Thursday, March 15, 2012

Preparing a Cover for Your CreateSpace Book

        Now that the first volume of "The Termite Queen" has finally been published, I mean to get back to a series of more normal blog entries. First, let me say that I added a paragraph to the post on formatting the text for CreateSpace -- just a little hint on how to get page numbers to hold their formatting.
        I'm currently working on the cover art for Volume Two. I had already made a drawing for v. 1 and all I had to do was adjust it to fit the 8.5 x 5.5 book size. Since originally I had not intended to publish in two volumes, I had to start from scratch for v. 2. My best friend, who is an artist, made very sure that I knew I had no talent for figure drawing, but she likes my termites. So I've settled on a view of the Shshi army with the fortress in the background and the Champion Ki'shto'ba and Kwi'ga'ga'tei the Holy Seer in the foreground, shown at the moment they are receiving the Speaking of the Dead. I have to draw the fortress very carefully, one stone at a time. Tedious. Furthermore, I've had a problem about where to put the title. I tried extending it across the panoply of the pair of fortress towers, but that meant lightening the background colors so the text would stand out. Didn't work well. Now I've decided to make one tower complete and show the text against the other, which I am going to leave plain, without stones. I think this will work. After I get to a certain point, I'll post a preliminary draft and ask for opinions.
       The rest of this post will deal with how to prepare your own cover for CreateSpace. (Everything I say here pertains to Word because it's the only program that I know. I realize many people work in other programs, but there must similarities that would make what I have to say useful.)
       It would work the same whether you draw your own illustration or make something out of photos or out of other people's illustrations. The best way is to use CreateSpace's CoverCreator feature. When you pick a size for your book, that will be the size for your cover. You can also use one of their ready-made, generic covers. That's what I did for the print version of "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder" because the cover has to be at least 300 dots-per-inch and a normal computer drawing will have only some 90. At that time I had no way of converting my drawing to 300. Now I have GIMP and it works great to scale a drawing to a denser dpi. I won't go into how to use it. If anybody needs help doing that, I could tell them what I do, but that's the only thing I understand about GIMP. It's too complicated to learn when I'm so familiar with the Word drawing tools. I scale the drawing to 325 dpi because when I did it to exactly 300, CoverCreator rejected it, saying it was only 299.
       If you're not using a generic cover, page through the sample covers until you come to -- and I think this is right -- the one called "Palm." This one allows you to upload a front cover and a back cover of your own, after which it provides a spine in the appropiate thickness for your book. Obviously, you must have uploaded your text before you can do the spine, but you can enter the front and back cover before you upload the text. You pick a color for the spine that works with your covers You also pick the color for the text on the spine, and there is some choice of font.
       A different form will allow you to upload the back cover, spine, and front cover in one piece. I didn't use this because I really don't know how to draw it to a proper scale so that it would work. This would be good to use if you wanted your drawing to wrap around the spine, but I can't tell you how to do it.
       The "Palm" template tells you the exact dimensions for your cover drawing, allowing for what is called "bleed." The color must extend past the exact size of the cover, because the book will be trimmed and you don't want to risk getting a white stripe along the edge. You also don't want anything important too close to the edge, because it might get trimmed off. For a book that is 8.5" by 5.5", "Palm" will tell you to make the cover 9" x 5.75". Now obviously, that means you will be leaving a quarter inch at the top and bottom (9 minus 8.5 leaves half an inch to be divided between the top and the bottom). Anything in that area is likely to be trimmed off.
       But I was puzzled -- should I place the edge of the cover against the spine and leave the full quarter-inch of extra width on the outer edge, or should I divide the quarter-inch into 1/8" on each side? I sent CreateSpace a question and they had no idea what I was talking about and they got off on a totally different subject, and I never learned a thing about it!
       But I did learn from trial and error. I fixed the cover with the entire quarter inch at the outer edge and uploaded and that worked well. Even so, you shouldn't put anything important too close to the spine edge, because there will be a crease that forms there as the cover is opened. The template prints a line where the three outer edges will be trimmed. The best thing is to leave a slight (at least 1/4") margin inside this and also along the spine.
       I learned the most by uploading the cover and looking to see how things fit. You can always go back and make some improving adjustments and try it again. For example, I decided my title was too close to the top to look right, so I moved it down a little. I also moved some of the stars and the antennae of the Highest Mother slightly inward.
       The cover has to be a JPEG. You can use Word's built-in Paint program to turn a computer drawing into a JPEG, but the dpi won't be 300+. So copy your drawing into GIMP (or whatever program you use that lets you scale the dpi). Scale the drawing to the appropriate size and dpi and save it as a JPEG. Then you're ready to upload the image in the Cover Creator and see it it looks the way you want.
       Once I got all the tools in place, making a workable cover was actually the simplest part of the preparation process in publishing a POD on CreateSpace.

So now ... back to drawing those cotton-pickin' stones!

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