How to Use KDP’s Cover Creator

The other day I posted How to Publish in KDP and mentioned that I would cover how to use the new KDP Cover Creator. Here is that post.

(Click images for full size if you need to)

If you want to know how we got to this step, please check the previous post, otherwise I am going to assume you’re right with us at the “add a cover” stage.

Click the “cover creator” button.

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This may bring you a pop up. Depending on what you’ve been doing to your book, you may want a different option, but we want to save our changes so we don’t have to enter all the info again.

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A little box with an orange swirly will pop up. depending on your connection speed it may sit there swirling for a long time, or a very short time. My net was running good tonight so it went fast.

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When cover creator first opens it will have a “how to” splash screen that doesn’t really tell you much of anything. Feel free to click “don’t show me this again” and then click continue.

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Now we have some more options. First we’re going to try browsing their gallery. I don’t really recommend doing this because if you’re using that image, who else is? But, we can take a look because those pictures are free and can always be a good cover placeholder until we get some cash or find a free image elsewhere.

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You’ll get a pop up with photo categories. Browse through them and see if there’s something you like. I am going to choose Black and White.

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This opens a selection of black and white photos. Let’s scroll through and find something creepy and/or mystical, shall we?

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Once you’ve selected a picture, click on it. This will bring up an image overview and a bigger version. If you don’t want it after all, then click on the category name in the upper left to go back to the thumbnails. If you do like it, then click “use this image”.

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The page beneath the pop up now loads with a bunch of design options. If you see one you like, feel free to “choose this design”

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Personally, I am going to try uploading my own image now, so I am heading to the “choose new cover image” option.

This pops up the image screen we started with. This time I am going to select “upload my own image”. Note: Images should be .jpg or .tiff and should be between 1000 and 2500 on the longest side.

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Click the cheery computer icon to get a browse dialog box. Navigate to the image you’d like to use and click open

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You’ll get another orange circle that may take a long time to disappear, or may go away fast, depending on your connection speed.

Once it loads you’ll see we have those same design options again

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This time we’re going to actually commit to this image and choose a design. Of course, you don’t have to. You can continue to upload and/or browse until you find something you like. Then, choose a design when you’re ready.

You’ll notice there are options that require no picture. If you choose one of these, you still get to edit the colors, text, and layout. Since those tools are EXACTLY the same as the cover with photos, I’m not going to do a separate section for that. You can use the following steps for either the image layouts or the non-image layouts.

Hover over the design of choice so that it says “Choose this design”, then click on it.

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A new screen loads. 

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You’ll want to close the tool tip box by hitting the x. Remember that you can change designs at any time by choosing “Start Over” or change your image by choosing a new one.

KDP has automatically put the title in for us, including the “short” that I added, which in this case looks silly. So I am going to close it out (by hitting the x in the upper right corner of the cover creator), change the title and go back in. Half a tick.

Back.

I changed the title, but it made no difference, as the cover creator refused to update. Since I am not going to use this cover it doesn’t matter for me, but if you plan to use it, make SURE your title is the way you want it before you hit that cover creator button.

There are lots of things to edit here. Let’s start with the fonts.

You can either use the Font Tool, which lets you choose from pre-made “themes”:

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OR you can hover directly over the text you want to edit:

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And then click to get a box of options

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Here we can change the font by clicking the arrow and choosing a new one

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The size (including an auto fit option)

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Change the color:

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Make the words Bold, Italic and drop a shadow behind them (useful on lighter backgrounds)

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And change the position (Justify, left align, center, right align)

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As you may notice, I centered mine and changed the font and the size, but left it white.

Now you can do the same for the author (you can see an example of drop shadow on it) and if you have a subtitle (alas, I don’t).

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What about those other buttons? Let’s play with the layout next.

When you click on it in the tools, you’ll get a string of layout options:

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Click through them to see the differences. When you find one you like, click on the layout tool again to make the strip go away. Sadly, I like the original best, so I am sticking with it.

Now it’s time to play with colors, because that neon pink is terrible!

Click on the color tool and it gives us the option to choose colors individually, or to pick a premade color theme. To try different themes just scroll through and click on them:

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Terrible, I know, so we’re going to choose the colors ourselves.

