Tips & Tutorials

Need some tips and tricks?  Insider hints?  Want to know how to wrangle Amazon's Look Inside the Book?  Look no further. Chances are, we've already discussed it here. We also happily welcome suggestions for articles and how-tos, so don't be shy.  


 

Memoirs--Why?

Author Alex Haley once famously wrote, “Every time an old person dies, it’s like a library burning down.”

For many, writing a memoir is a way to document our personal histories, to reflect on our lives, and leave something of ourselves behind. But why should older people—or anyone--write their memoirs? By which we mean regular, everyday people, rathe than Mick Jagger, a politician or a renowned scientist, or the like?

As we age, we become increasingly aware of the value of our life stories. Whether we have lived through significant historical events, or experienced great personal triumphs and challenges, our stories are an opportunity to leave a legacy for our children, grandchildren, and other family members. Crafting a memoir can provide an invaluable record of our lives that can be passed down for generations to come.

Writing a memoir can also help us to make sense of our lives, to better understand our experiences, and to make peace with our past. It can help us to appreciate our own resilience and courage, and to celebrate our successes. Looking back on our lives can also give us a sense of closure and a renewed appreciation of the here and now.

In addition to the value of our life stories, crafting a memoir can also provide a creative outlet. Writing can be an immensely satisfying experience and it can help us to explore our lives in a different way. Writing about our experiences can also be a great source of comfort, enabling us to find strength and solace in our memories.

Finally, writing a memoir can be a wonderful way to bridge the generational gap. Through our stories, we can share our life experiences with our children, grandchildren, and other family members, enabling them to gain a better understanding of our lives and the world in which we lived.

In short, writing a memoir is one of the most meaningful and rewarding experiences we can have. So, if you’re an older person, why not consider writing your memoirs while you still can? Through our stories, we can pass down our wisdom, courage, and resilience to our children, grandchildren, and other family members, ensuring that our legacy will live on for many years to come.

If you have a memoir sitting in that closet, that desk drawer, hidden underneath the desk—isn’t it time that you bit the bullet and brought it out into the daylight? We’ve done many memoirs and we can help!

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Kids Book Authors, Please Stop Screwing Up!

Hey, guys!

Young boy eating ice creamYou may be thinking that my title for this article seems a bit...well, harsh. At the KDP forums, (where I've been donating time for the last 11-12 years, to help DIYers), I have in fact been called harsh, lately. Why? Because I'm losing my mind with the endless parade of would-be kids' book authors, that just can't seem to find anything better to do than to screw up their books, particularly in print.  If you want to write a successful book for old Albert, over there, with his ice cream cone, let's talk about it, right?

Why does this occur, over and over and over?  Let us count the ways in which those would-be publishers (yes, that's you, prospective kids' book author--now you're a publisher, not "only" a writer!) constantly screw up their books:

