Book Covers for Indie Authors

bookcoverlayoutIf you’re self-publishing, you’ve already got your hands full with writing and laying out the book interior/text for book and ebook publication.

You may or may not have the time, interest, or skills to create the book covers, too. …but you DO have options.

DIY Options

There certainly are DIY (Do It Yourself) options. You can use the Cover Creator options provided by Amazon KDP or other built-in wizards. You could also create your own cover from scratch using InDesign, Photoshop, or less expensive graphic tools like GIMP, Canva, etc.

All of these options, however, require your time, effort, learning curve, and adaptability to create ebook and print covers. To do covers well, you should also have the skills of a cover designer. Most indie authors are writers, not techies or graphic designers, so this might be one of those elements you choose to outsource.

Outsourcing Options

There are, of course, a multitude of designers out there ready and willing to create your cover for you, and their skills vary as widely as their pricing. You’ll need to decide what your budget can afford and what your book really needs.


For simple or small books in a small niche market, you may be perfectly happy with creating your own cover or having a cover created through a fiverr gig. For $5-50, you can have your ebook and/or print book cover designed for you.

A basic $5 gig will be a relatively simple jpg ebook cover based on your request or a pdf print cover layout based on an ebook cover you already have. The added expenses grow when you also request source files, commercial rights to the images and fonts used, additional changes, etc.

Even with the additional fees, however, fiverr is one of the cheapest options for having your ebook and print book covers created. Just make sure you check out the provider’s ratings, stats, and examples of previous work. Quality at this price ranges from adequate to truly exceptional. …but the exceptional ones will cost more.


You can also post a job on UpWork, much like you would post a job in the local newspaper’s classified ads. You establish the job needs and the pay amount, then wait for interested designers to inquire about the job. Generally, this will cost 2-4 times as much as a fiverr gig, but the interaction between the writer and designer typically goes beyond the limited communication of a fiverr gig.

99designs99 Designs

Similar to UpWork, you post what you need to 99 Designs and let the designers pitch their ideas/designs to you. Essentially, you are posting a design contest. Again, this is a more expensive option, but you get to pick the designer/design(s) you like best.

Usually, the quality of the covers created on 99 Designs is exceptionally high, so though you’re paying top dollar, you’re also getting top notch results. Costs can range between $299-$1,200, but that’s still cheaper than hiring an individual designer, and you get several options.

Individual Designer

If you happen to know a professional designer or know how to request service from an accomplished individual designer, you can certainly try this route. Most new authors won’t have these kinds of connections in the beginning, so the option is a bit far-fetched. It’s also extremely expensive. To hire the absolute best for a dedicated project, you’ll be paying for the best. Unless you’re already an established author with an impressive income and budget, you may want to wait for this option…maybe to rebrand all your 20+ book covers in the future.

Working with Cover Designers

Whether you’re creating your own cover or working with a professional designer, there are some basic specs you’ll need to gather and provide before your cover can be created.

Spine and Trim Size

First, if you want a print book cover, you MUST create the interior file for your book first. You have to know how long/how many pages your book will be at a specific trim size (6×9 inches, 8.5×8.5 inches, 8.5×11 inches, etc.) to determine the spine dimensions (how thick your book will be).

Ebook covers are a little more forgiving. You can play with the dimensions a bit, and book length doesn’t matter since the ebook cover is basically just the front cover of your book. You should probably plan ahead, though. If you plan to provide your book in print as well as an ebook, you might want to use the same trim size for both the print and ebook covers.

POD Service

You’ll need to let the designer know if you plan to use Createspace, Ingram Spark, or another printing option. The designer will know that there are slight requirement differences and can adjust accordingly. Each is a separate task for the designer, however, so you may want to pre-arrange a bundle price if you think you’ll need covers for more than one service.

To be safe, it’s best if you can clearly define the exact specs required for your print cover. (Your ebook cover can always be created FROM the front of the print book cover with a quick crop.)

measureCreatespace Specs Example

To determine the exact layout specs for your Createspace book cover, login to Createspace and click the Books tab to select Publish a Trade Paperback.

Click on the Cover tab and scroll down to click Follow these submission requirements to create a cover PDF.

That will give you the exact math needed to layout your print cover.

You need to pick a trim size and know the length of your book AT that trim size to proceed.

The example provided by Createspace is for a 60 page book at a 6×9 inches trim size.

