Updated! Creating a full wrap paperback book cover using Canva (plus more screenshots!)

Quick note: I use Canva Pro, and some of the features I talk about are not available in their free plan. Before Canva added those features, I taught myself a few things in GIMP, a free version of Photoshop. (Find it here: https://www.gimp.org/downloads/) It will be up to you to learn the things you don’t know. And as always, there are no affiliate links in this post.


Because of the changes KDP made to their template generator and the updates Canva added to their software, the blog post I wrote last summer on how to use Canva to create a full wrap paperback cover is basically obsolete. The good news is KDP took away the need to do any math, and I think that will make a lot of people happy. Oh, and the CMYK vs. RGB issue if you want to publish on IngramSpark is gone as well, since Canva (on the Pro Plan) added the option to download your PDF in either.

While there are some things that still pertain to doing your cover in Canva such as making sure your stock photos are 300 dpi so your cover isn’t pixelated, there is a lot that has changed, too, so let’s dive in.


Before you start, you’ll want to make sure you have a formatted manuscript. This includes all your front matter and back matter, your dedication page, acknowledgments, about the author, etc. If you do it yourself with Word, Vellum or Atticus, InDesign or other, you can make changes whenever you want (and you probably will). KDP gives you a 10 page grace, so don’t go crazy. If you hire out, you’ll need the total number of pages of the formatted manuscript that you’ll upload into KDP or IngramSpark and the trim size you’ve chosen for your book.

Once you have that, you can download the cover template that will show you the bleed areas to stay away from when creating your cover. Go to https://kdp.amazon.com/cover-calculator and enter in all the information they want.


1. Paperback or hardback That’s your choice, and I would imagine the instructions on how to do the cover are the same. I’ve never done a hardback so I don’t know if it’s worth the time or not.

2. Because you’re not creating a coffee table book or a cook book that requires colored pages (those projects are beyond the scope of this blog post) choose a black and white interior.

3. Cream pages for fiction, white for non-fiction is usually the norm. Your page color is attached to your ISBN number, so you can’t change your mind after you publish.

4. Page turn direction is left to right, but if you choose the wrong one, the template will show you a cover with the back on what would normally be the front. Just go back and change it.

This is what your template will look like if you choose the wrong page turn direction.

5. I choose inches.

6. Choose your trim size. Trim size is also attached to your ISBN so you can’t change the size of your book unless you republish. If you have a very long book, you may want to go with 6×9 due to printing costs in KDP. Look at what other authors in your genre are doing. Amazon makes it easy to find the product information of any paperback book. I used to go with 5×8, but under my new pen name I’m going with 5.5×8.5 for all my books. You’ll need to tell your interior formatter which size you’re going with as well.

7. Enter the page count. This determines the thickness of your spine. (Press Enter if the yellow button doesn’t light up.)

8. Click Calculate Dimensions.

With the new way KDP offers you the template, all you need for the canvas size in Canva are the numbers for the full cover. The width is 12.045 and the height is 8.75. Before, you used to have to do the math (adding the front and back covers and spine and bleed) to figure out this number, but not anymore.

Click download template on the lower left. It will come in a ZIP file. Open the file and save the PNG under a name you’ll remember so you can find it to upload it into Canva.

The template will have all the information you entered into the template creator and will remind you of the canvas size: 12.045 (width) x 8.75 (height).

In Canva, on the home page, you’ll want to do Custom Size:

There, you’ll enter in the numbers that the KDP template gave you:

Click Create New Design.

When you do that, you will have the exact sized canvas you need to fit the template you downloaded.

Adjust it like you would any picture or element you use in Canva.

And really, it’s that easy. No more math. No more guessing the canvas size. This is my template for the first book in my King’s Crossing Series. I’m using a 5.5×8.5 trim size, the pages of the book are 318 and I print on cream paper.

In my other blog post, I took you through the steps on how to use the template, and I can do that here. I’ll keep going with the first book’s cover.

Using the transparency, you can see the bleed lines I’ll need to stay away from when adding text. It’s why I build on top of the template, but you can always guess, and then using transparency, put the template on top of your finished cover and see if you stayed away. That’s a lot of adjusting if you’re not used to making covers, especially text sizing on the spine, but you’ll do what works for you.

Next I darken the image and add the guy. I pay for Pro, so I’m not sure what all the special features are available in the free plan but I think the background remover is worth the price alone.

Remove his background and darken him up. I play with the brightness and contrast until I like how he looks against the background.

Canva has a lot of cool elements that I’ve started using, and I don’t need GIMP as nearly as often as I used to. Because I like his size, but the photo is cut off toward the bottom, I needed something that would hide that and make the title font and my author name pop. So I found a black gradient element that I use and put it at the bottom.

This black gradient is perfect for what I need it to do:

Now I have space for the title and my author name. Canva Pro offers a lot of font options, too, and while I try to buy my own just for my own peace of mind, sometimes I do use theirs, but I always give attribution on my copyright page at the front of my books.

The font I’m using for the title is Better Saturday and Playfair Display.

This is why I build on top of the template. So I can see where to place the text so it’s a safe distance from the bleed marks.

When you’re doing the spine text, you can zoom in to see the bleed lines clearly.

Print on Demand is iffy at best, and I’m cutting it close with CRUEL. I’ll make that a bit smaller to give the printers some wiggle room. There’s always someone on Facebook complaining their spine text isn’t centered, but I’ve given up worrying about it. It’s nothing you can control. Just give the printer enough space to mess up so your text doesn’t bleed onto the back or front cover.

Add your name and imprint to the spine if you want and then do the blurb or whatever else you’re going to put on the back cover. I’ve only added my author photo with my bio one time. I also skip putting the barcode white box on the back. KDP will add it for you if you leave that space blank.

Keeping the transparency low on the background lets you see that the text for the blurb isn’t too close to the edges.

You’ll want to tweak it, of course, but when you change the transparency to 0 you can see how it will look when all the pieces are in place. (Oops, almost forgot the series logo.)

In the bottom left of the back cover, I call that the crap corner. I’ve always had a hard time figuring out what to put there because there’s not a lot of room for anything, and with the barcode in place, the corner just looks empty. I’ve started putting my author website there for lack of anything better and I think it works okay. Like I said, I leave the barcode box blank. Both KDP and IngramSpark will add it if you don’t buy or make your own barcode. Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur has a free barcode creator if you want to create your own barcode. You can find it here. Barcode Creator. (Okay, I lied. I added it so you can see what it looks like.)

One of the updates that surprised me was when Canva added the choice (for Pro Plan) to download in RBG or CMYK. IngramSpark prefers the CMYK and KDP, I don’t think, cares. I’ve always uploaded an RBG because that’s all Canva has offered in the past.

This takes some of the worry off using IngramSpark because I hated seeing their error messages even though I knew what I was doing was okay. My covers always came out fine (POD mistakes aside) so I never worried about it either way, but it’s nice to have the choice.

You can use this cover for IngramSpark, too, but make the text on the spine smaller. Their spines are narrower because of the kind of paper they use. IngramSpark also has a cover template generator, and if you want to make sure you’re in the bleed lines, you can download it and lay it on top your cover. If you want to keep both, duplicate your KDP cover and name them, indicating their appropriate platforms. Using your transparency, you can adjust the font and then delete it when you’re done.

As you can see, I would want to adjust the title on the spine because it’s narrower than KDP’s template. I haven’t found there to be any other difference.

Adjust the text so they are still centered, and you’re done with covers for both templates and platforms.

What I really love doing for a series is saving the first book as a jpg or png, and then laying that over the other books in the series so all the elements are in the same place. I was actually really lucky with the pages in my books, and I was able to use the same template for 4 of the 6 books.

That was convenient because I could duplicate the cover and then swap out the guy and change the titles, and I knew everything would be the same size and in the same exact place. I don’t always expect to be that lucky, though.

Here’s what the finished product looks like. The cover looks a bit washed out, but that’s the photo and I don’t think it needs adjusting in real life. I can move the black gradient over a bit though, closer to the spine, but otherwise, I think it’s pretty good.

