A Week of Publishing: Wrestling with CreateSpace and Canva

Unexpected Occupation: Publishing on CreateSpace

Publishing on CreateSpace and Book Cover Design on Canva - Contra Spem Scribo

Since last week, I hoped to return to a more or less normal working schedule, meaning some progress on all my projects, from writing to translating. Not so fast. Instead, I plunged into publishing paperbacks on CreateSpace, all of a sudden.

To be clear, I don’t have a lot of books to publish as a paperback. Unfortunately, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing doesn’t accept ebooks in Ukrainian and Russian. As a result, I only have one short story in English published there. Since it’s too short for a paper book, I thought I would not need CreateSpace until I either translate some novella or until I have enough short stories to make a collection.

However, recently I happen to find one more use for CreateSpace: publishing journals and notebooks. I’ve already mentioned a planner for multitaskers I’m contemplating, but that one might take a long time to design from a stretch. So I decided to practice on the simple premade templates I bought.

A Stack of Notebooks

Publishing on CreateSpace and Book Cover Design on Canva - Contra Spem Scribo

So far I’ve made three notebooks: with graph paper, ruled, and dotted. I only got a proof copy for one of them, and it looks surprisingly good. Unfortunately, I made a mistake with the cover, so I had to re-made it and re-order a proof copy just in case. If it’s fine, I’ll approve it and CreateSpace will send it to the stores. It’s almost hard to believe how easy the process is if you have ready templates (a lot of which you can find online for free) and don’t need a tricky cover. Well, I still have to get the proof copies of the other two notebooks, but even if they are bad and I will need to remake them, for myself—I’m getting a stack of nice-looking writing accessories really cheap. Always look for the brighter side.

Publishing Fiction

Publishing on CreateSpace and Book Cover Design on Canva - Contra Spem Scribo

Then, some strange bug bit me to proceed to fiction before I even have those notebooks published. Yeah, patience is not my strongest suit. But the main reason was that unlike KDP, CreateSpace lists Ukrainian and Russian in the ‘Book language’ field. So, I wanted to test if they really can publish a book in languages other then a handful allowed on KDP.

The answer is kind of yes and no. On one hand, they approved the content—the Russian version of Voyage Dream Inc, formatted into pdf. On the other, it seems that the title, description, and keywords have to be ‘printable’—the warning which I could only get rid of when I wrote them in English. It makes some sense because they distribute the books into mostly English-speaking channels, but it poses a problem of covers.

Creating a Book Cover in Canva

While formatting the interior of a book for print requires some knowledge and practice, it’s still in its core just working with text. If you ever formatted anything in MS Word, you can prepare your book just fine. Take the CreateSpace template for the trim size you want (6 x 9” paperback, for example), fill it with your text, change font styles to your liking—and you are ready to go. It might not look as neat as a professionally formatted book, but it won’t be bad either, and an average reader, in all probability, won’t notice.

A real book cover is a different matter. Yes, you can use one of CreateSpace templates, but they are mostly boring and generic. Only two or three are decent, and they are those in which you have to upload your own image with a title, name, etc. The other option is to provide a ready-to-print pdf cover. In both cases, there are some caveats.

Journals and Notebooks

First, you need to work with images to create a cover art. For journals and notebooks, it’s can be as easy as sprucing up one of your nature photos if you have some. I did exactly this using GIMP (a free image editor). You can see the photos on this page, and they are nothing fancy. Even in this simple case, though, you need to make sure they have the right size, aspect ratios (width to heights ratios to fit your cover nicely), and resolution (no less than 300 dpi for print, while for Web it’s usually 72 dpi). Also, take into account that some parts of the images will be trimmed off in print. If you want something on your photo to be on the cover, it must not be located on the very edge.


For a real book cover, the situation is even trickier. All that was said about images also applies here, plus some more considerations.  The most important thing to remember is that the cover template for a book is larger than the final cover. For example, for a 6x9in book, you’d need to add 0.125in (so-called bleed) to the shorter side and twice of that to the longer one. That’s for the front cover only. If you are making a full cover (with a spine and back portion), then you have to take into account the spine width and to add one more bleed.

But the width of the spine depends on the number of pages in your book. This means that you format the manuscript first, then convert it into a pdf file and upload it to CreateSpace. They will show you the number of pages, and you can use it in their Artwork Template creator.

Now that you know the size of your cover, you can start making it. If you are not familiar with design, you can use Canva.com. It’s free (and even has some free photos) and simple (almost primitive). Those who are up to the challenge of making a book cover by themselves might want to check this course on Udemy: eBook and Paperback Book Cover Design Using Canva and Gimp (non-affiliated link), which explain things very nicely.

I don’t think I will go into more details here. The only thing I can say is that making your own covers is not easy but doable. Though I’m yet to receive the proof copy for my short story. Maybe after I see it I will change my mind about it doability and will opt for hiring a designer. Will keep you posted.

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