Once you do the math, you’ll provide something like the following to your cover designer:

  • Title; author; exact text for front, back and spine; color theme preference (if any); examples of similar covers you like – that are similar to your book; specific images or image ideas (if any); and the general gist/blurb of your book, so the designer knows what message the cover should convey.
  • Need: Print book cover PDF (for Createspace) and a cropped jpg of the front cover for the ebook cover; source files and commercial rights to images/fonts used (as needed)
  • 300dpi
  • Space provided for ISBN
  • Trim Size and Book Length – Example: 6×9 trim size (60 pages long) with layout dimensions of 12.385 inches wide by 9.25 inches tall.
    • Width includes 0.125″(Bleed) + 6″(Back Cover Page) + 0.135″(Spine) + 6″(Front Cover Page) + .125″(Bleed) = 12.385″ (Full Layout Width)
    • Height includes 0.125″(Bleed) + 9″(Cover Trim Height) + .125″(Bleed) = 9.25″(Full Layout Height)
  • NOTE that these specs are calculated for Createspace. These may vary for Ingram Spark or other printers.
  • Provide a jpg of your current ebook cover and images used (if you’ve already created one and just need the print layout expanded with the same front cover as your ebook)

NOTE that a book spine needs to be a certain thickness before it can include any text. Books under 100 pages may not be thick enough. The spine may need to remain blank for thin books.

Final Thoughts

It’s a lot of info to gather for your book cover, but you’d have to gather it all anyway if you wanted to do these yourself.

Whether you decide to create your own covers or to hire someone else to create them, you’ll need to know the exact specs required if you want to upload acceptable cover files.

Remember that to create your own covers, you really should have experience with professional or sufficient software tools like InDesign, Photoshop, or cheaper online options. You should also have at least some knowledge of good cover layout and design. (People really do judge a book by its cover, so it needs to look professional and appealing.)

If you decide to hire a cover designer, you could save yourself a whole lot of time, effort, and maybe even money if you don’t own professional graphic and layout software by having these done for you. You’ll need to weigh your options for quality and cost, but you DO have options. …and now you know exactly what kind of details you or your cover designer will need to successfully complete the project.

Best of luck to all my fellow indies out there, and feel free to post links to your covers in the comments below and let us know which options you chose. If you’ve had an exceptionally good experience with a cover designer, give him or her a shout out in the comments, too. It’s always easier to choose designers when others can offer recommendations and examples of their work.

DIY Tabletop Easels

Need to display signs or one sheets, but don’t want to spend a small fortune on frames or easels?


signsMake your own easels.

With a sturdy wire hanger and a pair of pliers, you can make your own tabletop easel.

The sign will cover all but the easel’s base tips, so it’s highly unlikely that anyone will even notice HOW the sign is displayed. They’ll be looking at the sign, not the easel. 😉

Click HERE for the PDF version of these instructions.

1WireHangerEaselRequired Materials

  • A sturdy wire hanger
  • A pair of pliers


Step 1 – Pull the base to a point.
Don’t worry. The angles don’t have to be perfect.


Step 2 – Pull the base up to a 90 degree (+/-) angle.
Use the pliers if you need to hold one side in place while you pull the other side up.


Step 3 – DO use the pliers to squeeze the base angles further to form tight base tips.


Step 4 – Use the pliers to curve the easel’s base horizontal tips.
4CurlBaseTipsThis is where the sign will rest on the easel.


Step 5 – Use the pliers to pull the back side of the base down.
Notice that the curved base tips remain in place in the front, but the back part forms the rest of the triangular base for the easel.


Step 6 – Use the pliers to fold the hanger hook back and squeeze tight – out of the way.
Note that you could cut the hook from your easel, but no one will see it with the sign in place, and it actually provides a bit more support by leaving it. If you’re concerned about the edges, you could cover them with electrical tape.


That’s it!

You can display photos, signs, or pretty much anything with a rigid flat surface.


In the example photo, a simple 8.5×11 sign was printed on card stock, then attached to cheap foam board with spray adhesive for a nice, rigid display for the easel.

Though, you can adjust the easel as needed…

With a few simple bends, you can adjust the display angle.


You can also adjust the base width to accommodate signs of various widths.


Wire hangers are certainly cheap enough. Some of the most sturdy hangers actually come from the dry cleaner, so feel free to make as many as you like and experiment. The more you make, the easier it will be to try different hanger sizes and angles.

Again, the PDF version of these instructions is available HERE. If you’d like even more writing and techie tips, feel free to browse the blog.


