Thursday, June 5, 2014

7 Tips for Creating and Submitting Your DIY Book Cover to CreateSpace

My proof copy of Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin

A question came up recently in a Facebook group about submitting a cover to CreateSpace in the correct proportions. I, myself, ran into a few minor glitches during the process, so I thought I’d share the solutions (and tips) I discovered in case others are similarly perplexed.

1. Use the CreateSpace Template
It might be confusing at first, because it looks like this:

CreateSpace cover templates are calculated and generated according to your specifications

...but that extraneous white space is actually useful for having somewhere to move stuff while you’re working on various aspects of your cover.

The biggest benefit of the template is that the spine width is calculated perfectly for you based on the number of pages in your interior file. Which leads me to tip 2:

2. Make sure your interior file is finalised before you begin working on your cover. Or, at the very least, don’t change the page count.

3. Work directly on the CreateSpace template in your graphics program. Ideally you want a graphics program that allows you to create layers, but, if not, just ensure that you completely overlay the template with your image(s) and/or blocks of colour.

4. Extend the trim lines CreateSpace gives you so that you can see where they are once you’ve begun overlaying the template. If you’re using a program that allows layering, draw the trim lines directly over the background (i.e., the same layer as the template). You will then be able to turn this layer off and the extended trim lines won’t be printed. If your graphics program doesn’t do layers, you can block over the lines with a solid white box, or simply crop the image to the borders of the book cover.

I drew rough boxes following the trimlines. It's not very neat, but it did the job.

5. Generate a new layer and cover the barcode area with a white box. Keep this layer on top of all other layers so you will always know which section to keep clear for the barcode. The barcode fits over exactly, so you may as well keep it white, unless you’re creating your own coloured barcode.

6. For some reason, CreateSpace only accepts PDFs for the book cover. If you’re using a PDF printer, you may need to input the dimensions of the document page, or it defaults to either A4 or US Letter, which will be the wrong size. The dimensions of the CreateSpace template are 19 inches by 13 inches.

7. You don’t need to crop the image. You also don’t need to “centre the image vertically and horizontally”, which is the instruction given by CreateSpace. Advice on the CreateSpace forum differs and suggests simply uploading the file as is (centred horizontally, but sitting at the bottom of the 19x13 page). This is the advice I followed and my file was accepted without issue. And, as you can see above, my proof copy is in good proportion.

I turned the background layer off, which rendered it transparent (shown here in grey and white blocks)

Hopefully these tips help to clarify a few niggles with submitting a DIY cover to CreateSpace. Feel free to add your own tips, discoveries, questions, or hair-tearing moments in the comments.

Elsa Neal
Elle Carter Neal is the author of Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin, which is available on Kindle and will soon be published in print through CreateSpace. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. To keep in the loop about “Maddie”, join her mailing list here, or find her at ElleCarterNeal.com or HearWriteNow.com

17 comments:

  1. This is good advice. For me, this is one of the 'do what you're good at, do what you enjoy, and hire out the rest' things I hire out. My cover artist is good at this, and his prices are very low. I did create my own cover for an ARC, which didn't have an image, and their step by step was easy enough to follow. I've started an on-line Photoshop class, and at least now I don't run for the hills when I see 'layers' but I'm not ready to try this one DIY ... yet. I'll save this post!

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    1. Absolutely, Terry. I thoroughly enjoyed doing this (and also the HTML formatting of the Kindle file) but these are definitely areas that can cost a lot in time and the learning curve that is involved. I decided it was worth the investment of my time rather than my money, because I wanted the experience of doing it all myself.

      The interior typesetting, however, is blah. I think I might outsource that next time.

      Delete
  2. I find the Create Space templates easy to work with. You can use programs other than Photoshop now. They also have the virtual preview of your book so you can check for glitches before uploading.

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    Replies
    1. They are. I was really impressed and pleased because it does save some time and a lot of calculations. The preview is great, but a shame they can't show you a preview of your cover, too, just so you can be sure you got it right.

      Delete
  3. Also, there are different sized templates and covers available. I had to go large for several of my books. Make sure you use their interior templates and know the page count. They will create a template based on the length of your book. They also have PNG available, so you can use other photo manipulation programs to create your cover if you aren't comfortable with Photoshop. Here's a link: https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Making that link live:
      CreateSpace.com/Artwork

      I used the free graphics program Paint.NET and it was adequate for my needs. Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign have a lot more bells and whistles to learn about.

      Delete
  4. I'm with Terry, I have someone else do my covers. Layers to me means what I wear in the winter to stay warm. LOL

    That said, this is a great help to those who like to play in Photoshop or other graphics programs.

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    1. LOL, Maryann. I'm very layered up at the moment. Brrr.

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  5. Play in Photoshop? Yikes, Maryann! That said, I can at least now (after a few terrifying years) open the program without suffering an immediate and overwhelming panic attack.

    I've never submitted a book to CreateSpace. Several years ago I hooked up with Lightning Source and ended up with a fabulous rep who has bailed me out of a significant number of corners I blocked myself into. LSI also provides templates, and I've learned to use them -- first with CorelDraw and now with the dreaded Photoshop. Have I had problems? Yes, but nothing insurmountable. And their graphic artists have been very patient in talking me through some thorny issues I couldn't solve on my own.

    CreateSpace? I will try it in the near future, at least for e-books. We'll see where it goes from there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda, CreateSpace is for print books only. Kindle is the platform for e-books. If you're happy with Lightning Source, stick with it - although there's no reason you can't try CreateSpace in addition (unless you've signed an exclusivity contract with LS).

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  6. Thanks for sharing these tips - I'm saving this post.

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  7. Also, if you notice that CreateSpace has taken it upon themselves to make "adjustments" to your spine width, be absolutely sure to order a printed proof and if it's not exactly as you wanted it, make them undo their changes. They're not always correct.

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    Replies
    1. Do they send you a message if they do, Holly? I'm very happy with the spine of my proof copy. To my eye the text is almost perfectly centered and the edge of the back cover falls sharply on the fold. Now I'm not sure whether to give myself the credit, or the printers at CS for attending to the detail ;-)

      Delete
  8. Good tips. I know I'll have to learn how to do this sooner or later, so I'm grateful for the advanced notice on what to expect.

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  9. You're welcome, James. Thanks for visiting :-)

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  10. I've designed a dozen covers for Gesher Press and a few for other indie authors, so I am very familiar with the ins-and-outs of CreateSpace. I would add to your excellent and simple guide two more caveats.

    (1) CreateSpace cautions against doing what you did where a break in the artwork corresponds with an edge of the spine (or where the spine is separate art). The printing system used by CS can be off by as much as 1/8", which in your case could mean the blue back cover could bleed onto the spine or the spine art could wrap a bit onto the back. Over a large number of books, some will be guaranteed to be noticeably off. (I have found about 1 in 50 is off enough to look bad, which can make you look amateurish with customers.) It is better to do full wraparound art or, for what you are attempting, wrap the front art around about 1/4" to the back. There are other tricks, like fading the front-cover artwork into the back cover background beyond the spine.

    (2) Be careful about so-called "active elements" bleeding off (overlapping) the edge. For example, the title of Gasline was deliberately designed to bleed off the right edge, but it took repeated intervention with CS staff to get the cover "approved" for printing because their automated proofing would flag it as unacceptable.

    ReplyDelete

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