The Official Blog of Iain Rob Wright

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

"The Gates" Prologue (Work in Progress)...

Elizabeth Creasy froze.

The mother duck and her fluffy grey ducklings marched single file in front of her, crossing from the hedges on one side of the road to the embankment on the other. When the mother duck noticed Elizabeth standing nearby with her Springer Spaniel, Fenton, she nervously picked up speed. Her brood, in turn, also picked up speed. Within a few hurried moments, the feathery advance was finished and both the mother and her babies had disappeared into the deep grass of the embankment.

Elizabeth took a huge breath of fresh air and grinned. “What a wonderful day,” she informed Fenton, who merely stood by her side, ready to get going again.

It was indeed a wonderful day. Two years retired and she was yet to get bored with her lack of responsibilities. Her walks across the fields and woods next to her home were always exhilarating. After years of working in an office, she had forgotten the benefits of so much fresh air. She felt younger each passing year, not older, and at sixty-seven she was as able-bodied as when she was forty — loving life more than she had at twenty. Of course it would’ve been all the better if her beloved , Dennis, had still been with her. A heart attack at fifty-eight had taken him while he was driving his bus route. The crash had injured nobody, but Elizabeth had been left a heart-broken widow. Oh, how she would have enjoyed retirement with Dennis.

Since Elizabeth had retired and acquired herself a canine companion in Fenton, she had seen the value in enjoying what was left of her life. Dennis had loved her, and she him, so there was no reason to mourn the wonderful life they had spent together. She now looked upon her past fondly and allowed it to fuel her smile for the rest of the day.

Up ahead, Elizabeth saw the little knoll she enjoyed climbing. A year ago the act of hiking up the small hill had assaulted her knees, but now she often made it up in a brisk and sprightly fashion. From atop the modest incline, she could usually see right across the rolling fields and farmland all the way to the village of Crapstone.

“Come on, Fenton, up we go!”

Always obedient, Fenton started up the hill at a pace matching his owner’s. Together they trampled the thick, green grass and headed for the top. The backdrop to the hike was one of natural beauty: birds chirping, trees swaying, and sunshine so warm it seemed to have hands, massaging her shoulders. It was a perfect day.

She started singing. “All things bright and beautiful…”

At the top of the hill, Fenton barked. Unlike him.

Elizabeth leaned down and patted her companion on the head. “Okay, Fenton, settle down.”

Fenton barked again.

“Now, now, Fenton. Settle down.”

Fenton shuffled from paw to paw; floppy black ears twitching. Elizabeth was just about to scold him when she saw what had got him so worked up.

“Hmm, that wasn’t there yesterday, was it?”

The smooth black stone was about the size of a football and completely out of place up there on the hill. There were no other rocks or boulders and certainly none that were jet-black. The stone would have resembled a bowling ball if not for the fine grey veins running all along its surface. The closer Elizabeth got to it, though, the less smooth and black it appeared — like how a television picture degraded when you went right up to the screen.

Fenton began to tug on his lead, almost yanked it free of her grasp. She gave the lead a yank and brought the dog back to her side, ignoring the throaty growl coming from him. “Heel, Fenton.”

Elizabeth reached out a hand to the stone, without knowing why other than something inside of her seemed to require it of her. Her fingertips were just about to touch the veiny grey surface of the strange rock when Fenton bit her hand.

She recoiled and dropped the lead, which led to her dog sprinting away, full pelt, down the hill.

“Fenton!” she bellowed after him. “Fenton!”

No way to catch up with a speeding dog; she would just have to hope that he came to his senses and returned on his own. But why had Fenton bitten her? He was such a good dog, a gentle dog.

Her hand throbbed, a purplish-blue blotch where one of Fenton’s long canines had crushed her skin against bone. It already hurt to touch and was beginning to throb mercilessly. The throbbing was so bad that it seemed to travel all the way to her head, and resounded in her ribcage.

She turned and glanced back down at the strange stone.

The throbbing inside her body was not caused by the bite on her hand, Elizabeth realised. It was coming from the strange black stone in front of her. As she knelt closer she saw that the delicate grey veins had begun vibrating, almost pulsing, as something seemed to bubble and flow beneath the surface.

Elizabeth couldn’t help herself but to reach out again.