How to Download Updated Kindle eBooks

HowToDownloadNewlyUpdatedKindleEbooksThe beauty of ebook publishing is that updating ebooks, especially on Amazon, is quick and easy. Getting those updates to readers, however, depends on how accessible KDP makes those updates.

This post details the options readers have to download those updated Kindle ebooks.

Option 1

1. If you (the reader) do not receive the updated ebook automatically, login to Amazon and select Your Account>Manage Your Content and Devices.


2. Scroll down to the newly updated book or search for the title in the Search box to find it under your content.


3. An “Update Available” button should appear for you to click and receive the updated ebook.

Option 2

If the “Update Available” button does not appear, click the Actions button (the one with 3 dots) and select Read Now. You should then see a message about the newly updated ebook and a warning that bookmarks and notes made in the previous version will be lost.


Option 3

1. If all else fails, click the Help link under Manage Your Content and Devices.


2. Scroll down to select Digital Services & Content>Support for Renting, Gifting & Managing Kindle Books.


3. This takes you to the Help & Customer Service Support for Kindle Content. Click the Contact Us button to ask Amazon to push the updated ebook to your account/device.



For additional details about updates, Amazon’s Customer Service and KDP have provided some helpful information for both readers and authors/publishers.



How to Create an Event on Your Amazon Author Page


BlueArrowSMClick HERE for the PDF version of How to Create an Event on Your Amazon Author Page.


If you don’t already have an Author Central / Amazon Author Page, go to and click Join Now to create an account, claim your books, and to enter an autobiography, profile picture, and other details to help readers find you and your books on Amazon.

If you already have an Author Central account, go to and login.

Add Event

To add an event, click the Author Page tab and scroll down to click the “add event” link.


Save Event

Complete the event information with details about the event description, venue (location), one of the books you’ll have at the event, and the date and time. Click “Save Event” to add it to your Author Page details. (See image below for example.)

For this specific event, the Local Authors Day at the Jacksonville, AL Public Library (August 22, 2015), I entered the following description:

Local Authors Day

10am – 3pm

Meet the authors, buy autographed books, enjoy author talks & refreshments while you browse.



As Seen on Amazon

Once your event is saved, it will appear on your Amazon Author Page (For example:, the event will display below the list of your books.


BlueArrowSMClick HERE for the PDF version of How to Create an Event on Your Amazon Author Page.

Demonstration of Using Kinstant Formatter to Create Mobi Files for Kindle

PrintSeveral folks have asked recently how I create mobi files (Kindle ebooks) to upload to Amazon, so I thought I’d give you a glimpse into one of my favorite tools with a quick demonstration.

Keep in mind that there are hundreds of ways to create mobi files that vary widely in results, and most work perfectly well, especially if you’re creating an ebook file of a plain text – or nearly plain text – novel or story. Most of the projects I work on include bullets, images, and other objects beyond plain text, so I’ve tried several options. The one that works consistently best for me is Kinstant Formatter.

Click HERE for a printable PDF version of this blog post.

From Word To Mobi Using Kinstant Formatter

1.  Properly prepare your Word document.

(Now before all my tech writer friends scream about using Word, you should know that I use InDesign to layout and format print edition books. There are also plugins for InDesign to create ebooks, but I have not yet needed to try them. …and I’m not sure how well the InDesign files would translate to the HTML required for ebooks. Since Word is more of an inline word processor than a layout and design tool, it actually translates pretty well in to html code…using Kinstant Formatter.)

So, back to the first step…prepare your ebook properly in Word or another word processor that will save files as a .doc or .docx file. That means using standard styles like headings, normal text, a table of contents, etc. and inserting images set inline. There are other settings, too like setting bookmarks for TOC and Start to indicate where quick links will find your table of contents and the page on which you would like the ebook to open (or start).

The Support tab for Kinstant Users actually offers advice on some of these Word tweaks. Go to and scroll down to “Any tips for best results?” You do not have to login to see the Kinstant Formatter Support Page.

2.  Create an account or log on to Kinstant Formatter.

To purchase a package and create a Kinstant Formatter account, go to (Yes, that’s an affiliate link. I’m not going to push anyone into a purchase, but if you’re interested in Kinstant Formatter after this demo, I’ll happily take a commission on the purchase. 🙂 …and yes, the sales page is pretty cheesy, but Kinstant Formatter works great.)

Once you purchase a package, you’ll get a direct link to the login page. Use your appropriate email address and password to log on.

