Your Book Cover: Part 2 of I Don’t Know? 5?

Every book cover needs a template. You need to create the template for the back, spine, and front. This is what I am going to give you directions to make:

template picture for blog

Pretty cool, huh? You have the back cover, (left) the little rectangle where the barcode and ISBN number are going to be, the spine, and the front cover. This is a picture of the template I made in Word.

Let’s first figure out the spine. There’s an easy way and a hard way. There’s *whispers* math involved in the hard way. I’ll tell you how to do it first, so if you like doing things the hard way, you don’t have to stop in the middle of the instructions to figure it out.

You need to decide if you’re using white or cream paper. Apparently cream paper is a little thicker? I have no idea. Anyway, use these formulas that I pulled from CreateSpace:

white paper: spine width = number of pages x 0.002252 inches

cream paper: spine width = number of pages x 0.0025 inches.

This is why we waited to do the cover until after your manuscript was formatted into the template. The first time I did my cover I didn’t wait so my spine was off. I used the regular number of manuscript pages. I didn’t have my front matter included, or my about the author page in the back. I didn’t have my gutter figured in there, or margins, or headers and footers, which all takes up space, adds pages and makes your spine thicker.

Take the number of pages of your completed, formatted manuscript and use the formula above. For Running to Love, unformatted, my page count is 258. I would choose cream paper so the formula would be 258 x 0.0025 inches = 0.645.   This is how thick your spine is. So, when you create the text box for the cover, the width of the text box would be 0.645 inches by the height of the paper (8.5 inches) since the spine goes from the top of the page to the bottom.

That’s the hard, sucky way. That’s the way I did it. There’s an easy way. Jewel showed me the easy way after I did mine the hard way.

CreateSpace wants you to have as easy an experience as possible. But if you don’t know where to look for stuff, you may not know it even exists. I didn’t know CreateSpace had a cover template creator until Jewel told me. You can log into your CreateSpace account and search book cover templates. It’s here, and this is what you see:

Cover template creator

Choose the interior type. Again, I’m assuming you don’t need any color pages so use Black and White. It will also ask you if you want to see the template with or without bleed. Choose bleed. Bleeding is when the picture goes past the edge of the paper. It is a margin of error for when your book is cut to trim size. When you create your cover, you don’t want words inside the bleed because they could get cut off. There is a great article about bleed here.

The trim size is the size of your book. Did you choose 5×8? 6×9? Bigger? Again, your choice.

Enter the number pages from your formatted manuscript.

Choose the page color.

Click build template.

These are my choices:

cover template choices

This is what I get:

cover template download

Download the file. Open the zip file and open the PDF. This is what you’ll see:

cover template with bleed

See the small print on the spine? It says my spine width is 0.64 inches. What did we figure when we did it with math? 0.645. Not too shabby. But the template shows you a lot of things: bleed, the size of the other text boxes, the barcode box. Unfortunately, unless you know what to do with the PDF, you can’t do anything with it. It’s a picture. I don’t know how to layer a picture over a picture. Maybe you or someone you know does, and this is all you needed. That’s great, and I’m really happy for you! You’re one step ahead of a lot of people. If you’re like me, you’ll be using the cover template creator as a quick reference for dimensions and then actually making the text boxes that will make your template.

I’ll stop here for now. In the next blog post, I’ll type out the instructions on how to create the text boxes so you can make your own template. The great news is, you only have to do it once. Then you can just adjust the spine when you publish something else.

Until later!


Your Book Cover: Part 1 of Who Knows?

Book covers are the hardest part of the publishing process if you don’t have software experience, like me. I know nothing of Gimp, Photoshop, or InDesign, some of the top software programs used to make covers. I don’t know a Photoshop layer from a cake layer. Did someone say layer cake?  Sorry. Distracted.

