DIY Publishing 101, Part 3 – If You Must Design Your Own Cover

This is part three in an ongoing series about DIY Publishing. Previous installments can be found here: One and Two.

If You Must Design Your Own Cover

As I said last week, every level-headed person with experience in DIY Publishing will tell you that you should not design your own cover. They are correct.

But since I could not afford to spend several hundred dollars, I designed my own cover for CHICAGO TIME. Judge me accordingly for my hypocrisy.

It was not easy. But I did it rather cheaply.

To design and format both the ebook and printed covers for my novel CHICAGO TIME I used GIMP. GIMP is an open source image editing tool. Thanks to my many years as a technical writer  using a variety of desktop publishing tools, I did not have too difficult a time learning how to use GIMP. (This is not to say that I am some kind of GIMP Wizard. I am most definitely not. Though I will say that layers are your friend.) From my local library I checked out a copy of Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional by Akkana Peck.

The digital cover was much easier than the printed cover. The digital cover needs to be at least 600 by 800 pixels. Once I had the design I formatted the file to the necessary dimensions.

If I had only been doing an ebook, I would have been done. Since I was doing a printed version, I had a bit more work to do.

The printed cover can’t even be completed until you know the dimensions of the physical book. You can’t format a cover until you’ve chosen the book size (for example, 6” x 9”) and have laid the book out in a template, giving you the exact page count. The page count and the type of paper lets you know how wide the spine will be.

Createspace makes this rather simple. They’re the company I used for the printed version of my novel. They provide Word templates for the size of your book and the fonts of your choosing. Once I had the book laid out, and had the exact page count, I used Createspace’s tool for configuring a cover template. You plug in the book size and the number of pages, and you’re given a graphic file with all the correct measurements. You take this file and open it in GIMP (or Photoshop, InDesign, or whichever image manipulation program you’re using) and, using it as a layer, create the front, back, and spine of your book’s cover.

Once the printed cover is complete, you convert it to PDF, and you’re ready for the next step.

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