  1. They draw their illustrations, or have them drawn, on the paper that's available--so, we see book after book that's 11" x 8.5" or 11.27" x 8.64".  Great, except, guess what? Those sizes are not printable with POD at Amazon. Not even close. The widest that the Amazon POD machines can print is 8.5" wide.  So, if you draw your illustrations on 11" wide paper, you've wasted both your time and your paper. Sure, you can print it (11" x 8.5") at Ingram, but that entails upload fees and other challenges and it's only available with their high-end premium color printing. You can research your trim size options, for Amazon, by clicking here to go to their HELP pages--I've made a link that will take you right to the correct page.  
  2. The publisher chooses a trim size--but doesn't bother to check on KDP to see if the size that they chose is eligible for Expanded Distribution in the paper of their choice. Don't know what "Expanded Distribution" is?  Then get thee to KDP's Help pages and find out!
  3. They don't bother to figure out what else they need to know--like being aware of "live element margins." Live Element Margins (LEMs) are areas into which important elements, like text, dialogue, or even page numbers, are not allowed to go.  We see book after book that shows up on our doorstep, that cannot pass intake at KDP or Ingram, why? Because the illustrator hired off of Upwork or Fiverr didn't know that; the publisher didn't bother to learn it, to tell the illustrator not to work in the LEM, and of course, she's hand-drawn page numbers there.  That's not "fixable," either.  Click here to go to the section at KDP for print books with BLEED and LIVE ELEMENT MARGINS.  Scroll down, they even have images!
  4. The illustrator drew the illustrations to the size specified by the publisher--and left no room whatsoever for the narrative or dialogue, on the images. Surprise--the text has to actually go somewhere!
  5.  The illustrator drew the images, as instructed by the publisher--but the publisher forgot to think about  the binding, the "gutter" and all the character's faces are in the middle of the page--yup, right in the binding.
  6. The illustrator drew the illustrations precisely to the page size.  In other words, didn't draw the illustrations slightly larger than the page, to account for BLEED, which is necessary on any and all printing jobs in which the images or illustrations go to the very edge of the paper, rather than inside white margins.  (Reference what I said above about bleed, above and how there has to be some overlap, on the 3 outer edges of the layout, for printing purposes.)
  7. The illustrations were all delivered at 72DPI or 96DPI--not appropriate or suitable for print.  Those illustration resolutions are only appropriate for on-screen viewing--not print.
  8. The illustrations are all rendered in RGB color (for digital use) not CMYK, so when printed, the publisher won't be happy with the printed colors--which won't look exactly the same as the on-screen images s/he approved.  
  9. Or, the publisher decides to use images, instead--and simply goes out and downloads images "from the Internet" as if those are free to use.  They're not.  Worse, they'll download images from stock image sites and try to publish the book with the not-yet-paid watermark right on the pictures!  Don't do this--you don't want people stealing from you, do you? Then don't steal from illustrators and photographers and artists.  
  10. The publisher gets the illustrations--and then starts to try to figure out how to actually make the book itself,  rather than thinking about this before s/he ordered the illustrations.  If you're thinking that you'll just slap your illustrations into Word, and then use Word's built-in tools to put the text atop the pictures, you can try it--but woe be to you when you go to make your eBook version!  Kids' illustrated books should be made in a proper layout program, like Microsoft Publisher, InDesign or Affinity Publisher.  And no--Powerpoint is not a suitable print layout program, if for no other reason that it doesn't output high-resolution print PDFS for print.  
  11. The publisher gets their book together--and it's 14 pages, total.  KDP has a minimum of 24 pages, so you need to plan on not less than 10 illustrations, at the least and that's if you're doing illustration or image on one page and narrative on the opposite.  
  12. Along that vein, make sure you budget for what illustrators actually cost.  Plan on a budget amount of ~$150/illustration and more, so a 10-illustration book would cost you $1500 or more in illustrations alone.  That mythical teenager or student that will illustrate your book for $10/picture doesn't exist and stop with the magical thinking.  
  13. The publisher manages to stumble through all of the above, does a layout (or has it made), and then keeps outputting a PDF, on his/her computer, that keeps coming out at 8.5" x 11", or 11" x 8.5", even if the actual original trim size was meant to be, say, 8" x 10" or something else. This is because the publisher doesn't bother to learn his or her tools. Learn how to export PDFs in custom sizes!  
  14. The publisher manages to finally get the interior laid out and exported, ready for upload--and only has a front cover.  A print book requires a print wraparound cover--front, spine, and back, all in one piece, in PDF format. It needs to look like this, so make sure you figure out what you're doing before you find yourself with a publishing deadline that you've created, in two days and no cover.  
  15. Learn about cadence--about rhythm and rhyme and beats (cadence) in kids' prose, that's meant to be similar to, day, Dr. Seuss.  For example, "From there to  here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere."  5 syllables (sounds), then 4,  then 6.   It has a rhythm that is carried throughout the entire book. If you're going to write rhyme,  make sure you read up on how to do  that successfully.  Sending  someone like us, (or even if you're DIYing) and having a mishmash of beats or syllables, that change constantly from line to line, doesn't work.  Rhyming couplets MATTER.   You need practice and practice and practice and you should start that by reading rhyming books. If you don't want to do that and rhyming doesn't come naturally to you--then don't. Just write the story without using rhyme.  This is a great  article as  a jumping-off spot: https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/jul/01/how-to-write-rollicking-rhyming-stories-pip-jones-squishy-mcfluff (if the first link doesn't work, I've archived the webpage and article at The Internet Archive, so use this one instead:  https://web.archive.org/web/20211022175133/https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/jul/01/how-to-write-rollicking-rhyming-stories-pip-jones-squishy-mcfluff 
  16. Lastly--try to have some fun.  Yes, I know, after reading this, you feel that perhaps, you don't want to undertake it. I know, you thought, "writing kids' books, how hard can it be?" and now, it seems a lot harder than you wanted to tackle.  If you don't rush, it can be a blast.   If you do rush, you can find yourself in a corner, or with a book you can't publish. So...don't rush. Take your time, do it right and happy publishing!

I genuinely hope that helps somebody.  No matter how cranky I may sound, honestly--I'm trying to save YOU time and money.  Not me! You. 

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KDP, Print on Demand and Printing books in Color

Through the Looking Glass xoloe illustration, Tweedledum's fuss by John Tenniel

"But, but...what do you mean, that it will cost THAT MUCH?!"

Thus begins a discussion that I get to have, repeatedly, with new-to-it self-publishers that have come to us, with a manuscript that they've tended lovingly, worked on, slaved over for months--and have chosen just the perfect image--in color--for some element or the other. A frontispiece, let's say, or just a small graphic detail for the title page.  (You remember the icon-ish graphics for The Hunger Games books, right?)

And what this means is that I get to explain to new publishers that color printing is expensive. I don't care if you're doing traditional publishing (more on that below) or POD (print on demand)--color costs. And it costs a lot.

