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After a lot of questions from other authors and would-be authors, I've put together this list of directions for creating (usually) flawless covers for your novels if you use the Createspace service. Nearly all of these directions should apply to other publishing houses, but I cannot confirm that. Some of these directions make use of Adobe InDesign. If you do not have this software, I recommend either getting it or finding someone who already has it.

 

The print cover:

1) You first need to create a template file that will act as your whiteboard for creating the cover. To do this, you must first make sure you know the following details: What page size are you using, what paper color are you using (cream is thicker), and how many pages there are in your finished work. If you aren't done with the book yet, don't bother working on the cover layout, as you need page counts.

2) In InDesign, go to File menu, then New, then Document. It should then pop up a box that asks for the dimensions of your new document.

3) For width, enter 18" (more than large enough for any book). For height, enter 12". It will convert those numbers to picas (108p and 72p respectively). The gutter measurement is your TOTAL number of pages, including ToC and everything else, times 0.002252" if you're using white paper. Cream is a little thicker, so check with your publisher for proper thickness to multiply by. Delete anything in the Margins section...those should all be zeros. Click OK to create the document.

* Note: If your page count changes, the gutter has to change, too! You can get back to that screen later by going to the Layout menu and choosing Margins and Columns.

4) Using the rectangle tool, create two boxes that are the same dimensions as your page size. Thus if you're printing a 6" by 9" book, create a 6x9" box. Place one on each side of the binding (middle column) and center vertically. These are your basic guides for where things can fit on the front (right) and back (left) covers.

5) Click on the left ruler and drag. A line will come out. Place one at the right edge of the right side, then one at the left edge of the left side rectangles. Do this again, but put the new ones 1/8" to the right of the right box and 1/8" to the left of the left box. Repeat this process for the top and bottom. These are your bleeds. You want your graphics or a background color to extend that far so you don't get white edges on your cover if Createspace doesn't quite center it like you expected.

* Note: If you like, you can remove the rectangles now and use the bleed guides as your margins. This is optional. Also, I recommend saving a backup copy at this point, since you can use this blank template for future endeavors.

6) Next comes the title and author name. Create textboxes and position on the front (right) cover, usually centered horizontally. Adjust the font and formatting to suit and feel free to play around with Outer Glow and other fancy effects.

7) The binding will probably have the same information as the front cover...but turned sideways. Go ahead and create a textbox with your title/name/etc, then click out of the box to stop typing. Now, right-click the text box and choose Transform, then Rotate 90 degrees CW. Reshape and position the textbox to fit into the binding area.

* Note: If you have a colorful background picture, you may want to create another rectangle that fills the binding area, then set its fill color to grey or another color that accents the text. This makes the binding readable and prevents your text from getting lost in the picture. You can always go back and add this.

8) Next up is the back cover. Do not put anything in the lower-right corner of that box! Createspace slaps a big barcode there that will cover anything you put in that area. What you will want is another text box, centered at least horizontally. This box contains all of your back cover blurb text. Tweak font, size, etc to suit your needs.

* Note: If you have a colorful background picture, you may want to create another rectangle that is just a bit larger than your blurb box, then set its fill color to grey or another color that accents the text. This makes the binding readable and prevents your text from getting lost in the picture. You can always go back and add this.

9) To place your cover graphic, you need to first think about whether it is a single picture that goes on the front, or whether it wraps the whole cover. The following directions are for a full cover wrap. First, go to File, then Place. Choose your picture and hit OK. It will give you a tiny version of the picture. When you click, it will put the upper-left corner where you clicked. Move this picture around to position the upper-left corner at the upper-left meeting point of your outer bleed markers. Now, drag the lower-right corner of your pic to the outer lower-right bleed corner. The picture might not resize, but don't worry!

10) To fit the picture properly, right-click it and choose Fitting, then Frame Fitting Options. Click the checkbox for "auto-fit" and put the dot in the center of the little alignment grid. If it's still not quite where you want it, you can use the lower section of that box to shave bits off of one or more sides to adjust it. Play around until you're happy with it.

11) Right-click the background picture and choose Arrange, then Send to Back. This ensures all your text appears on top of the picture.

12) Save!

13) Now, you need to turn this into a PDF to upload to Createspace. To do so, go to the File menu, then choose Export. Give it a file name, then press Save. On the next screen, it will ask you the proper method for exporting...this is a bit of pseudo-science here. Createspace keeps changing their system and the settings often change with it. Right now, you can almost always get perfect results by choosing "High Quality Print" from the upper drop-down menu. I reccommend also going into Marks/Bleeds section and choosing the checkbox to use document marks/bleeds. This helps avoid a few weird visual errors. Click OK to finish and make the PDF.

14) Look over the created PDF for anything that needs work. When you're sure it looks right...print it. Look for any weird things that appear in the printed copy. Since Createspace is going to be printing it, anything odd should show up at this point.

15) If it's still looking good, upload it.

16) Once Createspace approves it, make VERY VERY VERY sure that you look at the digital proof, or order a printed proof. They will approve things even if it gets totally screwed up (they actually approved a PDF I sent them, where their system chopped off everything but my name...all graphics, cover blurb, etc were gone). To be clear, the digital proofer has a few well-known bugs:

- Black border lines that shouldn't be there, probably will print. They need to be fixed before you approve.

- White border lines that shouldn't be there, might NOT print. Get a physical proof...Createspace support won't know what to do if you ask them, so you'll just have to see if it actually is a problem, or if the digital proofer is broken again.

- Despite them claiming that the 1/8" bleed around the edges will be cropped as needed, they actually crop from the right. So if they don't need 1/8" bleed, they will begin all the way to the left (using what you expect to be bleed area), sometimes chopping just shy of 2/8" off the right due to where they started. Be ready for that and, as always, very carefully review your proof.

- Color tone is a mess. If your cover graphic isn't CYMK-based (your artist can speak to that), you'll have issues. Most pics are RGB-based, which apparently gets hosed by the Createspace printer. Normally, what you'll see is a massive darkening of the picture. My last cover pic was bright as could be...then Createspace printed it as if about 80% of the brightness had been removed. You will often have to lighten the pics using Photoshop or similar, sometimes as much as 40%. There's no tried and true method to this...just be ready for it.

17) As part of the setup process for Createspace, it will create a thumbnail automatically in most situations. You should not need to upload a second pic for thumbnails.

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