Pages Navigation Menu

sci-fi fantasy books

How To Make A Hardcover, And Why You Probably Won’t

In self-publishing, there are several ways to go about making a hardcover of your book. I haven’t tried them all, but I will mention the ones I know thus far.

I will talk about three ways to go about it, two are paid, and one is “free.” To be perfectly honest, none are free* really, but we’ll get into that.

The process to get a hardcover is a bit cumbersome and in that regard, many might give up before achieving it.

Let’s start with formatting. The good thing about hardcovers is that you can be a bit more liberal about the formatting.

  • Use the 6×9 inch (15.24×22.86) page size.
  • Top, Bottom, inside margins: 1.9cm
  • Outside margins 1.27cm
  • Gap 0.33cm
  • Text-size: 10

Now that you’ve formatted, go ahead and save it as a PDF. You can use this PDF most places and you are guaranteed to know what the interior looks like.


One method you can use is a pay-to-publish method (sometimes referred to as a ‘vanity press’). Xlibris for example will make a hardcover format available for your book, but you will have to pay for the service. To be honest, if they do your cover for you (they don’t edit at all) and format the doc file, then it’s not a terrible price they charge. Keep in mind, though, they show up as your publisher and sometimes that is a drawback for some. It depends on you.


There are probably other options, but I found lulu. Some people consider lulu a vanity press, I consider them straight-up crooks. 🙂 But I digress.

For lulu, you can use that same formatted PDF (or a doc file). If you cannot get the dimensions of your required cover just right, that’s all right. Just use the high resolution front and high resolution back of your cover and lulu will allow you to choose a solid (colored) spine.

The results are something like this.


They do provide a full cover in hardcover but I gave up. If I ever try it (which I probably won’t) then I will update this post.

There are some drawbacks to using lulu as well. Here are the pros.


  • Lulu will provide you with an ISBN so there is no out of pocket.
  • There is a cover design tool.
  • With the front and back, it is rather easy to make the cover.
  • The cover looks very good.
  • At x-mas and new years, there are many coupons available for world-wide shipping, or discount on purchases.
As with any process, there are some disadvantages as well.


  • Lulu is listed as your publisher.
  • The lulu ISBN cannot be used anywhere else (but that’s not a big deal).
  • The cover design tool is a bit limited so you have to jump through some hoops.
  • The books are very expensive, even for the author. On average, expect to pay about $18.00 for the author copy.
  • Having a smaller page count won’t make a big difference, it’s pricey.
  • **You are REQUIRED to purchase your own book at least once before they’ll allow it to be distributed on Amazon etc. etc.
  • Each change you make will require that you purchase the book again.
  • The retail price of the book is VERY high. Expect it to be above $28.00 or so. A higher page count makes it even more expensive.
  • It takes 6-8 weeks to show up on retail sites.

**If you participate in Nanowirmo, you might be able to get a free copy of your book. Though I’m not sure if that includes free shipping. It’s not the worst option, but free isn’t always free.

Publish it directly

There is another option; directly publish it through lighteninghouse or It costs about $60.00. It is also subject to a $12.00 yearly fee.

Here are the good and bad parts with regards to this idea.


  • The author price is close to that of the paperback. Costing a lot less than what lulu charges. An authors copy might even run as low as $7.00 depending on the page count (lulu never drops below $18.00).
  • The retail price is much more realistic. “In Riley’s Slumber” is $18.99 $17.29 on amazon.
  • The price of shipping world-wide isn’t so bad either.
  • The book took about 2 weeks to show up on amazon (and goodreads on its own) instead of 6-8 weeks.
  • You can be marked as the publisher yourself.
  • You can see a pdf proof of your book.
  • You are not required to buy a copy before approval.
As with any process, there are some disadvantages as well.


  • With no cover design wizard, you have to do it yourself.
  • You must have your own ISBN.
  • The cover design requirements are specific so you have to jump through some hoops.
  • Each change you make will require that you pay a fee.

The price of your hardcover is more competitive. It’s nearly on par with a paperback. You are forced to do the cover all on your own.

How to Tweak Your Cover To Meet Requirements

After formatting for 6×9 (with the size 10 font) go to the lightning source or ingramspark website and find the ‘tools’ link. Fill in the cover requirements form (i.e. glossy, cream paper, page count). Submit it. You will get an email with the template for your book (that template also has a barcode). This is for a casewrap. I have never done the jacket version.

  1. open the template PDF in CMYK mode (DO NOT CHANGE ANYTHING ABOUT the template otherwise.)
  2. using the free-transform tool, copy the barcode, then paste it as a new layer.
  3. open a high res pdf of your entire 6×9 book cover. (Select CMYK mode)
  4. free-transform copy it
  5. paste it into the template pdf
  6. make the template layer transparent (by making it 50% opaque), bring it above the cover layer.
  7. line up the cover with the appropriate areas.
  8. adjust the original psd (or shrink the image to fit the pink areas.
  9. for the blue areas, select a rectangle shape. Using a solid color (black for example), draw a shape to cover the ENTIRE template from ‘blue area’ to ‘blue area’ NOT the transparent or white areas that have the instructions.
  10. bring the barcode area to the very top layer and position it accordingly.
  11. bring the template layer to the very ‘back layer’ and bring it to 100% instead of the 50% opaque.
  12. flatten the image (this should make the transparent area WHITE)
  13. select the ‘eyedropper’ too and use it against ANY black area
  14. open the color option (where you can change the color using FFFF for example), you will likely see something like this
    C: 74 %
    M: 68 %
    Y: 67 %
    K: 88 %
  15. 74 + 68 + 67 + 88 = 297 (You want to make it 240 or less because otherwise, the colors might streak when it’s printed)
  16. image -> (J) color options – > special color setting (s) – > (from the drop-down menu select) black then enter
    C: -7
    M: -7
    Y: -7
    K: +3
  17. repeat steps 13-16 again (each time calculating the entire amount until you get below 240)
  18. save image as ‘pdf’ (or copy), deselect ‘ICC’, click save.
  19. when the PDF options show up, select: select PDF/X-1a: 2001
  20. save it.

Unlike its lulu-made brothers “In Riley’s Slumber” wraps around the entire spine. It’s a bit tiring to go back and forth with the eyedropper and so on, but that was my experience. If anyone has any tips to help make this hardcover tutorial a bit easier, then be my guest. 🙂

I think it’s safe to say that for most authors, having the book in hardcover is a guilty pleasure. Enjoy.
In Riley's Slumber (Hardcover) 1907668_1440313386224842_3291589293537552883_n 10363665_1440313352891512_2162907542686771655_n