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Yes, You can create a professional looking book cover using MS word

As Indie Authors, it's imperative that we present a professionally finished book to our readers, not only for their benefit but also for our reputation as an author. We all know it's difficult enough to create a bestselling novel, but if your cover is lacklustre and unappealing then you're sabotaging your hard work by not giving your book the opportunity to make the impact that it deserves.

Indie publishing professionals warn against authors designing their own covers and for good reason - it is something no author should take lightly. The perfect cover for your book is crucial! If you don't have an eye for detail, have a professional designer create your cover for you.

Remember, when readers are browsing online bookstores or physical bookstores for their next exciting read it's all about what catches their eye. A visually appealing cover will give your book the edge it needs to attract readers and be successful.

If you've only ever used Word as a writing tool, as I have, you've been missing out on a valuable creative resource. One that can be used to create FREE, stunning, professionally finished covers that will stand out from the crowd, providing you've chosen eye-catching photos or illustrations to use on your cover and know how to put them together.

Word has a number of features (similar to Photoshop) that you can use to create a professional looking eBook or full book cover you can be proud of.

In this article, I'll walk you through how you can create your own cover from scratch to finished product. The instructions I'm about to share with you are for MS Word 2010, but earlier versions will have similar or the same elements (you may need to look around to find them).

Once you've chosen the BEST possible pictures for your cover the next step is to start creating it. But before you do, let's play around with Word so you'll have an understanding of what to do when you begin your actual cover design.

So let's get started...

  • Open MS Word.
  • A blank document will appear on the screen.
  • You’ll want to adjust the size to 5 x 8 for this exercise (you can choose the book size that's right for you when you're ready to actually create your cover).
  • Go to Page Layout and hit Size. Scroll down to More Paper Sizes and type in 5 and 8 in the relevant boxes.
  • You won't need normal-sized margins, so click on Page Layout again, select Margins and set them to 0. Do this to the header and footer as well (which can be found in the tab Layout).
  • So now you have your cover template.

Now you’re going to add a picture...

  • Drag and drop your background photo into the template. You could use Insert and picture to select the image, but dragging and dropping is quicker and easier.
  • Once the picture is in place double click on it. Go up to the task bar, find Wrap Text and in the drop down choose Behind Text so that the picture sits behind the title text. This will also allow you to resize and move the picture to fit the template.
  • If you have more than one picture for your book cover go to Page Layout and choose Selection pane. This will allow you to see each piece of your design. You can also close the eye of a selection to hide it while you work on another element of your cover (same as Photoshop).
  • If you have a picture with people in it and you want a different background, you can double click on the picture and select Remove Background. This tool isn't precise, so you'll have to play around with it a bit to get the cut out just right. Once it is, select the green tick.
  • If you want to insert a banner for your title, go to Insert, click on Shapes and choose a rectangle. You can position this wherever you want to on the page (e.g. in the centre, bottom or top). Select Shape Outline and choose No Outline and select Shape Fill and choose the color of your choice then add a text box over the top. When you choose the text box, go to Shape Fill and choose No Fill and Shape Outline and choose No Outline.
  • You can also upload a picture to use in your shape fill. If you click on the border of your  rectangle, you can then go to Shape Fill, choose Picture and upload your fill picture.
  • Select the rectangle banner again by clicking once on the border, then right click and choose  Format Shape. This will open a new drop down, and you can access the Glow and Soft Edges formatting tool. Have a play with the Corrections and Colour tools in the Picture Format tab. NB: You can use Transparency to place an image over another one for more visual effect.
  • If you don't want to create a banner, just use the text box (use the no outline and no fill here too). Remember to research font styles for your genre before choosing a font for your book. The correct font and style is essential.

Some basic No nos...

  • Don't use the regular font styles that come with Word - Times New Roman, Arial, Comic Sans, etc.
  • Find free commercial use fonts online and choose for your genre. Keep your font interesting but not over-the-top.
  • Don't use the same font for the Author Name as for the Title. Keep them different colors too.
  • You can use a couple of different fonts for your title, but keep one relatively simple (see my book A Night of Passion in the Romance section of this site to see what I mean about different fonts).
  • If you want your font bigger than the highest 72pt setting just right click over the number and delete it and add a size that better suits your book cover.
  • If you want larger spaces between the letters of your title go to the Home tab, Font and click the font dialogue launcher (arrow in the right hand corner).
  • Go to the Advanced tab and where you see Spacing click on the down button and select Expanded. In the box next to it use the up and down arrows to choose the width of the expansion (make sure your font is highlighted beforehand).
  • To adjust your text, e.g. size, style, spaces between letters, etc., press ctrl C shortcut and it will give you a duplicate layer to work with. This way, if you don't like the changes you can close the eye in the Selection Pane and still have your original title.
  • Font color can be chosen by clicking on the A with the color patch beneath it.
  • By clicking the glowing A in the font task bar you can choose the features I mention below.
  • You can add special text effects like Glow, Shadow, Reflection or Bevel (among others) for a creative visual effect. Play around with the them to find what suits your title best.          

Once you're happy with your design, fonts and colors you can save your book cover. To be able to upload it to publishers such as CreateSpace or Lulu you'll need to convert your word document to a PDF and then convert it to a JPEG file. There are free online sites that you can use to do this like this one.

Check out these useful sites for more about creating book covers using MS Word, tools to convert your book to an eBook and 3D display book covers. Also cover designers on that will make a professional looking cover for $5.00.

Happy designing!

Copyright © 2015 M. A. Anderson
Brisbane, Australia

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