Gimp is a photo manipulation software that is free and can be found here. You don’t need to know how to use all the features for it to be of use to you. I suggest you download it, even if you’ve never heard of it before. There are tutorials online, and they can help you figure out how to change the photos for your book cover, website, and blog posts. I don’t know my way around it very well, but I use it to change dpi/ppi of a photo then do the rest in Word.

Once you have it downloaded, look at what you can do with it. Play around with the filters. I’m more comfortable in Word. Admittedly, GIMP can do more, so if you plan on publishing frequently, it might be worth taking some time to watch the tutorials.


Even if you pay for a photo, chances are someone has used it first or will use it in the future. Incidentally, after I changed my cover for 1700, I found someone on Twitter who used the same picture I had:


I am really glad I changed the cover! It’s a nice cover, but looks waaaaayyyyy too much like the one I used to have. Anyway, so manipulating the photo as much as you can, and/or using it with other photos, will lessen the chance you’ll have the same cover as someone else.

I use GIMP mainly to change the dpi/ppi, or dots per inch/pixels per inch. Look at this sexy guy–well, he’s sexy behind the menu. His dpi is only 72. You can see that in the X and Y resolution. I got there by clicking on the Image tab in the menu between View and Layer. Change them to 300 and click Scale. CreateSpace wants your images at 300 dpi/ppi. I read somewhere that going higher won’t do anything miraculous, so I haven’t bothered.



Now you need to save it. Go into File and click Export As (about 3/4 down the menu). This will save your photo as the JPG you need to use in your Word document for your front or back cover. (Hi, sexy guy! We can see you now!)



Click Export and it will save to wherever your computer saves your pictures.

That will save you some issues with photos. Sometimes you can buy them or download them at 300 dpi/ppi from the start, but it’s always a good idea to load the picture into GIMP and check to be sure. As I know, it certainly sucks to go through all that work on your cover only for CS to tell you in an email your photos aren’t up to snuff. How disappointing when you were hoping to order your proof! Publishing is hard enough as it is without making mistakes with things you could avoid. Too bad we don’t know what we don’t know until we need to know it.

Anyway, play around with the filters, have fun making your pictures different. Just for fun, I gave my man a sepia tone with the Colors, then coffee stains with the Decor under the Filters tab in the menu. As always, keep a copy of your picture just in case you do something you regret and you need to start over. 

(Thanks to Pinterest for the picture.)

Next time I’ll get to the cover! Thanks for reading!



Book Cover: Bits and Pieces

I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post. I’ve been busy writing, starting a new novella series at the beginning of August and hoping to finish it this month.

I also have another reason I didn’t want to write this next blog post: I didn’t feel like I knew enough to be coaching anyone on how to make a cover. Let’s face it, the original cover to The Corner of 1700 Hamilton was a mess, and how I was ever proud of it is beyond comprehension. If you don’t remember what it looks like here:

cover example for blog

Is it the worst cover ever? No. But it’s not the best either. I hate where my name is, I dislike the picture. And what is the goofy quote on the back?  No one said that to me. At the time I was going through Pixabay, I was adamant that I didn’t want to spend money on the picture (and going back to my blog on the subject you can probably tell), but when I started thinking I really needed to redo my cover and fix the formatting mistakes inside, I realized that I was going to have to find a picture. A good picture. Maybe a picture that costs a little money. Once I found a picture, things kind of fell into place for me. This is the cover I recently submitted to CreateSpace (that was accepted, squee!)


My name is better, the picture more accurately depicts what the book is about, the ghost’s quote is gone. I do have the proof back and I have to say the only little tiny mistake is my name on the spine is not 100% in line with the title. But it’s a small thing, compared to the train wreck above, I’m going to let it slide. Also, the imprint picture on the spine is a little more to the right, but I think that’s not a big deal either. Truthfully, 1700 is thin, and to fit anything on the spine and make it look good enough, is good enough for me.

Does this mean I feel more prepared to give advice, yes and no. I did get two warnings in my congratulations email. One was a warning saying my cover contained a picture that was less than 200 DPI, or dots per inch. CreateSpace wants them all at 300 dpi or there is a chance they will be printed blurry pixelated. I knew the one I purchased for my cover was 300 DPI, but I totally forgot about my imprint picture. It was only 79 DPI (I’ll tell you how to fix that later), but I fixed it so future books will won’t have that issue. (It did print fine, by the way; no harm done.)