I think I covered everything there is to know with the updates. If you have a cover from a designer and you need to resize it, entering the numbers and generating your own template for the numbers and plopping them into Canva is easy. Another update Canva Pro added recently is you’re able to upload PDFs, not just PNGs, JPGs, and JPEGs. I haven’t needed to try it yet, but I was excited about the new things Canva is adding for us! Canva Pro also has a resize option that I’ve used for my large print books and it works pretty well.

I hope the new instructions are helpful!

Let me know and thanks for reading. 🙂


Quick Resource Links:

KDP Cover Calculator/Template Generator

IngramSpark Cover Template Generator

GIMP

DepositPhotos is where I buy all my stock photos for covers.

Atticus is a new interior formatting software created by Dave Chesson and his team at Kindlepreneur. Atticus is available for all computers, not only for Mac like Vellum is. You can find Atticus here. If you have a Mac and want to play with Vellum, you can try it for free. They’ll charge you only if you want to generate files. Find Vellum here. If you don’t have the cash for either, but still want to do it yourself, KDP also supplies interior templates with bleeds and gutters and front matter in place. Download the template with sample content. Delete theirs and copy and past your own into the template. You can find info about the interior templates here. (That is actually how I formatted my books before I bought Vellum.)

Canva Pro lets you upload fonts into your toolkit. I find lots of cheap fonts at Creative Fabrica, and there are some free for commercial use fonts at 1001 Fonts.
There’s a great gal in the Design Resources Hub group on FB who posts whenever Creative Fabrica has free or discounted bundles. You can join the group here.

Developing your eye takes time and practice. Looking at Canva templates and the top 100 in your genre on Amazon can teach you a lot. You can look up Canva Templates here.

GetCovers is a cheap place (popular and trustworthy, they are based in Ukraine) to find covers for your books if you don’t want to make your own. (They also have a very informative marketing newsletter if you want to sign up.) I’ve started looking through them for practice. This cover was in one of their Tweets; I follow them on Twitter. I thought it looked easy enough to duplicate so I tried using only Canva tools. I could probably do better if I took more time, but I think I did a good job. Because of the elements that you’ll have at your disposal, you won’t be able to get everything right, but the practice is invaluable.

Doing a Full Paperback Wrap in Canva for KDP Print (plus screen grabs)

Because KDP updated their template, this post no longer has the correct information in it. There are still a lot of good tips if you want to read through, but if you’re just interested in CANVAS SIZE for Canva, you can read my updated blog post here. Thanks!
https://vaniamargene.com/2022/06/13/updated-creating-a-full-wrap-paperback-book-cover-using-canva-plus-more-screenshots/

I’ve come across this question a lot these days, mostly I think because a lot of authors use Canva for their ebook covers and graphics for promos. Some bloggers have compared Canva to Book Brush, and while Book Brush can do many things Canva can’t, I feel that Canva is more versatile and I prefer to use it over Book Brush. Especially since Book Brush is more expensive and if you already pay for Canva Pro, you’re not looking to plop down another $146 (for their popular package) a year on another program.

I’ve never made a full wrap in Book Brush, though it is a feature they have available in their paid plans. I made my first paperback wrap in Canva not even knowing if it was possible. It was the old cover for Wherever He Goes and it was a complete experiment applying what I knew from making covers in Word before I knew Canva existed. I ordered a proof not knowing what to expect, but the cover came out beautifully, and since then I’ve done all my wraps in Canva and for a couple other authors too.

These days if there is trouble with a cover, it’s probably a KDP Print glitch. Their POD printers are overworked and underpaid just like all of us these days and I’ve heard reports of covers not printing well, interiors that are crooked, pages falling out of the binding, and even text of other books inside yours. That is a KDP Print problem, not a Canva problem. The only issue I’ve ever encountered doing a paperback wrap in Canva is that IngramSpark requires a CMYK color file while Canva saves in RGB as does GIMP. IngramSpark will still accept your file, but they warn you the coloring in the cover might be off. If this is truly a concern of yours, don’t use Canva for a full wrap. Learn PhotoShop or hire out. I publish with IngramSpark and in a blog post from a couple years ago, I compared the books from IngramSpark and KDP Print. While everyone insists IngramSpark prints with better quality, I did not find that to be the case, and Canva had nothing to do with it.

That being said, there are a couple things you need to know before you do a full wrap in Canva.

Your stock photo must be in 300 dpi. I buy my photos from Deposit Photos, and lately when I download a photo, the image size is huge but the dpi is only 72. You have to fix this or your cover will come out pixelated and you won’t know why. You can download GIMP for free and use the SCALE IMAGE (under Image in the menu) to fix this, or if you already have Photoshop, adjust the dpi and save. That is the photo version you want to upload into Canva.

This is the screenshot from a photo I used to make a mock cover the other day. You can see that the dpi is only 72. And if you take a look at the width and height, sometimes that is too huge for Canva to accept and they’ll ask you to fix the size. The width and the height doesn’t matter so much, and you can change the width to a lower number. This is a horizontal photo and I chose 3000 for the width. Press Enter and it will automatically resize the height. With the DPI set to 300, export it as a jpg or png, it doesn’t matter, Canva accepts both. (If I’ve lost you on this step, you’ll have to do your own digging. I rarely use GIMP and this post is by no means a tutorial on how to use it, because yeah, I don’t know how to do very much.)

You have to have your interior already formatted for paperback. That includes the front and back matter, the font you chose, gutters and margins and all the rest. Unless you want to play, it’s helpful if this is the final version of your paperback interior. It’s already been through betas and your editor. It should be ready to publish. If it’s not, you can experiment with your cover for practice, but you need the final number of pages for your spine’s width. KDP Print gives you ten pages of wiggle room. That’s not much and more often than not, they’ll make you resize your cover using an updated template.

Choose the trim size you want and page color you want. I see this question all the time in the FB groups, and most say it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Though if you’re concerned with printing costs, the more pages you have–250+–the larger the trim size you want (6×9 is best) because more pages means higher printing cost. My novels run anywhere between 70k to 90k and the only thing that I use as a yardstick is this: My series books are 5×8. My standalones are 5.5×8.5. I don’t know why I do this, but it’s a system I’ve fallen into. If you write epic fantasy and your books are 400 pages, choose the 6×9.

This is one of Lindsay Buroker’s epic fantasies. Amazon makes it easy for you to check out what other authors in your genre are doing. You can see that this book is 528 printed pages and she chose a 6×9 trim size. Her spine is 1.32 inches. It’s a thick book. When you publish and set your prices, KDP Print will offer you a royalty calculator and you can price your book based on the royalties you’ll make when you sell a paperback. Price too high and you won’t get many takers. Price too low and you won’t make anything on the sale. Try to find a happy medium and fit in with what other authors in your genre are doing.

As for the color, I always choose cream for fiction. Seems the standard is cream for fiction, white for nonfiction. There may be exceptions, but that’s what I go with.

When you have the number of pages from the formatted file, know your trim size and page color, you can Google KDP paperback templates.

This is only for paperback. As of this writing, they are rolling out a hardcover option. It’s in beta right now, but offering a hardcover is what you’ll need to decide based on your business goals. I write romance and I focus my marketing on readers in Kindle Unlimited. A hardcover edition of my book doesn’t interest me, and if I ever wasted the time to create one, it would be for vanity purposes only.

Download the template. It will come in a ZIP file. Open it up and save the PNG as a name you’ll be able to find later. You can’t upload a PDF into Canva, only download, so the PNG is the one you’ll want.

Now it’s time to do some math.

When you want to do a full wrap in Canva, you need to know the canvas size. This is where I think a lot of people get tripped up. How do you figure out the size of the canvas so your template will fit? Your canvas size has to be the size of your book’s trim, plus spine width, plus the bleed. These numbers will change based on the trim size you choose for your books and the spine size. You won’t be able to use the same canvas size over and over unless you choose the same trim size AND your book is the same number of pages every time. That’s going to be highly unlikely, so it’s best just to realize you’re going to need to learn how to do the math.

