Using Createspace to Self-Publish: Creating a book cover

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On Createspace, you’ll find a tool called Cover Creator (guess what it does?), and within this tool, you’ll discover three basic options for creating your book cover. In this post, I’m going to go over those three options and briefly discuss the pros and cons of each one. Then, I’m going to explain the less-than-efficient way that I created the cover for my book, ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS LOVE CAN FEEL.

Kindle book cover for ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS LOVE CAN FEEL
Kindle book cover for ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS LOVE CAN FEEL

Option #1: Use one of the free templates provided.  First off, let me say Cover Creator is pretty great–it’s totally easy to use and even fun, and I’m not a tech guy.  Now: the free templates. There are, as best I could tell, about 35 different templates to choose from, and within each template, you can customize the text, font, size, color, layout, and a bunch of other things, too.  The templates themselves are quite generic, and I wouldn’t recommend choosing one without really customizing it.  (Note: regardless of whatever template you choose, you can upload images–JPEG files–and have them be a part of the cover. They just need to be 300 DPI (dots per image) or higher. And, of course, make sure whatever image you use, you have secured the proper rights to it.)

One of the templates allows for you to, essentially, upload a completed front cover and a completed back cover. That is what I did. Well, sort of.  More on that shortly.

Pros: this option is free; user-friendly; fast.

Cons: templates are generic; formatting can be tricky, especially when it comes to uploading a 300 DPI photo.

Check out this helpful YouTube video; it provides a demonstration on how to use Cover Creator. 

Option #2: Upload a completed book cover to Createspace. This option allows a user to make a one-sheet book cover (front, spine, back), save it as a PDF, and upload it to Cover Creator. In the beginning of my book cover creation process, I chose this option. But, despite much effort, I could never get the cover to come out exactly the way I wanted it, so I circled back to the templates and found the one where you can upload whatever front and back cover you wanted.

Pros: allows for a completely customized book cover; you control every aspect of design.

Cons: formatting is very tricky; compared to using the free templates, this option is really difficult to use (to me, at least).

Option #3: Pay Createspace for a book cover.  For a customized book cover, it’ll run you $399, which, after a bit of research, I learned is pretty standard. (Note: when 280 Steps went out of business, I asked them how much they wanted for the rights to use the ALPHABET LAND book cover, which I really loved. Memory serves, they quoted me a price of $325.) I read a bit about how this option works, and, as I understand it, Createspace sends you a detailed worksheet filled with questions about your book and your preferences regarding art, font, text, etc for the book cover. They then take that information, create a cover, and you approve it (or ask for more changes/tweaks). When you’re satisfied, you do a final approval, and your cover is ready. Not sure about the timeline for the process, but, per their website, Createspace employs lots and lots of book cover designers, and they’re the experienced professionals. Honestly, it sounded all right. . .if you got the money.  Me, I didn’t want to pay. Plus, I wanted to figure it out myself.

Pros: you don’t have to make your own cover; you work with experienced book designers.

Cons: expensive.

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My Cover

Let me preface this by saying up front that I am terrible at following instructions.  And taking advice. And recognizing, once I’ve already started down an untenable path, that I should start over or change lanes.

I said all that to say this: how I created my book cover is definitely not the most efficient way to do things. Consider yourself warned.

So, with my disclaimer complete, let me begin. The first thing I did was create a free account with Canva, which bills itself as “amazingly simple graphic design software.” On Canva, I created a front cover for ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS LOVE CAN FEEL. Using one of the free templates, I found a public domain image, cropped and edited it to suit my taste, and pasted it directly onto Canva. Next, I created a back cover on Canva, this time using a different template, but one that, I felt, fit the overall ascetic I was going for. All that was easy. Took me very little time. . .