Click the color you want to change:

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And get a pop up. Click on the teeny tiny squares to choose your color:

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Repeat for the other colors.

After I got the colors changed, I decided to change the layout, too. Now, we can preview the cover by clicking the preview button:

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The preview lets you see it in color, black and white, and in thumbnail. Switch between them by clicking the icons on the left.

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If you’re happy with it, click the Save & Submit button. You’ll get a white screen that says you’re submitting your cover, and then be taken back to the edit project page. From there you can finish your publishing (see previous post) and submit your book.

Have you tried the KDP cover creator? If so, what did you think of it?signature

Another Way to Make a Table of Contents for Kindle

An author emailed me to say that the previous post on how to make a linked table of contents for Kindle didn’t work for her. I don’t know if it depends on what version of Word you use, or even what mood Amazon is in when you submit, but here is an alternate method. Microsoft has taken a stab at telling you how to do it, and you can try their directions, or you can see what kind of mess I can make.

If you’re familiar with styles, this may be easier for you than the last one was. (To see the images bigger, click on them)

Open your document and scroll to the place where you want your table of contents to go. Depending on what style you choose (we’ll get there in a moment) You may want to type in your “Table of Contents” heading, or not.

Choose the References tab:

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Click on the Table of Contents to get a drop down box. There are some pre-styled ones to choose from (this is what I meant about depending on what you chose, as you’ll notice they all have a “contents” heading) I just chose “insert table of contents”

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If you choose that, too, you’ll get a pop up where you can set some things. you want to make sure that show page numbers is UNCHECKED. If you use the drop down box you can choose some different styles, but for the ebook I’d just go with from template and forget it

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You’ll get a pop up. Just click ok.

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If you haven’t used any Headings when you formatted you’ll get this error:

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Don’t worry, we’re going to fix that. (If you have headings already, you should see your chapters neatly listed. you’re done. Yay you!)

First we want to prepare our headings by adjusting our style. This is easier than it sounds. On the Home tab choose the Heading 1 style and RIGHT click on it. A menu pops down. Choose Modify.

(yours will look different than this because I have some custom styles saved)

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This gives you another pop up. here you can adjust the font style, size, etc. You can center your headings (I usually don’t for ebooks). Once you’re done, you may want to click the format button for further tweaking

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I’m going to go ahead and make some adjustments to the paragraph aspect

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When you’re done hit OK until all the boxes go away.

Now we need to make those chapter titles into headings! Find your chapter heading, highlight it and choose “heading 1” from the style box on the home tab:

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If your navigation pane is open you’ll see your chapter suddenly appear in it. if it isn’t open or you have no idea what I’m talking about don’t worry about it.

Repeat the last step for the rest of your chapters  including introductions, prologues, conclusions, etc. (I’m only doing six for the purpose of the demonstration)

When you’re done go back to the references tab and click “Update Table”

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And – magically – they appear

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The difference between this and the other method? As you can see they don’t LOOK hyperlinked; no blue font or underline, but if you hover over them you have the option to click them:

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I admit, I don’t know if this method will work for Smashwords formatting, too, as I have never tried it with them (I use the previous method for them). If anyone else has, I’d be interested to know.

*EDIT* be sure to set your Table of Contents and any headings with AUTOMATIC for the text color or you’ll get a nasty notice from Amazon that your color is not readable. Sorry, forgot to mention that earlier 😉

If this method still does not work for you, or if you have another method, please let us know!

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How to Add a Simple Table of Contents in Kindle Books

I’m going to be honest and admit that I don’t have a table of contents in my books, or at least I haven’t manually put one in. But, a fellow author got a notice from Amazon that some of you may have gotten:

Your book doesn’t have a Table of Contents. A table of contents provides readers with both easy navigation and improved visibility into the contents of the book.  Please see https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A2BQILI6OJWLTC for help with creating and formatting a Table of Contents.

So, I thought this might be a good time to discuss HOW to make a table of contents using Word. (I assume other word processing programs are similar but I haven’t used them, so I don’t know.)

There are probably multiple ways to go about this, (for how to use headers, check out THIS POST)  but here is what I did:

1. Since my chapters don’t have names, I just typed them up after all of the copyright info

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 2. Then I went through the book and made bookmarks at each chapter. To make a bookmark, place your cursor next to your chapter title/heading:

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Then go to Insert> Bookmark

(this is what it looks like in Word 2010)

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You’ll get a pop up box. Type in some identifying name that you can remember. Chapter1 or chapterone would be the easiest. Then click the Add button.

