I’ve used the same general layout for the Paranormology series – Two thirds picture at the top, one third writing at the bottom. The top is of the haunted building. The bottom contains the title and author upon a close up of some of the material making up the structure.
The Smashwords guidelines specify a minimum width of 1400 pixels, with a height greater than the width. I use 1400 x 2278. For the lower section, I’ve chosen a piece of wall with some cracks and flaking paint:
After that, I’ll add in the title and the author, along with a flourish to separate the two. I used the font Augustus because it was narrow and crisp. I’ve made a duplicate of the writing layer to have a slight coloured rim around the lettering.
Now that’s alright by itself, but the brickwork needed to be contrasted a tad more with the writing, so I added a glow to it, reduced the contrast and added in a purple and yellow wash. I then put a shroud on the outside and bordering the two images, to give it a slightly darker look.
I threw in some faint plasma for a swirling, mystic look and finally added some snow at the bottom panel to tie it all in. The result:
In the previous post, I spoke about how to get the cover to play ball. By downloading the template you will save yourself a lot of trouble, but how does one use it?
I like GIMP. A lot. I know there are other graphics programs that do a lot of stuff easily but GIMP has just been my go-to and probably always will be. Hats off to the developers.
Anyway, to use the template, open it in GIMP.
You’ll notice on the right hand side there’s the “Layers” pane. I added my front, spine and rear layers underneath. By adjusting the transparency of the top-most layer (the template) I can see how I fit in the guidelines at any time:
To turn off the top layer altogether, when I’m working on things directly, click the eyeball next to the layer. Also use this for when you’re exporting your final image.
Note the rear: I’ve kept the blurb clear of the barcode area because KDP, like Lulu, will automatically stick a barcode on that spot. Can you change it? No. Why not? Because it’s a standard spot and there’s really no reason to have it customisable. It’s like software engineering, really. Yes, it probably could be customisable, and we could put a whole lot of man-hours to getting the darn thing to be on the other side, or rotated, or put on the top, or the spine. We could do that, yes. Or – OR – we could not, and recognise that it’s not really an issue and state very simply that that’s where the barcode goes and apply the developers to better, more important tasks.
Sorry. One of the most annoying phrases as an engineer I hear is, “Can we make it customisable?” Rant over. Moving right along. Where was I?
Ah, yes, the template. So you’ll see, straight away, that the eBook cover is not going to work. It doesn’t have a spine. It doesn’t have a rear. You’ll need to knock those up. I used a picture of Eel Grove for the rear, because it’s a dark image and sits well against the light blurb.
For the spine, I whipped up an underwater theme, graduating from the light to waves to the dark reef-bed. The text had to be rotated to run down the spine, and I added a slight drop-shadow to help with the contrast.
When it was all done and I was chuffed with how it looked, I exported it. KDP wants it as a PDF. Gimpy can do this, no sweat, but the resulting PDF file is 17 MB. For you spring chickens, that ain’t such a thing, but I remember the time when our harddrive was 40MB all up, and the speed of a modem of 1200 bps.
Anyhow, I uploaded it to KDP and sat back.
Oh. Poop. What have I done? The preview window on the KDP form looks… terrible. It’s like it’s.. it’s… it’s the tiniest bit on the bottom of the spine.
That’s what it looked like.
What has gone wrong? I’ll tell you. There’s a thing called DPI, or Dots Per Inch. Don’t worry too much about the details, but when I saved the image to PDF, it saved the data in a rather stretched format.
Back to Gimpy-boy (Yes, I call it Gimpy-boy):
Open up the Print Resolution dialog and the mystery is revealed. See that width / height? That’s because, translating pixels to ‘dots’ on a page means that I’ve made my picture stupidly large. Aha!
I adjusted the X and Y resolution from 72 DPI to 300 DPI and the width and height went to 9.25″ x 12.88″.
But the book is only 6 x 9, right? Yes, true, but we’re working off the template and we need to include trim and all of that. Anyway, 9.25″ is hella closer than 38″! Phew!
OK, so export to PDF again, re-upload and cross all digits and tentacles…
In the previous post I told you how I decided to try out KDP’s Create Space for the paperback version of Tedrick Gritswell.
In this episode, I’ll walk you through the uploading of the manuscript because it needs some examination, then start on the cover.
Once I had the physical output determined:
I formatted my table of contents and added in the ISBN as per Lulu’s instructions – it’s a simple enough template to follow, and I’m not about to deviate. Then I uploaded it.
Well, wasn’t that fun? I will argue that Lulu’s uploading mechanism is much cleaner and easier – you feel ‘safe’ as you go along. I will also argue that Amazon’s engine is quite advanced and did a lot of processing to make sure that my manuscript fit into its guidelines.
We can see some different approaches here: To be approved for GlobalReach, the onus is on you to make sure your book is in the right format, has the right dimensions, has the right ISBN and author and copyright, has the right pagination and table of contents. There are good resources of how to go about that, including my previous posts, so it’s not such a bad thing. It also means that you, as the publisher, are responsible for getting it right and they make sure you purchase a proof for you to check over before you can set your book free to the world.
KDP, on the other hand, takes a different approach. You upload your manuscript and it gets processed by a bunch of verifiers and validators, custom engines that grab your PDF by their dog-eared corners and shake them about, making sure its up to standard. Not that you’ll see what’s going on, but it does give prompts.