Then came the fun part. On Canva, you can share your book cover on social media and email, no problem.  But if you want to save your book cover, it must be saved as a PNG (portable network graphics).  Createspace will not accept PNG files, so I had to convert the PNG file to a JPEG, and in order to do that, I had to find a free converter online (click here to see the one I used.) Once that was done, I chose the free template on Cover Creator that allows you to upload a front and back cover image; I uploaded the JPEGs I’d created on Canva, and voila. Except it took several tries (I’d guess around eleven, maybe fifteen) before I got the margins and formatting approved by Createspace.

 

 

 

 

2017 RONE Awards…Vote for DEADLY DUNES

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If you’ve got a second, swing by InD’Tale Magazine, create a free account, and vote for my friend E. Michael Helms’s excellent mystery novel DEADLY DUNES, which is up for a RONE Award. I really enjoy his Mac McClellan detective series, and he is deserving of this award. Make sure to go vote by clicking here. Voting runs from May 22-28th, so don’t miss the deadline. Thanks!

Oh yeah, and go buy DEADLY DUNES by clicking here. 

Using Createspace to Self-Publish, Step 1: Formatting your manuscript

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on self-publishing a collection of my stories on Createspace, and I wanted to write a bit about the process. But first, a little context.

Overview of Createspace

Createspace is a publishing platform for books, CDs, and videos.  Owned by Amazon, Createspace is a fairly user-friendly platform where you can create an entire book (paperback and/or Kindle) for free, and then sell that book on Amazon for a price of your choosing with Createspace taking a percentage of the sales.  Two quick notes here.  One, there is an option on Createspace called Expanded Distribution, and that service will allow you to widen your book’s distribution, but the service is not free. Two, Createspace does take a percentage of every book you sell; however, I’ve had two different small publishers for my previous books, and the royalty rate on Createspace is much better than either of those publishers. Plus, with Createspace, you have the added benefit of setting the price. There is a royalty calculator you use when determining what you want to sell your book for. Click here for a better explanation on royalty calculations.

Formatting your Manuscript

The first step in the process is writing a great book. I just wanted to lead with that, even though it makes the title of this post false. So, to correct myself, formatting your manuscript is actually step two in the process. And, like most things on Createspace, it’s pretty easy. Basically, you have two options:

  • Option #1: Set up your manuscript according to very precise but not difficult specifications. You can click here and follow these step-by-step instructions on how to make sure Createspace will accept the Microsoft Word or PDF file that you upload. (Note: Word docs and PDFs are the only files Createspace will take.) I read through this article, and it looks simple enough. You just have to set the margins and insert page numbers in a specific way. . .stuff like that.  Definitely helpful information. Too bad I didn’t find it until after I’d already chosen. . .
  • Option #2: Just upload your manuscript as is, and let Createspace reject it. When they do, they give you a numbered list of corrections to make, you download the new file, make the corrections, and then resubmit.  Only problem with this option: you will need to make the corrections and visually inspect every page of the manuscript. Tedious, but again, not difficult. All told, it took me about thirty minutes to make the necessary corrections.

After your manuscript is formatted, you just need to submit a file for official review. Createspace will then review it, approve it, and then you move on to the next step in the publishing process, which, for me anyway, was creating a book cover. More on that later. . .

Tips for Formatting your Manuscript

  1. If your manuscript is double-spaced (2 on the spacing tab), change it to 1.5. I submitted a double-spaced manuscript, and this ran the page count up to 310. When I changed it to 1.5, the page count dropped to 237. Why does this matter? I think (don’t quote me on this), but I think the more pages your book has the more you have to sell it for to make more royalties. Me, I just didn’t like how few words were on each page in the double-spaced format. Looked like a Large Print book.
  2. Make sure each chapter starts on a new page. Not only does it look cleaner and help readers distinguish between one section of the book from another, it also helps avoid formatting issues, which can be a nightmare.

Next time, I’ll write about creating a book cover. Spoiler alert: it’s not as difficult as you might think.