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The box disappears. Repeat for all the chapters, including any prologues, afterwords, introductions, about the author sections, acknowledgements, etc.

When I was done, I went back to that Table of Contents I had added at the beginning and hyper-linked it.

To do that, highlight “Chapter One” then go to Insert>Hyperlink 

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OR Right Click and choose Hyperlink from the menu:

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This will give you a pop up box. Choose the Bookmark button:

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A second box will pop up. Choose the matching bookmark (aka Chapter One – chapter1) and click OK.

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The second box will disappear and you’ll notice that in the address bar it now says #- whatever your bookmark is named. Technically, I suppose you could manually type your bookmark titles in there, but I always worry about a typo, so I go ahead and choose it from the list. Hit OK

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Your text will now be hyperlinked:

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Repeat for the remaining chapters.

But what if you’ve done all of this, uploaded it and got this response form Amazon?

The Table of Contents isn’t accessible from the “Go To” menu in your book.

Huh? What does this mean? It means that on the kindle, when a reader clicks the menu while in your book the Table of Contents is not showing up under the menu that says “Go to…” There is an easy way to fix this in word. Remember those bookmarks we just made? Go to your table of contents and put the cursor next to the heading, or next to the top entry if you don’t have a heading, and then make a bookmark named TOC:

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click add and reupload to KDP .

Before you upload, be sure to click through your table of contents to make sure that each link goes where you want it to. It might take a couple of extra minutes, but it could save you a lot of frustration and embarrassment later on.

If this doesn’t work for you, try the other method, using headers.

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If you have books on Kindle, do you have a table of contents in them or are you “living on the edge” and waiting for Amazon to make you add one in?

For Cover designers and Formatters

Image representing Smashwords as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

I know this blog is primarily aimed at authors, but many of us moonlight as cover designers or formatters (such as myself and Stephannie Beman) so I wanted to share this from Smashwords:  (I copied it directly from their site updates page. If you have any questions please contact smashwords as I don’t have the answers. Sorry. )

 

**Mark’s List open for new applicants**  It’s been over a year since we added a new batch of cover designers and formatters to Mark’s List, our list of low-cost service providers.  For a limited period of time, I’m accepting a small number of applications for new freelancers.  If you’re considering applying, please carefully study the information below.  Incomplete or inappropriate applications will be disregarded.