Color costs. And it costs a lot.

What most new publishers don't realize is that there isn't any way, in POD printing, to only print the color pages (or that one hotly desired color image) on the color machine.  Unfortunately, in print on demand, the entire book interior, start-to-finish, is printed on one machine and one machine only.  

In traditional publishing, you can pay a bit more for design and layout, and your book designer can design your book so that it lays out in 'signatures,' which means that s/he plans the pages for printing together. S/he can lay it out in such a way so that all the color pages can be printed easily, together, and then cropped and included in the final book, with the bulk of the text printed on the regular Black ink printer.  (You can read more about how signatures work, here:  https://pressnostress.com/impositionwizard/tutorials/imposition/booklet/ and you can then envision how book designers can manage to make color-only sections work, for a printed book.)

But, in POD, nobody is doing signatures, nobody will print the pages separately and then collate, combine the book.  That's just not how that goes.   That means that you either pay the freight for 100% color, or you live without.  (On a bright note, you don't need the level of expertise that signature design takes, either, for your book designer.)

 If you're like most would-be self-publishers, you're thinking, "oh, so what?  How much can it really be?"  So, let's run the numbers, shall we? Let's take a typical, 300-page novel, laid out in 6" x9". (n.b.--the trim size is  not taken into consideration when the costs are calculated, so you pay the same for a 5" x8" page as you do an 8.5" x 11" page.)

  • 300-page book, Black ink printing:  printing cost, $4.45. Minimum list price on Amazon.com: $7.42. If the book is on sale for $10.00, your royalty from .com would be $1.55; the book would not be priced high enough to qualify for Expanded Distribution.
  • 300-page book, Color ink printing:  printing cost, $21.85. Minimum list price on Amazon.com: $36.42. If the book is on sale for $10.00--well, it can't be.  If you price your sales price at $40.00, your royalty from .com would be $2.15; the book would not be priced high enough to qualify for Expanded Distribution.  for ED, the book would need to be priced not less than $55.00, and you'd earn a $0.15 royalty from ED. (And $11.15 from Amazon, if anybody was nutty enough to buy it, of course.)

 I know, I know, you think I'm crazy.  No, you think, she can't be right!  Five times as much? (Believe me, the arithmetic multiplier goes up, too.) So, here's the link to Amazon's Royalty Calculator:  https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200735480#royalty_calculator .  Download it yourself; it's an Excel spreadsheet with built-in macros, so if you don't have Microsoft Office/Excel, you probably won't be able to use it, sadly.  Ask a friend to use it for you if that's the case.

We all love color--humans are built that way.  But before you set your heart on that sunset, that icon, that fleuron in pink--be aware of just how much that love will cost you.

Until next time!

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10 Pieces of Advice for a Wanna-Be Kids' Book Author

One of the things that is driving me nuts, of late, are the plethora of "kids' books" that we are seeing, in various stages of completion, and the utter lack of readiness, and lack of information, that their authors, creators, and publishers have exhibited, in preparing--or not--those books.  Here is a list of things to know, to do, not to do, etc.

Warning--I'm not pulling a lot of punches here. If you are easily upset, or as they say today, "triggered," you may want to not read this article.  After dozens--scores--of messed-up illustrated kids' books, my sense of humor is a bit diminished, about these things going bad.


