This post is based entirely on my very limited experience with Create Space. I don’t doubt for a moment that this subject is covered better by others with more experience.
Some authors have design skills, in which case they may be able to design their own cover. TME Walsh is a case in point. I greatly admire her cover designs, for example, for The Principle of Evil. In addition to the effectiveness of the image, both the title and author’s name stand out very clearly. This is important because your design will have to make its mark in thumbnail.
However, if you lack her skills, which I certainly do, and you don’t have someone to call on, you may have to commission a cover design. Create Space offer this service and I found it very good. However, if you don’t want a photographic image included in your artwork you should say so at the outset. The simple act of removing one may incur an extra fee for ‘manipulating’ the image.
As for the content, I would advise against using their paid-for service. Despite your best efforts it is likely that your pagination will not survive the process, for example, because of the chapter style you have chosen. So when they import your file into the chosen template changes will occur and some of them will be errors. In addition to actual errors, you may well find that the number of lines per page varies on occasion – by which I mean quite frequently. The reason given for this is to ‘avoid widows and orphans’. I found this to be true on some occasions but not on others.
What do you do at this point? You can ask that specific changes be made, and they will be. But some changes are likely to cause ‘knock-on’ changes later in the chapter, and sometimes give rise to new problems. If that happens, a third round of changes may be necessary, and those might well incur an additional fee.
You may not have caused all of these problems, or even any of these new problems, so you might contact Create Space and point this out – to be told that the project team will ‘reach out’ to you. I have heard this slightly biblical phrase twice now. What does it mean? It will depend on the circumstances, but it could easily mean that they reach out to you with a bill for additional changes.
And here is short cautionary tale. When you attempt to create a Kindle version of your physical book you may discover a pop-up alerting you to possible spelling errors, though it may be that some of them aren’t. For example, you may have used colloquial or dialect words which their spell-checker doesn’t recognise. Or an actual mistake or two may have passed you by. But all my ‘spelling errors’ bar one were caused by the fact that on several occasions two consecutive words did not have spaces between them. How careless, I hear you say! Except for the fact that in the file I had uploaded these mistakes were not to be found. The words had been run together as the file I had uploaded was poured into the template. But while the Kindle process alerted me to this, the physical book process did not.
Faced with this problem I phoned Create Space and was advised to download their version of the file, correct it, and resubmit it. But when I did I found that the downloaded file did not show the previous round of corrections. What was I supposed to do at this point – correct everything over again? I phoned a second time and got the advice I should have received in the first place – to send an email listing the specific corrections still to be made.
What do I conclude from all this? If you use their service it is very important to check your first physical proof with the utmost care. Since there is no way you will notice everything, have others check it too.
But it is better to keep the interior fully under your own control. That way you can correct any errors yourself whenever you want. But remember that if you do that it is essential to keep track of your file versions. You should know, without taking two hours to figure it out, what the most recent version is.
And you may well have to acquire a better handle on your software to get things the way you want them. For example, you may want each chapter to begin with an unnumbered page. But though these pages will be unnumbered they will not be uncounted, and you may find Word fighting you all the way when you try to achieve this. If that happens, and you ask it nicely, Youtube will come to your aid. And what if you want each chapter to begin on a right hand page? That may present problems too.
Nobody said it would easy.