I looked all over CreateSpace, but cannot find anything to tell me if the service is 100% free to use. I wonder if there are hidden costs. I read that some people paid for a printed copy to make sure there are no errors in the printing. Is that required?

These are the services I need:

  • I upload a PDF of my book.
  • People can buy a print-on-demand copy of the book from Amazon.com.
  • People can buy a Kindle or e-book copy (optional, if free I will use it).

I don't need other services such as international selling, advertising, special bar codes, etc.

Is getting books out to customers 100% free for the writers or are there some hidden fees?

  • 2
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about how Amazon works. Sep 18, 2014 at 9:55
  • Can be 100% free, if you do it yourself. Of course, they take a cut from every sale. Look here: createspace.com/Products/Book/…
    – dmm
    Sep 18, 2014 at 18:26
  • 2
    @dmm: If they take a cut, it's not free, is it?
    – celtschk
    Sep 20, 2014 at 19:24
  • @celtschk: haha, no. The setup can be 100% free. You could, of course, set up your own website, and offer to email PDFs to everyone who mails you $5 in cash. Then you get to keep ALL the money (from the 5 books that your family buys). Congratulations on stickin' it to da man!
    – dmm
    Sep 21, 2014 at 22:06
  • 1
    @dmm: I honestly have no idea what to make of your comment. I have nowhere indicated them taking a cut were something evil or something, I just pointed out that it is not 100% free then. I have no problem with a service not being 100% free (or even not being free at all). I however do think that it is misinformation (probably unintentional, but still) to call something 100% free that isn't 100% free, and I feel free to point that out.
    – celtschk
    Sep 22, 2014 at 13:10

5 Answers 5


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).

Proof Copy. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    For example, 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Bragging Rights. 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, Amazon, 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.

Royalties. 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.

Bar Code. 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. In print, 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.

In general, 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. Not good. So I reformatted the book to take out the front matter.

  • Ditto on the advisability of getting a printed proof copy. A printed book just doesn't look the same as a book on-screen. On my last book, the cover looked great on screen, but when I got the printed copy, I saw that the color illustration extended into the area where the cover bends when you open the book, and it just looked weird. I'm sure lots of subtle little things like that come up.
    – Jay
    Aug 14, 2015 at 5:14
  • One quibble: The above discussion makes it sound like a sale through the Create Space estore gets you less money than a sale through amazon.com. This is backwards. You'll get your highest royalties through the estore.
    – Jay
    Aug 14, 2015 at 5:15
  • I added a bit of detail about how much each retailer gets for books printed through CreateSpace. Let me know if that clarifies. I once got a proof with cover that appeared to me to be trimmed wrong. About 1/8" too short and 1/8" too wide. But only once. I suspect it was some kind of process error, and that buyers got the right size. Cover colors are interesting. Computer monitors distort colors. Translating from RGB (if you work in RGB) to CMYK (for printing) distorts colors. You can calibrate your monitor, and work in CMYK, but I haven't yet felt the need to go to all that trouble. Aug 14, 2015 at 6:23
  • As an ebook publisher, I see a lot of value in adding promotional material in the front matter -- as long as it's not too wordy. It's vital to get that stuff in the free sample download. Dec 1, 2016 at 9:54

Dale Emery did an excellent job explaining all the different costs associated with using CreateSpace, but the bottom line is that you as the author do not have to incur any cost up front.

I wanted to point out a couple of other factors that you need to take into consideration, however. First of all, don't assume that you can just convert a Word document to a PDF document and upload it and that is all you have to do. The PDF document you use will need to be formatted for whatever size you choose for the actual book. If your PDF is in 8x10 and your book is going to be 4x6, then you'll have a problem. There are a lot of other factors to consider when you format your document, so make sure you address them. If you aren't comfortable with doing the formatting yourself, then you may have to pay someone to do it for you, so that is an upfront cost that is not directly associated with CreateSpace.

You will also need an image to use as your book cover. This can either be an image you provide, or you can use their cover creator, which will generate a generic cover for you. The problem with their creator is that their options are limited, so there is a good chance somebody else will end up with a cover very similar to yours. If you want to hire someone to create a cover image for you, that is another upfront cost.

Lastly, just because you create a print on demand book with CreateSpace doesn't mean that there will be a Kindle version immediately available. You have to go through a completely different process to create a Kindle version, and that file will require a different format as well. If you don't know how to create that format, then you may have another cost associated with creating the e-book.

  • 1
    Thanks for adding this. I considered writing about some of those pre-CreateSpace costs, but my answer was already longer than some of my books :) Sep 26, 2014 at 0:10
  • And there is, of course, a difference between "it's printed on pages that are the right size" and "it is an attractively-formatted book".
    – Jay
    Sep 26, 2014 at 0:26

Someone feel free to correct me if I'm out of date, it's been a while since I set up a book with Create Space, but:

Basically, you can get set up for free with Create Space. I believe you are required to print and pay for at least one proof copy for you to review and insure that it is coming out the way you want, so there is that up-front cost. How much it is depends on the size and format of the book, but it's going to be in the neighborhood of $15 or $20.

At one time you had to pay a fee to have the book made available for distribution anywhere other than amazon.com. I think they no longer charge that fee.

Where Create Space makes its money is that they take a percentage of every sale.

So it's not "free" in the sense that Create Space will print all these books and do a whole bunch of work for you for nothing, just because they love you and want to help you out or something. It's "free" in the sense that there is no setup charge or up-front cost, other than the proof copy. You can get started without giving them any cash, they'll just take their cut out of the cash that would have gone back to you.

  • 2
    You are no longer required to purchase the proof copy, although it is recommended. Sep 25, 2014 at 23:26
  • @StevenDrennon Yes. You can now proof your book online instead of getting a printed copy. As Dale Emery says, I wouldn't recommend it. It might make sense to use the online proof, make any corrections, and when you're happy with the online proof, then get a printed proof. That might save you some time and money on errors that you can spot on line. But I'd discourage skipping the printed copy. I talked to a guy a few years ago who used a similar service, didn't get a printed proof, ordered a couple of hundred copies to sell at some lecture he was giving or something ... and then was mad ...
    – Jay
    Aug 14, 2015 at 5:19
  • ... at the publisher because there was a problem with his cover, like it was their fault that he'd never gotten a proof and reviewed it.
    – Jay
    Aug 14, 2015 at 5:20

By "free" it is clear that you mean "without up-front monetary cost." As others have already noted, it is possible to do it that way.

But CreateSpace (and similar services) are NOT free as in "without restrictions and obligations." When you deal with them, it is on the basis of a contract where they have dictated the legal terms, take them or leave them. For some authors, under some circumstances, those terms may be onerous. Only you can decide. In my case, I will not accept those terms, so I do not deal with CreateSpace. That's me. However, a new author with limited expectations would probably not find the terms onerous (possibly even advantageous to the author).

Oh: Always get a proof copy. I have the benefit of professional editing, and there are still errors that remain. Only visible when seen "as printed," because I'm old enough to see it that way.


I've published a few books with createspace. I do the formatting myself, so the cost is only when I order a proof or the printed books. The only setback is because I'm from another country so the shipping charge is costly.

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