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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How to Make an Ebook: Step 2 - Creating the Cover, Part 2

This series will eventually become an ebook I'll make available for sale once we complete the chapters and I can make time to edit them. Visit the chapter list if you want to read the prior steps. If you appreciate my efforts and find them useful, please consider a donation (top, right) to aid the continued work on this book. Thank you.

Placing the Text on the Page

Now that we have our cover art in place, and we know what we're going to do with the text and title, we can start putting the cover together and experimenting. If you only have the front ebook cover with no plans to create a print cover in the future, you can skip the next set of instructions. If you have a full-sized print book cover art, you'll need to designate the part you want to work on for an ebook.

First, if your cover art isn't exactly 3900 x 3000 pixels, you can use Faststone to resize it to that size. Open the cover art in Faststone. Move your cursor to the left edge of the screen. A pop up menu will appear. Select "Resize/Resample." Make sure the "Preserve Aspect Ratio" is not checked in the bottom left corner of the window. Then replace the number in the width field with 3900, and the number in the height field with 3000. Click OK, and it will resize the picture. If the artwork was already close to that size, there shouldn't be any distortions of the image. Move the cursor to the left side of the screen, and select "Save as" in the menu. I recommend naming the file something different so you don't overwrite the original in case you need to return to the original artwork file to start over.

If the size of the print book is something other than 6" x 9", then you'll need to calculate the correct width as discussed previously. Whatever the pixel count is for that size, including the spine width, ensure your artwork is the same size, using Faststone to resize if necessary.

Open the artwork that will be your cover in Inkscape. It will ask you if you want to embed or link the graphic. Choose embed. A window should appear displaying the full cover. Adjust the window size, graphic position and zoom until you can see the whole graphic.

Next we need to measure out the width on the right side of the graphic. If you have a cover for a 6" x 9" book we mentioned about, at around 3900 pixels by 3000 pixels, you'd want 1875 pixels from the right edge. For any other size of book, take the width and add a quarter inch to it, then multiple by 300. For a 5" x 7" book, as an example, you'd take 5" and add 0.25" to get 5.25", then multiply by 300 to arrive at a cover width of 1575 pixels.

To mark that area in Inkscape, do the following. Go to the "File" menu and select "Document Properties." A window will pop up. Select the "Page" tab. On that tab, make sure the "Border on top of drawing" box is checked in the bottom-left corner of the window. Then enter the front cover width we've calculated, in our case 1875, in the "width" field under the "Custom Sizes" section. Once entered, close the window by clicking the X in the upper-right corner of the window.

If you're not sure exactly how wide to make it, give it your best estimate. Once you know how many pages your print book will be, and can get an exact template from CreateSpace's calculator, you can readjust the text to fit. As long as you have a rectangular area that resembles the front of a traditional book cover, it will be close enough for an ebook.

You should now see an outline of the canvas overlaying your artwork. It defaults to the left side of the graphic, but you want it on the right side. So click Ctrl-A to select everything and use your mouse to drag the picture so that the right edge of it matches the right edge of the canvas and the top lines up with the top edge of the canvas. If all is done right, you should see just off center-right a line going down the graphic that indicates the left edge of the canvas. That line represents the approximate edge of the spine. Keep all text from getting too close to that edge.

Now we're ready to put the text on. First, create another layer. The picture resides by default in the "Root" layer. Click "Layer" in the menu, then select "Add layer." A window will pop up allowing you to give it a name. An obvious name for it is "Text" since this is the layer we'll use to place the text. You should see in the bottom-center drop down box where it did say "Root" will now say "Text."

Click on the big, black A in the left graphic column. This changes your cursor to a cross-hair. Click in an open spot on outside the picture, and drag it down and right to create a text box. Once created, your cursor will blink inside the box, waiting for you to type something. Let's say we want to use our title "My Last Breath" as a title. So type that into the box. Most likely, it will look tiny. This is because we have zoomed out so much. When you are finished typing it, use Ctrl-Shift-Home to mark the text.

