Friday, 29 April 2016

A Guide to Self Publishing - The Cover Art

Creating the Cover Artwork

The cover is the face of your book. Like it or not, it is what people will judge your book on. You have to make sure it's eye catching so it will stand out from thousands of other books that turn up in search results. That doesn't mean it has to look like every other book, it means it has to stand out and look good. If you are not confident in creating an artistic cover, get a cover artist to do it and tell them what you need. Send them the templates from Ingram Spark and Createspace and the cover art recommendation from Smashwords. Otherwise, you will need Photoshop or some other high end image editing software to produce the results, but you can produce some surprisingly good results in Microsoft Powerpoint. No! I don't work for Microsoft!

Powerpoint lets you create a slide that is about the size of a book cover. It allows accurate positioning of graphics and text and can export to high resolution JPEG, with a few tricks. I searched the stock photo companies until I found something that suited the content of my book and bought a license to use the image. I looked at hundreds of images. I positioned the image in Powerpoint, then enhanced the picture by applying an artistic filter called Pencil Greyscale. I added the text for the title with shadowing, text for my name, the back blurb and added the spine text. Powerpoint is very easy to use and it's almost made for this type of work. The results, which were going to be used as a guideline for a professional, turned into something I was happy with, so I kept it. Powerpoint was able to produce the cover art for The Wobbly Wallaby. At worst, it's a great scratchpad for ideas.

To do the spine you need to know the thickness of the book. Createspace recommends 0.0025" per page so you have to multiply your number of pages by that number and then make sure that the centre of the spine text is in the dead centre of the artwork, taking into account the capital letters and bottoms of the y's and g's and that the spine text will fit inside the thickness of your spine allowing some room for error.

When all your text is placed correctly, make sure you allow for 0.0125" of extra space around the edge so that you don't get any white borders on the cover. I wasn't too careful about measuring that, I just made sure there was a little bit extra on the top, bottom and sides.

To get the barcode I went to Creative Indie Covers to generate a barcode. I checked the barcode scanned correctly using Scan Cam on the iPhone. Note that scan cam will report the 8 digit ISIN not the 13 digit ISIN. I have no idea how the two are related but they are and they're different. Place the image of the barcode in a location somewhere on the lower edge of the back cover of your artwork.
When you are satisfied with the design you need to save the design as a high resolution image. Unfortunately Powerpoint won't save a slide to 300dpi (or at least I couldn't figure out how to do that), so I did the following:
  1. Select all elements in Powerpoint on the slide by pressing Command A,
  2. Copy all elements by pressing Command C.
  3. Go to the Preview App on the Mac
  4. Select File -> New From Clipboard. That will paste the slide into Preview.
  5. Select File -> Export and when the dialog appears select JPEG as the format, quality set to Best and set the resolution to 300 dots per inch. Give the file a name and click Save.


For Createspace, you just need to resize the cover art image to their measurement. To calculate the correct size I calculated the correct width for the book and worked out the factor to multiply to that to get that to the pixel count of the width. I then multiplied the height by the factor to get the pixel count for the height. You must adjust one so you may have to go back to Powerpoint and make some adjustments however a Powerpoint page is a pretty good fit for a 5x8 book (I think I had to trim about 50-100 pixels from the height.). Open the cover image in Photoshop, resize and save the image as 'Photoshop PDF'. That's the cover PDF you need to send to Createspace.

Ingram Spark

For Ingram Spark, go to their cover art page and fill in the details for the cover template. They will email you a template straight away. This is a pdf document and your cover art has to fit in a box outlined in the document. Open the pdf in Photoshop and create a new layer. Cut the barcode that Ingram Spark have generated out of the pdf and past the barcode into your new layer.

Open your artwork in a new window and resize it until the size corresponds to the size of the pink and blue box on the template. Ensure the spine is right in the middle. For a 5x8 book I had to resize the original art work to 3190 x 2480. That meant I had to increase the height to 2480 using Image->Image Size and then reduce the width to 3190 using Image->Canvas Size. Professional artists would be horrified, but it got the job done. Make sure you have space for the bleed edges around the outside and that you cover the pink and blue box on the template entirely.

Select all from the edit menu of the resized cover art, copy the content then go to the template. Create a new layer and paste the content into the layer in the template and move the cover art into place. Ensure the barcode layer is above the content layer and move the barcode into place over a white area on your design. Then save all that as a Photoshop PDF.


Smashwords just need the front page, no spine and no back, so I just took the original artwork and resized it to meet the requirement. The Smashwords requirement is quite flexible, however make sure the height is at least 1.4 times the dimension of the width. Save that and the cover art work is complete!

Now it's time to create the eBook.

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