Her fingertips moved slowly through the vibrating air, partly because she was afraid, but partly because she was excited. There was something about this strange stone that spoke to her, aroused her love for beauty and nature. However this thing had arrived at the top of the hill, it was a hidden treasure. A hidden treasure that she alone had discovered — like the mother duck and her babies. You never could predict what nature would show you. That was what had made her feel so young again these last few years: she had surrounded herself with the innocent, natural beauty of the earth.
Elizabeth’s fingertips pressed down against the strange black stone and she was surprised to find that the surface was ice cold, despite the warm sun beating down on it. 

It felt like running her hand down the inside of a fridge.

Then something seized Elizabeth. 

She tried to pull her hand away but was unable to move. Her fingertips were glued to the cold black surface of the stone. Starting to burn. Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open as something took a hold on her mind and showed her the most incredible things — so incredible that she felt the images sear themselves onto her soul and boil the blood in her veins. She saw horror, suffering, and torture of the worst kind. And she saw an army of monstrous creatures beyond her understanding. 

She saw Hell.

The images in her mind were so wondrous and terrifying that her eyeballs melted inside her skull and her heart burst like a pinpricked balloon. She remained standing for some time, mind trapped in agony, soul burning in flames. When her sixty-seven year old body finally fell down, it was no more than a husk.

In the distance, Fenton chased a deer.

Monday, 20 April 2015

The business of writing...

I was recently asked to participate in a project being run by TheLadders where they are reaching out to writers and asking them what advice they would give for new graduates attempting to break into the field. TheLadders are a career resource for professionals across all vocations and at at any stage of their careers. You should check them out.

So here is my advice:


Most authors nowadays understand that things are different to how they used to be. Being a storyteller is no longer like being a rockstar. It isn't about crossing your fingers and hoping for a big break - a big break that brings millions of dollars and power lunches in New York and book signings in London. It's about good business. No more literary rock stars, just businessmen and women.

Are things better now? I think so. There is still the odd rockstar out there, like James Patterson, Lee Child, J K Rowling, and the rest. Like Paul McCartney and Madonna, these writers will remain rich and successful until they eventually die out. And rightly so, for these people were the hard workers of the previous generation. But once they are gone, things will carry on without them. In their place is a new and improved free market where anyone can sink or swim. Everyone gets handed the same pair of speedos and it's up to them to keep themselves in shape and stay afloat. There are no more sharks in the water, deciding who lives and who dies, but the water has become chock-full of swimmers fighting for room. The weakest swimmers are going to drown.

Business is hard. Doesn't matter whether you are selling sandwiches or writing books. Most businesses fail. Now that writing has become a free enterprise, most writers will unfortunately fail. But that's always been true. The positive changes we have seen recently mean that at least now more writers will SUCCEED, and that is why today is a better time than ever to be an aspiring writer.

Now that writing is a business, the only person in control of whether or not you fail or succeed is you. Your books are your products and you need to sell them. You will do this in the same way as any other business sells its wares. Common sense and entrepreneurialism.

0. Understand that writing is a craft
Before we start, I just want to make one thing very clear. You can't just decide one day to be a writer;  no more than you can just sit at a piano and decide you want to become your generation's Beethoven. Writing is a passion and an innate skill, but it is also a craft and a trade that needs to be learned. An author should be well read, not just in their chosen genre but in the study of writing itself. Fill your bookshelf with texts on plotting, grammar, novel-writing, description, and anything else that a writer needs to know. Understand that writing a book takes as much education as it does innate talent. Learn the purpose of a sentence before you start tossing them around like some sort of word-hooker.

It would also serve you well to learn as much as you can about Word Processors, Photoshop, website design, eCommerce, accounting, blogging, twitter, newsletters, and anything else that the business of writing will entail. The more you know, the better. Always learn whatever you can.

1. Start small, grow big
Now that the self-publishing environment is bedded in, there is little chance of a becoming a 1 book millionaire. Instead, your first book is likely to make you peanuts, but that's okay. It's really okay. Every new business starts small. The first step is only to get a hook in the mountain; after that you can start climbing and planting flags. Write your first book and make it the very best you can - spend as long as you can on it. If you are serious about making writing your living, then use some of your savings to hire a good editor and purchase some professional artwork. You may balk at spending $1000 on what seems like a self-indulgent hobby, but remember that you are trying to start a business here. Most businesses lose money in year 1 (and 2 and 3). It's an investment and you need to spend money to make money. Your intention is to make that money back with interest.

