Ep. 07: Tips to Create Book Cover & Interior Files

Join us as we discuss cover and interior file requirements for self-published books.

Did you know there are actual human beings reviewing your book cover and interior files at IngramSpark? We’re sharing tips on how to create your book files, including file recommendations, free tools, and discounts with book design experts to help you get your files just right! All of the book design tips shared here are to make your book look professional and create a more enjoyable reading experience for readers worldwide. To upload your book, create an account with IngramSpark.


Robin Cutler [00:00:09] Hi everyone, welcome to Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark podcast. This episode is sponsored by Pub Site, an easy to use website builder, designed specifically for books and authors. It's loaded with book-oriented features, social media support, author tours, blogging, online bookseller links, and even E-commerce. You can sign up for a 14-day free trial and receive a 25% discount for the first 12 months as an IngramSpark author. Hi, everyone, I'm Robin Cutler, Director of IngramSpark.

Justine Bylo [00:00:42] I'm Justine Bylo, the Author Acquisitions Manager for IngramSpark. Hi, Robin.

Robin Cutler [00:00:46] Hey, Justine. Today, we actually have one of my favorite people in the world, he laughs when I say that.

Justine Bylo [00:00:53] It's so true though.

Robin Cutler [00:00:55] It's Craig Gossage, he is the Manager of Premedia Graphics, at Ingram. Craig manages the department that, basically, is responsible for making sure all the files that our authors and publishers upload into our systems are good files, right, Craig?

Craig Gossage [00:01:17] Cover and interior files, both. Surprising, most people don't realize it, but there's actually humans looking at your files. It's not anything automated. We're actually reviewing your files with graphic specialists, making sure it's going to give you the right result, or the best result you can get.

Robin Cutler [00:01:32] I often hear one of the reasons people really like working with IngramSpark, and even Lightning Source, which is our print on demand company, is because the print quality, they think is a little bit higher than some other print on demand.

Craig Gossage [00:01:50] I agree.

Robin Cutler [00:01:51] And it all starts with the file, right, Craig?

Craig Gossage [00:01:53] Right, all starts with the file. That's what we're reviewing them for. A lot of times we send a message back to the publisher, they take it as kind of a stumbling block, or a hurtle to go over, but, really, what we're doing, we're here for you, we're here with you. We're going to try to make sure you're going to get the best result when the book comes out. We're trying to work with you.

Robin Cutler [00:02:09] Tell us about some key things that everybody needs to pay attention to when they're either working with a designer or actually designing the book themselves.

Craig Gossage [00:02:20] Well, recommendation is to look at other books in your genre. Go to your bookshelf, go to the library and find a book and kind of mimic what they do. Because that's the standard for that type of book. A poetry book is much different than a textual book than a children's book. It's good to refer to those things. Also, on the website, we have a lot of good support documentation on there. If you're building a cover, we have an automatic cover template generator that creates the cover template just for your book. It's not a generic, for everybody book. It's specifically built for your book.

Robin Cutler [00:02:50] Justine, where does somebody go on the Spark site to find those things that Craig just mentioned?

Justine Bylo [00:02:56] If you go to our resources page, and if you go to tools, you will find all of these really great resources. The cover template generator, that Craig was talking about, is there and also our file creation guide, which I know you love so much, Craig, is on there, as well.

Craig Gossage [00:03:14] Everything you need to know is in the file creation guide.

Justine Bylo [00:03:16] Yes, please read it, please, please, please read it before you submit your files to us.

Robin Cutler [00:03:22] Talk about some other things. Some things that people kind of stumble on are bleed, and just talk about what bleed really means.

Craig Gossage [00:03:34] Let's back up a little bit on that. If you have a 6x9 book, what we recommend you do is you build a document that is bleed size. Instead of building your document just to 6x9, make your document six and an eighth by nine and a quarter. What this does, it puts three-sided bleed, which is what Spark recommends or requests. Bleed at the top, bleed at the outside, and bleed at the bottom. We have no bleed on the bind side of the page. But what bleed is, is if you want an element to go all the way to the edge of the book, once it's trimmed, printed and trimmed, you need to go a little bit past the trim area. If your page is 6x9, you want to go an eighth of an inch past that 6x9 area. With an image, a background, or even a rule. Some people would rule, it goes all across the page.

