Adventures with CreateSpace

Publishing your own books isn’t easy. After you write it and pay to have it edited, or self-edit the best you can, you still have to format the insides, write front and back matter, write the blurb, and design the cover. And after you’ve managed to do that, you still have to submit it, and if you’ve got it wrong–well.

rawr

It’s enough to make you pull your hair out. I’ve been working on Summer Secrets since last August. I’m not kidding. It’s when I opened the file and started with that first sentence. It feels like forever, though some writer friends kindly remind me that they’ve been writing their current WIPs for years. I feel for them, I really do, because there’s nothing I want more than to push these books into the world and never look back.

But alas, I cannot because CreateSpace, to borrow the words of my friend Brickley, is a temperamental hag, and what I’m doing isn’t good enough for her.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing. It’s a great thing because of course I want to publish my best work, and I want it to look its best, too. But I’m beginning to lose hope that I’ll ever be able to publish a book without some issues. Well, this is only my second try, and some things have changed since I published 1700 last year, so I should cut myself some slack. Publishing will always be a learning curve, and yep, I’m learning.

First off is my font. CreateSpace didn’t like the font I laboriously searched for. It’s not embeddable. That doesn’t mean I can’t use it (always look for a site that says their fonts are free for commercial use or pay because my first choice was $35.00, and let’s face it, publishing a book costs enough as it is), but CreateSpace gave me warnings up the wahoo. Interestingly enough, in the email I received saying my cover had been rejected, they mentioned my interior file was fine. The email and the interior viewer said two different things, so the only thing I can do is wait for the proof.

My cover was rejected?!

confused cat

You caught that, huh? Yeah, let me tell you it was a surprise. I knew I had the measurements for the page set up just right. I triple-checked the numbers. The only thing I could think of when they said I didn’t leave room for bleed, (though I know I did because my measurements were spot-on with what they said they needed) was that my font on the cover was too close to the edges. I can’t show you because I’m not revealing my cover yet, but I fixed it, lowering my font size and bringing in the margins on the blurb. I did the same thing to my title and my name. I’m hoping this fixes it. If it doesn’t, I’m going to have to call.

No one said publishing was boring!

excited cat

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Until next time!

Kindle Cover

That’s great, you say, but paperbacks don’t sell, the cover looks too complicated, and I don’t want to do that right now; I would just prefer to publish on Kindle and be done with it. What do I need for a cover then?

If you’re not interested in doing CreateSpace, then you’ll need to do the cover, yes, and it will just be the front, or rather, the picture customers will see on Amazon. You’ll still need to write the blurb for the product information, but you won’t have to worry about it being put on the back of a paperback.

Open a Word document, make a text box of your chosen trim size, being 5×8, 6×9, whatever. I advise you to do it this way in case you decide down the road to offer a paperback after all, then all you will need to add is the spine and back cover and adjust the page layout (remember all that math . . . yeah . . . ).

When you’re done, saving it in a photo format can be a bit tricky, however, if you’re doing it in Word because there’s no option to save as a jpeg, jpg, or a tiff file, the only files being accepted by Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). They don’t take a PDF like CS does.

What I did when I made the cover for Under Lock and Key, was after I made the cover, I used the Snipping Tool and “snipped it” and saved it as a jpeg. After I did that, I ran it through GIMP and made sure it was 300 dpi. Always make sure your images are 300 dpi or dots per inch, so your picture is clear online.

Cover basics are the same for Kindle: you want your cover to look pleasing, your name and title clear as a small thumbprint for a potential reader to see.

I made a quick one for my e-reader story using a photo I here found so I didn’t have to pay money for a blog post.

2017-03-28

This is a screen shot of the cover I made in Word. There is a lot wrong with it. The title isn’t legible that small in that font, and my name is too dark to be seen. But I’ll leave it this way since this is only an example. Plus the bottom of the Y is cut off (it seems like I like doing that) so you would want to adjust that text box. 😛

Now use the Snipping Tool: 2017-03-28 (2)

And be as precise as you can. If you get some of the white in there, you can crop it out with GIMP when you check it for dpi:

2017-03-28 (3)

Save it as a JPEG file in the Save As Type:

2017-03-28 (4)

Right now it’s going to save as a PNG, so you need to change it to JPEG using the down arrow on the right:

2017-03-28 (5)

That will save it in the file you need. Now you can upload it into GIMP and crop it if you need to, if you accidently snipped some white, and make sure it’s 300 dpi. That’s all you need to do for a cover for your Kindle:

Make it in Word
Snip It
Save it as a JPEG
Run it through GIMP.
Export it under the Save AS so the change in dpi sticks

My picture was only 72 dpi, so I changed it to 300. I exported it to save the changes and this is it:

gimp picture

And that’s all you need. It’s a lot less involved than doing a book cover, and there are a lot of authors who only offer an e-reader option for this reason. Under Lock and Key is a short story, so I didn’t do a paperback for it. But I like paperbacks, and I will probably always offer them to my readers if I can. It might be an expense because I do purchase my own ISBN numbers, but it’s a personal choice.