The second warning I got from CS was a thing called transparency, that they would have to “flatten” the images and that could cause issues. When you add text boxes or layer pictures on top of each other, they “float”  and in design software programs, there is a way to “flatten” all the floating images to make them one image. Rather like ironing on a decal to a shirt or jeans. Two, (or three or for or five) pictures become one. I had to look this up because I didn’t want to keep getting this error message. But I don’t know how to use any design software, (the whole reason for this blog series, really) and I will never be able to do my covers that way. I should never say never, ecause I might learn a software program or get rich enough to hire a designer, but for now, I will always do my covers in Word, and I honestly do not see a problem with letting CS do the flattening for you. You can do a search on your own for other testimonies, but with the two covers I have done, I haven’t seen an issue with them doing this. Any mistakes made have been the fault of the operator, not the machine.

So yes, I do feel a little more confident that I can tell you how to do an easy cover. I’ll end this post by telling you two things I needed. 1) I bought my picture from Can Stock Photo for $8.00. You do have to be careful when even purchasing a photo to make sure you can use it for commercial use. On this website you can, I looked up their terms of service, but if this book ever made more than $500,000 dollars, I would owe them. Not likely, but it’s always good to know. The second thing I would advise you to do is download GIMP. It is a FREE software program like Photoshop, and while it does have some nice artistic effects you can play around with for a cover photo, I use it to check DPI and to change it if necessary. That IS an issue I can control, and in the next blog post, I’ll tell you how to do it.

That’s all for now, and I hope you like the new cover!

Oh, I got the proof back, here’s how it looks:

Thanks for reading, and I  hope you like the new cover as much as I do!


Book Cover: Font

Now, I guess I’m lame because it wasn’t until recently I taught myself how to add a font to my font choices in Word. When I published 1700, I used what was available because it was easier, and publishing for the first time, I had other things on my mind. But if you have been looking at book covers and want a cool font, I’ll tell you how to get it, if you don’t already know. Do you ever feel late to the party, like everyone knows something and you don’t? I felt like that with font, but what the heck? If I didn’t know about it, chances are there may be someone out there who doesn’t know it either.

The first thing is to search and find a site that offers font free for commercial use. It’s what I always tell you when you’re looking for something online to use in, or for, your book. I downloaded a few fonts from this website. You’ll have to make sure if you use this site, you are using the ones free for commercial use because there are some fonts that are only for personal use. But you can look for your own website, too.

After you choose one and download it, it looks like this in my Downloads file.


I downloaded a font called Coraline’s Cat Regular. I don’t know where I’ll ever use it, but it looks cool. And I made sure it was free for commercial use.

Next, open the OpenType font file:


You’ll get a preview of the font with the Install option:


Click on Install and it will show up in your Word font menu. I had to scroll down and look for it, but it was there:


And that’s it. It’s such a little thing, but one that could make a big difference on your cover.

Have fun!

Your Book Cover: Part 4

Google book covers and unbelievably, this is one topic on which almost EVERYONE agrees: book covers are important. They catch the eye of a potential reader. Unless you are famous already and people are buying your book because of your name and not because the cover caught their eye, people will want to see a pleasing cover that depicts what genre your book is and what it is about. Not only that, but it has to look good small. Thumbnails are what people see online, and if you make your print too small, readers could pass you by.

I think people can get caught up in designing the cover, and that necessarily isn’t a good thing. Some books are long and have many parts. Can you allude to every single scene in your book with the cover picture? No. But that doesn’t mean some haven’t tried. Unfortunately, a lot of readers will equate a bad cover with bad writing. It’s not fair, but I’ve been turned off by covers, and you probably have too. There’s a website dedicated to lousy book covers and you can find it here.

You don’t have to design the cover yourself. If you’re on Twitter all you need to do is tweet, “I need a cover,” and within half an hour I bet you would have a dozen choices in designers you could hire. You can go on Fiverr and find a graphic artist. You can look there for editing, formatting, marketing, or whatever else you think you need help with. (I’ve never used products or services on that site, so this is not a recommendation, only an option.) You could trade services with someone: they design your cover, you edit, or beta read their next novel. Maybe you have a technical school near you that offers a graphic design program. You could reach out to the instructors there and ask if a student would like to earn a little cash on the side. Maybe your neighbor has a high-schooler who knows a little something about Photoshop.