Once you get that first book published on Amazon, itunes, or some place else, sit back for a moment and enjoy the excitement, but then get back to work. Like any business, you now need feedback on your product. Offer free copies for review, give it away for nothing on Amazon in a promotion, swap with another writer and help each other. Don't be overly proud by demanding that people must pay for your hard and valuable work, because that will be your downfall. As a new business, your sole goal at this point is to get your brand in front of people. When a new chocolate company starts up, what do they do? They give away free samples at the supermarket to get their milky goodness in people's mouths. You need to do the same. Fill people's mouths with your milky goodness. Get those reviews coming in, good or bad. Take note of what they are saying and accept them as market research. Your ending sucked? Well, remember that for you next product (or book 1 version 2). Listen, improve, and pay attention to your customers. Once you get some reviews racking up, you may be able to approach larger book review sites or promoters like Bookbub. Everything you do should be geared towards disseminating your book into the world. At the same time, you also need to be working on book 2.

2. Develop your brand.
Make your name synonymous with your genre. When people say Stephen King they think horror. You now need to start living and breathing your genre. Tweet about your favourite films and books, try to get interviewed by websites that cover your genre. Join Facebook groups that enjoy the kind of books your write. Get yourself embedded in the culture of the people you are selling to.

Build yourself a website, nothing fancy, but let people know you're around to stay. Make sure that if people google your name they find you. When people visit your website you have control over the information they see about you, so don't undersell yourself. You may be small, but never admit to that. You may lack confidence at this point, but never let it show. You are the Boss, the greatest writer in the whole frikkin' world and anyone who has discovered you is damn lucky. If you visit a website looking for a new sofa and are met with a bunch of childish nonsense and amateur web design, you will look elsewhere, right? So even with 1 book and no sales, your website needs to make it seem like you are rubbing shoulders with Anne Rice and Thomas Harris on a daily basis. If you want to compete with bestselling authors, your brand needs to be as good as theirs. Copy their layouts and designs if you have to. See what a professional website should look like and make yours the same. Established authors may look at you like some impudent upstart, but fuck them. This is business. Let all the big name authors know that you're coming for them!

Your brand should always be a key focus from now on and will continue to evolve as you do so as a writer. Create a reusable font for your name so that all your books share a familiar style. Apply the designs to your website, too. Pick a colour and make it your own (mine is purple). Work out a catchphrase for your promotional material (mine is: Fear on every page). Get yourself signed up to every single social media site in existence, old and new. You can always unsubscribe to the ones that suck later.

Find the fans that enjoy your work and be good to them. They are your family now and will be with you for a long time. Give them freebies whenever you can or even meet up with them if you are a social butterfly. Your cheerleaders will always be the first to review your books, point out typos, inform you of opportunities, and they are the most important asset your business has. You have attracted fans and now you need to maintain brand loyalty by never letting them down (the hardest part of the job). Don't be a schmuck. Don't make everything about you. Share the work of other aspiring writers. Show an interest in the lives of your fans. Post about things other than your work and share what you know. Give a piece of yourself to those supporting you and be a nice guy. ALWAYS BE A NICE GUY. Or gal.

3. Grow
Once you have built your platform and started your brand, you need to grow. That chocolate company has gotten people hooked on its candy bar, but now it needs to release a new product to keep the business flowing and growing. A healthy business is a growing business. Never stand still. You need to write a second book. You can write a sequel, or something completely new - doesn't matter. What does matter is that you use what you learned from book 1. Address any concerns raised in your bad reviews or via feedback. Remember the mistakes your editor picked up in book 1 and try to avoid them. Do everything you can to make book 2 better and yourself a better writer. Then, when book 2 is done, sink all of your profits from book 1 into hiring an editor again and getting more artwork. It may feel like a lot of work for no reward, but remember that you are growing. You now have 2 books instead of 1.

When book 2 is released, let all of your followers know. Don't shove it in people's faces, but make it easy to find. You can even run a promotion on the first book to promote the second (make sure you link to the 2nd book at the end of the 1st). You can give away your new book for free, just to get some momentum going, or you can sit back and wait. There's not a massive amount you can do at this point, because you are still in the growing phase of your business. What you really need to do is write book 3.

You now have a healthy platform established and hopefully a trickle of sales coming through. Hopefully you also get periodic reviews appearing on their own and maybe even a nice email or two coming from a fan. Once this is happening, your business is organic. It's breathing on its own. People are talking about it, Amazon is ranking and promoting it, google is linking to it. A total stranger could fall upon your book and buy it. You don't have a massive presence yet, but you exist. The best thing you can do now is create more products to sell to your existing customer base and to increase your odds of attracting new business. Every new reader is a building block in your empire.