Background on the list:  I created the list in January, 2011 as a public service for our authors and publishers.  It’s currently available via autoresponder when someone emails list@smashwords.com.  A newer version of the list will be made available on the Smashwords web site.  We don’t charge for listings, and we don’t take a commission.   Every individual is a freelancer.  Each freelancer provides excellent customer service, which is why they continue to be on the list.  We appreciate the great, low-cost services these freelancers provide to our authors and publishers.  We’re also pleased to know that for many of the Mark’s List freelancers, their inclusion on the list has provided them much-appreciated supplemental income.  Some have even made it their full time job.
How to apply:   First, email list@smashwords.com and study the email you receive so you can get an idea how other service providers are providing and pricing their services.   Apply to only one category, cover designers or formatters.  You must be the person who will provide the services.  We will not accept service provider firms, or individuals who farm out their work to others.  Note that I expect to receive many more applications that I can accept in this round, so please accept my apologies in advance if you don’t make the cut this time.  Maybe next time.
Okay, you’re ready to apply.  Compose an email to me at listapp@smashwords.com.  Use the subject line, “Mark’s List.”  Answer each of the questions for the category for which you want to be considered (cut and paste these questions into your email and then provide your answers inline):
Cover designers:
  1. Provide me a complete hyperlink to your author/publisher profile page, which you’ll find by clicking “My Smashwords.”  Preference will be shown to Smashwords authors and publishers.  If you’re opted in to all our distribution channels (not counting Amazon), that’s a plus.
  2. Provide a link to your online portfolio.  I’m looking for designers with a track record of producing high-quality, professional covers.  It’s also very important that Smashwords authors and publishers can evaluate your portfolio before they hire you.
  3. Provide me hyperlinks to up to five covers you designed for Smashwords books.
  4. If selected, will you provide all your Smashwords clients a listing in your online portfolio, as well as a live hyperlink to their book’s listing at Smashwords?  Such portfolio listings are appreciated by our authors, and a plus for your application.
  5. What is your design fee, and how many revisions does that include?  Most Smashwords designers are in the range of $35-$100.  If you charge more, that’s fine as long as the price is justified by the quality.  We’re looking for great designers!
  6. Do you agree that you will not try to market or upsell other author services?
  7. Why do you think you’d be a great addition to Mark’s List?
Formatters:
  1. Provide me a complete hyperlink to your author/publisher profile page, which you’ll find by clicking “My Smashwords.”  Preference will be shown to Smashwords authors and publishers.  If you’re opted in to all our distribution channels (not counting Amazon), that’s a plus.
  2. Do you consider yourself an expert at the Smashwords Style Guide?
  3. How many books have you personally formatted that have been accepted into the Smashwords Premium Catalog?  The more the better.  Provide direct hyperlinks to up to 10 of them.  Preference will be shown to formatters who employ smart use of linked Table of Contents, intra-book links (endnotes and indexes), and who provide clean, professional formatting for novels.
  4. How many years have you been using Microsoft Word?
  5. Do you Nuke every project before you begin it?
  6. Do you know how to preserve italics and bolds post-Nuke using CTRL-H wildcards?
  7. Will you guarantee Premium Catalog inclusion for your clients?
  8. Will you perform all the work yourself?
  9. Do you agree that you will not upload client works to Smashwords?
  10. Do you agree that you will not attempt to upsell Smashwords authors to other formatting or ebook design or distribution services?
  11. What would be your approximate rates for a novela, a full-length novel, and a more complex non-fiction book with an extensive linked Table of Contents, or index and endnote links?
  12. Why do you think you’d be a great addition to Mark’s List?
Thanks, and good luck!
~Mark

Book Cover Formulas

Have you ever noticed that book covers in a particular genre are very similar? For instance:

Why do they look alike? Because the point of a book cover is to attract readers who will like it. For the most part, book covers are not an art, as many people perceive them, but rather a marketing tool – an extended advertisement  if you will, and so there are certain “formulas” to it depending on your genre. They instantly tell the reader what to expect, usually because they look similar to every other cover that has an even remotely similar story, as in the video above.For instance, let’s say you read a book with a tattooed lady’s back on the cover.You like it the book. Now you see a new book with a similar cover. Instantly, maybe without you even knowing it, you have associated this new book with the previous one you liked. It’s just a marketing trick like so many others.

But, if not applied properly that trick can back fire. When you associate that tattooed lady with the previous book, you don’t just associate that you liked it, but also elements of it that you liked. For instance if it had a lot of fight scenes you’re probably to going to expect this new book to have a lot of fight scenes. If it had a strong romance you’re going to expect the new book to have the same. In other words, whoever thinks of the new design first and manages to brand it –  the first book that came out with a tattooed woman’s back – is the one that will forever subtly set the tone for all the following books using that cover.

This holds true for all genres, but since I write primarily vampire novels I’m going to use them as the example for the rest of the post.

If we go to Amazon and do a search for “vampire”, we see that there are only six styles of covers for them, and each cover tells us what to “expect” and attracts a certain audience. (Of course, covers are not always used correctly, so there are always exceptions, many of which lead to unhappy customers – for instance: http://www.dark-readers.com/2012/05/my-opinion-on-ya-book-covers-looking.html – check out the post and the comments. )

1. Hunky man/Sexy scene.  This cover demonstrates that the focus of the story is on the hunky male and/or the sex between him and his counterpart. It caters to those readers who find hunky men attractive, most notably women, and tends to turn away straight male readers. If I buy this book I expect lots of sex. I expect the hero to be called “beautiful” and “sensual” at least ten times. There might be some violence. If the hero is alone on the cover, I expect violent scenes to end with the female trembling from fear or shock and being rescued by the hunky hero so that they can go have sex. If the couple are pictured together she may be a bit tougher, but they will still leave the battle and have hot, steamy sex. If there are two men, we automatically expect a steamy M/M plot. There’s a good chance that the book will be either from his POV or switch back and forth between him and the woman. Either way,  I wouldn’t be surprised if the hero has at least one monologue where he feels regret and angst and tells himself that he should “stay away” from his significant other.