In the top-left corner of the program's window, right under the menu is a drop-down box for selecting the font. To the right of that, is the font size. Mark the font size listed and type in a bigger number, then press enter. The font in the text box will change size accordingly. Use the drop down menu to try out different font styles. Keep in mind you don't want anything to fancy or hard to read, especially when reduced to a small size. But feel free to experiment until you come up with the right font and font size that will fit nicely in width available width. Then try out different colors by clicking the of the colors along the lower bottom to both fit the feel of the book and be readable against the other colors. If you need to outline because no color will contrast well enough, while the text is marked, you can click "Filters" in the menu, then move your cursor over "ABCs" in the pop-down menu, and then select "Black outline" from the next pop-out menu.

Once you are satisfied with your text, click on the arrow graphic on the left-top column of functions. Then click on the text and move it onto the cover, positioning it where you envisioned it fitting. If you need to adjust, you can resize the text box by dragging the corners, but be careful not to distort the text unless you intend to for a specific purpose. And you can always double-click on the text and edit it again to change the words, font, or font size.

Do the same with your author by-line. Usually you want the title as big as you can get it width wise, allowing for some space on either side. You don't want it almost to the edge of either side, as trimming will happen on the cover edge and the spine bend is an estimate at this point if you are using a full cover. But even for an ebook only cover, you want some 'white space." Too close to the edge will make the cover look busy and too full. White space makes it more readable. Simpler tends to be better.

But the author by-line usually is a smaller font size from the title, but not always. A popular author may have their name larger as they are the draw. Considering all the specifics we discussed at the beginning of this chapter, structure and organize the text elements to compliment the focus of the book and its cover.

You can add lines if needed by using the odd-looking pen between the pencil and pen graphics on the left column. Click on an open spot, then move the cursor in a straight line. When you have it long enough, double-click to end the line. Then click on the arrow graphic to exit line drawing. Experiment using different thicknesses by entering a new height in the toolbar where it shows an "H" before a box with a number, and "px" in the drop-down box after that while the lines is selected. The color can be changed by clicking on the colors at the bottom.

Once you have the cover as you want it, you are ready to export it to a file. First, save the whole work in Inkscape's svg format. This makes it easy to come back and edit it later on, either to fix the cover you just created, make a change, or to create the print-book's cover when you are ready for that. Click on "File" in the menu and select "Save." Put it where you'll know where to find it, preferably a folder used for collecting all the files you'll need for this ebook, and give it a name.

To export, click on "File" in the menu and select "Export bitmap." A window will pop open defaulting to the "Selection." If this is already formatted for an ebook only cover (around 600 pixels wide), the "Selection" setting should be fine. If, however, you have adjusted the canvas size to show the front cover out of a larger wrap-around print cover, you'll want to click on "Page." This will export only the section outlined by the canvas instead of the whole graphic.

Then click in the "Filename" field and go to the end of that text. Change the location and/or name, by using the "Browse" button if necessary to point to your ebook's folder. Once set, click on the "Export" button. The progress bar will let you know when it is done. Once finished, click the X in the upper-right of the window.

Next, open the new file which will end in png into Faststone. Check to make sure it appears as you expected. You can use Faststone to do some minor cropping or resizing if needed. If you have exported from a full print-book graphic, in most cases this pixel size will be too big for ebook use. So move the cursor to the left side of the screen and select "Resize/Resample" from the menu that pops up. Make sure this time that the box next to "Preserve Aspect Ratio" toward the bottom-left corner is checked. Enter 600 in the width field, and tab. The height will adjust automatically to stay in sync with the width. Click OK to resize.

Then move your cursor to the left side of the screen and select "Save as" from the menu that pops up. Change the file name; I usually add a "_600" to the end of the file name to indicate it is a 600 pixel-wide graphic. Then from the drop down menu labeled "Save as type:" Select "JPEG Format" from that list. Once saved, you will have a cover you can use for creating all your ebooks.

For sure, this requires a learning curve if you've never messed with graphic editing programs. But once you've done it a few times, and as you get comfortable with the two programs, you can create whatever cover you can image. Provided your artwork and design are of professional quality, you will have ended up with a professional cover. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the more creative you can be as you learn what all you can and can't do.

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