You should also look towards expanding your existing products to as many platforms as you can. Do you have audiobook, paperback, and ebook versions all available? If not, then get it done. Maximise your income streams for every title, because this is the time where you either sink or swim.

4. Be the business
Hopefully, when you have 3 or 4 books out, you'll be earning enough money to cover the cost of editing and releasing your next book while also leaving you a small profit. Keep writing new books while looking for ways to promote your catalogue of existing products. Promote 'yourself' wherever possible rather than a single book. Direct people to your website whenever you can. Sign them up to your newsletter (Mailchimp). Offer a book or two cheaply or even permanently free to keep on dragging in new customers. Keep momentum going in anyway you can. Now that your have some experience, do some blog posts and share what you know. Start selling signed copies of your paperbacks to fans. Contact some of your role models and see if they reply. Start acting like you're a successful writer, because you are. Writing a book is hard, and you now have several, so in that you are already a success. Well done. You are making money from your books. Well done. People are enjoying your books. Well done. (If people are not enjoying your books at this point, then maybe it's time to face harsh facts).

This is your life now, you should take what you are earning and scale it up to the point where you can quit whatever other jobs you have and write fulltime. Do you have 5 books earning you half of what you need? Then you know you probably need to write 5 or 6 more to go fulltime. Maybe you need to write 20. At least now you should have some idea. That's your business plan. Write as many books as it takes to be a fulltime writer. Once you achieve that, it's all gravy.

5. Go with the flow
In the four years I have been doing this, things have changed a dozen times. I have been up and down and sideways. Now that writing is an enterprise, it is extremely volatile. Successful businesses can and do go bankrupt. You can make it big one minute and lose it all the next. The only way to curb the risks is by forever being on the cusp of the industry's waves. Always pay attention to what is going on now and what appears likely to happen next. Never let anything take you by surprise. Always plan for the worst and always look for ways to climb above your rivals. If you see an opportunity, take it. Have an idea that no one else has thought of? Then put it into play. In business, it is innovators who last longest.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Createspace, Kindle, and formatting tips...

Hi Wrighters:

I've been noticing that I am not the only one who finds ebook formatting and paperback formatting via Createspace to be a headache, so I thought I would post a guide of what I know. There's a lot here, so perhaps you will want to scan through and find what you need. Cover artwork guide is at the end.

Learning all of the professional tips, tricks, and functions required to properly format ebooks and paperbacks has taken me a long time; I'm talking years. Over the last 4 years, my ebooks and paperbacks have slowly evolved as I have discovered the intricacies of Word, InDesign, Photoshop, Scrivener, Calibre, and all the other programs required to DIY things properly. Below I will try to outline how I create my paperbacks and ebooks, and hopefully save you some legwork that I had to put in to learn all this stuff.

Document size, margin, etc.
Nowadays I write my manuscripts using Scrivener (but that is a whole other kettle of Twinkies) but I finish up in Word because it syncs better with Amazon's systems (I also use InDesign for paperbacks, but that's not necessary). When I start a manuscript, I set everything up as if it were for my paperback and later make a few changes to create the ebook file.  My paperbacks are in 6x9 and 5x8 formats. I now use exclusively 5x8 as a preference, and I would advise picking a size for all your books and sticking to it as you can then set up templates and use them every time.

Now, here is my page setup for both 5x8 and 6x9:

Page setup with mirror margins
It is also important to change the page size to match what your paperback trim size will be. Sizes for 5x8 and 6x9 below:
6x9 document size

5x8 document size

You will now have a document that will perfectly fit the trim size for either a 6x9 or 5x8 paperback. Now you need to look at the text.

Set up Style Sheets
Setting up style sheets is the mark of a professional and a God send to those who understand their value. If you apply styles to your document then you can make wholesale changes quickly. If you decide you want to increase the size of your chapter headings from 14pt to 16pt, you can change it via the style sheet rather than by highlighting and changing each chapter heading individually. Here's how it's done:

I like to start by deleting all of the default styles and then creating my own. For simplicity's sake I have created just 2 now as an example: Text and Titles.