2. Kick ass/sexy/sad woman. This kind of cover says that the woman is the main component in the story. Though this cover is more friendly to a male audience, it still attracts primarily women. If the female pictured is “kick ass” woman I expect the heroine to be  super tough and not need a man, the kind who deftly outwits all the men who cross her path and always comes out on top. I also expect violence since she is probably some kind of hunter/assassin/killer. If it is a sexy woman then I still expect her to “need no man” but she will be having hot, tumultuous sex with at least one, and possibly two or more. I expect very light violence, with the main focus being on her sensuality or her burgeoning relationship. If she’s in modern clothes I expect it to be clicky and feminist ala Sex in the City, but if she has more historical attire then the hero will “tame” her. If the woman looks sad or lost then I expect the book to focus on her emotional journey as she overcomes some terrible tragedy. There may or may not be sex in this story. Violence will be light.

3. The totally cliché vampire element. Dark castles. Bats. A man/woman with fangs. A goblet of blood. This cover is more male friendly and it shows that the main element of the story IS the vampires – everything else comes second. I would expect something heavy, historical and/or traditional ala Dracula with a lot of horror elements. Someone will use old fashioned/obsolete words. There is a good chance of violence and it will probably be bloody, though the descriptions may or may not be  gruesome. There will probably not be explicit sex (if the fanged woman is pictured alone, see #2. If she is posed with a man in a sensual scene, see #1). There is also a good chance that it is told from a male POV and someone is probably wearing a cape.

4. Cutesy art work. This cover says “Chic-lit” and makes me think of the Ya Ya Sisterhood and stuff like that. Cute, modern, edgy and feminine. I expect the vampires to be worried about fitting into their skinny jeans, or cleverly outwitting their boyfriends. They will drink margaritas and have girls night. Needless to say, these covers are more likely to attract women.

5. Totally random object/scene. Think Twilight, or Fifty Shades. Though the artists will cite symbolic bull, this cover tells you nothing. Their goal is to catch your eye with their simplicity. It is the color scheme and font choices that will tell you whether it is a “masculine” or “feminine” book. If it has a funky font I expect a YA novel with light violence and some romance, probably a girl who is discovering her “abilities”. A serif font leads me to expect a more serious story, possibly with a male protagonist who has deep regret over something. Sex and violence are both possibilities. A sans serif font will tell me that the protagonist (be they male or female) is tough, there is plenty of violence, and it’s probably going to be fast paced and contemporary. A script/cursive style font says it is a romance and more than likely the protagonist is a female. There is probably sex involved, violence is doubtful. If it’s super curly or cutesy then see #6.

6. Completely out there. This cover says “I may have vampires, but I’m different”, which makes me expect different. In fact I will expect it to lean heavily towards another genre, depending on the style, such as fantasy, sci-fi etc. That there would be lots of violence would not surprise me at all. The same with sex. There may even be deeper themes involved. I’m not going to lie when I say that these are the covers I am most attracted to.

signature for whiteWhen you run across these kind of covers, what do they say to you? Do they make you expect the same things they make me expect, or do you perceive them differently? What patterns have you noticed in other genres?

How to Make PDFs for Print on demand – WITHOUT Adobe

When you publish a paperback book through any number of POD providers, you need PDF files for your cover and your interior. Like many authors I’ve had to shell out cash to buy Adobe products to make those PDFs – but that was in 2009. It’s 2012 and there are free programs out there now that actually work! (NOTE: I’ve experimented with both programs and uploaded a test book on Create Space. The files were accepted but because it was a test I have NOT submitted it for review nor had a proof printed. I can’t imagine why either one would be a problem, though)

CutePDF

Like Adobe Professional, Cute PDF has a “print” option that will install itself in all your programs. You can get it here http://www.cutepdf.com/ -= there’s a paid version and a free version, the free version is what we want:

When it installs it will pop up and tell you that it needs to also install something else (I don’t remember the name of it,but it has a P and some numbers.) Go ahead and tell it okay. However, it will also want to make Ask.com your homepage and add a toolbar, so make sure to uncheck those boxes. During install a black DOS box will pop up and say something about “ghost” again, it’s fine.