Book Cover reveal: ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS LOVE CAN FEEL

 

This collection of short stories is twelve years in the making. I wrote the first story that appears in ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS LOVE CAN FEEL in 2005. Father’s Day was rapidly approaching, and I was a broke graduate student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I had no money, so instead of buying my Dad a necktie or coffee mug on credit I wrote him a short story called “Five O’Clock Lightning.” It was about a fifty-year old high school math teacher who, with the help of his psychologist son, tries out for a local minor league baseball team. Like me, my old man is baseball fan, and he enjoyed the story.  Back in the day, practically all professional baseball games were played during the day (no stadium lights available), and when the 1927 New York Yankees had “Murder’s Row”–Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Miller Huggins among others–the saying went that these sluggers hit so many home runs they could change the score as quickly as lightning strikes. At the time, I thought five o’clock lightning was a fitting metaphor for a middle-aged man’s comeback.  I wrote that story when I was twenty four. Now I’m middle-aged and am looking to make a comeback of sorts.

Between 2005 and 2017, I wrote the rest of the stories in this collection, some while I was a creative writing student at UAB; others I wrote later after I became an English instructor, a husband, and a father.  “The Man Who Wore No Pants,” a lengthy story about a single father who buys a lake house with a dying man still living in it, took me nine drafts (and six months) to complete to my satisfaction. Memory serves, the germ of that story came from an NPR story about a man who had terminal cancer and was selling his house, but with two possible asking prices: a buyer could have the house for a song if the seller was allowed to stay until he died, but if he had to leave, the price was set at market value. It was a fascinating story, and I’m pretty sure I heard it on This American Life. Anyway, “The Man Who Wore No Pants” was picked for Best of the Net for 2010 and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. That story marked the beginning of my dedication to (or perhaps obsession with) third person narration, for that is the point of view I’ve written in almost exclusively ever since. That story is also primarily about a father trying to connect with his son, which is why I chose it to be the first story in ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS LOVE CAN FEEL.  The last story in the collection, “Just Gus,” also features a father and son. In this story, which I just finished in March of 2017, Gus Lockhart, an eighteen-year old about to leave for college, steals his father’s prized record collection, and the father attempts to better understand why it happened. I’m not one for boasting, but this is a very good story–it’s funny, it’s heartfelt, it’s honest. . .

As are the rest of the stories in ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS LOVE CAN FEEL. Or, at least, I think they are. I hope they are. Either way, I wanted to share the book cover I created. I’m planning on writing more about the process of self-publishing on Createspace, so, if you’re so inclined, be on the lookout for my thoughts on that. In the meantime, voila. . .the book cover for ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS LOVE CAN FEEL.

Kindle book cover for ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS LOVE CAN FEEL
Kindle book cover for ALL THE DIFFERENT WAYS LOVE CAN FEEL

 

 

All the Different Ways Love Can Feel

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From 2010 to 2014, I wrote private detective mysteries. I wrote them for a lot of reasons, but the main one was simple: I love reading mysteries.  Like everyone else, I loved Chandler, Crumley, and Hammett, and I wanted to do–or try to do–what those guys did so well.  So I wrote one.  And then another.  And another.  And another.  Honestly, I’m proud of the Eli Sharpe series and Alphabet Land, my stand-alone noir thriller.  And I’m grateful to the publishers–Camel Press and 280 Steps respectively–who took a chance on me, just as I’m grateful to any and all who read those books.  My four novels haven’t made me rich, but they were challenging to write, and that made me a better writer. My goal has always been to get better.

Which is why I took a long hiatus from publishing: I wanted to work on my craft.  Plus, I was burnt out and needed to figure out what I really wanted to do next.  So now I’m jumping back into the pool. . .only this time, I’m going a different route: self-publishing a collection of short stories.  Using Createspace, which is surprisingly user-friendly, I’m currently in the process of formatting a book of eleven stories tentatively titled All the Different Ways Love Can Feel. My goal is to have this book available in paperback (print-on-demand) and Kindle some time later this summer. If you’re interested, I plan on revealing the book cover soon as well as writing more about the stories in the collection.

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