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Using the KDP Cover Creator [optional]

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Although the KDP Cover Creator has a few quirks that don’t make it ideal for absolute beginners, some of the advantages – such as free images and a cover automatically sized to the correct dimensions of the book – make the learning curve worthwhile.

The following table provides a brief overview of the advantages and disadvantages associated with using Cover Creator:

ProsCons
The app. is freeThe app. is not supported on: KDP.amazon.co.jp
KDP provides a helpful video that covers the basics. You can find the video on the KDP website under ‘Create a Book Cover’.The video and the written instructions are not geared towards absolute beginners
The app. uses templates that can be customised using either pre-set themes and styles or manual optionsThe app. only provides 10 templates and they do not allow for a great deal of customisation
The Title and Author Name are automatically inserted into the templateThe Title and Author Name will display exactly as you typed them during Title setup. To change how they look, you will have to return to the Title Details tab and make the changes there
The manual options provide a fair degree of customisationThe manual options are not always intuitive. For example: – the ‘Start Over’ button only takes you back to the template selection screen. – the Preview button only works after the sample text is all replaced.
The app. offers a large selection of free imagesThere is no ‘obvious’ way to select a different cover image once you have selected the first one.
The app. automatically creates a cover to the exact dimensions required for your book. 

The following sections will detail how to create two covers:

  • One will be created using the pre-set images provided by Cover Creator.
  • The second will be created using your own background image.

To begin, click the yellow, ‘Launch Cover Creator’ button as shown:

The next screen is simply an overview of the Cover Creator process. Click the Continue button.

Cover Creator now displays three ways to select a background image for your cover. The three options are:

  • from the KDP free images gallery,
  • from your computer,
  • and ‘Skip This Step’.

Note: ‘Skip This Step’ places a generic image into each template. You will have to choose a permanent image before finalising the cover.

Select a Free Image from the Gallery

Click the option for From Image Gallery:

You should now be looking at the KDP Image Gallery:

The images in the gallery are organised into categories and sub-categories. When you select one of the main categories listed on the left hand side of the window, the sub-categories will display on the right hand side.

Note: you can also type a keyword into the Search box at the top of the window to narrow down your search.

Click one of the sub-categories to display the images in that category.

In the example shown below, the main category is ‘Backgrounds’. This category contains three sub-categories – Abstract, Nature and Patterns & Textures. Clicking the Abstract sub-category displays a gallery of images. The image used in most of this section is circled in orange:

Click an image to see more information about it:   

And finally, click the Use this image button to select the image for your cover.

Selecting a Template

After selecting an image, Cover Creator automatically inserts it, as well as the Title and Author Name, into all of the pre-formatted templates available. These templates are displayed in a gallery:

Use the left and right arrows to view all the templates.

Click a template to select it.

You should now be looking at the Cover Creator working screen with your chosen image and template displayed: 

The cover template is displayed with red and white dotted lines:

  • the vertical white dotted lines in the middle mark the fold lines of the spine.
  • the red dotted line around the outside is the safety perimeter. All text has to be within this line.
  • the white dotted line around the outside of the cover is where the printed pages will be cut, so any text that extends past this line will be truncated. The cover image, however, must extend past this line.

If you are using one of the free images, it will be the right size automatically.

Note: if you are using one of your own images, make sure it is big enough to extend past the white line.

The orange triangles are alerts that provide context sensitive help about possible issues and explain how to fill in the missing elements of the cover template, such as the blurb and Author bio etc.

Below the cover image are three buttons which offer pre-sets ‘styles’ :

From left to right, the buttons allow you to select a pre-set colour scheme, a pre-set layout and a pre-set font style for the Title and Author Name.

Selecting a colour scheme for the template

The button for colour schemes

Click the button for Colors. You should now be looking at a list of colour schemes for the entire template:     

These colour schemes work best for cover templates that include blocks of colour, such as the example below:  

You can also select all three colour elements individually via the ‘Custom Colors’ pane on the left:

Primary Color’ is the block of colour that contains the Title.

Secondary color’ is the background colour.