  1. Page 1, on every book in the known universe, is a right-hand page. Page 1 is never--never--a left-hand page.  
    1. That means that when you come to me, with your book, and tell me that you have the text on the left-hand page, and the images on the right, as pages "1 (left) and 2 (right)," that's wrong. Yeah, I know, it seems petty--but do you want to look like an idiot, to anyone that buys the book, who knows how books are numbered? 
    2. And stop putting the page numbers over your illustrations.  Do you think little kids want that giant "2." in there, on Deeno the Dino's nose? They don't.  
  2. Little kids do not want to rotate the book, to see drawings that you crammed in there, drawn in landscape, turned on their sides.  
    1. If you have landscape drawings or plan to make them, for the love of heaven, make it a spread--in other words, make it two pages together, across the bind. Don't make it the same size as your portrait pages, and rotate it, as though the little kid wants to have to keep turning the book to see your drawings!  Do not assume that some magic layout person can take your 8.5" x 11" landscape drawing and make it perfectly fit what will be 17" x 11" spreads.  8.5" x 11" paper is 1.29 longer than it is wide, as will be your drawing, right?  Well, guess what?  17" x 11" spreads are 1:1.54 aspect ratios--the width of the spread is 1.54x the height of the book.  So...where will you get that extra .25 of a page, to fill in the "missing" part?  See my images, below, to explain what I mean.  
  3. Stop drawing illustrations for your kids' book on typing/copy paper. It's the wrong size for absolutely everything.  Even if you decide to do a book with an 8.5" x 11" trim size, surprise!, a sheet of 8.5" x 11" paper does not have bleed allowance, and like many clients that I've seen lately, you won't be able to get your book printed. You'll then have to hrie someone like us, to fix it--and many times, it cannot be fixed.  Go to Amazon and get a proper sketch pad.  Before you do that, make sure that you know, in advance, what size book you're going to make, including bleed, margins, etc.
  4. Images and illustrations are NOT Gumby!   If an illustration is drawn for an 8" x 10" piece of paper, it's not going to magically fit another sheet or layout that's 5" x 8" or 5.25" x 8", as examples.  Please stop expecting us to somehow make your error look good.  A 7" x 10" illustration has an aspect ratio of 1:1.42. That means that the length of the longer side is 1.42x the width. For an 8x10, it's 1:1.25.  For 5.25" x 8", it's 1:1.52.  These are all obviously not the same. Stop behaving as though they are.  
  5. Stop thinking that little kids have absolutely no discretion and taste. If you wouldn't give your crappy drawings to an adult, don't think that little kids are going to love them.  They won't.  
  6. Stop thinking that little kids don't know or understand proper iambic or rhyming.  They do.  If your lines of rhythmic text aren't, they won't love it.  
  7. Stop ignoring things like BLEED and margins.  Want to be like the last 10 "kids' book authors" that came into my shop?  With drawings that they can't use, to make the book that they thought that they wanted to?  Create pages with borders and dialogue, that can't be made larger or smaller, and then find out that Amazon won't allow you to print it that way.  Then come see us, expecting us to miraculously fix your mistakes. Lots of times, it can't be done.
    1. Go to Amazon or Ingram, download their publishing and book creation guidelines, and READ THEM. Shocking, I know.  Find out what page size your drawings and pages will have to be, so that you can print your desired book size.  Then draw your drawings to that size, or a little larger. Want to do a book at 6" x 9", in full bleed?  That means that your page size has to be 6.125" wide and 9.25" tall.  It also means that your live elements--dialogue, etc., cannot come within 0.375" of the outside edge of the page.  Stop laying out dialogue bubbles, etc., right to the edge of the page--nobody can "fix" that for you.
    2. Amazon's KDP Print guidelines don't even make you do the math--they have a sheet in their PG that tells you the final size for full-bleed.  They've already done all the heavy lifting--all you have to do is read it.  
  8.  Stop "laying out" your kids' book in Word.  Or any other word-processor or presentations software like PowerPoint.  99x out of 100 times, you're not going to get the result that you expect, and if you upload it in Word, the "automagic sausage-making machine" at the KDP will change the file, and your result will be wholly unexpected.
  9.  Don't assume that whatever you write is "enough."  Do you know how many pages an illustrated kids' book is supposed to be?  No? Why not?  
  10. Lastly--don't just write a story, hire some illustrator, tell her/him to draw X drawings, and think "oh, boy, that's it, I'm done!"  You're not.  Please see this article in our blog:  The Dangers of Self-Publishing with Zero Research about what can happen when you've paid no attention to how print books are laid out, bleed, margins, etc.  Remember, when you are instructing your illustrator, the illustrated page needs to make allowance for the storyline to be added to that page, someplace in the image, typically.  If your illustrator fills every corner of the image with important content, where will the story go?  In many publishing houses, the illustrator is also tasked with the work of setting the story--putting the story text on each of the pages. This ensures that s/he's thoroughly familiar with the story; that she storyboards it out, so that every aspect gets told, with the right imagery, and that the story's illustrations don't overwhelm the story, or squeeze it out.  
    1. While a lot of authors shrug, thinking, "oh, well, I can always put the story on the opposite page," that doesn't always work well in ebooks, as it happens.  Storyboard out your story. Make sure you know what size font, how many letters, spaces, etc., you need for the text on each page.  Quit thinking that it's someone else's job, that someone else will somehow, magically, make it work.  They won't.

There are literally hundreds of things that can go wrong, horribly wrong, with a kids' book. You don't need to have many go wrong with yours, for it to turn into a total disaster.  See the linked article, above, for one story where someone threw thousands of dollars away--literally--because she never bothered to research what she was doing.  

I know--this all sounds mean. You just want to write a wonderful kids' book, right? You don't want to have to learn all this! You're just a kids' book writer, not a layout person! But the moment that you choose to be self-published--that excuse disappears. You either hire a full-fledged design firm, for example, something like Outskirts Press, or Fiona Raven--both of which start at about $3500.00 (Thirty-Five Hundred US Dollars) to layout a children's illustarted book and--pay attention--that figure does not include the illustrations or the illustrator's fees!!--or you need to learn a lot of this yourself, whether you are going to try to create the layout yourself, or whether you plan to hire some Fiverr illustrator to do the illustrations--and often, the layout--as well. 

I won't lecture here, as I've already been tough enough on you, about why expecting your illustrator to also be a successful book designer--often backfires in your face; that's a conversation for another day.