Robin Cutler [00:04:17] Like a line.

Craig Gossage [00:04:18] Yeah, a line, if you want that to go all the way to the edge of the page when it's trimmed, you want to go an eighth of an inch past the trim. That allows us to trim the book, and have a little bit of wiggle room, and still have your artwork go off the edge of the page.

Justine Bylo [00:04:29] So, you're not talking about what happens when you prick your finger?

Craig Gossage [00:04:33] No, not that kind of bleed.

Justine Bylo [00:04:34] Yeah, so, what happens if you don't build in bleed to your book, Craig?

Craig Gossage [00:04:39] If you take an image and run to the edge of 6x9, and stop there, when we go to trim the book, we have a sixteenth of an inch tolerance. Which means that book can be trimmed up to a sixteenth of an inch away from 6x9. Your image, or your background, wouldn't extend to the edge of the page. You'd have a little white, what we call a white leak. You'd have white at the edge of the page. It shows up pretty badly, it makes it look unprofessional. That's what we're here for today. Is to try to help you create a more professional looking book.

Robin Cutler [00:05:06] This would be what we don't want, to bleed off the pages text, right, Craig?

Craig Gossage [00:05:13] And that kind of leads into another topic, margins, if you want to talk about that. We recommend a half an inch margin on all four sides of the body of the text of the book. This also includes headers and footers. Your chapter names, your title, or your page numbers at the top and bottom. We want those to be at least half an inch from the edge of the page. That will prevent text from running off the page, like you just alluded to with the bleed. Your text is going to be contained well inside the page. It's going to look professional and have that nice, clean margin. We say a half inch on all four sides, but a lot of people want to build in a little extra bleed on that inside margin.

Robin Cutler [00:05:50] The gutter.

Craig Gossage [00:05:51] Yeah, the gutter, the inside margin, the part that goes to the spine. The optical illusion, of when the page curls toward that spine, somehow makes that margin look smaller than the other three. You might want to go an extra sixteenth, or an eighth of an inch on that inside margin. But still keep the half inch on the other three margins. That's just, makes a little more professional looking book.

Robin Cutler [00:06:11] As a reader…one of the things that I really hate is when the text is too close in the gutter, and I have to kind of crack the spine to pull the text back. That really drives me crazy. All of these tips that we're talking about today, that Craig is going over, this is all about helping the reader take advantage of the content that you're presenting to them.

Justine Bylo [00:06:42] For our listeners out there, the term, the gutter, is not what we refer to as, you know, "Oh, you got left in the gutter last night." It's that part of the book where the spine is, where you open the book. Just so everyone's aware, that is what we're referring to.

Craig Gossage [00:07:02] There's another usage of the word, gutter, at Spark, also. That's in reference to a hardbound book cover. A hardbound book is created with three boards. Have a spine board, front cover board, and a back cover board. The little divot, the little dip between the spine and the cover boards, is also referred to as a gutter. It allows you to open the book, it's the hinge for the book. We don't want live elements in that gutter on the cover. If you use our cover template generator, it will tell you on the template returned, where the live element should be and where background should go. You don't want text, logos, or some kind of little banner, or bestseller type of medallion in that gutter area. Because it ends up getting distorted by dipping down. It's fine to have your background image, or your background color go into that gutter. But you don't want live elements in that gutter.

Robin Cutler [00:07:53] Text.

Craig Gossage [00:07:54] Yeah, text and stuff, you center all that on the board. I know it may look a little off center. Especially when you're looking at the template’s flat file in front of you. It looks tucked to the right or left. But industry-standard is centering on the board. And that's where you want to keep everything. Again, the cover template generator explains all of that.

Robin Cutler [00:08:12] Will fix it all. Some of our listeners, who may already be using IngramSpark, and have gone through the process, you know that you upload your files, at the end of the title setup process and then we validate those files, and we'll tell you if there's any problems. Explain to our listeners, Craig, what happens if the file kind of is, what happens to the process, right, if they get errors and then if the title goes through and there's still problems upon the visual inspection, what happens?