You can make your cover as simple or as involved as you want. You can buy a template, hire an artist, whatever you choose to do.

When you offer both paperback and Kindle, the thumbnail that shows up is for your Kindle. It’s easy to make a new cover, for the Kindle, but if you’re going to do that you have to decide if you’re going to change the cover in CreateSpace. You don’t to make your readers angry thinking they’re going to get your new cover but they get a completely different one in paperback because you didn’t change it in CreateSpace. I like to keep all my things the same. When I redid the cover for 1700, I changed both. I think it’s courteous that way. I don’t want my readers not to trust me for any reason.

I think that’s it for Kindle Covers. I only need to tell you how to format your Kindle file, and that’s up next!

Until next time!

CreateSpace Recap

I started this publishing series eight months ago. Sorry about that. But in that time I’ve published a book (two novellas together), wrote 150,000 more words (in the form of 6 novellas that will be published together), and fixed 1700’s typos inside and the cover. I have also started fixing my 2015 NaNo project just so I can say it’s done and move on.

When I started this series, it was my intention to tell you how to publish a quality paperback cheaply and easily.  I think in this recap you’ll see I did that. Even now, I am so tired of hearing that you need to pay for this, pay for that, to publish a quality book.

Indie publishing went from, “It’s not a real way to publish” to “It is a real way if you pay for everything.” No one can afford to pay for the ISBN number, the editing, the formatting, the file conversions. And believe me, there are people who will do it all for you. For a price. But the sad part is if you are willing to take a few minutes (okay, hours), read a few books,  you don’t need to pay for anything.

Let the recap of eight months begin.

  1. You wrote a book! Congratulations. Let it sit for a few weeks, even a few months, write something else, read it again. Have a few people read it. Ask them to look for plot holes, flat characters, scenes that don’t move the story along. If you use Word, download Grammarly. It’s a decent checker for things I miss or wouldn’t think to look for. Buy the Hemingway App for more help ($20.00 is a decent investment). Use anything you can get your hands on to make your work as clear and as typo-free as possible.
  2. Grab a trad-pubbed book and copy the front and back matter. You need the copyright page, the acknowledgments. The title page. Dedication page. The author page. You’re in charge of all it.
  3. Get your author picture taken. I want to see you sitting in a cafe with a cup of coffee in your hands, smiling. Because you just wrote a book, and you’re going to publish it, and you are proud of it, and you’re going to own it, dammit! Have your best friend take it and buy her a cup of coffee for her trouble.
  4. Buy your ISBN or don’t. At the beginning, I leaned toward buying your own, protect your work and all that. But if you’re not sure what your publishing plan is, (like one a year, if that) take the free one CreateSpace gives you. No harm done.
  5. Choose the size of your book. If you’re writing smut you’re not going to be able to choose the smut-sized trim sold in Walmart. But choose the size you want, the color (cream or white) pages you want.
  6. Based on that, download the free template from CreateSpace so you can format the inside of your book. CreateSpace wants you to have an easy experience, a good experience, so you keep using them. The template is easy. Download it, copy and paste your manuscript into it. You don’t need to copy the template exactly. Their template comes with a Table of Contents I do not use. Change the font if you want, maybe the size. And please make a couple different copies of your MS. If something goes horribly wrong, well, that would bad. Play around with the template before you copy and paste your MS into it. See what you can change and what will mess up if you touch it.
  7. Make your template for your cover. If you make changes to the number of pages in your MS, you’ll need to recalculate the spine width and change the paper layout dimensions. I forgot to do that when messing around with 1700. I changed the spine text box but not the paper layout. That’s probably why I had some of my spine color wrapped on my front cover.
  8. Write your blurb. Maybe you already did this. Have one of your beta readers read it, make sure it sounds good. I gave you some resources how to write a good one. It takes a little bit of help, though, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.
  9. I wrote about your cover a lot. Remember, if you don’t like the thought of doing your own cover, don’t. Use the CreateSpace Cover Creator, or buy a cover that’s already done. Hire someone. This series was to help you do it as cheaply as possible. People *do* judge a book by its cover, so if this is something you don’t want to tackle, I don’t blame you. There’s a lot of choices out there.
  10. CS  takes a PDF of your cover (in the Save As option on Word, PDF is a choice). Submit that, submit your interior, and you’re done. They say 24 hours, but it only takes them 12 to get back to you and tell you if it’s approved or not. Remember the flattening warning you’re going to get. That’s okay. Order the proof, check it over. When I got my second proof for 1700 I read it like I was reading anyone and looked for typos. Spend some time on it, because the proof is exactly what people will be getting when they order it. It takes about 5-10 days to get the proof in the mail. If you want your paperback and the Kindle to be live at the same time, don’t go through the Kindle stuff until your paperback is ready to go. Kindle only takes 5 hours to approve your files. You can have them live on the same day. I had trouble with CS so my Kindle version was live for a couple weeks before my paperback was available. That’s up to you and how you want to do it.