To use it, open your formatted document in word, then go to print and choose CUTEPDF from your list of printers: (your list will look different than mine because you will have different printers than I do)

Now you need to set your printer properties so that the page size is correct: Depending on your version of word, you may get to the printer properties in a different way. If you don’t know where to find them, go to google and search “Word (your version) how to set printer properties” and you should find a page or two that tells you. I have Word 2010, so I click printer properties and get a pop up box:

clicking advanced gives you another new box. Click on whatever it says next to “page Size” (mine said Letter by default) and a drop down box appears. Pick the custom size:

Another new box pops up. Type in your trim size. in my case it is 6×9

Hit OK on all the boxes and then hit print. unlike Adobe it will NOT pop up the PDF when it’s done, so you’ll need to go open it manually.

So how does it look? Well, not quite the same:

click to see full sized
click to see full sized

You can see them both here: (no, it’s only the first chapter, not the whole book 😉 But it gives you an idea)

For the price, the difference is likely to be negligible. Free vs several hundred dollars. Of course, I’m not sure if this will work with Lightning Source, who has much stricter PDF requirements.

But can we PDF the cover with this? Probably, however I have not figured the settings out (if you know how to do this, please leave it in the comments and I will update this)

Meanwhile, for the cover, let’s use…

Inkscape

Inkscape is a free vector program that you can use to PDF the wraparound covers. You can get it at http://inkscape.org/download/?lang=en – the download link is in the bar at the top of the page. It took me a little bit to find it:

install it, open it and you’ll get a tiny little window:

You can make it big if you want, or leave it little. It doesn’t matter. Now go to File>Open and open your already prepared cover. Then go to File>Save As. A dialog box pops up. Choose PDF from the drop down list

Hit Save – a new box will pop up. Change the DPI to 300:

hit OK and that’s it. So how do they look? The pdf created with inkscape is actually larger than the one I created with adobe photoshop: (both at 100%) but the quality of the images is exactly the same.

but if you’d like to compare you can get them here to see for yourself –

The bonus to Inkscape is it is also a vector art program – if you’re interested in those things – aka like adobe Illustrator – and can save as SVG files, which can be resized without changing the picture quality (if you’re curious about what I mean, check this out –  http://joleenenaylor.com/jackolantern.svg – use Ctrl and the + to zoom in a bunch of times. Now go to any image on the web and try it. You can see how the other image pixelates as it gets big, while the svg doesn’t. Snazzy, huh?)

What programs do you use for making your PDFs? Have you used these before?

The Blurb: Writing a Creative Blurb for your Back Cover

I’m posting this guest post for Sarah Kent. I’m not sure about you, but I could always use some help on how-to write a Creative Blurb for your Back Cover. Thanks!

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For many of your potential readers and reviewers, your book’s back cover blurb is essential. These days, blurbs appear everywhere, as a summary on your website describing your book, on Amazon and practically anywhere you may find people discussing your work. Book reviewers often use the blurb on their websites to show their readers exactly what your book is about too so you need to be sure it’s absolutely perfect.

Whether you’ve written an academic text book or a romping romance, the blurb you create needs to be appropriate for your audience. In more general categories, you can be a little more creative but there are some standard features which should always be present in your blurb, if you’re looking to attract more readers anyway.

Hints and Suggestions

A well written blurb will hint and make suggestions to where your plot may lead without giving anything too essential away. Keywords such as ‘secret’ and ‘hidden’ feature heavily in blurbs and are great for drawing potential readers in, they want to know what this hidden secret is and are more likely to read or buy your book on this basis.

If you’re novel relies on an extreme and climactic twist, you can say this but obviously don’t reveal anything more, interesting readers who are particularly drawn in by mystery and intrigue.

Genre Specifics

If you are a genre writer, you can stick to the conventions of your specific genre and try and choose words and phrases that while applying to your novel of course, also resonate with readers of the genre. In the romance genre for example, readers are keen to relate to their heroes or heroines so naming them fully is always extremely successful and again, hinting as a touch of lust or heartbreak somewhere within the blurb will also draw in more readers. Crime or thriller genre writers should obviously hint at the heart of the action, dirty dealings and what aspects of the underworld are going to be drawn out in their work. Your blurb is designed to captivate your reader and you want them to feel like they cannot live without finding out what happens to Kate Johnson or where Austin Keller hid the gun. If you’re a crime or science fiction writer the importance of setting is also high, especially if you have created your own world or scenario for the characters to exist in.