layer cake

I depended on Word to do my cover. With the exception of a little mistake on my spine and my lack of patience with playing around with how I wanted my cover to look, I don’t think it turned out too terrible. The cover is simple, which is what I needed due to lack of experience, and wanted since I have seen some covers where they look like Photoshop decided to spew all over them. Here it is:

cover example for blog

I will end up fixing my name (I want it bigger), and I don’t like the picture orientation (I’m going to crop the couples and have them off to the side). I think the back could be spiced up a bit. There are a lot of books out there about creating a pleasing-looking cover. I read this book by Rayne Hall. She touches on creating a cover that will catch a reader’s eye. I also read this book by Annie Acorn. There are also many blogs about it, and articles, so I encourage you to take time and Google, find out what you like and don’t like. What it comes down to is you have to make sure the picture you want to use is available for commercial use. I used a photo from Pixabay. I like the site because it clearly tells you that certain photos are free for commercial use. Seeing this makes me feel better:

commrerical use

Of course, if you are hooked on a picture you want to use and you have to pay, that is your own personal choice. I just don’t want you getting sued down the road because you used a photo that wasn’t available. Maybe you have other options: you’re a painter and can paint your own cover, or you know someone who will for you. Maybe you are a photographer and want to take your own picture. (Look up copyright laws when it comes to businesses or public/private areas in your photo. You may need permission to use them.)

With that being said, I was talking with Jewel (you’ll see her name come up a lot because we talk a lot) and I asked her if you didn’t have any experience with Photoshop if your husband wasn’t around to help you, where would you go? What would you do? And she said, I would use the CreateSpace Cover Creator.

We will start there.

The Cover Creator is the next step after you have downloaded your formatted manuscript into the CreateSpace website. Just for the sake of the blog, I uploaded an incomplete manuscript of Running to Love, my NaNo project from last year. I’m editing it now. When you download your manuscript it goes through a kind of a mini-review and you can look at it through their online viewer. CreateSpace freaked out at me because Running isn’t formatted yet. FYI, even if you try to push your manuscript through and the mini-review says there’s something wrong with it, a real person at some point will catch your errors and make you do it over. I just did it so I could get to the Cover Creator. When you get there, this what you’ll see first:


Choose matte or glossy and then click on Build Your Cover Online. This launches the Cover Creator. The Cover Creator gives you five pages of cover choices. This is what the first page of choices looks like:

cover choices

I won’t go through all five pages. Even without loading a book, you can see the choices, but it will say spineless in the 6×9 description under each choice because you don’t have a valid manuscript uploaded to the site. Anyway, so you can see there are some choices and you need to match as closely as you can the cover to your genre. Running to Love is a Romance, so I need something kind of romantic. With the Cover Creator, you can upload your own photos (up to a point, depending on the template you use) and change the fonts too. Let me choose one:

cover choices 2

Notice they put almost everything in it for you. There is space for your blurb, your author pic, your imprint and barcode (again, don’t buy one from Bowker, CreateSpace will give you one for free). They designed the cover for you and you don’t have to worry about the spine text.  Let’s say I don’t like the picture, color, or font. You can go in and change it:

cover choice 3

Not bad, though the cover does not depict what my book is about: two people whose hobby is running, and they fall in love. I couldn’t find a picture on Pixabay of two people running, but there is more than just that one site that offers free pictures for commercial use. You get the idea though. Using the Cover Creator is limiting, but not as limiting as you might think. Also, if you are worried many people are using it and you will end up with the same cover as someone else, with the changes you can make to the templates, I don’t think it’s anything you need to worry about. Here’s another stab at it. I couldn’t change the font and changing the back cover color changed the font color too:

cover choices 4

I would need to make my author picture smaller so it would fit, but otherwise, it doesn’t look bad. Again, I don’t think it depicts what my book is about, but at least you know how easy it is to make your own cover. Later, I will show you how to make your own (VERY SIMPLE) cover, but it’s nice to know that if all else fails, you can make a nice one using the Cover Creator. I encourage you to play around; maybe you’ll like what you come up with.

Good luck!

Templates: Formatting Your Manuscript

Formatting your manuscript for printing is no big deal–if you know what you’re doing. I knew before I started this process I was going to have trouble with my headers and footers, and after struggling for ten hours, I was crying and ready to chuck the paperback option of my book. When I tweeted how desperate I was S. Hunter Nisbet (@ShunterNi) and RR Willica (@RRWillica) came to my rescue. (Shameless plug, both their books are on Amazon, in Kindle and paperback.) Templates they both said. Copy and paste your manuscript into the Word template CreateSpace provides, and at 11 pm after almost giving up, I did.

If you know where to look, or have the dearest friends like I have to point you in the proper direction, CreateSpace does hold your hand and makes publishing a book less painful than a root canal.

