Book Setup

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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”.


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”


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.


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


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


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.


A new screen loads. 


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.


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”:


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


And then click to get a box of options


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


The size (including an auto fit option)


Change the color:


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


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


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).


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:


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:


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

Click the color you want to change:


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


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:


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


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

Categories: Book Covers, Book Setup | Tags: , , , ,

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:


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”


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


You’ll get a pop up. Just click ok.


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


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)


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


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



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:


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”


And – magically – they appear


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:


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!


Categories: Amazon store, Book Setup | Tags: , , , , ,

Strategy for Publishing Your Books: How Many Books You Want to Publish in a Year and How to Get There

If you’re going to treat your writing as a business, one of the most important things you’ll do is create a plan.  The plan is a list of goals you have and the strategy you’ll use to get there.  If you don’t at least have a plan in place, it’s too easy to get sidetracked by other things (like browsing those cute Facebook pictures or watching You Tube videos).  The plan helps you stay focused so even if you start to “goof off,” you can find your way back to where you’re supposed to be.  :D

A good time to plan is before the next year begins.  So November is as good a time as any to start your strategy.

How many books, on average, can you write in one year?

1. What is your best writing method?

This is the first question you need to address.  Everyone differs in this area.  Some people write faster than others.  Some people write their first draft quickly but then go through the process of rewriting.  Others write their first draft slower but don’t do much rewriting.  Some people polish up and edit each chapter as they write it, minimizing editing efforts later down the road.  Whatever system works for you, you’re better off using it than trying to imitate someone else’s method.

2.  What is the average length of time it takes you to write one book?

After you define your method for writing a book, figure out how long it takes to write the first draft.  This is an estimate number of weeks or months.  On average, I can write a 65,000-word first draft in 2-2.5 months.  So when I plan out when I’ll be finished with a first draft, I usually estimate out 2.5 to 3 months.  I do give myself more wiggle room because real life kicks in, and if you are rushing to get a story done, you can feel overwhelmed and sacrifice quality.  Always go slower if you can make the story better.  No one will die if you don’t get a book out as soon as you hoped.

3. How long does it take to rewrite, revise, edit, and do other stuff necessary to polish up your book?

This is going to vary from person to person, and I find a team of editors and beta readers are crucial to making the system go more smoothly and efficiently.  But, you need editors and beta readers you can trust to be honest, trust to do a good job, and trust to be nice.  Never have anyone treat you like you’re stupid.  Have people who are supportive and on your side.  This should be a positive learning experience, and the best way to learn is with open and friendly communication.

Also, I find it handy to have a good grammar book on hand in case you question the advice you’re given.  There are some grammar rules where there’s more than one way of doing things.  In that case, you do the method that you prefer.  And always go over your book after it’s done.  There are things that can pop up at the last minute or not sound quite right.  I prefer to listen to the book using a text to speech feature at this point because the way a book sounds can be different from how it is when you read it.  It also helps to look over it in different formats, one time on the computer, another time on physical paper.  Just having a different format can help you spot errors you might have missed.

So figure out, on average, how long it takes from the time your first draft is finished to when your final product is complete.  For me, this can range from 1-2 months.

4.  How long will it take to do the cover, formatting, uploading to book sites, etc?

The cover can be done well in advance, and I like doing the cover using GIMP for ebooks and Book Cover Pro for paperbacks.  I usually do the ebook cover when I start writing the book then do the paperback after I publish the book.  But your preference might be different, or you might want to hire out for this.  Either way, it’s part of what you plan out when you make your strategy.  For me, this process can be anywhere from 1 day to 1 week, depending on how quickly I find the right pictures to go on my cover.  And sometimes I change a cover if I find a better picture.  So space out time for stuff like this.  I usually do it when I’m taking breaks between writing projects for the day.  But that’s my style.  I need more than one thing to do at a time.  Some people do better focusing on one project at a time.

As for formatting, I find this takes about one to two hours.  If you hire out, figure in the time it’ll take the person to do it.  And for uploading (publishing) your book, that can take a couple hours too, depending on how many places you publish with.

Based on the above, you should be able to estimate how many books you can publish in one year.

I think it’s very reasonable to publish 4+ books a year if you pace yourself and work on multiple projects.  This is based on daily average word counts and using time management strategies.  It requires discipline and eliminating anything that distracts you from writing.