Remember--research is your friend. Don't waste your time and money creating an illustrated kids' book that you cannot publish!  

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What is Full-Bleed, and Why Does It Matter to Your Print Book?

What is Full Bleed, and How Does it Affect Self-Publishers?

velizar ivanov 790686 unsplash resized

Hearing that word "bleed" and starting to wonder if your nose is
doing something it shouldn't? Fear not--we'll get you sorted!

One of the things that we are seeing a lot lately are self-publishers running afoul of a term known as "full-bleed." Publishers with graphic, comic, and coffee-table books; publishers trying to create print books with wraparound covers. All are forging ahead, having survived the perils of publishing, only to fall at that last fence--the Fence of Full Bleed.

Basically, full-bleed is a printer's term. It means to make something a small bit larger than it is--let's say, instead of a 6x9" trim sized book page, a 6.125 x 9.250" page. A book like that has images that "bleed" off the edge--in other words, the image goes right to the edge of the page, not inside the page with a margin around it. This image, below, is a full-bleed page in a book:

An image of Jeremiah Tower's book, "Flavors of Taste," showing two pages in spread mode. One of the two pages shows a full-bleed image (an image that does not have margin around it, but goes all the way to the edges of the printed page).

This spread of pages from Jeremiah Tower's Flavors of Taste demonstrates a "full bleed image" on the left. (Used with permission from Jeremiah Tower and Kit Wohl).

 
As you see, there's no margin around the picture of Jeremiah, himself--his image goes to the very edge of the page, on three sides. To ensure that the cropping of the printed pages looks nice, come printing, cropping and binding time, the printers want you to make both the image a bit larger as well as the layout page too, typically 0.125" on each side (other than the gutter side, of course). That gives them a bit of "slush," so that if they make a teeny-weeny mistake when cropping (cutting) the printed page, it won't mean that hundreds or even thousands of sheets have been wasted. That's all that full-bleed means, and is, but if you do not use it, your print book cover designs might be useless.
We've had a lot of customers lately show up with interiors for kids books or with covers that are already made, for print. Aside from the obvious problem that they can't know, in advance, what size spine they're going to need for these finished covers (spines are designed in width based on final page count and paper type used for printing), a bigger, more difficult issue is that the cover or book interior is laid out for the final trim size--not for the final trim size, plus bleed. So, suddenly, they have a file that they can't use, at the KDP Print, for their book. Not for the interior, or in the case of the covers, the exterior. No bleed, no printing, no kidding.
What this means is simply that, when you tell a Fiverr or some other inexperienced designer that you need XXX for print, remember--if it's a book interior, where the images or illustrations or images go all the way to the edge, like a typical kids' book, or a book cover for any print book--you must have full-bleed settings. Each and every distributor like Ingram, KDP, Lightning Source has their own full-bleed settings, so you need to look them up and make sure that your "finished" products have bleed--or you might as well take your hard-earned dollars, crumble them up, toss 'em in the fireplace or BBQ Grill, and set them alight.
Yes, that's what I said--if you spend money to make a full-sized print cover, and neglect bleed, there's a chance that you won't be able to salvage that cover and use it. Unless you're a billionaire, and don't care about wasting money (for what it's worth, I'm pretty sure wasting money isn't how billionaires get to be billionaires in the first place...), then keep your powder dry and make sure that your cover is done right, in the first place--with full-bleed.
 
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Cover Cover Cover Cover Cover Chameleon...

It Goes Around, It Goes Aroouuuunnnnd the book...

Full Book Cover Parts

This is what a cover for a print book looks like.  

An issue that seems to be cropping up, repeatedly these days, is the incident of self-publishers who decide to do a print version of the book and don't realize that they need a cover for that print book that is different than the eBook cover. An eBook cover is one thing--it's the front.  The glamorous part, right?  The pretty part. The part where you get to sit and think about how great it's going to look. The images, the ideas, the fonts...all that great stuff. Right?

But here's the thing.  There's no mystical cover maker, for a print book, where you just pop-in your front cover, and VOILA!, your print cover is magically made.  You, Publisher, are the person responsible for ensuring that the cover--called a wraparound--gets made.  

That doesn't mean that you can present a book producer, or Createspace or IngramSpark, etc., with three pieces of a cover, and think that they're going to make the cover for you.  They won't.  Nor will anyone else.  

I've lost track of the number of times we've had a client get to what we think is the end of their time with us--we've given them their eBooks and their print interior--and suddenly, an email arrives, telling us that their "cover" is being rejected at Kindle Print Beta or Createspace or some other place, because the cover that they're trying to upload is their eBook cover.  Or, they put a cover together, somehow, and it's completely the wrong size or shape or some other problem.  And there have been any number of times that this same publisher scheduled a book launch, or a pre-sale, or some other promotional event--and there's no time for the cover to be made.  