All Text Color’ sets the colour for all the text – front cover, back cover and spine.

To change the colour of the text, click the appropriate option and select a colour from the popup palette.

Note: make sure the colour of the text does not blend into the background as this will make it hard to see at thumbnail size.

Selecting a layout for the template

To change the position and appearance of the various layout elements of your book cover, click the Layout button as shown:

The current layout is shown with a pale blue highlight and a tick. Use the Left and Right direction arrows to see all the available layouts.

Click a layout to select it.

Selecting a Font

The third button – ‘Choose Fonts’ – displays yet more pre-set styles that determine the font and font size of the text on the front cover only.

Use the left and right direction arrows to see all the font combinations. Click a combination to select it for the text on the front cover.

Adding the blurb and Author bio to the back cover

Apart from the Title, Sub-Title [if applicable] and Author Name, all the other text on the template is ‘dummy’ text. It’s only purpose is to illustrate where text appears on the template you have chosen.

Clicking an alert, or an area of dummy text, will display a white dotted line. This dotted line denotes a text box.

To replace the dummy text, simply click inside the relevant text box and begin typing.

The first few letters you type will be huge, but as you continue typing,  the text will become progressively smaller.

In the example shown below, the text box is for the author’s bio, and you can see how large the font is:

The automatic re-sizing of the text occurs because the ‘Auto Fit’ option is selected by default [circled in orange above].

The ‘Auto Fit’ option is located on the Edit Bar which appears whenever you begin editing the text boxes.

Note: you can also copy/paste text from an external source using the keyboard shortcut of CTRL V.

To change the size of the text manually, click the small down arrow [as shown below] and then click a font size from the drop down menu:

The font will now remain at the size you set, no matter how much text you enter.

The Edit Bar also contains the standard editing options for Bold, Italic, alignment, and text colour. There is also a Reset Style option that acts as an ‘undo’ button for the current text box.

Manually editing the colour of the text

To change the colour of individual text elements – e.g. the Author Bio –  click inside the text box to be changed.

With the Edit Bar displayed, open the font colour palette by clicking the small down arrow as shown below:

Click the colour of your choice and the text in the text box will automatically change to that colour.

Manually formatting the Title, Author Name & Sub-title [optional]

KDP advises against changing the wording of the Title, Author Name or Sub-title, but you can change the formatting – for example the colour.

To begin, click the text you wish to change. In the example shown below, the Author Name text box has been activated:

To  change the font size, alignment or colour of the Author Name, simply select the relevant option from the Edit Bar.

To dismiss the Edit Bar, simply click outside the relevant text box.

Adding the Author Photo

Author photo

The back page of the template includes a picture placeholder for the Author Photo.

To insert an Author Photo, click the placeholder image.

KDP will display the following popup:   

Select the option for ‘From My Computer’.

KDP opens My Computer [or Windows Explorer] so you can find the photo you wish to use.

Select your Author Photo. Cover Creator will re-size the image automatically, but if the original photo is too small, making it big enough to fit will lower the resolution and cause the program to display an error message:

The author photo in the example above is only 116 x 150. For best results, the Author Photo should be 500 x 500 or above.

To check the size of your author photo [in Windows], open My Computer [or File Explorer] and navigate to the location where the photo is saved.

Hover the mouse over the photo until a small, floating popup appears:

Inside you will see information about the photo, including its dimensions. The one shown in the example is 527 x 532 and just the right size.

To choose a different photo in Cover Creator, simply click inside the image. The display will change to show the Edit Cover Image popup:

Note: the name of the popup is misleading. The options provided by the popup will work on any image that is selected – i.e. the author photo or the cover image itself.

To select a different author photo, click the option to ‘Choose a new cover image’.

Cover Creator will display the ‘Get Images for your Cover’ popup. Click the option for ‘From My Computer’. Find the new image and select it. Cover Creator will upload the image and substitute it automatically.

Previewing your cover on Cover Creator

If you’re like me, you will want to see how your Author Photo looks, but if you press the Preview button whilst there are still unfinished areas on your cover [such as dummy text], Cover Creator will display this error message:

Click the ‘Go back to fix it’ button and continue adding text to the back cover. Once all the dummy text has been replaced, the ‘Preview’ button will become active and you can see what your cover looks like without all the guidelines.