Characters and Settings

Your characters are likely to be essential to your plot and they’re also the key way of connecting with your reader. Naming your protagonists and characterising them in some part is essential in your blurb for example, “Charlie Jones, car thief extraordinaire” or “Tracy Hellman, never been kissed” as this draws in your reader further and they want to know exactly why these characteristics have become so ingrained into these characters. You want your reader to engage and relate to your characters you need to make them sound interesting or at least make them sound like something interesting is about to happen to them.

The same can be said of setting or place. Whether you’ve created your own planet in your fantasy novel or your book is set in your local neighbourhood, a quick nod to this effect will further interest different readers. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a specifically named place but even mentioning ‘the rolling hills’ or ‘the red brick university’ is enough to give the reader a sense of place and help them to fall into your novel with ease.

Rhetorical Questions –do they work?

Plenty of blurbs are packed out with questions to the reader, questions that can only be answered by reading the book and sometimes this works and other times it puts people off. Rather than reeling off a multitude of different questions, perhaps just stick with one very important one such a “Will Johnny ever escape the fate of his birth?” or “Will Sammy come back alive?” as these types of questions, set aside on their own, really do speak to potential readers and have much more impact than a long list of roaming questions which can easily be forgotten.

Writing your blurb is essential to the whole production of your work and can be the difference between 10 and 100 book sales. It shouldn’t exceed 250 words and so, should be easy in comparison to your magnum opus? However, don’t underestimate its importance and think carefully about every word you choose as each one could interest a different type of reader.

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Sarah Kent is a freelance writer offering advice for individuals and small businesses on marketing tactics and tools. She is keen to offer practical and useable hints and tips that are effective and yet don’t cost the earth. 

How to Get a Cheap Book Cover… UPDATED!

I’ve recently updated my how to book How to Get a Cheap Book Cover by Joleene Naylor. Updates include:

  • A tutorial on how to use Create Space’s cover creator
  • A tutorial on how to make an ebook cover in Paint.Net
  • Fixed broken links
  • Added new links
  • Fixed a couple of typos
  • Updated information on acceptable file types

If you’ve already purchased the book through Smashwords, I believe you can download the updated version for free. I don’t know about the other sites, such as Barnes & Noble, though it will be a few days before the changes filter through the expanded market, anyway.

Here’s what people are saying about How to Get a Cheap Book Cover:

“VERY helpful! I was like a raft adrift on the adriatic and this book was the ocean liner that came to my salvation.” –  Robin Donaruma on March 07, 2012 (on Smashwords.com)

“I downloaded this book to help me design the cover for my novel, A Military Republic. The book has excellent advice about licensing photos, websites for buying photos and above all an invaluable guide to using gimp for designing the cover. I definitely recommend this to cover designing beginners.” – Haythem Bastawy on Feb. 25, 2012 (on Smashwords.com)

“This was a huge help when we were creating covers for my husband’s e-books. This is the first time we’ve done any sort of e-publishing, and we were pretty ignorant of even the basics. I especially liked the information on licensing and sources for images.” –  Marjorie Farmer on Nov. 10, 2011 (on Smashwords.com)

Links to Creating Book Covers

Rather than re-posting the book cover posts that Joleene Naylor has done over the year, I thought it would be easier to just put all the links in one place. So here they are:
Judging a Book by it’s Cover

How to Get a Cheap Cover – Part I
How to Get a Cheap Cover – Part II
How to Get a Cheap Cover Part III

The Trouble with Stock

How to Use Cover Creator on CreateSpace

Free & Cheap Images, Fonts, Sound & Videos for Trailers & Books

If you can’t do your own cover art then look into getting a cover artist to do it for you. 10 Ways to Make Your Cover Artist Love You might just keep you out of trouble.

Guest Post: Editing for Self-Publishers by John C. Goodman

If you are a self-publisher and have read any of the advice available online, you will know that most commentators recommend having your book professionally edited and proofread. There is good reason for this as it is extremely difficult to see the flaws in one’s own work. Proofreading is especially hard as we will often read what we intended to write instead of what is actually written. If you wrote, “She took the ring form her finger,” you will tend to read it as “from her finger” in spite of the typo because it is in your head that way.