We’ll start with the template:

The template will tell you how wide your spine is. You need this for the math. There is another way to figure out spine if you don’t download the template first, but this is the easiest way so no use giving you more math.

Then this is how you figure out the size of the canvas:

For the width of the canvas: The width of the back cover plus bleed, plus spine, plus the width of the front cover plus bleed.

If we use the template above as an example, the template is 5.5 x 8.5. This is what we add together:

5.5 (back cover) + .125 (bleed) + .65 (spine) + 5.5 (front cover) + .125 (bleed) = 11.90 inches.

That is the inch width you put into the custom dimensions box in Canva. The default is pixels, you’ll need to change it to inches.

If you need to see it in a different way, I made this for a friend:

The height of the book is 8.5 + the bleed .25 = 8.75. This is the number you put into the height box in the custom dimensions.

Hit enter or click on Create New Design and you have the canvas for a 5.5x 8.5 sized book with a .65 spine. It might not look like much, but now you can upload the PNG of your template and put that into the canvas.

It will take a little moving around, but keep as much orange as possible because that’s your bleed line. Anything on the orange or beyond has a chance of getting cut off in printing. The spine guidelines keep your text from bring printed on the front or back covers. Make sure the template covers the entire canvas.

You might have noticed I didn’t tell you your template needs to be at 300 dpi, and it doesn’t. You’ll be building your cover on top of this template and you won’t see it at all when your book is printed.

When I say that you’ll be building your cover on top of this, I mean you’ll be putting the stock photo and all the text on top of the template. What you use for your front cover and the back cover is going to be up to you. Some authors use a horizontal photo like the woman on the dock above and use it to create a full wrap from the one photo, like this:

Woman in white dress sitting alone on the pier. Back view (purchased from Deposit Photos)

You can see I flipped her and used a filter, but I used the whole photo for a full cover wrap. I built it on top of the template using the transparency feature and it looks like this:

Using the bleed lines, you can put the font where it needs to go. It’s not perfect–the author name isn’t centered and can come down more. When you’re done with the bleed lines, change the transparency of the photo back to 0 and this is what you’ll download. Download the file in print-ready PDF for your KDP dashboard when you upload your files for publishing.

Lots of people say they don’t know what to put on the back of their covers. The sky is the limit, really, from just the blurb to reviews of the book to your author photo. I’ve only done my author photo once, and that was for the back of All of Nothing:

The only thing I would caution you on is you don’t need to make the blurb font huge. It was one of my mistakes first starting out. And if you don’t want to put a white box for the bar code, you don’t have to. KDP Print will add it when they print your cover. Google for more full wrap ideas.

For the woman on the dock, I blew up the part of the water giving the back cover a grainy texture that matched the photo but some authors like the full photo wrap. It keeps them from. having to worry about getting the bleed lines on the spine perfect for printing. POD printing isn’t an exact science anyway, so chances are even if your PDF is perfect, the spine will be a little off. No matter how centered my title and author name are, almost 100% of the time they won’t be centered on the spine when you order a copy. Now that I’ve done it both ways, I think I prefer the full photo wrap.

I added a white gradient (that you can find in Canva) to the bottom to white out the dock a little bit making Penny’s name more readable. When it comes to cover design you know your own abilities. I’ve often said I’m lucky I write romance and can find a cute couple and slap some text over them and call it good. It’s not that simple, obviously, but if I wrote in epic fantasy, or even thriller, I would have to hire out. I’m not interested in learning beyond what I know. I’m a writer, not a graphic designer.

Developing an eye for book covers takes time and a lot of practice. Sometimes what you think looks good on the screen won’t translate well to a printed cover at all and you’ll be back to the drawing board. If you’re tackling book covers for the first time, you may be investing in some proof copies just to see how your work looks printed. If your business model makes paperbacks important, then you’ll put a lot of time into learning how to make your paperbacks look amazing. Like I said before, my business model centers around KU readers and it’s more important to make sure my cover grabs attention at thumbnail size and indicates to readers the second they look at it what genre it is.

It might seem like I skimmed over the most important part: the math. We can do another book with a different trim size just for practice.

This is the template the first book in my Rocky Point Wedding series. The trim is 5×8 and the spine is .70 inches. If we do the math for the Canva canvas it would look like this:

5.0 (back cover) + .125 (bleed) + .70 (spine) + 5.0 (front cover) + .125 (bleed) = 10.95. That is the width you would need to put into the custom box.

The height would be 8.0 (cover) + .25 (bleed) = 8.25. That is the height you would put into the custom dimensions box.

This is the cover I did for the first book in the series:

I did most of it in Canva, though I added some transparent gradient in GIMP for blending the two photos. Everything I know I taught myself, and it’s not fair i’m trying to shove four years of practicing and learning into one blog post. You’ll have to do your own experimenting.

Some odds and ends I picked up on the way:

Don’t buy a bar code. You don’t need one. KDP Print and IngramSpark will generate one for you. I buy my own ISBNs though, and that will be a choice you need to make if you’re in the States and expected to pay god-awful prices.

Don’t use free photos from Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels, et al. Cover your butt and secure your business and use photos that you pay for from trusted sites like Shutterstock or Deposit Photos. Same with fonts. Not everything is available for commercial use. Be careful.

Use caution when choosing the models on your covers if you write romance. Amazon has gotten very picky lately, and the cover for His Frozen Heart disqualifies me from being able to run ads on Amazon Advertising to that series. Needless to say, that sucks.

You can use the same canvas size for an IngramSpark template. The one difference between an IS template and a KDP Print template is the spine for IS is narrower. The only adjustment you’ll be making is your font size for your title and author name on the spine will be smaller.

Elements (font, symbols ) can shift when you download your PDF and they will look “off” when you upload to KDP. I haven’t found a solution for this except to overcorrect, save, and re-download so the elements are in the place they are supposed to be. When you download the PDF, check the file before uploading to KDP. You’ll see if anything has shifted and you can correct it. The KDP Print previewer will show you exactly how your book cover and interior will print. If you don’t like ANYTHING in the previewer, fix it because printing won’t change it.


There are videos on how to create a full cover wrap in Canva–and you might find them helpful–but the few I’ve watched leave out important steps like making sure your photo is 300 dpi. This is going to take some trial and error. I remember being soooo nervous waiting to see if the cover for Wherever He Goes was going to look good.

I think that’s all I have. I know it seems like a lot of information, but blogs and videos won’t take the place of practice. If you have any questions, leave me a comment. I’ll answer to the best of my ability. If you’re making covers with my tips, tweet me at @V_Rheault on Twitter. I want to see what you’re doing.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time!


Resources I’ve found helpful:

IngramSpark’s File Creation Guide

KDP Print’s template generator

IngramSpark’s template generator

Canva Book Cover Templates

Giving your novel a title

Out of anything publishing a book can throw at you, I find titling your novel the most important and the most nerve-wracking. Considering I have a book named On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton, there’s evidence that I have failed miserably. It sounds like an address for a hooker meetup. Of course, it being my very first novel I ever published, there’s a lot more wrong with it than just the title.

I think the wrong title can hurt a book, mainly through sales if your potential reader can’t lift the genre or form some kind of expectation from it.

Though the book sells okay, I don’t think the title of All of Nothing helps it any. People and search engines ask if I mean All or Nothing, which how the phrase is supposed to go. No one knows, or probably cares, that I named that book after a song from The Birthday Massacre that I listened to relentlessly while writing the book. It fits, kind of, but could the title have been a little more title-to-market? Absolutely.

Naming my small town wedding series could have driven me toward a bender, and by the time I settled on the names for the four books, I never wanted to see them again. That’s a dangerous attitude, because I’ll be marketing these books for the rest of my life. Not seeing them again isn’t an option.

