Publishing 101: Sizing up the Paperback Cover

Publishing 101This is one in a series of posts entitled Publishing 101: Draft to Book in 30 Days. To learn more about this challenge, visit the Publishing 101 page, where all links regarding this topic will be listed as they become available.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

When I talked about my preproduction schedule on February 12th in the Publishing 101: Production Schedule post, I noted the dimensions I’d chosen for Fowl Summer Nights were 5.5 inches wide x 8.5 inches tall. When I discussed designing a cover in Publishing 101: Cover Design I mentioned the sample covers were exactly 11 x 8.5 but would not remain that size. They were destined to be resized to accommodate pages.

Here are the steps I took to resize the cover.

Step One: Page Count

The page count used to calculate the width and height of a cover is the actual page count. In MS Word this number appears in the bottom left-hand corner of the document screen. Fowl Summer Nights contained 113 pages.

The page count I did NOT use is the page numbers inserted into the manuscript. For Fowl Summer Nights the page count was 104, which meant title page, copyright information, dedication, table of contents and other material took up 9 pages.

Step Two: Thickness of Paper

The cream coloured paper at CreateSpace is thicker than the white paper. If you choose white paper, the thickness is 0.002252 inches.

Fowl Summer Nights was printed on cream coloured paper. The thickness I inserted into the equation was 0.0025 inches.

These measurements are for black and white interior only. Full-colour interior books contain pages that are 0.002347 inches thick.

Step Three: Bleed

Bleed is that extra space around the outer edges of the cover, the area that keeps your illustrations and text safe from being cut off.

The measurement for bleed is 0.125 inches on all sides: top, bottom, left and right side. In other words, 0.25 inches are added to the height and 0.25 inches are added to the width.

Step Four: Equation

The equation is basic. It’s simply a matter of dropping the numbers in the right place and grabbing a calculator. Since I took several years of physics, astronomy and scientific math, equations are a treat for me. Here’s how I’d layout this one:

  • a is Page Count: 113
  • b is Paper thickness: 0.0025
  • c is Bleed: 0.125
  • x is the actual measurement needed to create the cover


c + height dimension + c = x

0.125 + 8.5 + 0.125 = 8.75 inches


c + width dimension + (a x b) + width dimension + c = x

0.125 + 5.5 + (113 x 0.0025) + 5.5 + 0.125 = x

5.525 + (0.2825) + 5.525 = 11.5325 inches

I broke the width equation into two steps because that measurement in the brackets is important. This is the spine width. For Fowl Summer Nights the spine was 0.2825 inches, not wide enough to insert text.

Step Five: Spine

CreateSpace does not allow text on spines for books with less than 100 pages, and they strongly recommend books with less than 130 pages are also left blank.

The spine measurement helped me arrange the text and images on the cover. I created a temporary bar the exact width of the spine and placed it in the centre of the page for guidance. I also went to the View section of PowerPoint and turned on the Ruler, Gridlines and Guides to help me align the cover material properly.

Step Six: Putting it all together in PowerPoint

After opening the design I had created for the paperback version of Fowl Summer Nights, I went into the Design section (on the ribbon menu at the top) and chose Page Setup. In the pop-up window that appeared, I adjusted the width and height measure to my calculations.

PowerPoint allows for only two positions after the decimal point, so the width was entered as 11.53 inches and the height was entered as 8.75 inches. A minimal amount of adjusting was required with the change because the increase in size was small. The original measurements used for the sample cover was 11 inches by 8.5.

Book Cover Fitting

Using the temporary blue bar to act as the spine, I easily adjusted the text and illustrations. The text on the front cover and the book blurb on the back cover were centred, I simply made the text boxes 5.5 inches wide and adjusted them against the spine.

After tweaking and rechecking to ensure measurements of text boxes didn’t change, I enlarged the cover image to better see the placement. The bottom right-hand side of the back cover was left blank. CreateSpace automatically places a bar code with the ISBN there.

Step Seven: Saving it in a CreateSpace-friendly Format

The best format to submit your cover to CreateSpace in is PDF. In PowerPoint, this is simple to create. After saving the PowerPoint file (in case changes are needed later), I clicked Save As, gave the file an appropriate name (DLMcGyver-Fowl_Summer_Nights) and chose PDF.

Before hitting save, I completed the information below the PDF window.

  • Authors: Diane Lynn McGyver
  • Tags: Fowl Summer Nights, McGyver, novella, book, chickens, humourous, story, Canada
  • Title: Fowl Summer Nights

Now I hit Save.

This is the file I uploaded to CreateSpace for my paperback.

The Official Fowl Summer Nights Paperback Cover

The official paperback cover.

This completes this step in the Draft to Book in 30 Days challenge.

Next Post Publishing 101: Formatting Interior Design


7 thoughts on “Publishing 101: Sizing up the Paperback Cover

  1. Thanks again Diane for sharing your great knowledge in the publishing process. I applaud your expertise in formatting for print books. This is an area I prefer to leave up to my book designer because I have no interest or inclination to learn with everything else on my plate. You always share such great information and I thank you for so many of your helpful tips you have shared publicly and personally with me.
    On a note now about these book dimensions, I know although I hire out my formatting that I still use my own ‘fangled’ ways of judging what I think the correct size of book should be. My question is don’t you feel that for a book of approx. 100 pages, that 8.5 x 11 would make the book look and feel too thin? This is almost where I am right now with my next book almost completed and being only of the same length.


    • You’re welcome, Debby. I enjoy learning about the making of books, so it doesn’t feel like a job to me. It feels like a treat, a break from work.

      Regarding the book dimensions. The actual book is 5.5 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall. The layout must be 11 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall to accommodate the front and back cover. When I first starting creating covers, I thought I had to make one for the front, which would be 5.5 x 8.5, and one for the back, another 5.5 x 8.5 inch space. I quickly learned it was all one image. The number of pages in a book can add a lot of space. My fantasy novel (with over 300 pages) added almost an inch to the entire width.

      Thank you for your kind words. I’ve been helped many times on my writing journey, and I enjoy helping others on theirs.


      • So fascinating Diane! Maybe this is why we connected because we are like-minded when it comes to wanting to pay it forward. We are always learning but the first year was a huge curve and it feels good now to be helping others. 🙂


  2. Good job, Diane, as always. Step by step instructions make it easy to follow. If you plan to mail your books to people, there are a couple of other numbers to keep in mind. If your total parcel-weight exceeds 500 grams the price goes up about four-fold. For a 6×9 book on white paper, this is around 290 pages. The thickness including wrapping has to fit through the magic plastic slot that postal people use to determine the difference between letter-rate and oversize-letter rate. I think it is around 20 mm, but not quite sure. By four-fold I mean from $4 to $16+. Naturally this won’t determine the size of your book (you do have a story to tell), but if it is close, you might want to adjust the leading or font size. Sixteen dollars shipping on a sixteen dollar book makes for a harder sell.


    • I agree completely, Art. Fitting through that little measuring slot at the post office is my goal with books. I’ve got the hole traced, but I keep meaning to make a cardboard cut out to give me more accuracy. Like you I always consider the thickness of a book before I choose a size. Unfortunately I didn’t do this with the first book in my fantasy series. And because I want book two and three to be the same dimensions, I might not be able to fit these books through the slot. So we live and learn.

      Thanks for the great advice, Art.


Please Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.