Craig Gossage [00:08:49] When you upload a file, it's called content validation, and it just reviews the structure of the file itself. The solidity of the file. Are the fonts embedded? Things like that, that make it a good file. It doesn't mean that it's designed properly. It means the file is sound. You'll often get many warnings. About the only rejection you're going to get, when uploading a file, is if your fonts aren't embedded. Most all of the other elements that come up are just warnings. They're saying, "You have a spot color, we can convert that to CMYK for you, with no problem at all, but there may be some color shift." If you're okay with that, you say, "Okay," and it proceeds. If you don't, if you want to have more control over your color, you may stop the upload at that time, and go do the conversion yourself. Some other things, spot colors, what, what else.

Robin Cutler [00:09:34] We get into some deep stuff there. One of the takeaways here is if you want a professional book, you should work with a professional designer.

Craig Gossage [00:09:49] I agree.

Robin Cutler [00:09:50] Some people think they can just create a PDF out of Word. Talk a little bit about that because I know we get hung up on that.

Craig Gossage [00:09:58] You can create a PDF out of Word, but it is very difficult.

Robin Cutler [00:10:01] And I mean Microsoft Word.

Craig Gossage [00:10:02] Yes.

Robin Cutler [00:10:02] Yes.

Craig Gossage [00:10:04] A designer is probably more familiar with doing that than an author would be, a self-publisher would be. One of the reasons we don't really support Word, or even supply documentation supporting Word, is every version of Word, and I'm not "bad-mouthing" Microsoft at all, but every version of Word that comes out, in order to create a compliant PDF, changes each time. We would have, you go back to Word 93, we would have 17, 18 different instruction sets for every version of Word that's come out. It just gets so convoluted. It's a great word-processing application, but it isn't that geared toward print or design process.

Robin Cutler [00:10:41] Yes, design especially.

Justine Bylo [00:10:43] Most book designers make their files in a program called InDesign.

Craig Gossage [00:10:48] InDesign or Quark. And that's more of the professional level. It's costly. Word comes with your computer, it's not as expensive.

Craig Gossage [00:10:57] It's totally different. That's where using a designer, they know what to do. They can also go to our specs and understand what those specs are, instead of you, as an author, trying to understand what bleed, trim, safety, all that stuff is. The designer will already know all that. They can reference our stuff and create a good-looking file for you at that point.

Robin Cutler [00:11:16] Justine, where would somebody find a good designer?

Justine Bylo [00:11:18] The internet has tons of them. You never know how really good they are. We've actually done some of the legwork for our authors out there. We have an experts page that we've talked about before on the podcast. If you go to our resources page, and you click on experts, we have people that we know, and we've vetted, and we trust to lay out your files for you. If you go to our experts page, check out who we recommend there to do this work for you. That is where I would start, if I were going to format my files.

Craig Gossage [00:12:00] It will save you time and money.

Justine Bylo [00:12:01] Yes.

Craig Gossage [00:12:02] They know what they're doing. They're going to do it right the first time.

Justine Bylo [00:12:04] Yep.

Craig Gossage [00:12:05] It's going to save a lot.

Robin Cutler [00:12:06] Thank you both. Craig, any last thoughts for how you want to leave our listeners and what you can do to help them save their headaches with file upload?

Craig Gossage [00:12:16] A lot of Google search, if you're going to do it yourself, a lot of Google searches will help you out. A lot about front matter, back matter, these are topics we hadn't talked about yet. But they explain kind of the make-up of a book itself. The main thing I would point to is that file creation guide, and all the other resources on the Spark page.

Robin Cutler [00:12:33] Okay. Well, thanks so much, everyone, for listening to Go Publish Yourself. We hope these episodes inspire you on your publishing journey. If you'd like to hear more, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. If you're ready to publish today, please visit the IngramSpark website. For more tips on publishing like a pro, check out our weekly blog and free online self-publishing courses, available in the IngramSpark Academy. Talk to you soon.

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