Coincidentally, the other day I was listening to the Wish I’d Known Then Podcast with Jami Albright and Sara Rosett and they had guest Robin Cutler on for an interview. Robin’s been the director of the POD part of IngramSpark for a while, and they asked her what she feels is the biggest mistake indies make. She said their book title. With everything that goes into publishing a book, it surprised me a bit that she said that, but then, on the other hand, a title is pretty important, and maybe authors are stymied by it just as much as I am.

I’m sure many of you have come across a book’s title and wondered what in the heck was going on with that author when they named their book. Just for fun I pulled a couple of books from a book promotions Facebook group. I’m not invading anyone’s privacy as that group is open to the public and this is a promotion of sorts. But I scroll through that group every so often and it’s evident that the authors weren’t thinking about marketing, branding, or overall reader impressions when naming their book.

It’s too bad those titles don’t do a good job of representing what’s inside. Some of those covers are nice and the authors put a little time in, or at least put out the money for a premade. But if you happened upon any of those, would you know what you’d be getting? Especially those couple whose covers don’t hit the mark, either? The only one I hesitated including was Perfekt Match. Obviously that book is about some sort of magick, hence the spelling. But I don’t know what there is to be gained by making a play with the spelling like that. To me, it makes the word look wonky, and if that’s the way the author spells it in the book itself, I wouldn’t put up with it long.

Now that I’m doing a rebranding of sorts in 2021 with 7 new releases, I’m going to be a lot more careful when naming my books. The titles need to match genre, content, cover, and blurb. This goes along with what Suzy K Quinn says in her interview with Joanna Penn. She says while you write your book, or even before that as you plan it (genre, tropes, if it will be a series, etc) if you can look at your book as a whole package, marketing that book will be a lot easier after it’s published. I’ve heard a lot of authors say they didn’t have a plan for their book before writing it, only after did they worry about audience and then they struggle to find a place for it with categories, sub-genres, and genres. It’s tough. It’s like being at a party and winning the white elephant gift. What’s inside? And do you really want it?

Titles are a pain but FB groups such as the Indie Cover Project are great for asking for opinions. Sometimes you have to have a thick skin–sometimes there isn’t a lot of handholding in groups like that, but when I was feeling out a title for the book I’m working on right now, they were very helpful.

The book I’m writing is a standalone and the premise goes something like this:

To earn fifty percent of the company he helped build, Colt Jameson needs to find a husband for his boss’s daughter and is given a short list of acceptable candidates. He turns bitter when he realizes he’s not on the list. Elayna Carmichael is beautiful, frivolous, and an alcoholic. He has no intention of falling in love–even if they were childhood best friends.

Billionaire heiress Elayna Carmichael pretends to be a lush to anonymously volunteer at a women’s shelter. She’s been in love with Colt Jameson all her life. He’s a workaholic and she knows he would never loosen up to be with her.

When not one, but all of the candidates agree to marry Elayna, Colt will have to decide if his half of her father’s company means more to him than finding love and claiming her for himself.

I’m no good at writing blurbs–it takes me forever, but this is just a quick synopsis. Of course the book has more to it than just that–lots of backstory and damaged characters are my forte, but this will suffice. It’s not a funny book. I can’t write humor, and I’ll never try. So when coming up with a title, I was thinking something like The Husband List. I workshopped that, and the general consensus is that it sounds like a romcom.

The vector cover still popular these days and I would maybe go for that rather than real people. I would just expect to have to refresh the cover after a couple years if it falls out of style.

So possibly I could go for The Husband Contract. The title feels a little more weighty, not so funny and sweet. And of course, you want to look at what’s selling in the genre, so looking up Billionaire romance, this is the top ten right now:

It looks like we have some very serious men in suits–which looks to be exactly what I need for my serious/dark billionaire romance.

If you’re like me, you can play all day and as long as it’s clean and you have a guy in a suit (and maybe a city in the background for extra points) a cover won’t take long.

They give off a crisp look that I’ve admired on Willow Winters’ book covers.

I may not go with that with the title at all. I don’t want to mislead my readers and usually with this kind of title, the contract would be between the characters, not the female MC and other men. I suppose it would depend on how well I write my blurb.

I’m only 32,000 words into this, about a third of the way through, so I have plenty of time. But this rebranding is important. I feel like while the past four years haven’t been a waste or a mistake, I finally know what to do to start my writing career on the right track. I’m choosing this standalone to publish first because by the time it’s ready, a year will have gone by, and I need to dip my toes back into the publishing waters. Plus, I’ll put the link to my newsletter in the back and maybe I can get a few organic sign ups while I edit and format my series I’ll release later next year.

Anyway, I’ll keep experimenting and thinking and see what I come up with. A lot of times I’ll think of a concept and then end up publishing a completely different idea. It’s fun to play.

What is the hardest part for you? Title? Cover? Blurb? Let me know!

**Some photos were taken from the Canva Pro collection. Some were taken from DepositPhotos.com. If I like a stock photo found in Canva, I look for the version in Deposit Photos and download it with one of my photo packs I purchased through AppSumo around Christmas last year. I never use a photo that I haven’t paid for.

Fonts are either from Canva Pro or my own personal collection I have purchased through PIxelo or Mightydeals. I also find some free for commercial use fonts here.


Just a note about book covers and not believing everything you hear.

The amount of information out there is insane, right? You don’t know who to believe, what to believe, if anything is true, and I’m not talking about what’s on social media right now with regards to COVID, but with indie publishing. There are scammers out there, people who want to make a buck off of your inexperience. These people aren’t nice, and you’ll run into them time and time again joining FB groups and Twitter people tweeting their “services” such as they are.

But when you get up into the bigger indies, the ones who are making a bit of money and they turn to the non-fiction, or entrepreneurial side of things, you do expect them to know what they’re talking about.

I’ve mentioned Nick Stephenson on the blog before, incidentally when I was blogging about book covers not that long ago. Because I love all things book covers, when I got an email (yeah, I’m signed up to his newsletter) saying he could make a book cover in 10 minutes using BookBrush, I was intrigued.

I already know I won’t ever use BookBrush, I prefer Canva, and they’re cheaper. I know BookBrush is specifically created for authors and Canva is meant for anyone who needs to make a quick graphic design. I like Canva, know how it works, and I’ve loaded quite a few fonts in my kit over the past couple of years. I don’t think I’ll change anytime soon.

Anyway, so I settled in to watch it, and you can watch it, too.

I had a hard time with the video, and not only because it’s basically one big BookBrush commercial with a probable affiliate link included that he failed to mention was an affiliate link. I could be wrong, but why take the time to make a video and not include a link where he could make a bit of money if his watchers decided to try it out?

So, I watched it, and didn’t really like the cover he came up with at the end and here’s why:

  1. He advocated using Unsplash for photos, and anyone who does book covers knows that using free photos is a no-no. Especially with people in them. Websites like Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay do not collect model releases and these websites do not vet photos. There are things in these photos that are not for commercial use. I went to Unsplash and typed in tennis shoes. There were several photos of generic shoes, but there were also some photos that came up with Nike (the swoosh is a dead giveaway) and Adidas. To a newbie wanting to make a book cover about say, running or a personal journey or something, they might think a nice looking photo with a pair of Nike shoes would be okay because they found it on a free-for-commercial-use website. Do the same search on Deposit Photos and not one pair of Nikes shows up at all, or any logo for that matter.
  2. He chose Romance and that is a very nuanced genre. The couple he picked had all their clothes on, and in romance (read: reader) circles, that would indicate the book to be sweet and or clean. Heat levels are depicted by the amount of skin showing on a cover, and that’s something Nick didn’t mention in the video.
  3. He didn’t do a full wrap. I admit his way could be okay for a short story or a reader magnet that may not need the level of quality a book cover would need to promote sales. Reader magnets are supposed to bring signups to your newsletter though, and I wouldn’t imagine anyone signing up for a newsletter if the draw is going to be a short story with a crappy cover. So while you may not want to fork over $100.00 for a premade for a short story or novella that won’t go on sale, eventually your newsletter subscribers are going to be your bread and butter, and you need to treat your fans with the respect they deserve.
  4. Not all fonts are free for commercial use. I don’t know if the font he picked is included in BookBrush or if it’s free for commercial use. I looked at the site I commonly go to for free for commercial use stuff, and it is featured there.