Whatever the case, you might have spent money on your ISBN numbers and maybe paid an editor, so you’re already in the hole with this novel and don’t want to pay out any more. I get that, and that was pretty much my situation by this point too. But I won’t lie, I was pretty proud I did my cover myself and while I could have benefited from being more patient, a mistake I won’t make again, it turned out okay. Granted, I wrote 1700 SPECIFICALLY to get my feet wet in the indie-publishing pool (thanks, Jewel!). It was not a project near and dear to my heart (sorry Ben and Lila), it was not a labor of love. I didn’t spend five years writing it. So if you handle your manuscript like it’s gold,  you plan to market and advertise the hell out of it, and you want a fantastic cover, I would encourage you to get help, at least a little guidance, because I can only tell you what I can tell you, and it isn’t too much.

Anyway, I knew this blog post was coming, so I have been saving simple covers I like, but again, this is not an endorsement. I like the simplicity of them, and I looked for covers I knew I (and you) could replicate in Word.

This one pops up in my Twitter feed a lot and I love the simplicity of it. It’s a Romance, just looking at the cover tells you that. There aren’t a million things going on. The author made the back cover color match the front font. I think the whole thing works well, and it consists of only one picture, some text, and the author name. The COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL, Amazon added, as I took a screen shot of the book on Amazon’s site.

This one doesn’t give you any clue to what it’s about, only probably (hopefully) it takes place in the winter. But I do like how simple it is, and it’s an example that even if you’re working with just one picture, you can break it up with text boxes to make it look different. The back is the same picture, only faded, with the blurb typed over it.

She did it again here, which is a great idea if you are writing a series.

Sherry Lewis is a bigger name, but she still takes advantage of a single photo with some pretty font. I love the cover for A Thirty-Something Girl. I love the title, I love her name at the bottom, not centered. It’s elegant, simple, pretty. I didn’t snag the backs for these, but I hope you’re getting an idea of what you can do by yourself. You ARE NOT limited if you don’t have help. You can make a decent cover. You have options.

Take your time looking for a photo you want to use. Look through lots of sites (though please make sure the pic is available for commercial use, or pay the fee to buy it), or take your own photo. (I would recommend using a camera, not the one on your phone because you want a very clear picture, and CreateSpace will not print something pixilated, and you won’t want to either.)

I think that is is for now. I’ll make a fake cover for Running to Love in the next blog post.

Until next time!

Your Book Cover: Part 3 (Template)

This blog post is archived. I use the measurements to create the canvas size you need for your book’s template in Canva. Canva is a much better way to make book covers than Word, but (crazy enough) I hadn’t heard of Canva yet, and was doing book covers the hard way. Thank you. VMR 

This blog post is only going to consist of the directions on how to make your cover template using Word. I know many of you will drop off after you get it, and that’s cool. You just want the formula for those sweet text boxes, and I understand that completely. So without further ado . . .

Before we go into creating a new Word file, you need to have some numbers handy:

First, your spine width. We already have that figured out, right? (Running to Love’s was .64″.)

Second,  what is the trim size of your book? Did you decide 5×8, 6×9?  We need it to calculate the size for the Page Layout:

(Width of trim size x 2) + spine width = Width of cover trim size
I would choose 5×8, so Running to Love’s Width would be 5×2+.64, so 10+.64= 10.64
(What you are doing is adding the width of the back cover, the width of the spine, the width of the front cover.)

Height of your trim size = Height of cover
Running to Love’s would be 8.

Add .25 to both: (These are the measurements you’ll need for Step One, below.)
Width ( 10.64 + .25 =  10.89 )
and Height ( 8 + .25 = 8.25 )
This is for bleed so that your images are going all the way to the edge of the cover. Make sure your text is not near the edge of the text boxes or it will be in the bleed area and may get cut off during printing.

cover template with bleed

Keep your text out of the red areas. The template you’re making won’t have the red areas, so you’ll have to guess.

Now that you have the dimensions you’ll need I’ll type out the instructions.

Open a new Word Document. (I’m using Office 365.)

Please remember to save often.

1. Set the paper size in the Page Setup Menu in Layout. In Page Setup, choose more Page Sizes at the bottom of the list, and enter the width and height for your cover file. Ignore the error message if you get one.

page set up

error message

2. In the Layout Menu under the Page Setup tab, set Margins (choose custom margins at the bottom of the menu) to 0. I didn’t get an error message, but I’m using Office 365. Just ignore it if you get one.

