anyone who has ever used Word at least knows how to use a fun font. “1 Chapter Name” is about the least inspired chapter heading I’ve ever seen. There should at least be a period in there after the number. I suppose it’s possible that the folks at CreateSpace made these template boring because they didn’t want anyone to use them without making modifications, but…wow.
Aside from the completely plain look of the heading, there are a few more subtle things to note. The first is the wide and uneven spacing of the words. This creates what are known as “rivers” in the text, streams of unnatural-looking white space that flow down through the text and draw the eye. These rivers also occur if you are someone who still used the outdated “two spaces after the end of a sentence,” something anyone who is old enough to have taken a grade school typing class had beaten into them by Mavis Beacon. Either way, it doesn’t look professional.
Note: If you’ve never noticed the issue before, I apologize. You’ll see it every time you look at a poorly laid-out page from now on, and it will bug you to no end.
Other small issues include the use of very plain Times New Roman font in the header and footer along with the use of all capital letters for AUTHOR NAME in the header. I’ll tackle these issues one-by-one, starting with the most obvious.
2. Replace the Default CreateSpace Chapter Heading
There. That already looks better. Rather than trying to fool around with directly replacing the placeholder chapter heading, go ahead and delete it entirely (making sure to hit Enter/Return to put back the empty space so that the chapter text starts on the same line, if necessary). Then, insert a blank text box and get rid of the fill color and solid line outline.To get the look in the image, I used Garamond size 22 with the chapter number underlined. If you like how this looks, you can stop right here and skip Step 3. You’ll be able to copy/paste this textbox at the beginning of every chapter, change the number and title, and be able to sleep easy knowing that the formatting for every chapter heading is the same.If you’d like your CreateSpace book to look a little more individualized and professional, read Step 3.
3. Dress Up Your CreateSpace Chapter Heading
This step is a bit more intense than the last one. I achieved this look by with the following steps:
- Switch the font of all text in the text box to Beatnik SF 22pt. I think Beatnik is a standard font that comes with Windows and not one that I installed on my system, but if you like it and don’t have it, you can download it for free here.
- Increase the size of the chapter number to 26pt, make it bold, and get rid of the underline.
- Decrease the size of the subheading to 18pt.
- Change the line spacing inside the text box from 1.0 to 1.15.
- Using the Insert > Shapes tool, draw a plain horizontal line halfway between the chapter number and the chapter title.
That wasn’t so bad, right? If you’ve never played with these function in Word before, it can be a little tricky to get things to look exactly right, but just keep playing around.
Pro Tip: Instead of trying to position the text box and other elements by dragging them around with the mouse, select them by clicking on them, and then use the arrow keys to move them. This is especially useful with the line dividing the chapter number and title.
Copying and pasting this fancy chapter heading to use it elsewhere requires an additional step. Start by clicking and selecting the text box as though you were going to move it. Then, holding the Ctrl key, click on the line. You’ll see a little + sign appear next to your mouse arrow when you are above the line. Green dots will appear at either end of the line to let you know you’ve done everything correctly.
Now, with both the text box and the line selected together, you can copy and paste the whole thing for your next chapter heading.
4. Switch The Default CreateSpace Page Number and Header Fonts
Time New Roman has a terrible reputation among people who know design. I pretend to be one of those people sometimes, but really, I’m not. There’s nothing particularly terrible about the Times New Roman. It’s just very plain, and because it has been the default font in Microsoft Word forever, you see it everywhere. Do yourself a favor, and don’t use it anywhere in your book lest you come off looking like a true amateur to all of the typography snobs of the world. Again, I’m not one of those snobs. I’m just passing the message along.
To edit the font in the header and footer, double click the text in one or the other. You’ll see the main part of the page fade to gray, and dotted lines will appear to show you the area of the header and footer. Highlight the page numbers and headings the same as any other font to change their font. Here, I used Beatnik SF again, this time in 9pt, to give the page a cohesive look. Using several different font styles on a page makes it look cluttered.
CreateSpace’s templates have the “Different First Page” and “Different Odd & Even Pages” boxes checked, which means you can set it up so that your page numbers are on the outside of the page rather than centered if you like. You can also have different info in the header of odd vs. even pages (the book title on odd pages and the author name on even pages, for instance).
The “Different First Page” setting is useful for making sure your chapter heading pages don’t have a header at the top. To make each new chapter page a new first page, even though it will be somewhere in the middle of your book, click on Breaks in the Page Layout tab and select Next Page under Section Breaks. Each chapter of your book is then treated as a new “section,” and each chapter heading page is a new “first page.”
5. Change the Default CreateSpace Body Text Font
The CreateSpace template uses Garamond 11pt by default for the main text of the book, which is fine. Lots of professionals use Garamond. It’s a solid choice, and no one if going to make fun of you for using it the way they might if you used Times New Roman. In fact, the font that I’m switching to, Palatino Linotype, is actually very similar to Garamond.
While they look very similar, Palatino Linotype ends up being a bit bigger than Garamond when both use the same font size (11pt). For that reason, when I switched the body text to Palatino Linotype, I also decreased the size to 9pt. The overall effect of the change is subtle, but Palatino Lintotype is slightly more delicate and narrow while keeping the same height.
Using the Palatino Lintotype, you get to squeeze a few more words in per page while also giving your book a more refined look. It’s win-win.
6. Minimize Those Text Rivers in the CreateSpace Template
Now we get to the really advanced stuff. This step requires that you dig into settings in Word you probably didn’t even know existed. But the results are definitely worth it. Even without looking at the image full-size, it should be clear that this step gets rid of the majority of the weird spacing between text, eliminating most of the rivers in the text.
There are still a few lines with odd spacing, but we’ve about reached the limit of how polished text can look in Word. To get the text to look any better, you’d need to convert to pro-level publishing software like what I used to create the Option 2 image at the top of this post.
We’ll need to turn on the “Do full justification the way WordPerfect 6.x for Windows does” option. Why does Word give you the option to copy the look of a WordPerfect file but bury that option deep in its menu tree? I have no earthly idea, but I’m glad that the option exists.
I’m still using Word 2007 (I have trouble letting go), and the process for finding this option is a little different in newer versions of MS Office. SuiteMinute.com has a great tutorial showing you how to set this option in several versions of Word if you need it.
To access the option, first click the Office Button at the top left of you screen and select Word Options from the bottom of the menu that appears.
Next, click “Advanced” in the left menu and scroll all the way to the bottom. You’re looking for the little plus-sign next to “Layout Options.”
Last, after clicking the plus sign, scroll through the long list of options, and check the box next to “Do full justification the way WordPerfect 6.x for Windows does.” Click OK, and you’re done!
Beautifying CreateSpace: Final Results
Let’s look at the “before” and “after” images one last time.
The differences are striking, both the big and the small. While not as polished as what a professional could produce using publishing software, there is certainly a lot more that an author can squeeze out of Word on their own. I hope this was helpful. Keep checking back for more helpful articles to make your CreateSpace book look amazing!