1 Login

3.  Click Select File… to browse to your Word document to “open” and upload for formatting.

2 SelectEbookWordFile

4.  Click the next Select File.. button to upload your cover image.

3 SelectCoverImageFile

5.  Enter the exact title and author name that you’ll be using when you submit your mobi file to Amazon.

4 Enter Title and Author

6.  Select the advanced options that you prefer and click the Generate button.

5 select options and click Generate

Note that the most common options are selected by default. Personally, I usually add the Force Alignment option because I do not like the full justification that’s normally a default display.

Note that there are multiple options for Output Format. If you want to create an ePub file – the default file format for most ereader devices like Nook, etc., select the option for Standard ePub (other eBook readers). To create a mobi file for Kindle, select the option for Kindle ePub (for Amazon KDP). (Yes, I know it says ePub rather than mobi, but a few years back, Amazon changed its policy, so it would no longer accept mobi files generated directly by third party software. That’s okay. Kinstant Formatter just added an extra step to comply with the requirements. …covered in step 8)

7.  Once the Kindle ePub is created, click the Download button.

6 Download generated kindleEpub file

Do make a note of where you save the file. You’ll need it to create the final mobi file.

8.  Open the Kindle Previewer tool, click Open Book, and browse to the newly created Kindle ePub file.

7 Open kindle epub in Kindle Previewer

If you do not already have the free Kindle Previewer tool installed on your computer, you can download and install it from (or just Google “download Kindle Previewer”).

9.  When you open the Kindle ePub file, the Kindle Previewer will use Amazon’s KindleGen to compile the actual mobi file.

Note that I have personally experienced a few glitches at this step, but every time I repeated Step 8, I got a successfully compiled mobi file. …just didn’t want you to be surprised if you see an error in compiling from time to time.

When you DO get a successful compilation message, click the “here” link to locate the newly generated mobi file. THIS is the book file you’ll upload to Amazon.

8 check newly generated mobi file

10. Click Ok to preview the mobi file in the Kindle Previewer.

Double-check all the pages in the previewer. If you see any issues, note where they are and go back to your Word file to make corrections. (Every issue I’ve ever found in a mobi file generated by Kinstant Formatter traced back to an issue in Word.) It’s easy enough to run the updated Word document through Kinstant Formatter repeatedly until you get a satisfactory mobi file.


As an additional step, I usually open and review the mobi file, not only in the Kindle Previewer, but also on the Kindle app for PC, an actual Kindle device (or three), an iPhone, and an iPad. (You don’t have to own all these devices. I borrow them from friends just to perform a quick check on the formatting before submitting the mobi file to Amazon.)

9 See mobi in Kindle Previewer and in Kindle for PC app

That’s it. It looks like a lot of steps, because I documented every single click…and then some, but it’s actually a pretty simple process, and I get consistently good results.

If you’re looking for a tool to create ePub or mobi files from your doc or docx files, I highly recommend Kinstant. …and here’s the link to the cheesy sales page again if you need it. 🙂

Click HERE for a printable PDF version of this blog post.



How to Turn Off Sounds in the Facebook App


Since my recent Facebook App update started clicking, beeping, swishing, and swooshing at me, I immediately asked my Facebook peeps how to turn off all the unfortunate default sound effects. Thankfully, it’s pretty simple.


1. Open the Facebook App; click the More icon, and select Settings.


2. Scroll down and select Sounds.


3. Use the toggle slider to turn off In-App Sound.


Ahhh…blessed silence.



Adobe on PC DOH Moment

YikesSMPC/Adobe Doh! Moment – … so, I’m trying out keyboard shortcuts in this graphic design class when I inadvertently discover that the keyboard shortcut for text leading (Ctrl Alt Up/Down Arrow) is also the Windows shortcut to FLIP the screen.


It’s not easy to work upside down… especially on dual monitors… even if it is just to flip it back. LOL

By the way, if this happens to you, right-click the desktop to select screen resolution, then set the orientation for each monitor to Landscape – not Landscape (flipped).

DIY – Hand-Made Micro & Mini Books

4Hand-made books, micro books, and zines are not new.  I personally remember some of these before copy machines were even widely available.  Anyone else remember those cool, funky smelling purple mimeograph machines?

Today’s technology, however, makes it even easier to create your own hand-made books.  The art and indie spirit are just as strong as ever.  There’s just no need for the strong odor of glue or mimeograph ink anymore.  😉

DIY Micro & Mini Booklets

16 page micro booklets at 1/8 standard page size and 8 or 16 page mini booklets at 1/4 standard page size are all created pretty much the same way.

