If you’re going to self-publish a print copy of your book on CreateSpace, you’ll need a cover image. You can either do-it-yourself or find someone that can do it for you. If you’re not graphically inclined, finding someone to do it is your best route, but I encourage you to learn the tools of the trade because it will allow you to create promotional and website graphics yourself.
If you’re going to prepare the cover image yourself, you’re going to need Adobe Photoshop or Adobe InDesign. If you don’t own either of these products, I recommend getting Photoshop. It’s only $9.99/month and a lot more versatile for creating other graphics you’ll need as an author. InDesign is the right choice if you’re going to use it for your interior as well. I used Microsoft Word for my interior and it turned out just fine.
Step one: Before you commission artwork, search for a stock photo or start drawing the art yourself, head on over to CreateSpace and determine the dimensions of your book (width and length of the front cover) a.k.a. trim size and how many pages your book will contain.
Determining the size of your gutter margin may be a challenge, because when readers open your book, you don’t want your text curving too much into the spine. If you haven’t finished your manuscript, you want to at least have an approximate page count. If you only have an approximate count, you’ll want some extra width on the left side of your image to account for more pages than you have now. More on this later.
If you haven’t planned the first few pages of your book before the story begins and the one or two pages after your story ends, start thinking about those now. You’ll need an interior cover page, a copyright page, and whatever other pages you want to include. Remember that page one always starts on the right, so you may or may not want a blank page on the left. If you’ve finalized your manuscript, add the before and after pages, making sure to select the final font you want for printing.
Once you’ve determined your book’s dimensions and page count, it’s time for step two, downloading their dynamically generated cover template. https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do
After you click the Build Template button, you’ll be presented with the download page to download the zip file.
Once you open the template you may be just as confused as I was. Why is it so big and why is there so much extra white space around the cover template itself? Don’t worry about that, just know that you’ve got the correct template.
The peach colored area defines the dimensions of your image. Anything inside the peach colored area may get cut off or shifted, so make sure nothing important is in those areas. The dotted line represents your cover if it was printed perfectly. The area outside the dotted line represents the bleed area. Because of the way covers are printed, the image may be printed X fractions of an inch in any direction, so your artwork has to accommodate this possibility.
This means that the dimensions of your image are based on the size of your front cover, the spine, the back cover and the bleed area that is .125″ on all sides. Step three is to calculate the dimensions of your image. When I do the math for a 5×8 sized book with 204 pages, it looks like this.
Width = bleed area + back cover width + spine width + front cover width + bleed area
10.76 = 0.125 + 5 + 0.51 + 5 + 0.125
Height = bleed area + cover height + bleed area
8.25 = 0.125 + 8 + 0.125
For printing, your image needs to be 300 dots or pixels per inch (dpi or ppi), so the image size for my example in pixels is:
Width = 10.76 x 300 = 3228 pixels width
Height = 8.25 x 300 = 2475 pixels height
at 300 dpi or ppi
With the exact dimensions in inches and pixels, you’re ready to commission, find or create your artwork.
As I mentioned before, if you don’t know the exact page count, the image will have to be wider on the left side, as your front and back cover size remains static, regardless of the page count. It’s the spine size that changes. Per the CreateSpace cover guide, use this formula to calculate how much wider the image needs to be:
White paper: multiply [additional] page count by 0.002252
Cream paper: multiply [additional] page count by 0.0025
Once you have your artwork, step four is to finish the layout in Photoshop or InDesign and it should look something like this, with all the white space around the cover.
This is what my cover looks like up close. Notice that I don’t have any of the fonts too close to the peach area.
And that’s it! Your cover is ready to upload to CreateSpace.
For additional tips on preparing a cover, read the lessons I learned the first time I did this. The CreateSpace do over