To view your cover, click the Preview button located just below the cover template:  

After a short delay, KDP will display a digital representation of what your cover will look like.

If you are satisfied with your cover, click the Save & Submit button located directly below your cover. KDP will save the cover and return you to the Paperback Content tab.

But what if the Preview reveals unexpected errors? Or what if you don’t like the cover at all?

If you don’t like what you see in the Preview, there are four main options available to you:

  1. Keep the whole cover but make a few minor tweaks to it.
  2. Keep all the existing information [text, author photo etc], together with the design elements [font size, colour etc] but change the template.
  3. Keep all the existing information [text, author photo etc] and design elements [font size, colour etc] but change the background image.
  4. Keep all the existing information [text, author photo etc] but get rid of the design elements and change the template.

Minor Tweaks

To make a few minor tweaks to the existing cover, click the ‘2 Style & Edit’ tab to exit the Preview screen and return to the template workspace:

Everything remains the same, but you can now edit the cover again.

New template

To change the template itself, click the ‘1 Choose Design’ tab:

Again, all your work remains, but you can change the way it’s displayed by selecting a different template from the gallery of available templates.

New cover image

To change the cover image – i.e. the background image – first click the ‘2 Style & Edit’ tab to take you back to the working screen.

Next, click on any blank space on the background image – i.e. on a space not occupied by a text box. This will cause a ‘frame’ to appear around the background image. It will also cause the ‘Edit Cover Image’ popup to be displayed on the right hand side of the cover:

On the popup, click the option to ‘Choose a new cover image’.

Cover Creator asks where you want to get the image from.

Using your own image

This time, choose the option for ‘From My Computer’:

Navigate to your image and select it.

Warning! Cover Creator will attempt to ‘fit’ any image into the template, but the greater the difference in size between the image and the template, the less successful the result will be. For best results, the cover image should be tailored to the exact dimensions of the cover template.

Note: for instructions on calculating a cover template for the exact dimensions of your book cover, see PART 1, Using the Cover Template Builder.

Once you have selected the background image for the cover, you may find that the existing design elements – layout, text colours and font – no longer fit the new image.

In the example shown below, the Title and Author Name cover up too much of the cover image and the back cover needs to be re-worked:

This is where the ‘Start Over’ button can be very useful.

Starting Over

The Start Over button, located on the bottom left of the screen, deletes all the design elements – fonts, font colours, layout etc – while leaving the text, cover image and Author Photo intact. This is quite handy if you need to start the design process from scratch.

After clicking the Start Over button, Cover Creator displays a confirmation popup:

To continue, click the OK button.

You should now be looking at the template selection screen again:

This time we are going to select a special template that does not provide the Title and Author Name on the front cover. This template is particularly handy for those who have already published the book as an ebook and hence already have a front cover, or those who want to create something a little more unique for the front cover.

Template: Use with front cover image’

Click the template for ‘Use with front cover image’ [circled in orange above].

You should now be in the template workspace with the new template displaying the old cover image. To change the cover image, click the image and then select Choose a new cover image from the Edit Cover Image popup:

Once again, KDP displays the image selection screen with the three options of: ‘From Image Gallery’, ‘From My Computer’, and ‘Skip This Step’.

This time, choose the option for ‘From My Computer’. Navigate to the front cover image you wish to use and select it.

In the example below, a special font was used for the title and another image was added to it. The size and positioning of all the text was also designed to allow the cover image to ‘tell a story’.

Unfortunately, the orange triangle above the front cover image indicates that Cover Creator found a problem. Hovering the mouse over the triangle displays the error message below:

Cover image error

To ensure a good quality cover, KDP recommends that the cover image be 300 DPI – i.e. 300 Dots Per Inch, but the cover image is only 293 DPI.

As the image is very close to being good enough, we could ignore the message, or choose a better one. But we won’t. Instead, we’re going to scale the image down.