1. Set aside a certain amount of time where you’ll write and figure your average daily word count.

You might not hit a certain word count goal.  If not, that’s fine.  Don’t sweat it.  On some days you will; on others you won’t.  But I think it’s crucial to get into the habit of setting aside a certain amount of time (1/2 hour or 1 hour) where you are writing.  You are training your mind to be creative.  Choose the same location if possible.  Do this for one month, mark down your word counts for each day and then average out how many words you got done each day.  That will be your baseline goal for a daily word count.  I wouldn’t stress the word count goal too much, but I like to have an estimate to shoot for.  It helps me stay focused.

On average, I think it’s possible to write 500 words in 1/2 an hour.  So 1,000 words would make 1 hour.  If you wrote only one hour a day and averaged 1,000 words each day, you could have 60,000 words done in two months.  Or if you wrote 1/2 hour each day averaging 500 words a day, you would have 30,000 words in two months.  This is a doable goal.  Again, it doesn’t mean you have to reach your goal every single day, but I think you’ll find some days will be easier than others so you’ll exceed your goals on some days which should bring you to the average goal.

2.  Will you write only one book at a time or more?

I do best working on three books at a time.  I will devote one hour to one book and two 1/2 hour segments to two books.  In other words, I’ll average 1,000 words in one book and 500 words to book 2 and another 500 to book 3.  This is average.  I don’t get stuck on actual word counts but find I end up hitting near this range.  During the editing stage, I rely heavily on my editing and beta reader team to pick up most of the work to free me up to be more efficient so I can spend less actual time editing and reading over my own work.  This narrows down my actual editing time to a month at the most.  So usually 3.5 to 4 months is what it takes from start to finish to get one book out.

Since I work on more than one book at a time, I’m usually halfway through books 2 and 3 by the time book 1 is published.  Then I take book 2 and bump that up to 1,000 words a day and add book 4 to the list.  So I’m not starting from scratch on books 2 and 3.  This helps for better efficiency and quickens the pace.

3.  Get rid of anything that distracts you from writing.

That means setting aside a certain amount of time where you will not answer the phone, surf the Internet, answer the door, watch TV, etc.  If certain music helps get you in the mood for writing, then listen to that music.  If you prefer quiet, then go for quiet.  Also, try to get a good night’s sleep or take your daily nap.   A well-rested mind is a creative mind.  Do whatever you can to get your mind geared up for writing.

4.  A little rest goes a long way.

I do take a day or even a week off as soon as I feel tired.  If you take a break at the first signs of exhaustion, you will avoid a burn out.  The key is knowing when you need to back off.  If you ignore the warning signs–lack of enthusiasm for writing, no creative spark, you’re physically tired, you’re stressed out over something, etc, you will have a harder time getting back to writing.  Also, schedule in vacations.  I have kids in school, so my big vacation time is summer.  I have blocked off three months where I’m with the kids.  People you love aren’t here forever, so be sure to spend time with them.  Even if it means getting less out, you’re better off in the long run if you take the time to engage with family and friends.  Plus, being with them will also help you avoid burn out.

Now grab a calendar for the next year and mark in your goals.

1. Using the information from above, get an idea of how long it will take you to get  the first draft and final product done.

I like to mark down an estimate on when the first draft will be done.  You don’t have to even start the book or even know what the book will be about when you’re making your goals for the next year.  I usually call it book 1, book 2, etc.  This frees me up to choose the books I want to write later while keeping me focused.

So go through each month for next year and mark down when you want to start a book and when the first draft will be completed.  Next, mark down the time you’ll start editing and when you’ll finish editing (give a couple weeks’ leeway for your editing and beta reader team).  Then set down a goal for when the book will be published.

2.  Mark in any vacations or times you know you won’t be writing.

And adjust your goals around those times.  True, the unexpected happens, but it helps if you can still pencil in those things that you know for sure is coming up (ex. reunions, weddings, vacations).

Evaluate your progress

Now that you have your strategy in place, go back and evaluate the calendar every two to three months in the next year.  Did you meet your goals?  Why or why not?  Are you able to publish more books in the year or not?

Evaluating yourself doesn’t mean you pass or fail.  It means you are figuring out your strengths and weaknesses, learning what works and at what pace.  This is helping you to get a better grasp on your writing and publishing speed, and it’ll help you create an even better strategy in the future.

And remember, you are not competing with anyone.  You set your own terms and work on your own schedule.  :D

Categories: Book Setup, Schedules & Routines, Writing as a Business

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