You might be asking why formatting is a big deal. It’s a big deal because your manuscript printed into book format is not the same as taking it to Staples and printing it out. You have to consider the gutters (the extra space in the margin for when your book is bound, actually glued into the front and back covers), headers, footers, where your front matter goes, etc. While the template takes care of some of it, it doesn’t take care of all of it, and I’ll write you up a quick list in a minute so you’ll be able to do those things yourself.

Where to find the template is easy enough. If you haven’t gone into the CreateSpace website and created your project, you can, or you can just read this blog series first, up to you. After you create your project, enter in your title info, and enter your ISBN choice (or skip that if you haven’t decided), you come to the screen I blogged about before. Choose your trim and paper color. After you choose those, at the right, you can download the template that will have all the measurements in place for the page set up.


These are the choices I made for 1700. My size on cream paper. On the very right-hand side, you click on the formatted template link and download the Word template. When you open the template there are pages for your front matter:

first pages of template

I turned on the formatting marks so you can see them. In my opinion, the most important thing they do for you is give you the end of section breaks at the end of the pages and at the end of the chapters. These are imperative when doing your headers and footers, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. This is the second set of pages in the template:

second pages

Notice they give you a table of contents. I didn’t use it, and most fiction books don’t. Plus, after ten hours of struggling, I just didn’t want to mess with anything extra. Of course, you’re doing this in a smarter manner, so if you want to take the time to add a table of contents, that’s your choice (but if you want your book to look like other books, a table of contents in a fiction book is pretty rare). Here is the third set:

third set of pages

I didn’t keep the order of these pages. I took a traditionally published book and copied the order of its pages. 1700 has the title, author, and imprint page, then my copyright page, my acknowledgments, a blank page, my dedication page, a subtitle page (1700 is two novellas printed together) then Chapter One. You can make your pages in any order you want, but please please please do not delete the End of Section breaks at ends of the first pages. These keep the headers and page numbers off your front matter. You’ll see that Chapter One starts with page one and that there is no header on the page. That is what you want; don’t delete the section break after the ends of all the other chapters in the template. The template includes nine chapters. If your book is longer than that, and mine was, copy and paste the section breaks into the ends of the extra chapters. It kept the header off the next title chapter pages in my book just fine.

Just one more quick thing, don’t be turned off that your text is not centered. That is the gutter I told you about, and that space is needed for binding. You can see it on the first chapter page of the template.

Because I know you want to see them, here are the first few pages of my book:

front mattefront matter 2


Some quick formatting tips that will help your book look professional:
1. First paragraphs of chapters and scene breaks are not indented.
2. Chapters begin in the near the middle of the page. Keep the number of blank lines before the Chapter Title and first paragraph consistent from chapter to chapter.
3. Use one space after a period.
4. Your text should be full justified (even, not jagged, on both sides).

You can experiment with the font, font size (I’ve read no bigger than 12 point unless you are specifically printing a Large Print book), italicize your name in the header, bold your title, etc. I was too scared, and I didn’t page through my manuscript as thoroughly as I should have. There are a few formatting mistakes I need to fix. Yep, I just saw the roman numeral on my dedication page. At first, I thought it was a speck on my computer screen. Dammit. The great news is that after your manuscript is copied and pasted into the template, the pages will look exactly the same printed into a real book. So it’s worth it to take a look, page by page, and search for mistakes, formatting errors, that kind of thing. I have an extra space I need to fix, and some cute little squares at the end of some of my chapters.

The bad news is after you publish and see mistakes, if you want to fix them, your entire project goes through CreateSpace’s review process. It’s a 12-hour process and it’s bad news because while you are waiting for your new file (they also go through the cover, or vice versa if you’re fixing your cover after already publishing your book) your old file becomes unavailable which means disappears as a paperback on Amazon. So, after you just release your book, and you have your initial sales coming in, you don’t want to fix anything unless it’s a huge mistake. I would hope if it’s that huge, you would have caught it while you were proofing your work. You can have a proof sent to you for around $3.00 plus shipping depending on how thick your book is, so page through it carefully. It’s something I didn’t do and regret it now, but no one is perfect and that’s okay.

I’ll leave this here for now. The next is covers and I’ll have to figure out how to write it up since there is just so much information on them.

Happy formatting!  I’ll be off fixing my mistakes.