Scaling an image down means making it a little smaller. This has the effect of pushing the dots per inch closer together, thereby increasing the DPI.

Note: when you make an image larger, you decrease the resolution because you’re expanding the area covered by the same number of dots per inch.

Scaling the cover image

To scale the image down, start by clicking anywhere inside the image. This causes a ‘frame’ to be displayed around it:

Click-hold-and-drag one of the corners towards the middle of the image as shown above. As you drag the corner the image will become blurry. As soon as you release the corner, the image will snap back into focus.

If you scale the image down too far, press the ‘Click to reset image position’ option on the Edit Cover Image popup. This will undo everything and return the image to its original size and location.

As soon as the orange triangle disappears, you can stop scaling the image.

As before, click the Preview button below the image to see the cover without the guidelines.

When you’re happy with the appearance of the cover, click the ‘Save and Submit’ button on the Preview screen:

KDP will display a confirmation that the cover uploaded successfully.

In the next section we will look at reviewing and approving your book.

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Self-publishing via Word and Createspace – overview

This is the first in a series of how-to posts that will help you publish a print version of your book…without making all the mistakes I made with Innerscape. The posts will focus on Word 10 and Amazon’s Createspace. The information is accurate as at April, 2017.

Right, first and foremost – what is Createspace?

Createspace is the print book arm of Amazon’s self-publishing toolset. Createspace allows you to publish a trade paperback version of your manuscript which will be produced on a ‘Print On Demand’ basis [POD]. POD is a fast way of printing small to very small print runs of books.

How small? Try just one.

Essentially, when a customer buys a POD book, they are placing an order for a book that does not yet exist in physical form. Once the order is placed, the book takes 1-3 days to produce, and then it’s posted out to the customer just the same as a book printed in the ordinary way.

PROS

  • Amazon will place your book for sale just like any other book – i.e. it will have the same visibility, or lack thereof, as any other book.
  • Self-publishers can have the pleasure of holding a physical copy of their own work.
  • Readers who do not like ebooks can find and buy your work in a physical format.
  • POD costs nothing up front, and printing charges* are subtracted from the sale price of the book – no sale, no charge.
  • POD books do not have to be warehoused.

CONS

  • Because POD books lack efficiencies of scale, they are not cheap*.
  • Because POD books come from Indies [and may or may not be returnable], bookshops generally do not accept them.
  • Most Indies sell far more ebooks than POD versions, but that may simply be a function of price [see above]
  • Preparing your manuscript for printing via Createspace requires a fair bit of work, or at least I found it to be so.

This is a cutesy video that walks you through the sales and royalties side of the process:

*Before you can calculate your royalties, however, you have to set a price that will not only cover your print charges, but will also bring in a small profit…to you. Working out the print charges, however, is a little bit like finding the end of a tangle of string.

  1. Print charges depend on the total page number, BUT >>
  2. the page number will change depending on the trim size of your book – i.e. how big or small it is, BUT >>
  3. Word documents are in A4, not in standard trim sizes, so a 200 page Word document could be up to 400 pages, depending on the trim size.

Trim size

I admit, I struggled with this. Trim size refers to the actual physical dimensions of the book you end up with after the printing process is finished. But what are these sizes? And how do they relate to my Word document?

After much floundering I found this table of trim sizes:

This information is from the Createspace website and the sizes shown in bold are the standard ones. Without going into too much detail, ordinary printers can print any sized book you can imagine, but POD printers like Createspace can only print the standard sizes. So, go standard. 🙂

After much messing around with measuring tapes and various sized books, I settled on the 5.5″ x 8.5″ trim size. Imho, not too big and not too small. But I was still no closer to knowing how many pages I’d end up with. Enter the Createspace templates.