  • Use a template to layout your booklet either by hand or with graphic software.
  • Print.
  • Fold.
  • Staple.
  • Trim.

It’s simple enough to do a small book or zine project with young kids if you like, but when it’s done well, the end results can be exceptionally appealing. They’re absolutely wonderful for authors and artists who want to share excerpts or samples of their work – either for sale or as free giveaways at events.

5Required Supplies

  • Printer
  • Paper (standard 8.5×11 sized)
  • Long Arm Stapler
  • Scissors or a Paper Trimmer
  • Bone Folder (optional)

Everything else is done with software.

Software Template

Personally, I prefer InDesign and Photoshop to place my content into the micro book, but you can adapt to your favorite graphics and layout tools. Here’s a sample of the 16 Page Micro Booklet template.

Since the “pages” must be placed in a certain order to match the way the paper is folded, and some of those need to be rotated 180 degrees, I do recommend using true graphics and layout software.  (Micro & mini books can be created in Word, but it takes a lot more effort and patience.)

CLICK HERE to purchase detailed instructions and templates to make your own micro and mini booklets.

Basic Instructions

Printing may actually be a challenge at first.  Since the template prints on both sides of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, the way the paper is flipped for the second side (or the way settings are configured for duplex printers) can put the “pages” in the wrong spots.  Play with your personal printer and settings to make sure the “pages” print where you want them on both sides.

Folding for a 16 page booklet is fairly easy, but the order of the folds and the direction of the folds are specific to the template you choose.  Really, you’re just folding the 8.5 x 11 sheet in half 3 times.  You just need to practice until you’re comfortable with the correct order to align your 16 pages.

Binding is simple.  Since all 16 pages come from one sheet of paper, no glues or even sewing are required.  A simple “saddle stitch” is all you need to bind your hand-made micro booklet.  Just staple along the folded edge that makes the spine of the book.

Because the hand-made micro books are folded like origami, a couple of cuts along the edges are needed to “open” up the book after it’s securely bound at the spine.

Make Your Own

The possibilities for these hand-made booklets are endless.  Even beyond the art and craft of the hand-made DIY, these little booklets can be made for promotional giveaways or even sold on sites like Etsy, Ebay, or Amazon.  You could even sell them through your own web site if you want.

The pocket-sized micro & mini booklets are often used for small photo books, gifts, zines, brochures, activity books, coloring books, and could even be used as a really interesting business card option.


Personally, I like these for promotional giveaways.  I recently created some micro coloring books and mini activity book samplers as free promotional giveaways for book signing events.  I just made sure the web site address and a QR code link were on the last page if anyone wanted to purchase the actual ebook on which the samplers were based.

Again, to purchase the detailed instructions and templates to make your own micro or mini booklets, to to

I’d love to see all the creative options other authors and artists use for these mini and micro booklets, too. Feel free to share photos and links to your own booklet creations in the comments below.


How to Make Your Own Haunted Portrait Book Trailer Videos

[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”B0093SII5Y” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”” width=”107″]How to Make Your Own Haunted Portrait

How To Make Your Own Haunted Portrait is a step-by-step guide to making your own paranormal art for your haunted house or your home sweet home. The detailed and illustrated instructions in the book are all you need to create your own creepy pictures with eyes that follow you.

All the materials are listed (with photos). All the steps are detailed (with photos), and all the fun happens during and after the making.

It’s fun (and creepy) to watch grandma’s eyes follow you. It’s even more fun to watch others stare at grandma’s eyes following them across the room.

Now imagine a portrait of your favorite writer or your favorite characters from TV, movies, and books watching YOU. Fun! Even better, imagine telling ghost stories around the fireplace with Edgar Allan Poe following your every move.

Put one in your guest room!

Haunting as it is, the illusion is actually fairly easy to recreate. It’s based merely on depth perception and angle. Similar customized portraits sell on eBay and through various mediums from $15 and up. …MUCH up if you want to have a personal photo converted.

If you want to create your own Eyes-Follow-You haunted portraits, this little ebook is for you. Whether you want a haunted portrait because you love Disney, the haunted mansion, haunted houses, illusions, crafts, or just the novelty, with these instructions, you can easily create an eerie illusion of your own.

FREE BONUS: Printable PDF copy of the ebook is also available with purchase of the ebook on Amazon.