 

And that’s it. I recommend Chris McMullen’s book and you can find it here. He explains a lot of the technical stuff with the template and he goes into Word a lot more than I do. There’s a lot of tutorials and YouTube videos out there. When I started eight months ago, I didn’t know as much as I do now. Indie publishing is a continual learning process because things change. I’ve learned to read only things that were written in 2016 or even more recently because old information may not help.

If you need any more help, drop me a question. I’m sure you can Google the answer probably faster than I can answer it, but I’ll be going through this whole thing in a couple more months when Summer Secrets is ready to be published. I’ve come a long way with doing covers in Word, and I’m confident that with the patience I’ve learned, the tricks I’ve taught myself playing with the CS interior template, and the tutorials I’ve watched about picture manipulation, the process will go smoothly. And I hope yours does too.

 

Congratulation-Banners-black-small-1

Promises, Promises

At the beginning of this publishing series, I promised you could make a nice cover with a picture and some words. I got a little fancy with the cover we just went over, and if you’re reading this all the way through and got discouraged, I apologize. I’ll show you how to make a nice cover now, just a picture and some words. That’s it. I promise.

Start out with a new Word document. Go back to the formula for the paper set up. If your book is going to be 5×8 with cream paper, your page set up calculations will be:

Inches: 5 + 5 + spine + .25 (bleed) = what you need.

A 334-page book with cream pages will have a spine of .835 inches. (334 x 0.0025).

5 + 5 + .835 + .25 = 11.085

Height is always easier because you’re not doubling anything. So the height for the page set up would be 8 inches plus .25 for bleed.

8 + .25 = 8.25

The paper layout will look like this:

paper layout

Word rounded down, and I’m not sure how that affects our calculations. I would guess it’s insignificant or Word wouldn’t do it.

Follow the rest of the directions in the blog post where I typed out the list of steps.

You’ll have your handy template that looks like this:

blog cover template

This template is for a 5×8 trim size with cream colored pages. Number of pages, 334. (A nice, long book. :)) (FYI, You’ll always have an even number of pages because a page has two sides.)

The problem with the picture I like is that it’s square, not rectangle, so when I put it into the template, it stretches. Stretchy is not the same as stabby; sometimes stabby can be a good thing.

stretchy

If you don’t mind she looks a bit stretched out or you swear you can’t tell, that’s your prerogative. I’m sure down the road it will bother you, so you might as well do it right the first time. I guess I don’t need to tell you, to avoid this you can always find a rectangle picture. There are plenty out there and CanStock will even filter square pictures out in your searches.

Using the Crop feature, I cropped it using the Aspect Ratio, portrait 2:3.

crop

Fix the dimensions of the picture so it fits into the 5×8 box.

crop1

It brought them closer, but that’s okay.

So this is what I have so far:

back cover done1

I downloaded a new font. I used the same picture on the back, but flipped it and lightened it. I did forget to mention in the last post that you probably want to put the price above the ISBN box. That way if you do happen to have a book sale of some kind, you can have the price on there, and if you put it on discount, customers can see that it is.

back cover done2

If you think the cover picture is too bold for the white spine and the back cover,  you can lighten up the cover edges a bit like this:

back cover done3

You can do what you want with the blank space by the ISBN box. Maybe your author picture, maybe your imprint picture. Whatever. But I did what I promised you from the beginning, I gave you a lovely cover with just one picture, no fancy picture effects you need to learn how to do. Oh, wait, take all the lines off. I swear, there is always something.

back cover done4

And don’t worry about the cursor. That will go away when you save it as a PDF to submit it to CS. Also, remember not to freak out if this is all you have and you want the Kindle cover too. CS will offer it to you, and you can download it.

