Designing a Cover for CreateSpace

This post isn’t meant to be a detailed tutorial for designing a cover for a book published by CreateSpace.  Rather, I wanted to pass along a few tips for those of you who currently are designing a cover (or plan to).  Hopefully, some of the tips will save you from a little of the frustration that I’ve endured.

I’m not a graphic designer.  Let me make that clear.  I’m a writer, and haven’t ever shown one speck of talent for any of the visual (or audio) arts.  But I decided to design my own book cover.  Why?  Several reasons.  I didn’t want to pay someone else for something I could do myself.  The free CreateSpace covers are pretty awful.  Creating a cover seemed to be a fun (though somewhat frustrating, as it turns out) challenge.  And, perhaps most importantly, I guess I have some sense that the more of myself I put into this book, the more effort and attention I expend, the more I imbue the book with my heart and soul, then the more positive the energy that will be generated and incorporated into the book itself.  Silly, perhaps.  But for someone with zero marketing budget, no contacts in the industry with the ability to formally promote my book, no real way to let people know of its existence, I need all of the positive energy I can get!

So, to begin.

1)  I had an idea in mind for a cover image that reflects the tone of my story, a rather spooky black and green forest.  Did a google image search, and found, to my surprise, many photos that somewhat matched my little vision.  Most of them were too small, pixel-size-wise.  But I found a perfect image, of large enough pixel dimensions, and checked to ensure that it wasn’t copywrited.  It wasn’t  Voila!  (Pixel size must be at least 300 dpi, or dots/pixels per inch. If your book is 9″ x 6″, say, then the front cover image needs to be at least 2700 pixels x 1800 pixels.)

2)  Watched a fun little YouTube video about how to create book covers using Microsoft Word.  (I didn’t want to spend money on image software.)    This video by no means describes all relevant features of Word, but it does demonstrate a few particularly useful ones.

3)  The video showed only front cover creation.  CreateSpace requires the entire book cover–front, back, and spine–be one pdf image. Calculated the total image size for my entire book cover, as follows.  I chose a 8.5″ x 5.5″ trim size.  The spine width for my particular book is 0.792″.  (To calculate your book’s spine width, see  CreateSpace requires a 0.125″ “bleed”, which is a margin of that size all around the border.  So, adding in the bleed, the image size for my cover is 12″ x 8.75″ (with a slight bit of rounding).

4)  Created a document in Word 2010 that was 12″ wide by 8.75″ high.  Made all of the margins zero.

5)  The front cover portion of the document is 5.625″ x 8.75″, which is a ratio of 0.6429.  Outside of Word, I used Microsoft Paint (which comes bundled with Word) to alter my cover image to that exact same ratio.

6)  The front cover image needed to be on the right side of the Word document.  How to place it exactly?  Set 2 tab stops in Word- one on either side of the spine.  Or, in other words, one at the far right of the back cover, and one at the far left of the front cover.  For my cover, I set the tab stops at 5.625″ and at 6.417″.  (To set the tab stops, use Home->Paragraph->Tabs.)

7)  I inserted my cover image into the document, and tabbed it over twice to place it at the far right.

8)  Using Insert->Shape, I created a rectangle that encompassed the spine and the back cover.  Filled it with color using Drawing Tools/Format->Shape Fill.

9)  Wrote title and author on the spine vertically, as follows.  Using Insert ->Text Box ->Draw Text Box, drew a rectangle encompassing the spine.  Then used Text Box Tools/Format->Text Direction to change the type to vertical.  Added in title and author name.  Used Home->Font and Home->Paragraph to alter font and placement.

10)  Added a shape box to the front cover, filled in title and name, filled with color, and blurred the edges, as shown in the above-mentioned video.

Voila!  Almost done.  As you can see below, I still need to add a description onto the back cover (I’m editing it now).  Once I’ve added it in, my cover will be almost ready to submit to CreateSpace.

11)  Once I add the description to the back cover (using a text box), I will save the Word document as a pdf using File->Save As->pdf.

This all sounds far more complicated than it actually is.  You’ll need to spend some time, of course, but if you do, you’ll end up with a cover that you made your very own self.  How cool is that?!




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