Createspace templates

Before I say anything else, I have to say that trying to pour my manuscript into one of the templates was an exercise in frustration. For example, I could not get the page numbering to work. At all. I really wouldn’t recommend actually using the templates but…they do provide invaluable information such as:

  • Standard fonts
  • margins
  • layout etc

The information on the margins is absolutely vital. So next step is to find a template for the trim size you have chosen. You will find the most up-to-date information on the Kindle Direct Publishing website. If you have already published an ebook with KDP, login as normal. If not, got to this link:

https://kdp.amazon.com/

and login with your normal Amazon ID and password. Once you have logged in, select the ‘Help’ option from the top of the page. From the first Help screen select ‘Paperback Manuscript Formation’ as show below :

 

From the next screen, select ‘Paperback Manuscript Templates {Beta} as shown:

From the next screen, select ‘Templates with Sample Content’ to display the list of templates available for each trim size:

The ‘sample’ part helps you to see how the bits fit.

Select the appropriate template and save it to your computer. Open it and look at it, but do NOT change anything. This template works for Createspace, so you need to keep it with its original settings so you know what to change in your own Word document.

In the next post, I’ll show you how to:

  • change the font and font size of your manuscript to match the template,
  • change the margins and page setup to match the template
  • change the alignment and line spacing to match the template.

In future posts, I’ll walk you through how to:

  • change the styles to make formatting easier,
  • how and why to insert section breaks and
  • how to insert different page numbers in different areas of your book
  • how to calculate costs and royalties based on the number of pages you end up with in your formatted manuscript
  • how to calculate the price you need to charge for your book in order to make a profit, or at least break even.

This may seem like a very back to front way of doing things, but you can’t make any of the important calculations until you know exactly what size book you want to create and how many pages it will have.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 


Canva for ebook covers

Never heard of Canva? Don’t worry, neither had I until this morning. Canva is a [free-ish] online graphics program? facility? that allows us cash-strapped writers to design our own ebook covers. It also allows us to do a lot of other things, but I only needed an ebook cover so that’s what I played with.

After doing the 2 minute tutorial, I spent about an hour playing with the graphics and, I have to say, I am very impressed. The image below is a draft of the cover I came up with for Innerscape:

innerscape cover draft

The cross hatching is part of the watermark [along with the name CANVA in the middle of the image]. The reason for the watermark is that I chose 2 non-free images for the cover – the landscape and the picture frame. Each image costs $1 – yes, that was not a typo, just one solitary dollar – for both personal and commercial use. So all up, my costs would have been $2.

I was very tempted to just pay my money and be done with it, but they have a special deal whereby you can buy 11 images for ten dollars, and I thought ‘oh, parts 3 & 4, and 5 & 6….’.

-cough-

Anyway, a bit about the design. The final, ‘real’ cover will have a different graphic on it, but for the moment I like the idea of mirror images and worlds within worlds and the visual tension of seeing the title as a not-so-subtle price tag. Paradise is only for the rich, after all.

Of course that could all be a bit of BS – there is a reason why I’m a writer not a graphics designer. -sigh-

Once you are ready to download your newly created image/cover, you are given the option of either paying for any non-free images you have used, or downloading a draft. I haven’t tried the paid option but assume it is the same as the draft one – you get to choose between downloading a 70 DPI resolution image or a 300 DPI pdf file.

DPI stands for dots per inch so 70 DPI would give you a reasonable resolution [as in my cover image] but nothing great. The good thing about it is that it doesn’t chew up your bandwidth. My image weighs in at about 75 kb, which is next to nothing. When I downloaded the 300 DPI pdf however, it took quite a while to download and was HUGE. Well over a megabyte of data.

I would use the 300 DPI for actual print covers but not for ebook covers. Finding the right balance for the cover image will require a bit of trial and error so that it looks good but doesn’t take half an hour to download.

Oh and one last thing. I converted the 300 DPI pdf file to a more reasonably sized jpg file but discovered that my version of the software didn’t include the fonts used by CANVA. My app substituted similar fonts but you can see that they do not look quite right. Next time I’ll either use fonts that I know I have, or I won’t mess with the image. 🙂

And for those who might like to play with CANVA themselves, here’s the link to a great Indies Unlimited tutorial on how to use it.

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2015/05/11/canva-for-free-ebook-covers-and-more/

Comments? Please feel free to let rip. I haven’t paid for anything so you’re not going to hurt my feelings or my wallet. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


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