3. Under the Insert Tab, choose Text Box, and make one text box. Change the dimensions to the cover of your book: 5×8, 6×9, etc. This will be your front cover.


4. Insert another text box that will be the spine. Use the width you calculated, and the height is the same.

2017-04-06 (1)

5. Insert another text box that will be the back cover:

2017-04-06 (2)

If they don’t fit, move them around. The lines of the right side of the back cover and the left side of the spine will overlap to look like one line. The same with the right side of the spine and the left side of the front cover. If your mouse isn’t accurate, or your hand is shaky, use the arrow keys on your keyboard.

2017-04-06 (3)

It’s very important that you move these boxes, not stretch them so they touch–that changes their size and will distort your cover.

6. Add a barcode box. A quick search says they are: width 2″ and height 1.2″ The template above also has the dimensions in the yellow barcode box. Use a small .25″ x .25″ to place the barcode box, then delete it. Zoom in so you are accurate. You don’t want to have CreateSpace move it because that might mess up what you’ve got going on back there. They may not even move it, they may just tell you to redo it. Let’s not find out.

2017-04-06 (4)

2017-04-06 (5)

So this is the finished product. Keep copies of it everywhere because you’ll be able to use it for other books. You’ll need to change the Page Layout dimensions to change the spine because your books won’t all the be the same length, and the front and back text box dimensions, if you change your trim size. There is a bit of math involved, but please remember to have a finished and formatted manuscript before you do any of that.

I think that’s it.

The next blog post will be about inserting a picture on the front cover. I’ve been on the lookout for a while for covers that simply use a picture with text on top of it for title and Author’s name. Surprisingly, you can make some very pretty covers. 🙂

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

This blog post is archived. While the measurements (and how to calculate them) are still spot on, I no longer do my book covers in Word. You can use the same measurements to figure out the height and width of the canvas you would need to make your cover in Canva.  Thank you! VMR 

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

template picture for blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover template creator

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

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

Enter the number pages from your formatted manuscript.

Choose the page color.

Click build template.

These are my choices:

cover template choices

This is what I get:

cover template download

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

cover template with bleed

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

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

Until later!

Your Book Cover: Part 1 of Who Knows?

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

layer cake

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

cover example for blog

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

commrerical use

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

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

We will start there.

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


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

cover choices

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

cover choices 2

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

cover choice 3

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

cover choices 4

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

Good luck!

Templates: Formatting Your Manuscript

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

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

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

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


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

first pages of template

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

second pages

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

third set of pages

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

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

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

front mattefront matter 2


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

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

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

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

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

Trim Size and White vs. Cream Paper

I’m going to archive this blog post. It’s three years old, and CreateSpace no longer exists. I didn’t have as much knowledge about publishing as I do now, and while this blog post does have some information in it, please be advised that I know more now. Thanks for reading, and if you have questions, let me know! I’ll be glad to help! 9/15/19 VR

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

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

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

IMG_5390  IMG_5391IMG_5392

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

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

edp warning

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

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

smut size

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

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

createspace interior

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


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

trim sizetrim size 2

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

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

Until next time!

Before You Publish: Part 3

ISBNs suck. They suck because you need them, they’re confusing, and they are expensive. I hope I can shed some light on this crummy subject. After this, we can get to the fun stuff, if you consider any of this fun.

ISBN stands for, umm . . . I don’t even know. *Stealthily sneaks to Google to look* International Standard Book Number. It’s the long number above the barcode on books. But it’s more than that. A lot more.
Here’s the one bought and paid for by yours truly:

FullSizeRender (1)

This is the part where I tell you that what I know is about CreateSpace and Kindle. (This is info for US writers. If you’re interested in what other countries go through regarding ISBN numbers, look here. Don’t hate Canadians because they’re beautiful, or because they get free ISBN numbers.) If you go with Lulu, IngramSpark, Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, iUniverse or anywhere else, I don’t know from experience what they do for you regarding ISBNs. You’ll have to do your own research and make choices that are right for you in regards to the venue you’re looking to go through. There are a lot of choices out there, and if I can give you one piece of advice before you start this whole thing is to take your time. Have patience. There is a lot I would do differently if I had been more patient (and you get to hear all about it later!).