Don't let this be you.  If you're going to do a print book, you have to have a wraparound cover. This is a cover with a front, back and spine--all in a single piece.  Not in multiple pieces.  (That question seems to come up a lot!)  What are the parts that make up a wraparound cover?  

Front, back and spine, all in a single piece, in PDF format, and--this is important--with BLEED. I know, "bleed" is confusing, but what that means is that there's a small extra margin for error, all around the outer edges of the image or PDF. This allows the printer and trimmer to have some forgiveness, when the covers are printed and trimmed, for addition (binding and gluing) onto the paperback.  

 Really, that's all there is to it--the three parts that you're already used to looking at--the front, rear, and spine of a printed book--all in a single piece.  Although I used colored boxes to segregate the parts, in this sample image, the wraparound cover is always given to the printer or POD company in a single PDF file--all three pieces merged seamlessly.  You can see examples without my boxes drawn on them in the example gallery below.  

 I borrowed a few mocked-up covers from our friend, Derek Murphy, of Creativindie.com and its sister site, DIYBookCovers.com, (which we highly recommend for publishers on a tight budget!) for the purposes of demonstrating the difference. It's not really complex, but do you want to be the author caught out, with a ready-to-go print interior and an eBook cover, only?  No, of course not.  So, what's the difference?

Examples below--click any thumbnail to bring up the full image. 

So:  now you know what to expect.  If you've only done an eBook before this moment in time, and you've decided to take that leap of faith, into print, make sure that you invest the time needed to figure out what you're going to do, about getting a full-sized wraparound cover for your print edition.  

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The Createspace Cover Template Creator

How To Create Your Print Book Cover For Createspace

nce your print book is in production with us for layout, it's time to think about the creation of your full cover--front, back, and spine. You can't just take three pieces to Createspace and hope that they'll get your cover right. Instead, you or your cover designer will go here: Createspace Cover Template Maker.

You or s/he will input your page count and your paper type. Obviously, if you have just started your print layout, you probably won't have a number for your total page count yet. If not, wait for that figure, from your designer, and then input it into the Template maker. You'll get back a PDF template, all in one piece.

Createspace Cover Creator Print

As you can see from the image, it's hardly difficult.  You will already know your trim size, and you've probably already thought about what paper you want.  (Note:  if you have images of any kind, it is usually dramatically better to choose WHITE, rather than CREAM.  Particularly if you have B&W images!  Just a handy tidbit of information for you.) 

Your cover designer will then create your final print book cover, marrying the front, back and spine portions of her design. She'll give that back to you in PDF form. When you are ready to publish your book, you'll upload the PDF of the interior and the PDF of the exterior. Createspace then binds the cover to the interior when making your book--and you're off and running.

Note: experienced authors will do many of the Createspace steps in the Dashboard before they have their final PDF or PDFs. We heartily endorse that idea, both for your print book and your eBook. Taking care of the simple, but important, things while you are in production makes sense. Oftentimes, new authors get so excited over a book that they get too rushed to do the Dashboard items (like categories, keywords, the description/blurbs) correctly, or with the care that will help you get your book sold.

Good luck!

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13 Questions You'll Ask At the KDP, And The Answers

13 Things You'll Ask at Amazon's KDP Program, Part 1

Here at Booknook.Biz, we've been doing this for quite a while now.  One thing I can't help but notice is that the same questions get asked at the KDP Publisher's forums, over and over again.  To help prospective publishers, I'm going to answer them here.

Do I have to register my copyright before I publish?  

No, you don't.  In the United States of America, your book is copyrighted as soon as you've completed writing it.  If your book is stolen/pirated, however, you can't file suit until the copyright is registered, which you can do with $35 and the link to ECO, the Electronic Copyright Office. Here's the link to ECO and here's a link to the Tutorial. 

Does enrolling in KDP mean I can't sell my books anywhere else?

 No, it doesn't.  If you enter your book in the KDP, you can sell it any place you'd like (Barnes & Noble, iBooks, KoboBoks, etc.).  The KDP contract does stipulate that you can't sell your eBook at a lower price anywhere else.  If Amazon discovers that you are selling your book for less somewhere else, they'll lower the price of your book (price-match) for the duration that the book is lower-priced elsewhere.  If you join KDP Select, however, then, yes--you are required to give exclusivity for 90 days in return for the features of the KDP Select Program. These features include the ability to make your book free for any five days out of the 90, and capacity to join other marketing programs. 

(Con't.)

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An Example of Amazon Look Inside The Book Gone Wrong

How Do I Fix The Look Inside the Book on Amazon?

Is Your Look Inside the Book a Wreck?

One of the questions that I see posted, all the time, at the Amazon KDP Forums is this one--some variant on, "my Look Inside is a mess!," or, "How do I fix the Look Inside, because all my nice page breaks are gone!"

Here's the bottom line:  mostly, you can't.  

