Ten Easy Steps to Creating Book Covers with Slide Presentation Software.
All Work and No Play Dull the Creative Edge.
One fun “finishing touch” for your book that you can do during the creative writing phase is to design your cover. Having a picture of what the finished product may look like is inspiring to see when you’re weary with the writing and editing processes.
As there is for the writing process, you can find special software on the market that can help you compose a book cover, but stick to a program that you’re accustomed to using for setting up slideshow presentations (Apache OpenOffice Impress, Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat). If you want special effects that aren’t available in those programs, you can manipulate your graphics or pictures with various photo editing programs; MS Paint, MS Office Picture Manager, and Google Picasa are examples.
You use essentially the same techniques in both Microsoft PowerPoint and Apache OpenOffice Impress, but the two programs differ in vocabulary and the arrangement of menus for commands and utilities within each program. For example, the PowerPoint “WordArt“ utility is called “FontWork” in Impress. To avoid confusion, I’ll try to describe in generic terms how to build book covers. Users familiar with their choice of software will know where to find and how to use the commands and utilities to create the effects described here.
These steps tell how to create single-piece covers (front, back and spine combined). CreateSpace requires all covers to be single-piece, while Lulu requires some of their publication options to have the cover elements submitted as separate pieces. You need only slide presentation and Adobe Acrobat software.
Open a slide presentation program.
- Format the first slide in blank, and format the page in the total trim size needed. Don’t forget to include the spine width and the bleed. CreateSpace makes you calculate your book’s spine width, while Lulu provides it for you when you specify how many pages your book will have.
- Insert front cover art and size it to precisely fit the right-hand side of the slide, aligned exactly with the right edge of the space where the spine will be, and with the top, bottom and right side edges of the slide.
- Enlarge the width of the cover art slightly, so that the left edge of the artwork will overlap the spine area a very small amount on the left side of the picture. Ensure that the front cover is still perfectly aligned with the top, bottom and right edges of the slide.
- Format the background of the slide in a complementary color or pattern of colors (or insert artwork that won’t clash with your front cover), and insert your publisher logo at the center bottom, high enough from the bottom edge to avoid being cropped with the bleed. Leave enough space to the right of the logo to accommodate an ISBN bar code, if necessary. CreateSpace adds an ISBN to all books, to enable them to be sold on Amazon; Lulu excludes some book formats from ISBNs, and sells them only in the Lulu Store.
- Use Word Art/FontArt to insert all text elements (blurb, bio, etc.) in a contrasting color on the back cover, and in a complementary color on the front cover (title, author name, etc.). Don’t use the existing text boxes, inserted text boxes, nor add text to geometric shapes: the lettering will be excessively smudgy when printed. Dark backgrounds need light text, and light backgrounds need dark text. Position text carefully, so as not to interfere with important elements of the artwork, to avoid its being cropped with the bleed, and to keep it out of the ISBN bar code area.
- If you want to add a fill to a dark colored background, to enable you to use the same color for the text (as in the American Bird Life Calendar & Agenda pictured below), insert a rectangle or other geometric shape, remove its outer line, format it with white fill, and if desired, add a percentage of transparency to the fill of the rectangle. Superimpose the text on the shape.
- Look up the best BISAC category for your book, and position it at the top or bottom of the back cover, aligned with the left margin, far enough inside to prevent its being cropped with the bleed. If you write hybrid or Fusion Fiction, or there are several appropriate nonfiction BISAC categories, you can list up to three of them. (Do not include BISAC code numbers.)
- Position the list price of your book either at the top or bottom of the back cover, far enough inside the nearest edge(s) to prevent its being cropped with the bleed. Display the price only in your country’s currency, because exchange rates change all the time.
- Create a spine band in a contrasting color that complements both the back and front covers. Make this band be about ½ inch wider than the width of your book’s spine. Use a rectangle, removing its outside line. Position the band exactly at the center of the slide, and extend it exactly from the top edge to the bottom edge. Be sure to “bring to front” the spine band, so it overlaps the adjacent edges of the front and back covers. When the book is printed, a slim edge of the contrasting spine color will wrap around the corners of the front and back covers. This looks neater and more professional than trying to make the spine band exactly match the spine width, because there will always be a little bit of variation in the placement of the cover over the spine when the book is manufactured, and you don’t know where the edge of your spine will end up.
- Prepare an Adobe PDF file. CreateSpace and Lulu prefer to print files in that format. My MS Office products are old enough not to work reliably any more when converting projects directly to PDF, so in PowerPoint I have to Save As a PNG file, and then I convert the PNG to an Adobe PDF/A file. In Impress, you can save the file directly as an Adobe PDF/A, but I’ve found that sometimes Impress creates enormous file sizes. There doesn’t seem to be any advantage to the printed outcome of these huge files compared to smaller files created from a PNG made by PowerPoint, so to save disk space and upload time, if I find myself with a gargantuan Impress file, I’ll re-do it in PowerPoint.
Consult your POD provider’s style guide to find out if your spine is wide enough to accommodate title and author name text, and a miniature of your publisher logo.
Always purchase proof copies of your printed books. You may need to adjust colors or other characteristics of text or cover art.
(Please let me know if a step I’ve described doesn’t work for you. I could have left something out.)
If you have designed your own book cover(s), why not upload 1-piece copies to your blog, and post a link in my “Light a Fire Here” comments box? We’d all like to see your creations! 🙂
Next time: Sneaky Text Tweaks for Indie Author-Publishers.