I think this is it for covers. I’ll post a recap of everything I’ve talked about then I’ll tell you how to format your file for Kindle.

Thanks for reading!

 

Writing a Blurb for Your Back Cover

I think I might have touched on this previously in one of my other posts at the beginning of this publishing series. Your blurb goes on the back of your paperback and is used for the “what your book is about” description at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, etc. So you want it to sound good to make your potential customer an actual reader. Blurbs kinda suck because you want to give your customer enough to draw them in and want to keep reading, but you can’t give so much away that after they are done reading it, they don’t need to read the book anymore. I can’t tell you how to write your blurb, but I’ll use this blog post to point you in the right direction.

I’d never heard of Libbie Hawker until I read this book by David Neth. David wrote that Libbie Hawker did a great vlog on how to write a blurb, and I watched her YouTube video. She makes some fantastic points, and you can watch it here (part one) and here (part two). YouTube made other suggestions, but I didn’t watch them, but you can watch them if you’d like.

When I needed help writing the blurb for 1700,  I Googled “how to write a blurb,” and I used the first article that came up. I liked the example from Girl on a Train and tried to write my blurb based on that article. You can find it here.

One thing I didn’t consider was something I read in this book by Judith Briles that said the top of your back cover is prime real estate, and you should put some kind of a question or statement on the top in really huge letters. That was a cool idea, and I might do it for my next book. The Hunger Games did it:

back cover

But then, of course, you can argue against the whole thing, as my friend Joshua did in his blog post, stating that back blurbs are for bookstores. Yes, Debbie Downer, my book probably won’t make it into a bookstore, but I like putting a blurb on the back, so I will. You have to write one anyway, so might as well copy and paste it on there. But it does make for a nice, clean back cover. (Sigh.)

entropy

It’s a yummy book, and you can find it here and read the blurb too if you’d like.

I did read this book (yeah, I read a lot, lucky for you!) and they wrote a section about writing blurbs too. I found it to be very helpful but nothing Libby didn’t cover in her vlog.

Anyway, so there are some resources on how to write your blurb.

Next time I’ll write about the back cover and then recap what I’ve gone over so far. After that, I’ll tell you how to format your e-reader file for Kindle so you can load it into Kindle Direct Publishing. After that, I don’t know what I’ll  write about, though something is bound to come up, huh?

Thanks for reading! Talk later!

Your Book’s Spine

There’s not much you have to do with your spine. Remember, if you are publishing a novella, after formatting, your manuscript must be 100 pages or more. This is where the 5×8 trim size (the smallest size CreateSpace has to offer) comes in handy. You can also maybe bump up the font size in your manuscript if spine text is that important to you. But don’t go too big, you’re not publishing a Large Print edition.

Let’s look at the cover and template again:

blog-spineee

You kind of want the front cover, the spine, and the back cover to blend together. We don’t have a lot of colors to work with here, so I would probably leave the spine white and use the same fonts I used on the cover and keep them black.

title-1 Draw a text box in the text box. Don’t make it bigger than you need; smaller text boxes are easier to work with.

Experiment with the font and the size. You can manually enter in the font size and work with the numbers even if the font size is not available in the drop down selection.  You can see here that my name is not centered on the spine, but I chose the biggest font size that would fit.
title-2Move the text box so your name is centered on the spine:

The text box overlap doesn’t matter, we’ll fix that. The most important thing is that the letters are clear and big and as centered as you can make them. If your hand is shaky, or your mouse is temperamental, use your direction keys on your keyboard to move the box around.

title-3

Take off the edges by making sure the text box is selected and selecting No Outline in the Shape Outline option in the Shape Styles menu.