Not all the fonts on that website are for commercial use. Only the fonts with the green dollar tag are. The other problem I had with the font is that it’s not very romancy. Yes, I get he was trying to make a point in that he could make an ebook cover in 10 minutes, and he did. But font is a big deal when it comes to covers and this one, even though it’s free, just doesn’t work.

I don’t mean to pick on him, and I did make a comment on his YouTube video, so don’t think I’m ragging on him behind his back. My comment isn’t as long as what I wrote out for you here, but enough that maybe I did slap him down a little bit. I don’t mind calling out people who aren’t being entirely on the up and up. Passing out bad information is bad, no matter who is doing or how cute his accent is. I know us American ladies are a sucker for a cute accent, but don’t let him talk you into using free photos. It’s just bad news.

Here’s my version of a sweet wedding book cover:

Stock photo taken from Deposit Photos. Title font, Calgary. Author font, Bodoni FLF Cover created in Canva

And it’s easy to see if it will make a good cover by plugging it into the 3d cover mock up creator by Derek Murphy:

With the photo I chose and the title, maybe it’s gearing more toward Women’s Fiction than sweet Contemporary Romance, but it just proves my point: you need to take a bit of time to think about your cover and put some effort into choosing the stock photo, font, and overall design.

I know he was trying to prove his own point: that using BookBrush is an easy tool and you don’t have to pay out hundreds of dollars for a simple cover by a designer. And that’s true, kind of. Someone asked in one of my FB groups what is the best software to make a book cover with, and lots of people chimed in with Photoshop, Canva, Affinity Photo, GIMP, the usual suspects. I told him I use a mixture of Canva and GIMP but I said it doesn’t matter what software you use. If you haven’t developed and eye for what looks good, you’ll always make crap.

If the shoe fits, don’t step in it.

Until next time!


Book Covers. Yep, again, because I like talking about them. :)

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you guys know I love talking about book covers. I especially love talking about scammers trying to rip you off by slapping a pretty font over a free photo from PIxabay and charging you $50.00 for something you can do yourself in Canva for free. I recently called out a “designer” for doing exactly that, and the icing on the cake was another member of the FB group posted her cover with the same exact photo and said she, too, had been taken for a ride. The universe was on my side that day! I would post a screenshot, but the original poster took it down a couple minutes after. Hopefully in embarrassment with her tail tucked between her legs!

I know I can’t save the world, and if I tried, I wouldn’t have enough time to write. I do like talking about covers though and what draws readers to buy our books. I’m watching a replay of a webinar with Nick Stephenson, and like any webinar talking about sales, he goes briefly goes over a book cover case study with one of his own books.

Taken from Nick’s free webinar

What he said is that the first cover wasn’t doing a good job. So they tried book cover number two, and eventually number three. Number three had the highest click-through and he explained in the next slide why:

Taken from Nick’s free webinar

Apparently, the red title that is associated with thrillers helped, along with the placing the elements that draw the eyes toward the center of the book. I like the first cover though, and I wonder how it would have done had he just changed the butter yellow font color to the dark red that works with thrillers. I think the guy running through the tunnel draws the eye to the center of the book just as well as the silhouette on the third cover. What do you think?

But it just goes to show that even a perfectly good cover may not be doing its job.

If you want to learn more about what Nick is doing, you can check his website here. And if you want to watch any of his YouTube videos, you can check out his channel here.

Anyway, in the FB group I’m in, there was a thread about cover pet peeves, and I thought it was a silly thread because this is something that authors seem to forget. Your book’s cover isn’t for you.

Just like most people agree that reviews aren’t for the author, they’re for readers finding their next book, covers, also, are only for readers. If you get too precious about your cover, or you’re too attached, or you let pride stand in the way of sales, what are you trying to prove? And to who?

names protected to hide the . . .

Listen, if I have to find a picture of a pig and a chicken falling in love to sell my book, then that’s what I’ll put on my cover. I didn’t write my book so it would sink to the bottom of the charts because I cared more about my likes than what will sell my book.

Stock photo provided by Canva. Template provided by Canva.

Genres have cover expectations, and unless you have a solid audience already in place, you need a cover that will sell books. I’m not sure why authors have such a hard time understanding this. I know some of it is cash. Especially if you pay out and you can’t afford to swap. I mean, I’ve heard of that happening, and it’s too bad. But you’re not going to make anything off a book that has a cover on it that isn’t appealing to readers.

Authors can make fun of man-chest covers, or the boring couple with the script font on the front, or all the thriller covers that look the same (girl in red jacket running away from the camera in the fog), or all the Urban Fantasy with the tough girl holding a fireball, but in doing so it just closes their minds to the possibility that being the same as other books might not be a bad thing. And why make things harder than they need to be? Discoverability is difficult!

That thread just really boggled my mind like so many indie decisions do, I guess.

I want my books to sell. That means genre specific tropes, cover to market, good blurb, correct categories and keywords, a nice look inside without typos.

Readers have a lot of choices these days, over 8 million to be exact. Why purposely give them a reason to keep scrolling?

Okay, I think I’m done musing and I’m going to bed. One day I’ll probably get kicked out of all my Facebook groups, but I just can’t help it. I just shake my head at the authors who want to do it their way then end up crying because they don’t sell books.

Can you ever really have your cake and eat it too?

Let me know, because I don’t care enough to try.

Man chest? Yes please. 🙂 Stock photo provided by Canva. Font provided by Canva. Cover design by yours truly.

Things I’ll be working on this weekend, and how I did something small for the reading community. #allinthistogether

Besides trying to get the last of my thoughts on the 2020 predictions from Written Word Media into this blog while they are still relevant, I’ll be working on a few other things.

I’m done editing the Tower City Romance Trilogy. I lost the Vellum files for the single books, but I did still have the boxed set file. That means I could extract the formatted books from the boxed set and turn them back into single books. I didn’t have to read through them again, but I’m glad I did. I found typos, lots of telling, some passive voice, and even some slight formatting errors. I think my books sound better, and they’ll definitely look better.

I know we’re not supposed to read reviews, but one in particular stuck out at me on Goodreads.

She said I ended my books too quickly. I felt that in book three, and to fix that, I’m going to write an extended Epilogue that will put a pretty bow on top of the trilogy.

The plan right now is to jump about a year and a half into their future and show the reader what happened to everyone.

Epilogues aren’t Band-aids, and I don’t have plot holes or loose ends (I would have fixed them in the editing if I had) but as with couples who were about to get married and have babies, this will be a nice closure. I’m not sure if I’ll just add that to the boxed set to encourage KU read-through, or tack it on to the end of book three.

I’ll write it first then decide. If things go to plan, I should be able to write 8-10k words at my work over the weekend, then type it out on Monday.


The next thing I want to do is submit a new cover for The Years Between Us. I think the cover is holding the book back. There are steamy scenes, and the cover doesn’t portray the heat level. So, I’m going from this:

The Years Between Us Paperback Cover

to possibly this:

THE YEARS BETWEEN US

This isn’t set in stone yet, and it’s not a cover reveal. (I don’t bother with those.)

I darkened the bottom (that gradient is becoming a trademark I don’t want and something I need to stop doing for later books) because she has a garter on and a pretty little butt-cheek is hanging out, and I didn’t want it to show. I plan to pay for ads to these books and Amazon doesn’t allow for too much spicy. I found a lovely couple before this one, but he was holding a glass of champagne, and booze in AMS ads is a no-go. I didn’t want to change the cover then discover my ads wouldn’t be approved.

I like that their faces are in shadow–it’s difficult finding a stock photo that has an older man and a younger woman that does not depict and old man in a nursing home and his nurse. You do with what you can when you’re not willing to pay.