When mine came out the other end, there were many errors that were picked up, including the size of the document. The cool thing was, the engine did its best to modify my manuscript to conform to the required dimensions because, yup, I’d forgotten to set the dimensions of my page before exporting to PDF!
Why does this matter? Because by changing the size, I change the layout and flow, and the pages will, as a result, not be the same. And it seemed to get that. I’d like to try it again just to be sure, but I’m pretty sure it actually updated the page numbers and the table of contents for me. So a big tick here for Amazon on that front.
It makes sense, if you think about it. If they had to manually review all of the manuscripts coming up for quality and design issues, it would take about a day before someone hit the ‘F-It’ key and got a programmer to knock up an engine to weed out the most obvious issues before they reached a human. Nice.
Where it falls a little flat, though, is when I revised my manuscript, changed the dimensions to 6″ by 9″ and re-exported. The Auto-whatsit decided to over compensate and the inside margins of the book were too big. It took many iterations of trial and error to get it ‘just right’, which I did in the end. I think.
And that’s the other killer – currently KDP doesn’t offer the ability to purchase a proof at publishing prices. Lulu insists upon ordering one to make sure the end product is exactly what it needs to be, but there is no such facility on KDP. So I had to order my proofs as a normal purchase.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the cover.
Similar to Lulu, KDP gives you the option to DIY or to use their templates. I’ve found the templates fairly straight forward, but this time around I wanted to try the DIY approach.
To do this you can download a PDF or PNG with the dimensions of the front, spine and rear cover. Depending on the size of your book, you’ll get a different file, but the idea is that you have the width and height, along with a spine whose size depends on the number of pages and the paper weight. Mine looks like this (PDF): 6x9_Cream_270
As you can see, it’s broken into parts. You’ve got the front cover on the right, the rear on the left – which includes space for the ISBN barcode – and the spine itself.
Do you have to make your own barcode or include it as part of the rear-image? No, not at all. It will be auto-generated when you upload it. More on that later.
The important thing to notice here is the whole loosey-goosey nature of the cover. You have red areas, black dotted lines and broad white areas. Why not just a rectangle? Because books are imprecise. The stock is not the same from place to place. They are produced on whopping great big machines with whirling parts and clampy bits and things that go brrrrrrp! and each of those processes has tolerances.
When ordering proofs of my other books, I’ve noticed that, depending on where they are printed, the colour, cut, folding and finish is different. As such, you will need to allow for the guidelines they’ve given you. Yes, there is a good chance that anything in the red-zone before the black line will be visible, but don’t count on it. If it’s important, keep it in the white zone.
Also worth noting: If you’re a stickler for having things dead-centre, then prepare to pull your hair out. That buffer and trim at the right means that you will need to compensate your centreline on the front cover to be a squigion to the left. The same rule applies for the vertical direction. Don’t assume that you can grab your eBook version and slap it on the top.
Be prepared to fiddle, is all I’m saying. After you upload, examine the finished product carefully because it won’t be exactly as you had it.
Is that all? No, not really. There’s a fair bit more to go, actually. More in the next post.
Pushing the digital version of your book to hardcopy requires a revision of your front cover. You’ve knocked your cover up. You are pretty chuffed with it because, hey, everything is just as it should be.
Pixels are, after all, pixels.
Printing out a cover throws a couple of curve-balls. Two notables are colour and cut.
Cut is the easiest to explain. When a book get made up from a printing press, there are a number of processes and physical factors that need to be accounted for. Pick up a book off your shelf, go on. See how the cover stock is different to what’s used inside the book? See how it’s glossy, whereas the pages are not? See how the pages perfectly line up with each other?
It’s not an accident. The machines that make up a book have various tolerances when assembling, and then the whole thing gets trimmed to perfection. Aah!
The trimming bit is where you need to be concerned. Your cover will have bits cut off. I’ll repeat that because it’s important:
Your cover will have bits cut off.
The top and bottom edges, and the edge opposite the spine, are ear marked for a bit of slice-and-dice action. Lulu gives you templates you can use:
This one is for the PocketBook size, and as you can see, it has three distinct regions. The ‘Trim Area’, the ‘Safety Margin’ and the ‘Live Area’. If you use Gimp or Photoshop, add the template as a top-level layer so that you can see how your cover will end up:
Notice that all words are within the safety margin – no one wants to have their title sliced off! And, before you ask, yes, I found this out the hard way. The margin of safety is there for a reason. Use it.
What’s not so obvious is that the centre of your image is now a wee bit to the left. Doesn’t sound bad, until you get your book and that ‘wee bit’ has turned into a ‘Hella lot’! Realign your words, shadows, etc to align to the ‘new’ centre, and save yourself a headache.
If something looks good one your screen, great, it will probably look good on someone else’s screen, too, unless they’ve got their colours all up the wazoo. You can’t help that. In contrast (pun somewhat intended), if I look at a book, and then hand it to you, the colours on the front page haven’t changed.
So it is important to get it right.
I can’t really show you the difference as it gets printed out here, because my camera isn’t really picking up the details, but I’ll show you what I did for Adaptation:
On the left is the digital edit, and on the right is the Lulu hardcopy edit. You’ll notice the words spacing and alignment has been adjusted for the margins of safety.
The colours are muted on the left, just the way I wanted them to be but, when it was printed, they appear especially dull. No good. So with the Lulu edit I upped the contrast, increased the saturation and use the auto ‘white balance’. The result is a more vivid cover, unsuitable for digital (I think) but comes out just right in hardcopy.