I know, I know--now, you're horrified.  But here's the thing:  while an eBook like a Kindle or an ePUB is made out of HTML, so are the Amazon webpages.  The problem is, it's not the same kind of HTML.  While the HTML itself is the same, HTML is controlled by something else, called "stylesheets."  That's how companies like ours make things like fonts work--by using Stylesheets.  In HTML, they are called "CSS." (Cascading Style Sheets).  They're called cascading because a more important style will override a less important style, to put it simply.  Or, a more detailed style will override a less detailed style.  

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An eBook made from a Commercial Template

Can You Sucessfully Use eBook Templates?

Once upon a time, (okay, about two months ago or so)  in a fit of curiosity, I decided to buy one of those advertised templates—you know the ones—make your ebook from WORD!  Why?  Because we get a lot of inquiries here.  In fact, we receive about 300 emails a day, believe it or not.  We get people asking why our services are “better” or different than what they can do themselves. A lot of what we do is invisible to the human eye.  This makes it hard to answer those types of questions without sounding self-serving. 

As in, “well, gosh, we export and clean up the HTML, so that all the bad code that you can’t see with the naked eye doesn’t make your book go wonky when it’s opened on a Kindle.” This is a difficult sell, to be honest.  It’s the same difficult sell that I run into when I try to explain that Smashwords does not do the same thing that we do.  But, when you look at a sausage, do you know what’s inside it? Can you tell that one sausage-maker lovingly crafted his sausage from the BEST stuff, while the other used what remained on the floor after the first guy finished?  No, you can’t.  Not unless you already do this for a living, and if you did, we wouldn't be having this conversation--would we?

An eBook-making Test:  Show, Not Tell.

In that vein, I decided to test what we do against those "DIY Word" templates that you can buy all over the Internet.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?  Perhaps, I thought, if I simply used one of those commercial templates, I could show--not tell--people the difference.  I made sure that I bought a well-written template, from one of the most reputable and best-known websites on the topic of bookmaking.  For both ebooks and print books.  Below, see the original, unstyled Word file.  (click ANY image to enlarge/lightbox).  

Read on to see my test.

 

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What is The Best eBook Format For Kindle?

Important Notice: as of midsummer, 2021, this article is outdated. Please refer to our updated article for the latest, greatest, and accurate information. Again, this article contains outdated and not-useful information; refer only for historical purposes.  

What Is the Best File Format For Kindle?  Why, The One that Works, Of Course!
What Is the Best File Format For Kindle? Why, The One that Works, Of Course!

About eBook Formats

One of the questions that we are often asked is, "what is the best eBook format for Kindle? I'm not always sure what question I'm being asked.  Is the person asking to find out what file format they should upload to Amazon? Are they asking what's the best way to make a book for the Amazon-Kindle ecosystem? Really, there are only two eBook formats that are still remaining in the USA, and, when you look around, in the world. Those formats are:

  • ePUB: which stands for ePUBlication (clever, eh?), which is used by B&N, iBooks, Sony, KoboBooks, and Google, and,
  • MOBI format, which is the preferred Kindle file format.

If you've Googled, you've likely seen all sorts of claims, ranging from some folks telling you that you can put an ePUB on Kindle, to the idea that using Word is the best "Kindle eBook format." The bottom line is, the files that Amazon sells to its readers are, by and large, a single file format, called "MOBI."

What Format Does Kindle Use?

Now, if you've run across various forums, you may have seen people refer to AZW format, or AZW3 format. The former is the actual, final, encrypted Kindle format that is dispensed from the Amazon store, to your Kindle as a purchased book. That's not a format that you can make yourself. And, even if you could, you can't upload that format at the KDP, the Kindle Digital Publishing platform. The latter, AZW3, is a file format, created to emulate what's called "KF8," (the more-advanced Kindle formatting) by a piece of free library software called Calibre. However, just like AZW, you can't upload an AZW3 file format at the KDP. You can certainly make a file in that format, and side-load it to your own Kindle device, but you can't publish it. Obviously, that format, then, lacks utility.  Fine for personal use, but useless for publishing.  If someone starts yammering away at you, talking about how you can convert your file to AZW or AZW3 format, for the purposes of publishing--that's not someone to whom you should be listening.

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Why is a MOBI Kindle File like a Cake?

Curious As To Why You Might Ever Want or Need an ePUB File?  Read On!

Your MOBI is just like a cake.
How is your Kindle MOBI file just like a cake? Read on to learn more.

How Can A MOBI File Be Anything Like A CAKE?

When we’re called by prospective clients, we’re asked a lot of questions. Some of them are about layout, some about functionality, and some are simply what seem to be practical questions, to the typical person or new eBook publisher.

One of the things that I’m often asked is “Why do I need an ePUB file? I only want to publish to the Amazon Kindle program, which uses MOBI, so why do I need to pay for an ePUB?”

What is an ePUB File? What's in a MOBI File?