I may experiment with the placement of the title. Some people aren’t fans of words over the models’ faces.

Let me know what you think of the new one. My main concern it’s too much like All of Nothing. My skills are limited and it’s beginning to show. I love doing my own covers though, so after I get all these little odds and ends wrapped up that I started because of COVID-19, I’ll start teaching myself how to do more with covers while I focus on my first person projects.


How is everyone doing lately? Some states are opening up. I know I won’t be jumping in line to go to a restaurant any time soon. I’ve been happy as a clam staying at home working on my stuff. I hope you’re hanging in there!

As a side note, I gave away two Kindle Fires to two lucky winners of Brenda Novak’s readers group on Facebook. Some of their stories break my heart, and I wish I could have given more.

I encourage you, if you have Kindles or reading devices to spare, to look up Brenda’s group. It’s heartbreaking to me that people can’t afford a $50 tablet, but there really are so many who can’t. They appreciate anything you can give them so much. When I offered my two new Kindles, I received over 1,000 posts of interest. It was very difficult to decide who to give them to. I hope I was able to to turn two lives around; I wish it could be more.

I love this writing/reading community I’m part of and always look for ways to pay it forward.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Chat soon!


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Free for Commercial Use*

I had an interesting exchange with someone in one of my Facebook writing groups this morning.

She was asking about a website where she could make graphics for her book for Instagram. We like the pretty graphics. I like making them though I don’t post them anywhere very often.

Anyway, she didn’t like using Canva because the learning curve was too steep. She asked for other suggestions, and she always had an excuse why she didn’t want to try other design programs. I told her to try BookBrush, since I’ve heard good things about that, but I told her, she needs to make sure the photos she’s using are for commercial use. I read a discussion about BookBrush in one of my design groups on Facebook and they said BookBrush’s terms of service won’t cover you if you use a photo that’s not available for commercial use. Canva probably won’t either–not everyone using the software is going to be trying to sell books. Some people do use the photos and fonts for personal use, such as wedding invitations, and you just have to be careful. We’re part of the writing community, so naturally we think everyone is using everything for book marketing.

This aggravated her, and she said that she just wanted to make some graphics for Instagram. Simple. Easy-peasy.

If you’ve been in the game for any amount of time, we know that it’s never that easy. It’s intimidating and scary because using something that you don’t have the right to use can be very very costly. I wasn’t telling her to be careful to give her a hard time; I only wanted warn her that using a stock photo for book marketing is considered using it for commercial use.

She said she’d hire someone.

That’s fine, but in this day and age of scammers, hiring someone doesn’t always take care of the risk.

Finally I realized the problem: she didn’t want to learn a software. Canva is simple, but she didn’t want to bother. She turned down others’ suggestions and BookBrush, as well, because she simply didn’t want to take the time. That’s a whole different ballgame–I mean, how do you expect to get anywhere if you’re not willing to take the time to learn? When you’re an indie author, you’re suddenly a marketer, graphic designer, maybe a book formatter, and editor. It’s a lot to take in, and if you’re in it for the long haul, some of those things are unavoidable.

But anyway, what can you do to safeguard your business?

  1. Make sure the photos are for commercial use. 
    This doesn’t mean you can’t use photos from Pixabay or Pexels or Unsplash. Check the photographer’s guidelines and attribution requirements. I use photos from Pixabay, but never anything with people in them. The free sites don’t secure model releases.
    More often than not though, I buy my photos from Deposit Photos. Right now you can buy 100 for 39 dollars going through AppSumo. They don’t expire, and you know you’re safe using a photo from there. Click here for the deal. If you don’t have a Deposit Photo account, you’ll need to create one to redeem the deal. (The link is David Gaughran’s affiliate link. I used that because he was the one who posted it on Facebook where I first found out about it. If you don’t want to use it, Google for the deal and find a separate link for the promo.) I’ve redeemed a couple of these AppSumo deals and now I have 300 downloads that will never expire.
  2. This goes for fonts, too.
    It doesn’t matter if you Google free for commercial use fonts, or if a font is free for downloading. You still have to do your due diligence and make sure the fonts you use, especially on your book covers, are available for commercial use. There are a lot of free for commercial use sites out there, but artists who want their fonts to be used for personal use only also list their fonts on these sites. InkyDeals and Dealjumbo have font bundles that are inexpensive and you can use the fonts for more than one project (although always make sure of the extended license before buying). Bookmark these sites because they give you lots of good deals around the holidays, too.
  3. Be careful if you hire someone on Fiverr. 
    If you hire someone on Fiverr, make sure you know where they purchased the photos and fonts. It never hurts have the licenses for your records so if you are ever approached you can defend yourself. I’ve heard lots of stories about artists stealing art or using photos that aren’t available for commercial use. When you hire someone, you are taking the responsibility that they are on the up-and-up. After all, it’s your name on the book, not theirs.
  4. This goes for hiring anyone, anywhere.
    So many premade book cover websites offer a free photo with font slapped on there for the title and author name. Anyone can start a “business” doing that, and even if they have some skill with Photoshop, that doesn’t mean they have a legitimate business. Always cover your butt and make sure you know where the photos, elements, and fonts came from.
  5. Offer attribution even if the photographer or artist says it’s not necessary. 
    I always put the photographer’s id and photo id in the copyright page of all my

    Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 12.02.59 PM

    It’s easy to offer attribution in your front matter. It’s professional, and not to mention, kind. 

    books. I credit Deposit Photo as the source, and credit Canva as the website where I made the cover in the first place. It’s the polite thing to do. In the acknowledgments always credit anyone else who has helped you. I listened to a podcast by the SPA Girls and they interviewed Rebekah Haskell, and she said it was common for authors not to offer attribution to their cover designer because they wanted to keep the designer for themselves so they didn’t get too busy. That sucks, and it’s selfish. This is a professional business. Act professionally. (If you want to listen to the podcast, Rebekah offers good info about book cover design click here.) Do you see what I did there? Offer attribution.

In the end, it’s not hard to safeguard your business. It might take a little money (buying stock photos isn’t always cheap and I think that’s why free photos offer such an allure) but I would rather spend for a pack of stock photos on Deposit Photo, or buy credits on CanStock Photo and cover my butt instead of having trouble down the road because I used something that wasn’t available for commercial use.

I don’t know what the woman I was speaking with today will do. I feel bad that it seemed like I was telling her information that scared her, but not knowing what you don’t know can be dangerous in this business. We all make mistakes, and there’s a chance that nothing will come out of it if you happen to use a free photo with a person on it that doesn’t have a model release, but why take the chance? Pixabay won’t cover you if a photographer goes after you for damages. Especially, if by chance, your book does really well.

I recommend Facebook groups like the Indie Cover Project and Book Cover Design Marketplace. The admins and moderators don’t let fishy people post, and they seem to know what’s/who’s legit and what/who is not.

Canva and BookBrush are only machines–if you use them without knowing, you, the operator, will definitely be held accountable.

Take care, and stay safe!


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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part four: Covers

I hope you all had a lovely holiday if you celebrated! I’m currently snowed in, and I’ve been working on some book-related stuff. I apologize for not posting last week, but let’s pick up where we left off . . .

The next installment in the Written Word Media survey looks at book covers. To recap, they surveyed indie authors to see how much time they spend writing, and how much they spend on products and services such as editing and marketing.

According to the survey, as you can see by the graphic, emerging authors do both almost equally–they design their own covers and use a professional designer. The 60kers and the 100kers use a professional cover designer way more than they design their own.

Marketing-Is-Hard-book covers 1

graphic taken by survey linked above

The article says the leap from emerging authors to 60kers is because emerging authors realize that without a professional cover, they aren’t going to sell books.

