I have sent eight books through CreateSpace this year,
including one that I'm proofing right now.
The only upfront cost is the printed proof copy,
and you can forego that
(though it is highly recommended).
CreateSpace requires that you proof your book.
You may choose to do this entirely through their online proofing tool,
in which case there are no upfront costs for you.
If you purchase a printed proof copy,
they charge their usual printing costs plus shipping costs.
Reasons to buy a proof copy.
CreateSpace strongly recommends that new users purchase a physical proof copy. There are very good reasons for that.
The printed cover always looks different.
Because of the differences between computer screens and the printing process, the book cover's colors may look noticeably different from the image you see in the online proofer.
I've noticed that when I choose a matte cover,
the colors of the printed book appear slightly muted compared to what was on my screen when I designed the cover.
When I choose a glossy cover,
the colors seem richer that what was on my screen.
CreateSpace may adjust your cover.
If your cover PDF differs only slightly from their requirements,
they may adjust the PDF rather than rejecting it.
The effects of this can be subtle, and hard to see on screen.
one time the text on the spine of one of my books
was slightly wider than their specifications allowed.
They narrowed the over-wide text to fit.
Another time, I sent them a PDF with layers.
They require a "flat" PDF.
They flattened the PDF for me,
and gave a warning that the flattening process
might change things in unpredictable ways.
In each case,
I redid the cover and sent them a new PDF that they would not have to adjust.
But you could accept their adjustments.
NOTE: If they adjust the PDF, they will notify you very clearly.
You won't ever wonder whether they adjusted it.
So you might choose to forego the printed proof,
and just pay extra attention when proofing online.
Reading onscreen text vs. printed text.
As far as I can tell,
I notice different things when reading on screen
than when reading print.
Or maybe I just notice additional things
on a second reading.
In any case,
I always notice errors in the printed copy
that I wanted to correct,
even though I had already viewed the book
in the online proofer.
You can wag your proof copy at your friends
and say, "Yo, peeps! I got a book!"
(You may, of course, use alternate phrasing.)
Once you've published enough books
that you can reliably predict what a printed cover will look like,
it's safer to proof using only the online tool.
I've used CreateSpace for eight books this year,
and I still don't feel confident
that I can predict how the printed covers will look.
Printed proof is not required.
If cost outweighs those considerations for you,
you may proof your books
using only CreateSpace's online proofing tool.
CreateSpace charges per page.
CreateSpace charges a printing fee every time they print a book.
For a color cover and black text on white/cream paper,
the printing fee is entirely based on page count.
Trim size does not matter.
A 200-page 6"x9" book
costs exactly the same amount as a 200-page 5"x8" book.
No extra charge for additional distribution channels.
CreateSpace will distribute your book
through a variety of channels,
including the CreateSpace estore,
and "extended distribution" channels,
which makes your book available
through many, many book stores.
You choose which channels they should use.
They do not charge any fees for this,
regardless of your choices.
But different distribution channels
do impose lower limits on the price of your book.
That is because
each retailer wants a cut.
And the retailers want the list price to be high enough
that they could sell the book at a discount
and still make money.
The CreateSpace estore takes the lowest percentage (20% of list price),
the "extended distribution" retailers the highest (60%),
and Amazon somewhere in between (40%).
When you sell a book through Amazon or extended distribution,
the retailer takes their cut (40% for Amazon, 60% for other retailers).
CreateSpace charges you only the printing fee.
And you get what's left over.
When you sell a book through the CreateSpace estore,
CreateSpace gets the printing fee
and their "retailer" percentage (20% of list price).
You get what's left over.
When a retailer sells a book,
the retailer gets a fixed percentage of the list price.
CreateSpace gets its printing fee.
You get all of the rest of the money
as a royalty.
Before you approve your book for sale,
CreateSpace will tell you exactly how much your royalty will
be for a book sold through any of the channels.
You need not purchase a bar code.
CreateSpace requires that you leave a blank spot on your cover.
They will print the bar code there.
They have a preferred spot,
but you a bit of leeway about where you put the blank spot.
CreateSpace to Kindle.
CreateSpace will offer to create a Kindle version for you.
I have never chosen that option,
because there is no way on God's Green Earth
that an ebook translated automatically from a print PDF
will ever look right.
For one thing,
in the print books for my short stories,
I include a teaser on the front page
(about 1/3 of a page of text from inside the story).
I also include both a title page and a half-title page.
There is no need for that in an ebook.
I include a list of my books
in the front and the back of each book.
For ebooks I put that only in the back.
If I ever have pull quotes in a book,
I would want those only in the print book,
and not in the ebook.
for ebooks I greatly reduce the amount of front matter.
The reason for this is that
when Amazon creates a sample,
the always start at the front of the book.
Some of my books are short stories,
as small as 3000 words.
My first Kindle book was a 5500-word short story with a bunch of front matter.
The sample that Amazon extracted
ended in the middle of the table of contents.
So I reformatted the book to take out the front matter.