As background, to address this, it helps to know that of all the major retailers, Amazon uses an eBook format called “MOBI,” and all the others (B&N, iBooks, KoboBooks, Sony, etc.) use the other major eBook format, “ePUB.” Basically, the eBook DNA of both formats is 98% identical; only at the very end of the process does the bookmaker make the decisions that end up creating an ePUB file versus a MOBI file, or vice-versa. So, by and large, it’s not twice as much for a company to give you both formats (and if anyone tells you that—find a different formatter!); it’s only a bit more money, as a large part of the work is the same.

The exception to this is what’s called “Fixed Layout” or “Fixed Format,” but that’s a topic for another day.

BUT:  MOBI Kindle Files are not editable.  

What most folks don’t know is that a MOBI Kindle file is not editable. When I tell people that, they naturally ask me, “but, if I want to make changes, how does that happen?” So, here’s the real deal on the basics between ePUB and MOBI:

A MOBI file is a finished, completed product. It is, essentially, like a Cake. When it’s finished, it’s great—but if you wanted to, you couldn’t take that cake apart and get your ingredients back. You couldn’t decide that you wanted to replace (say), half your white sugar with brown sugar. You can’t get your eggs, your flour, your sugar or flavorings back. It’s great, but it’s CAKE, not cake ingredients. If you decide to change your cake, you have to make a whole new cake, from new ingredients.  

(If you want to get techy—a MOBI file is a binary database file that is built from its HTML source).

But, What If You Need To Change Your MOBI File?

But an ePUB file, on the other hand, isn’t just CAKE. It’s a cake that you can disassemble, if you need to. You can get your flour, your eggs, your sugar and your flavorings back from your ePUB. Your ePUB exists in two ways simultaneously; it’s both a finished book (cake!) and the ingredients. This is because an ePUB format isn’t like a MOBI format—it’s a bunch of files (ingredients) zipped into a unique format (ePUB). The “book” exists when it’s zipped into that special ePUB format. But if you know how, you can simply open up that formatted book, and you can add sugar, eggs, flour (text, formatting, other elements), make your changes, and zip those ingredients right back up into…a BOOK. It’s a bit like magic. You can wave your wand at an ePUB, and say “EPUB-liarmus!” and you can take it apart, and then put it right back together as you see fit.

"ePUB-liarmus!" Yup--that's how we do it!

Most professional eBook conversion and formatting firms will use an ePUB, or the constituent parts of the ePUB, to build the MOBI file. What does this mean for you, as a publisher? Well, think about it: if your formatting firm only gives you the MOBI file (cake!), and you later decide that you want to make changes—what do you do? You’re forced to go back to the same firm. You don’t have your source materials (your ingredients) any longer. I’ve even been told by some folks who’ve come to us that some companies will charge you as if it’s a brand-new book—a build from scratch, rather than simply revising the files that they must have in their archives.

So, don’t forget: you WANT an ePUB. Firstly, you never know when Amazon might decide to use ePUBs; you never know when you might want to change your ingredients; and third, heck—you’re paying for your eBook to be created. Make sure you get your own source files, for your future use.

And that way (yes, wait for it!)...you can have your Cake, and eat it, too. 

 

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T'was the Night Before Christmas... 

 (With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, may he forgive my doggerel...)

...and all through the shop,
all we minions were working,
   until ready to drop.

The ebooks were flying,
the covers were spare,
The edits were crazy,
   with "one more thing I must share!"

We waited for Santa,
'Cuz we love old Saint Nick,
But Hitch made us work,
   Waving 'round an old stick!

So slave we all did,
And made all your books,
So that Hitch would say now,
   that we're off the hook.

Come today we're off,
to rest up our fingers,
Our hats we will doff,
   No books they do linger.

But we'll all be back,
Don't give it a thought,
for like all wage slaves,
   we're easily bought.

We'll be back on the fifth,
all eager and fresh,
All ready for you,
   after a well-deserved rest.

So Hitch wants to say,
very strongly and loud,
THANKS ALL YOU GUYS,
  you're the best type of crowd.

Indy and Len and Hitch and the gang,
will be back on the 5th,
to do books with a BANG!

In the meantime don't worry,
if you're in a hurry,
'cuz some poor guy got stuck
   sitting here like a duck.

Your emails we'll receive,
so no need to grieve.
We'll be a bit slow,
but we're raring to go.

Your books will be worked on,
your edits still made,
we're just resting a bit,
   before we all fade.

So please excuse the delays;
It won't be for days;
we'll jump on your queries,
   for your wondrous new series.

We waited for Santa,
'Cuz we love old St. Nick,
And sure 'nuff he came,
   It wasn't a trick.

And as he rode off,
into the night,
I could swear I heard Hitch yell,
   "That Edit's Not Right!"

~~~~~~~~~~

We'll be back on the morning of January 5th; we'll be here parttime between now and then, thanks.