With the exception of the chapter titles, I will be using the Text style for pretty much all of my document. When I start typing, I make sure that the Text style is active (just click on it). You can apply it to existing text by highlighting the paragraphs you want and then clicking the "Text" style. This will change all selected text to the parameters within your style. Here is an example of my "Text" style and you can make changes by right-clicking on the style and choosing "modify":
From here you can change font size, colour, justification, etc.
For my paperbacks, I like to use Georgia 9.5pt, but it's up to you. I also use Full Justification and I would suggest you do the same. You can also mess with the kerning and hyphenation, but I won't go into that here (I will link to a video that does).

At the bottom of the MODIFY STYLE window is a button that reads "FORMAT". If you click that, you get a dropdown box. Select "Paragraph" to get this window:

There are a couple of very important functions within this window. The first is "First Line Indent" under the "special" section. Amateurs may use tab spaces to start new paragraphs, but this can cause all kinds of formatting problems and headaches. It also means that if you want to change the indent size, you will have to select every single tab space. By setting First Line you will make every paragraph under that selected style begin with an identical indent. You will ideally set it anywhere between 2.5cm and 5cm. This will increase readability for both paperback and ebook editions (Kindles do not like manual tabs).

The second option is "Line Spacing". There are several things you can set this to, but I choose 1.5 lines. This makes the space between the lines of text nicely spaced for the page and not too clunked together. It won't affect the ebook edition so much.

For your chapters, you will want to highlight every heading and then click the "Titles" style sheet, or if you're on a new document, then you just click the box before writing each chapter heading. There is a really useful tool within style sheets when creating chapter headings. Here it is:

You can see that I have selected "Centered", which will automatically centre all chapter headings. At the bottom I have added spacing Before and After. Many people, when creating headings, will add paragraph breaks by tapping ENTER before and after the title. That way is shoddy. This spacing option, however, allows you to set the space before and after the heading so that all match. Then, later, if you want to alter the chapter heading spacing, you can do it uniformly from the style sheet. You could have a hundred chapter headings and you can alter their position all at once from this one window. No more manually having to add paragraph breaks to every single title. Just click the style sheet once. Easy peasy.

You can create more style sheets that you can apply to things such as Front Matter (Copyright page, About the Author, etc), scene breaks (the 3 little stars that separate scenes), and anything else you want to group together for easy editing).

Dividing your manuscript into "sections"
Now that you're a professional, you need to get into the habit of ending chapters with "Section Breaks" instead of page breaks or any other method you may have been using to start a new chapter and a new page. From now on, whenever you finish a chapter or create a title page etc, add a section break like this.

From the PAGE LAYOUT tab on the ribbon, select the "Breaks" dropdown and then hit "Odd Page" (you see it falls under the heading "Section Breaks"). This will start a new page on an odd number (right side). This will make all of your chapters begin on the right like a professional novel. This may even cause the left page to be blank, but it is how things are done traditionally. All new chapters will begin on a new odd page. If you want to cut down page count, feel free to choose "next page" instead so that there are no blank pages. You should also start a new section before and after anything like a Copyright page, Title Page, etc. The important thing is that you add a section break and not a page break. You will see why later.

Add page numbers properly
Ever torn your hair out because page numbers are a nightmare to get right? It should be easier now that you have divided your manuscript into sections. 

Now, select the page with your first chapter heading and double click the bottom of the page to bring up the footer. The ribbon should change to the DESIGN tab.

Click the drop down menu for "Page Number" and select your preference. I prefer bottom and centred. For the first chapter only, DESELECT the button "Link to Previous". You want your page numbers to start on this page and not link back to previous pages (Which will be your title page and copyright page, etc). Also select all three options on the right, Different First Page, Different Odd and Even page, and Show Document Text.

Now, hopefully, you have page numbers starting at no 1. Go ahead and delete the page number on the chapter page. Because you selected "Different First Page" you should hopefully still have page numbers at the bottom of the following pages, but not any of the chapter pages now (they should all be linked together). Each section should begin with a chapter heading on the first page (First page of each new section), so by deleting the page number from the first chapter page (First page of the section) you should have succeeded only in deleting all page numbers from title pages (And also copyright pages etc as these should be single page sections if you did as I suggested). The only pages with numbering should be the full text pages. Just like a real book, right?

Now, go though the document looking for anomalies. If you find that the page numbers restart at any point. Right-click the page number itself, select "Format..." and get this:

See where it says "Start at: 1"? Change it to "Continue from previous section." That should link the pages together and keep the numbering consistent. It's still a finicky process, so you will need top get to grips with it yourselves. Just make sure that all chapter pages, or front and back matter (copyright and title pages, etc) are without page numbers.

