Illustrating My Book for Create Space / Kindle Direct, Part III: My Top Tips

Up until this post I had invented my house, completed drawings of it, written my book, followed through with the rest of the illustrations, and started to put it all together.  I thought it would be a simple process, but there was a lot of learning for me to do.  Often times I find myself knowing what I want to do, just not how to do the steps to get there.  Thankfully we have the internet and I used it extensively for research.  I wrote a lot of stuff down, but I hope this can help you save some time if you are publishing soon!
All tips are from me using Photoshop, Word and CreateSpace before it merged with Kindle Direct.

This upside-down torch window in an old house I once knew very well was an inspiration for the Memento Mori (symbols of death) in my book.


  1. Choose a design for your book.  I recommend getting your favorite book out and studying it carefully.  I used my favorite “Gone-Away Lake” by Elizabeth Enright. Use it as inspiration and to help you make decisions. Make sure you use a regular font, not something weird that might not be readable or translate well from word to pdf.
  2. Before final edits (I think my book has had 10! Lol) format your document to match CreateSpace’s format size you want.  Most common size is 6″x9.”  Go to page layout in word, select size, then custom size. Select your margins (gutter is center fold of the book when open). Check the box for mirror margins. For the margins I did .5″ for inside/outside and top, then 1″ for bottom so there would be room for page numbers. Make sure you insert page numbering (word will automatically number for you after you set it up in your document).
  3. Maintain flow! Use page breaks as needed to keep your design cohesive. They work well after each chapter. Select your entire document through “select all” under edit, and go to paragraph, then justification. This makes your document really look like a book!  If you have a sentence at the end of a paragraph that has huge spaces- hit tab at the very end and it will fix it. (That took me 1/2 an hour to find out!) Also, you don’t need to double space after sentences.  You can if you want to.
  4. Print your book out already formatted, then do the final edits. Do not read it in order and you will catch more mistakes.  Reading it out loud helps catch things too.
  5. Formatting (and editing) is a totally separate job in the publishing world.  Usually you get to hand your book off and someone else does all this worrying. Today though, you are the master of your ship. Don’t be upset if this takes more time than you think, it is worth it to have a professional-looking book in the end.
The old house I knew very well also had another stained glass window of a stylized iris. This inspired the “warnings to be headed” in my book.


  1. 300 dpi!!!! On everything!!!
  2. If you are putting in illustrations they must be black and white for the interior of a chapter book. Create Space has options for color children’s books, but not chapter books.  The printing costs would be very high. The darker the blacks are the better.  In hindsight I wish I would have done pen and ink drawings. They would have been infinitely more readable than the grey pencil drawings are. The ivory or creme paper shows illustrations the best.
  3. I cleaned up my illustrations in photoshop and it helped to print them on my printer to see if I was even ballpark accurate with contrast, brightness, etc.  If you can, try to set your printer up with Adobe to manage colors. I can’t set my printer up with CreateSpace’s printers, but I will tell you it will be lighter than you think. This makes it a great idea to get a proof from CreateSpace and check it before you proceed. Again, the creme paper shows the illustrations the best.
  4. Do not turn a picture in Word. Turn it in Photoshop or whatever program you are using to be the direction you want it in your book, then plug it into Word! If you turn it in word CreateSpace’s pdf converter freaks out and erases part of the page it is on.
  5. The gutters and pictures. This was way too complicated with a chapter book and I didn’t have any pictures that spread out over two pages except my frontispiece because of this. The color children’s book part of CreateSpace lets you do this with ease, the chapter book part? Not so much. In the end I just turned pictures sideways because I could see this sucking the life and time out of my project. Priorities!


The Cover!

I forgot the cover until I was almost done! I was so tired and sick of looking at my book that I didn’t do the best illustration I could have done for the cover.  I’m here to tell you- that stuff needs to be done first! Do it before you are worn-out and cranky, before you are so sick of formatting you could scream! CreateSpace has a cover maker and it’s awesome. but weirdos like me have to have it their own way, instead of utilizing the pre-made covers. (They were actually pretty nice.)

If you want it a certain way too, it really helps to do your art piece, scan it into Photoshop and then use CreateSpace’s exact dpi measurements to crop with (of course save the original scan!). CreateSpace won’t let you type over your custom cover- you need to do this in Photoshop or in Indesign.  For the back cover they will need some space to put in the barcode- leave room! A catchy pic or illustration along with a small (readable) paragraph to get people to open your book is perfect here. The cover is the most exciting (and important) of all of this work you have done and all of this creative effort. Treat it as such or people won’t be interested in buying your book.

This was my original painting for the cover. (Sorry it’s crooked, this was the only scan I could find without text.) I love the dramatic shadows behind the gingerbread trim and the glass ball on the lightning rod.


I wasn’t prepared for the amount of time and the work load of finishing illustrations, making a cover, formatting and making all the pieces come together as a book. I think in the end it was about 2 1/2 weeks. I thought it would be 1 week.  I was tripped up by learning the new program, turning the pictures in word and not figuring that out for over a day and each time waiting for the uploads, pdf conversions, not making my illustrations dark enough the first time around, etc.  After I was done (really done!) I felt crazy amazing.  Its a feeling I don’t get to experience very often, but it was very sweet because it was so hard-won.  I felt so accomplished- like I could do anything and create anything I wanted! The next day I channeled it into working on my new book about ghost stories!

This is how you feel when you are finally, FINALLY done!

I hope when you finish a big project you are working on you take time to celebrate! My family and I took a little camping trip to my favorite mountains in the whole world and I just let the joy and beauty of that place and satisfaction of my job done wash over me.  It was glorious. I’ll leave you with this inspiration I had written everywhere in my journals and notes:

Keep Going!

With cheers and formatting luck to you,

This magical place was a reward for us all.



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