Of course, that’s true, and I’m not disputing it at all. But I have another explanation to offer. I’m not saying their conclusion is wrong. Emerging authors, after a bad book launch, probably do realize that their covers don’t cut it. But when you are an emerging author, it’s hard to know where to go for help. Quite possibly, emerging authors do their own covers because it’s quicker, easier, and they don’t have to worry about whom to trust. Indie publishing is a jungle. When an emerging author spends a couple years networking, they make friends, are put in touch with industry professionals, and can form relationships with people who know what they’re doing.

Especially with book covers, it’s imperative you find someone who knows where to find stock photos, and what fonts are okay to use and why they’re safe. There are so many people getting into the business who shouldn’t. They use free pictures from free sites like Pixabay or Unsplash and that is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. I still do my own covers rather than trust anyone else. Some people are idiots, and I’m not paying for their stupidity or mine for hiring them.

I think another reason emerging authors do their own covers is because they like to be 100% in control. It feels good to publish a book you did cover to cover. Espeically if you can design a decent cover that earns you compliments. Granted, the emerging authors who can make genre-appropriate covers are few, but no one is saying they still can’t be proud. It’s a learning process.

What the survey does say though, is publishing a book with a bad cover will set you back, and you’ll end up redoing it at some point anyway. (Which is a good reason, in my opinion, not to pay for a high-priced cover. You may want to refresh after a couple of years.)

Of course, the 60kers and 100kers don’t have time to do their own covers. These guys are writing, and they probably don’t have interest in cover design beyond that it looks good and will sell their books. I would also hazard a guess that by the time you have twenty books out, you’ve developed a relationship with someone, or at least found a premade site that sells decent work.

The survey then goes into the cost of book covers. As you can see by the graph, 100-249.00 is the most popular price range for all three types of authors. $100.00 for a cover is at the lower end of the scale for something that needs lots of manipulation, and at that price, it may not include a full wrap for a paperback.

Cost-of-Covers-2

graph taken from survey linked above

The authors paying 0-49.00 might only be having the e-book cover made. Most, if not all, designers charge extra for the spine and back cover if you’re also publishing a paperback.

The genre you write in will also determine the cost. A fancy cover for an epic fantasy or a tricked-out cover for an urban fantasy or paranormal will cost more than a romance cover. There are simply more elements needed to have a girl wearing a plaid skirt holding a fireball in front of a haunted high school for an urban fantasy academy novel than for a couple kissing in field for a plain contemporary romance novel. That’s just the way it is. If you write a genre that includes any kind of magic, you’ll be looking at having a cover made (providing you have zero photo manipulation skills). You need to blend in with the other books in your genre and finding a stock photo that contains all the elements you need is probably slim to none. Especially if you’re writing in a series.

It would be to your advantage to look for a cover designer while you are writing your book if you’re writing in one of those genres. Collect covers you like for a frame of reference. Create a logline (also called a six second elevator pitch) so your designer knows what your book is about and then go ahead and start looking. Join book cover groups on Facebook and ask for recommendations. Sometimes putting your budget out there will help so you don’t fall in love with a designer’s work you can’t afford. Find out where they buy their photos of models. If any of them mention a free site, pass them by. Your fee should include the cost of a photo. Cover designers charging you for a free photo is nothing but a scam and it’s dangerous too.

What can you do if you are absolutely stuck making your own cover?

  1. Look at what makes a good cover in your genre. It’s not only the photo, though that’s a good part of it. Its font placement. Where the author name is on the cover. If there’s a tagline and where that is.
  2. What are the elements in your genre? Sci-fi needs spaceships. Fantasy–dragons. Chris Fox calls these symbols. What symbols do your readers look for in your genre? Look at what is selling on the top 100 in that genre on Amazon. List the elements they all have. Yours will need them too. This isn’t the time to be different or to “stand out.” Sorry.
  3. Realize you may be able to offer only an ebook for the short-term. Learning how to do a full cover wrap isn’t as easy as an ebook cover. You need spine calculations based on how thick your formatted manuscript is, and what you want for the back cover. Blurb? Author photo? Imprint logo? It’s best to give yourself plenty of time to practice and itching to press publish when your book is done being edited isn’t the time to teach yourself.
  4. Search stock photo sites to see what’s out there. My tips are for the person who has little to no experience with Photoshop or GIMP. The easiest way to do a cover is to find a photo that you can use without a lot of manipulation. My go-to sites are depositphotos.com and canstockphoto.com.
  5. Watch tutorials. There are a ton of tutorials out there for both Photoshop and GIMP. I have GIMP (which is a free download) on my laptop and there are tutorials out there ranging from isolating a color in a black and white photo to gradients to font manipulation. People are generous with their time–take advantage.

I’ve been told, and have seen other people be told, that if they can’t afford a professional cover, they shouldn’t bother publishing. That’s not particularly helpful, but you do have to consider what your goals are. Do you want to make covers for all your books going forward? Then you’re going to have to learn how. If you’re writing in a genre that requires fancy covers, you’ll be creating a cover to squeak by until you can afford something better.

I do everything myself, and over three years I’d like to think I’ve developed a bit of an eye. It takes a long time, and practice. Instead of watching another show on Netflix, open Canva, put on some music, and practice. Canva isn’t just a software for design, they also offer “classes” that will teach you the elements of a good cover.

I do covers in my spare time. I practice font placement, choosing a cover-worthy photo, that kind of thing. I mess around with concepts for my friends. Even if they don’t turn out that great, practice is never a waste of time. You never know what new trick you’ll pick up. I scroll through stock photos and favorite photos that have potential for future covers. Mine or someone else’s.

Cover design is a career on its own, and you can spend as much time messing around with font as you do writing and editing.

But the point is, if you put enough time into it, you can make a passable cover yourself, if the genre you write in supports it. Women’s fiction, romance. Some mystery thrillers.

If you put out a homemade cover that doesn’t meet reader expectations, or doesn’t fit in with other books, realize that’s going to effect your sales.


Here are a few covers I’ve done, both for myself and others using Canva.com. I pay for a pro membership, and if you plan on doing a lot of covers or using it for graphics for marketing materials, it’s worth the fee. They add new features all the time.

I did these for the first two of my quartet. I haven’t done the third or fourth ones yet:

When you do a series, it’s important they look like they belong together. And before I ordered the proofs, I put the covers on top of another to make sure the placement of all the elements are the same. I might do a blog post explaining how I did them.

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Daisy Parker isn’t real. I was fooling around one night and came up with it. The photo is as-is and made in Canva.

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Stealing Home is one of my favorites. I learned how to do shadows watching a webinar hosted by James Blatch from Mark Dawson’s self-publishing podcast who was chatting with Stuart Bache, a professional cover designer. They were doing a kind of infomerical for a course, and you can check out the course here. I’d never done a thriller before, but I think it turned out rather nice, and when David did a book signing at a Barnes and Noble in Savannah, GA, everyone was surprised it wasn’t professionally done. (This book is real and you can buy it on Amazon or borrow it in KU.)

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Do You Trust Me took a little work as this photograph was in color and I isolated the red blindfold in GIMP. The font needs work, but I was playing one night and came up with this in about an hour.

So far I haven’t bothered to open a premade business, or sell covers on the side. I help out my friends when I can, and I like to play when I don’t feel like writing or there’s nothing going on online (I’m not a big TV-watcher). I know what my limitations are, and when anyone asks me for help, I make sure they know it, too.

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I was playing and did this concept for a friend. While she went in a different direction, I think this is a classy cover for a women’s fiction piece. (This is a real book; you can buy it on Amazon and it’s available in KU.)

The point is, like learning craft, if you want to make your own covers to save money, keep control, whatever, you need to practice.

I did a video I posted to YouTube showing you how to use Canva template elements to start you off with creating your own ebook cover. I hope it helps!


 

Next up, the survey goes into every author’s favorite topic–MARKETING! See you then!


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Kindle Create: for Kindle and Paperbacks for KDP

kindle create for blog 1Formatting for an ereader and paperback grows easier and easier all the time with the tools that are continually created for indie authors. These days it’s easier than ever to pay someone for their time if they have Vellum, a formatting software available on Mac computers.