The white box is still visible on the cover so you need to select Shape Fill and select No Fill to make the box clear. This option is above the Shape Outline option we used to make the lines disappear.

shape-outline

You can see my name isn’t centered, it’s a little high, but the text box is gone. Move the text box around so you can center your name the best you can. CreateSpace won’t fix any issues you have. On my first attempt on The Corner of 1700, the bottom of the C was missing because I didn’t adjust the text box when I made the font bigger. Anyway, move the text box.

title-4-not-centered

That looks pretty damn near perfect.  There’s no rule that says your name has to go on the top and the title on the bottom. Do what you want, just make sure the text is in the right direction. Take a look at traditionally published books and do you the best you can. Fiddle with the colors if you want, play with font and size.

title-5-centered

Do the same with the title.

spine-1

I use an imprint and like to put it on my spine. Insert a text box.

imprint-spine

Use the Shape Fill to insert the picture, then use the No Shape Outline to get rid of the text box lines.
imprint-spine-2

You’ll get a warning from CreateSpace if this image isn’t 300 dpi. Mine printed fine at the 79 dpi because it’s so small, but you might as well make sure it’s 300 dpi in GIMP in case you want to use it anywhere else.

So far, this is what we have. It looks pretty good, and I think the title and author name are centered and as big as I can make them. If your book is thicker, you could even put the couple’s picture at the top; I’ve seen that done before, and I’m sure you have too. But the thinner the book the less room you have. That isn’t an excuse to plump up your book for no reason. CreateSpace charges you for printing costs, which means a higher price for your book the thicker it is.

cover-and-spine

We’ll look at the back cover next. I think you’ll find the worst part about the back cover is writing the blurb!

Until next time, keep experimenting!

Book Cover Templates

Book cover templates are not such a terrible option if you tried to make your own cover and either couldn’t get what was in your head onto a Word doc, or you don’t have the time or energy to figure it all out.

There are template websites out there that sell them and also lots of places to buy already-made covers. You just put your own info into the template and you’re all done–similar to the CS Cover Creator.

While I was looking around some of these sites I noticed a few things:

  1. Some templates only fit certain book sizes, so make sure the cover that you think will perfectly fit your story and title will also accommodate the size of the book you were planning on. This is especially important if you’re paperbacking a novella. The smaller trim size will make more pages, creating a thicker book.
  2. Some sites sell you the cover and that’s it. Make sure that you are buying a template that also includes the spine and back, otherwise, it will be your responsibility to match font and colors to create the spine and back cover. This isn’t so important if you are going digital (e-reader) only, but maybe down the road you decide to create a paperback as well, you’ll need to submit all of it.
  3. Sometimes you can copy it for free. Study the picture, the background, the placement of title, where your name will go. How fancy is the back?  If you found the picture at Dreamstime could you copy it and save yourself a couple bucks? It’s worth trying to find the picture at least before you buy the template. You can do this for any book cover as well. Look up the top selling books in your genre. Make a list of the things they have in common and see what you can come up with. If anything, this will give you an idea of what you’re looking for in a template.
  4. Maybe a template is cheaper. I made a pretty one on Canva, and the picture was a dollar. I found the same picture on Canstockphoto, but since I buy them singly there and don’t subscribe, itcanva would have cost me 8 dollars. Canva is front cover only, so either way I would still have to do the spine and back cover myself. And if I use Canva, I would need to figure out the font so I could use the same on the back cover.

All I did was Google “book cover templates” and came up with a few choices.

Cover Design Studio looked nice, and they have some pretty covers. Make sure you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page of a template you like and look for Additional Information. It will tell you the trim size available, etc. In the pricing, they have a couple of options, and one is CS plus Kindle. That sucks because if you upload to CS first, they send you the file for the Kindle cover, it even says so in the file name:

kindle-cover

There’s The Corner of 1700’s Kindle picture of the cover CS sent me for when I put my book in KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). So that website is making you pay for something you don’t need. Otherwise, you can buy the Kindle version and make the spine and back cover yourself.

Joanna Penn on her blog post listed DIY Book Covers as a resource. I didn’t check them out but that could be something to look into as well.

Otherwise, Google “Premade Book Covers” and that will give you a bigger selection of finds. But, as always, make sure you ask about the spine and back cover. They may charge you extra for those.

Hopefully, you can use them for inspiration. I found this one on Cover Design Studio:

cover-design-studio

Something about it called to me. I don’t know if was the sparkles, or what. But I liked it and wanted to replicate it. I couldn’t find the picture, but I found something . . . not similar, but something else I liked, and I made this:

blog-demo-cover

It’s not exactly what Cover Design Studio made, but I like mine. Maybe you can find something that can help you put down what you like too. And I always have to add the disclaimer to make sure you can use it commercially, and in the copyright page of your book, credit the photo to the website and artist who made your picture available. You bought it, but it’s the polite thing to do. I stole this picture off Pinterest so I wouldn’t be able to use it for a real cover. Hopefully, I could find it elsewhere, but this book hasn’t been written, so it’s not terribly important.

Happy browsing!