Do the exact same thing with headers
Double-click the top edge of the page and open up the headers. Pick an odd page that isn't the first page of a section (so the first odd page AFTER a chapter heading) and add your book title. On the first even page (the page immediately following the chapter heading page), add your name. Like the page numbering, this should add your headers to all pages except your chapters and front/back matter pages. If you get any unwanted headers, try checking in the design ribbon to see if "Link to Previous" is or is not selected. Make sure you choose "Different First Page" and "Different Odd and Even Page" too as this allows you to delete chapter headings and then alternate between your author name on one side and the book title on the other. This is the most fiddly part of formatting your manuscript for paperbacks, so it may take some time until you get it down perfectly.

With these skills, you should have more control over the final presentation of your paperback book. Save your Word document as a pdf and you are set to go. If you want to get fancy, you might want to put the first letter of each paragraph in bold and increase the size to 14pt. It's as close as I know how to get to a drop cap without using InDesign.

Ebook specifics
Once you have you paperback pdf, also save your Word document as a separate file to be used for your ebook. There are a few changes you need to make for your file to suit a Kindle reader. The first is that you should increase the font size to 11 or 12 as the 9.5 your selected for your paperback will appear very small on an ereader. Also, going into your "Text" style sheet (so easy, right?) and change from Full Justification to Left Justification. This will allow the text to flow better on an ereader. You may also wish to change the font to TIMES NEW ROMAN or one of the other fonts that Kindle natively supports.

Clickable Table of Contents
Next, you want to add a linkable Table of Contents. It's easy.

Go to the final page of the document and start a new section. Then select the REFERENCES TAB and activate the Table of Contents drop down. Select "Custom" to get this menu:

Deselect "Show page numbers" and select "Use hyperlinks..." Then press okay, and Voila!

For safety, you may want to click the space before the table of contents and go on INSERT on the ribbon and insert a bookmark named TOC. This will ensure the Kindle reader can locate the contents page from the "Go To..." options. Also insert a bookmark right on the first page named "start".

Front Matter
My Front Matter is in this order for ebooks: Book Summary, Dedication, Quotes, and then start the book. It's harder to skip to the meat of a book with an ereader, so don't put hurdles in people's way. Also, if your book is short, you don't want a big portion of Amazon's preview option to be taken up with dedications. I add a book summary (basically the same as my KDP product description) on page 1 because often people will download a book and not get around to reading it until some time later. By then they may have forgotten what your book was about and why they downloaded it. With some readers hoarding more books then they can read nowadays, it will help them if they open your book and are immediately met with a summary to remind them why they wanted your book in the first place.

Back Matter
I end my book in this order: Plea from the Author, More books by the Author, About the Author, Copyright.

You may be asking what my "Plea from the Author" is? Well, it's a chance for me to thank the reader for buying my book and reaching the finish, and also to kindly ask for a review. Here is the exact page at the end of all my books:

I get a lot of reviews. Maybe this is part of the reason why. It's also nice to end each book by letting the reader know how important they are to me.
Make sure that you add a link to your other books. To entice people, I add a one sentence summary for each of my books along with links to both the US and UK (my biggest markets). To add a hyperlink, just highlight the word you want to act as a link and right-click. Select the hyperlink options and follow the prompts.

Also make sure your "About the Author" page has a link to your website or to your newsletter.

Copyright Page
Here is my simple copyright page. Feel free to use it.

Finally, save your file as "Web Page, filtered". This will create a simple html file that is perfect for uploading to KDP or making into an ebook file. 

So that should get you sorted for the book's interior. But I hear a lot of your shouting that the real problem with getting a paperback created (mainly via Createspace) is getting the cover right. Well, fortunately, someone else has done the hard work for me here. Visit and enter your book's details into the calculator (trim size and pdf word count - make sure you put the file's word count and not your own page number count). The service will spit out a Photoshop template to the exact dimensions you need. All you need to do is overlay your cover within the guidelines and then flatten and save as a pdf.

Drop Caps, Kerning and Spacing
To go even more advanced, get yourself a copy of Adobe InDesign and check out Hugh Howie's awesome guide (with downloadable templates). Here's the link:

Make your own ebook
If you want to create your own mobi, epubs, and other files to give out as freebies etc, then I suggest you download Calibre and learn how to use it. It is free and available here:

Anyway, that was the longest blog post of my life, but I really hope it helps. :-)