If you are deciding to do Kindle only still read this post. I’ll go into some ISBN info that you should keep in mind, but I will start with CreateSpace since it seems the scariest to the most people. After a couple glasses of wine, it’s not scary at all.

CreateSpace gives you three options, and this is the screen you’ll encounter when you get that far into their website.

The first option goes back to the imprint thing. You can’t use your own imprint. CreateSpace will be listed as your publisher.

The second is self-explanatory and cheaper than if you buy one single from Bowker, the website that sells ISBNs in the United States. Here is what you’ll see when you go to their website and look at their options:


Don’t be fooled by the ON SALE NOW thing. As far as I know, they are always that price. And don’t worry about buying a barcode. CreateSpace will give you one and for an e-reader, you don’t need one.

The third option is supplying your own, and that’s what Bowker’s website is for. I called the rep for clarification (1-877-310-7333) on a couple of details and this is what she said:

Can you share ISBN numbers with your friends?

This was met with a firm “No.” This is because when you buy them, your name is attached to them.

I was disappointed because it’s difficult to afford ISBNs and it would have been nice to share the cost. I didn’t ask her what the repercussions would be if you did share or sell them because 1) I’m not a rule breaker, and if she said you can’t then you can’t and 2) she was a little crabby, and I just wanted to get off the phone.

What happens if you self-publish but a traditional publishing company wants to publish your book?

The biggest draw with using your own ISBN is when this happens, your book won’t change numbers. Your book will use the same number no matter who publishes it because you bought the number–it belongs to you and your book. The free CreateSpace number is not yours, and you will lose that number if you decide to query and your book gets picked up elsewhere. How big of a deal is that? I guess it’s not so bad, I mean, if your book goes mainstream, it will be easy to find, even with the new number. But I like the idea of my book only being associated with one number forever.

When you use an ISBN you bought for a digital copy of your book, can you use the same number for every site, from Amazon to Smashwords?

That answer is a yes, but you’re not supposed to. The thing with e-readers is they take different files. Kindle takes a .mobi file or the new .azw3 format. iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and other retailers/third party publishers you can pay to distribute your e-reader use ePub format. So if you decide you want to make your book available to more than just Kindle, and you want to do Smashwords or iBooks, the Alliance of Independent Authors advises you to have an ISBN for each kind of file. So if you are doing CreateSpace, that would take one for your paperback, Kindle, that would take one, and the other retailers, that would take one. There is an in-depth explanation here.

“Wait a minute!” you’re saying. “I need different ISBN numbers for my paperback and e-reader?” Yes. If you were to publish a hardcover that would also require a different number, and anytime you change more than 20% of the content inside your book you need to give it a new ISBN number. You can change your cover, though, as long as the content stays the same. I double checked that, and this is what Bowker says in their FAQs:

If changing the cover of a book, does a new ISBN have to be assigned?
US practice is if the book is just out or the idea is to give a marketing boost to the product, then no, a new ISBN should not be assigned. However, if the change in cover substantially changes the product (ie., would lead to customer complaints), then a new ISBN should be used.”

So after all this, let’s get to the good stuff. Do you need to buy from Bowker? No. Take the free CS number. Take the free number they’ll give you on the Kindle Direct Publishing site (which is called the ASIN or Amazon Standard Identification Number). That is the absolute cheapest way to go, and I get that. Smashwords and Draft2Digital will also give you numbers, so selling your book through other retailers is also free for you. But again, you are only “borrowing” the numbers they give you.

You have to think about what you can afford, what you want to pay for, what you don’t. I’ll leave you with some articles that hold some useful info. Go on Bowker’s website, look at their FAQs yourself.

Someone asked me not long ago if I was happy I paid for my own ISBNs. I bought the 10 pack of numbers when I was ready to publish 1700. I used one for my CS copy and one for my Kindle copy. (For now, I don’t plan on selling my book anywhere else.) Those formats are mine and the numbers are mine. I also have a lot of work coming down the pipe in the next couple years, and I know I’ll eventually use them. I don’t regret buying them.

Above all, research for yourself. The other articles I liked are here and

If you have any questions tweet me, or comment and I’ll try to answer them. If I can’t, I’ll look them up.

See you later! Next blog posting is about trim size (the size you want your book to be) and the template for your manuscript for the CreateSpace interior file.