You can be your own editor, but many people don’t seem to know exactly what an editor does. Editing is a different skill from writing, just as fixing a car is a different skill from driving a car. An editor is a kind of manuscript mechanic – although perhaps a better analogy would be a manuscript organic gardener, helping a book to grow and bloom. Editing requires a different mindset than writing. If you are going to edit your own book, you have to look at your work from the outside. It’s usually a good idea to put the manuscript away for a month or two, then reread it with fresh eyes.

So what does an editor do? Manuscript editing is traditionally done in four stages: the Developmental Edit, the Line Edit, the Copyedit and the Proofread. Each of these elements breaks down into a number of sub-tasks.

The Developmental Edit takes an overview of the entire book, reviewing the plot, characterisation, setting and writing style. First an editor will consider the book as a whole, looking for a captivating opening; for originality and credibility; for an engaging premise, interesting settings and fascinating characters; and finally for appeal, a sense if there is an audience for the book.

Next, the editor will study the plot looking for good plot development, which involves consistency, compelling flow and good pacing, as well as effective structure, narrative arc and the building of tension to a satisfying denouement and resolution. The editor will also pick out predictable or clichéd situations and plot developments, unconvincing situations, convoluted scenes, continuity mistakes, inconsistencies, contradictions, time sequence discrepancies, and unnecessary back story.

The editor will also study the characters, with an eye to character development and to unnecessary characters that can be cut without harming the story, as well as to spot flaws in characterisation such as stereotypes, characters not believable, lack of character motivation, and inconsistencies in character description.

Setting is another element reviewed in the Developmental Edit. The editor looks for flaws in setting description, inconsistencies, vagueness, too much or too little descriptive detail, and atmosphere.

Finally, the editor examines the writing itself looking for dull writing style, trite similes, vapid images, varied sentence structure, consistency of voice and point of view, consistency of writing style, wordiness, repetition, stilted dialogue, exposition or lecturing, intrusive narration, overwriting, rambling, lack of focus and padding with unnecessary chapters or paragraphs.

Once the basic story is finished, the next stage is the Line Edit. This is the most exacting and time consuming part of the whole editorial process. The Line Edit has to do with the actual language of the book to make sure it is in correct English. The manuscript is checked line by line, hence the name Line Edit. In the line edit, the first thing checked is the language for correct grammar – word agreements, verb tenses, etc., for correct syntax or sentence structure, and for incorrect word usage and punctuation. Then the book is read for good writing practice, looking for awkward or convoluted sentences, clumsy constructions, overused words, overuse of adverbs and adjectives, mixed metaphors, wordiness, overuse of passive voice, and varied sentence structure. And finally, for consistency of usage (dashes, quotation marks, capitalization, hyphenated words, special terms, etc.).

When the language is smoothed out, the next stage is the Copyedit. Copyediting is to make sure all the facts in the book are right. This is important for fiction as well as non-fiction. Imagine a scene in a romance novel set in a spring garden with the gladiolus in bloom – but gladiolus is a summer blooming plant. Readers pick up on simple errors like this and the author loses credibility.

After the Copyedit comes the Proofread. You would think that after a Developmental Edit, a Line Edit and a Copyedit all the spelling errors, typos and punctuation mistakes would be caught. Well, they’re not. Every book needs a final proofread.

As you can see, editing is a long and involved process. If you are editing your own work, you need to review the book with each of the elements listed above in mind. And don’t rush it – take your time and do it right. It is better to delay the release of the book for a couple of weeks in order to give it a proper edit than to rush an unpolished manuscript into print. When the reviews come in for your book without any mention of the common errors that plague self-published books, “confusing, lacks clarity, inconsistent, lacks flow, many grammar and punctuation mistakes,” etc., you’ll be glad you made the effort to effectively edit the manuscript.

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Bio: John C. Goodman has published two books of poetry, a novel and a poetry writing handbook entitled, “Poetry: Tools & Techniques”. He is the editor of Gneiss Press and editor of ditch, (www.ditchpoetry.com), an online poetry magazine.