If you don’t have the connections or the cash to pay someone to do it for you, or you want to remain in control (it’s hard and maybe costly to approach your formatter every time you want to make a change your to your book; for instance if you want to update your back matter, or you swapped out your cover and need to change the attribution to the photographer and add a new photo id) Draft2Digital offers a free formatting on their website that also formats your book for paperback and ereader. Draft2Digital creates a .mobi file and an epub you can download so you can go wide with your files if you like.

But if you are only going to publish on Amazon, there is another software you can try. Kindle Create offers both Kindle and paperback formatting, and both files are sent directly to your KDP dashboard enabling you to publish quickly and easily.

There are drawbacks to the software however: the files can only be used on Amazon. Since the finished files are sent directly to your KDP dashboard, they are not “yours.” When you format with D2D, you download the files they generate for you, and you can use them wherever you please. With Kindle Create, that is not the case. Also if you make ANY changes to your document, those changes are stuck inside the software, but that might not matter to you if you’re only uploading changes to publish on Kindle. It is something to keep in mind, though.

How do you get started?

Download the Kindle Create software. Download how you would normally download new software. Sometimes that means finding the file in your Downloads and clicking on it to start the install process if it doesn’t install automatically. Accept terms and conditions. The install process only takes a few moments.

Then it will ask if you want to resume an existing project or start a new one,  but first you need to enable Early Access so you can create paperbacks with the software.

Click on Help in the upper left hand corner, then Settings. Check Enable Beta Features.

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Then you can import your Word File. It only takes a moment.

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Click Continue when you’re done.

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Your Word file for your book should have your Title Page, your Copyright Page, Dedication, Acknowledgements, and any back matter you want. The only thing Kindle Create will generate for you is the Table of Contents.  Click on Insert in the upper left hand corner and it will look like this:

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When you upload your file, what you see is very generic, and it’s up to you to design your manuscript how you want it to look. This is the first page of The Years Between Us.

Choose a Theme by clicking on the THEME in the upper right hand corner. Unfortunately, there are not many to choose from, but actually, there are not many to choose from when you format in Vellum, either, so don’t feel like you’re missing out if you use Kindle Create.

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The rest is a bit time consuming as you have to go page by page and add the things you want. For example, changing one scene break does not change them all:

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So you may just want to stick with asterisks when you format, unless you are formatting something a little on the shorter side.

The same is true for the chapter start drop caps. You need to put your cursor at the beginning of every paragraph and then choose drop cap on the right under Formatting.

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Kindle Create will nudge you to save every so often, and it’s in your best interest, in any case. It also has a handy UNDO feature in case you mess up somehow.

Like any software, there’s a small learning curve, but it didn’t take me long to play around with it and begin formatting my manuscript how I want it to look.

Once you’re all done, there’s a Preview feature where you can take a look at your book page by page. This is a good idea while you’re still in the software and not in the online previewer on your KDP Dashboard.

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Go through your book page by page. Make sure you didn’t miss any scene breaks, or anything else you’re going to want to change. Flipping through it will take some time, but remember that poor formatting can pull a reader from your story, so you want it to look its best.


Unfortunately, I cannot take you further than this. Pressing Publish will move the files to my KDP Dashboard, and The Years Between Us is already published. But KDP has several tutorials you can watch to see how the process is done. They have a fabulous help section, and you can find anything else out that you’ll need to know.

Look at a typed tutorial here.

Here is a tutorial by KDP on YouTube about Kindle Create. 

Here is another blog post by Just Publishing Advice on their blog. How To Use The Amazon Kindle Create App For Better Ebooks

There are a couple other tutorials that look okay to watch on YouTube, if you search Kindle Create tutorials. The best thing you can do though, is experiment, use the undo button if you do something you don’t like, and save often.

After you publish your files to your dashboard, they will give you options for your paperback such as trim size, and if you want cream or white paper. Your choices will determine the template size for your cover. And you can use the Kindle Cover Creator if you want, to generate a cover for both your Kindle book and paperback, too.

KDP is your one stop shop to formatting, cover creation, and publishing your book!

Have fun!


I wasn’t aware that Kindle Create generated a paperback file until I saw that Daniel Mattia was able to offer a paperback of his book, In Crows’ Claws. We went through some issues he had using Kindle Create in my interview with him a while back. So a big thank you to Daniel and his tips!

Check out his amazing work linked above, and he’s also the creator of an Indie book database called Indie book DB. Check out that site for your next awesome read!


There is a lot that goes into publishing a book, and I hope this can be a starting point if you are new and have no idea where to begin. If you have any questions drop them below, or my DMs on Twitter are open, though it can take me a day or two to get back to you–especially if I have to work that day. Thanks for reading, and good luck to you!


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All of Nothing’s make over.

I first blogged about All of Nothing getting a face lift last week, or was it the week before? I’m not sure, but you can look here, if you’d like to read the initial post. I said I was going to go over what I’m going to do to breathe a little life into the book.

The first thing I did is redo the cover. It went from this:

All of Nothing Paperback Cover

To this:

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I would say that’s an improvement. I don’t have the proof yet, and I suppose writing a blog post about the cover without the proof seems to be a bit too forward thinking, but that’s okay. I can post it when I get it. I know the title doesn’t seem to be centered, but uploading it into KDP Print proved to be one over-correction after another. The title may very well be too much to the left, but what’s what the proof is for.

At any rate, covers can go through a lot of revisions and just all around bad ideas before an epiphany is realized and you think of what you wanted to do all along, or you stumble upon the perfect couple at 2am when you shouldn’t have been awake anyway.

The first cover I came up with looked like this:

all of nothing second cover FULL TITLE

No one liked it. I put it on the Indie Book Cover FB group for feedback and while no one had anything BAD to say, no one liked it, either, and everyone agreed to take out A NOVEL at the bottom. I think I came up with a nice tagline to put in its place.

It left me a bit stymied because it has a grittier feel than what I had before, and gritty and kind of mean, more alpha, bad boy, asshole was what I was going for.

But I’m glad I posted it and listened to the feedback because one poster said she bought a premade using the same guy. She even gave me the name of the site. It’s a closed group, so out of respect I won’t post the cover, but I’ll give you the website and you can take a peek yourself if you want to see the cover she bought.

I played around with it some, putting into play some of the advice I received from the group; doing something different with the tint, but overall, I guess I felt it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do after all, I gave up for a little while.

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That wasn’t even all that bad . . . but that’s okay. Trying out new things until you stumble upon something else that could be better is part of the creative process.

Going through DepositPhotos one day I came across this couple:

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A lot of what goes through my head when I look at photos is, what is the steam level? That was one of the things I was aiming to up on this cover: fully clothed models weren’t depicting what my books were about. Where can I put my the title? Where can I put my name? With my limited skills, what can I do to it to make it stand out? This is important because my skills are LIMITED. I can only do so much in GIMP, and I need to know if the picture is decent as is, and if it’s not, what needs to change? A cluttered background? Can I get rid of that zooming in? The color? How real are the models. Do they look too model-y, or too human? A nice medium is what I shoot for. I probably looked at this couple while looking for others and I passed them by. Until almost a fully-formed cover with these two popped into my head, and I was able to create almost a perfect cover in half a hour.

I used what little skills I have in GIMP to fade the top and the bottom and using a few tips I learned from my friend Aila’s blog post about Canva, I was able to make the rest there.

Next week I’ll take you through how I rewrote the blurb and my process for doing it!

Plus, on Monday, I’m doing an author interview with my friend, Tom, whom I met at the Sell More Books Show Summit! His debut book will be live Monday, and I’m so happy to be part of his launch! Look for an awesome interview with him, and a $25 Amazon ecard giveaway, too!

Author Interview with tom willoughby


Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re enjoying your week! I haven’t made much progress on my 3rd book in my series, as these days off this week just have flown by (plus the weather is gorgeous and I’ve been spending time outside!) but I still plan to have it done by the weekend. 12-15,000 words left. We will see! Wish me luck. 🙂

thank you for your patince