Trim Size and White vs. Cream Paper

We’re finally ready for the fun part. These are the parts you’ve waiting for. Your manuscript has been edited within an inch of its life, you decided what you’re going to do with your imprint and ISBN. You have your author picture done, written your author bio, your blurb, your copyright page, your acknowledgments, your dedication. There is absolutely nothing left you have to do except to publish the darn thing. Yay! And I know you wanna jump right into . . . TRIM SIZE. You expected me to say cover, didn’t you? I’m sorry. Designing the cover is the most fabulous part of this whole this whole process, besides writing the thing, I know, trust me, I know. But the cover dimensions are contingent on the size of your book. That is why we will do trim size first. I made the mistake of doing my cover before trim and formatting, not realizing you need to know how thick your book is going to be before you design the spine. I’ll save you a few hours of hassle. Go ahead and look for the picture you want to use, dream it up in your head while you’re trying to go to sleep, but let’s save it for last. You’ll thank me later.

My blog posts usually contain one disclaimer, and now it’s time for this one. This publishing series I’m writing contains bare bones facts. It’s for the people who just want to publish as quickly and as simply as possible. Chances are if you know what you’re doing, experienced in Word, Photoshop, InDesign, Gimp, whatever else, you’re not reading this. (Or you are, and you’re just supporting me, thank you!)

Trim size is actually really fun, and don’t pass it off as a non-decision. Books come in all different sizes, and CreateSpace allows you to choose different sizes based on the color of paper you want. If you are choosing cream paper, you are limited to four sizes: 5×8, 5.25×8, 5.5×8.5, or 6×9. These are all in inches. This information right here made me think. I wrote a romance and I wanted it smaller. I frequently talk to @JewelELeonard and we were discussing trim size. I said I wanted my book to be “smut size.” Of course, there’s no such thing, but I read a lot of romances, chick lit, and they all are the same size, 4×6 printed on cream. Here are four different books, printed by four different imprints and they are all the same size.

IMG_5390  IMG_5391IMG_5392

My book is under Money, Honey, and you can see that it is bigger than the traditionally published romance. I was very adamant that I wanted cream paper, so I chose the smallest size CreateSpace had to offer.

But, as you look at trim, the term Expanded Distribution keeps popping up, and you’ll even see this warning if you choose a trim that disqualifies you from the program:

edp warning

I’m going to be honest with you. I didn’t research what that meant. If you’re interested in learning what the Expanded Distribution program is, you can click here. I enrolled in it, but you’ll have to make that decision for yourself.

Here is the reason why CreateSpace doesn’t usually print smaller. I found this on a CreateSpace community board:

smut size

You don’t have to be as stubborn as me; choose any size book you want on the paper you want. Indie authors seem to like the various sizes so you won’t be alone when you finally decide on yours. There wasn’t a specific reason I chose cream paper. I do think it’s easier on the eyes, and I rarely come across any traditionally published books printed on white. I have seen some printed on greige, a mix of grey and beige, but CS doesn’t give you that option. Anyway, there is one thing you should keep in mind while deciding on trim. A smaller book is thicker. That might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s something to consider if you were thinking bigger. If you’re paperbacking a novella, for example, a smaller size would create more pages. You also need to keep in mind that if your book is too thin, your spine will not be able to support text. I can’t guarantee that making your novella smaller will give your spine sufficient width for text, but it is something to think about if you were going with the “bigger is better” concept.

When you are inside CreateSpace this is the the first screen you’ll see when it’s time to choose trim size and paper color.

createspace interior

Don’t choose full color (unless you’re printing a coffee table book or a graphic novel) even if you want your author pic to be printed in color. CreateSpace charges you more to print color no matter how many pages are printed in color. My author picture is in black and white, and it looks fine:


Here are other trim sizes if you choose white paper. As you can see, your choices go up:

trim sizetrim size 2

The CreateSpace community has several boards and you can find an answer to any question you have. Don’t be shy about Googling your question. There are thousands of indie books out there, and just as many authors who all had the same questions you do going in.

I was going to go into templates to format your manuscript, but I will stop here for now. Using a CreateSpace template is fast and easy if you don’t know how or don’t want to mess around with headers and footers. I’ll go into that next time. For now, take a walk around Barnes and Noble or a bookstore near you, and look at the books, get a feel for what size your genre is typically published in. Oh, and don’t buy too many books while you’re there!

Until next time!