Demystifying Book Cover Formatting

Self-publishing a book can seem a daunting task, but the process of book cover fornattubg is really quite simple once you know how. With the right tools and this primer, you will be formatting professional-looking book covers in no time.

  1. Calculate dimensions for your book cover template.

    Once your book interior is formatted and you know the final page count, go to the KDP Cover Calculator and complete the form there. Fill in the binding, interior, and paper types according to your preference, the page-turn direction, preferred measurement units, interior trim size, and page count, and click “Calculate Dimensions.”

    cover formatting template calculator

  2. Download formatted book cover template.

    You should see something like this once the dimensions have been calculated.

    Next, click “Download Template.” This will download a zipped folder to your computer containing EPS and PDF documents.

  3. Open your book cover template.

    Open the template PDF in Photoshop. As you create your cover, make sure that nothing important will appear in the areas marked in pink. The pink border is the “bleed,” and it will be cut away in the production process, The pink lines in the middle will be on the crease to form the spine. The yellow area is where the bar code and ISBN will be placed, so avoid this area as well.

    cover template in Photoshop

    See KDP’s page on trim size, bleed, and margins.

  4. Add guidelines to your book cover template.

    Add guidelines to your template marking all no-go zones. This will help you place your design elements later on.

    cover template in Photoshop with guidelines

  5. Create your book cover design.

    Place your graphic design elements on the template, taking care to ensure that nothing important will be cut off from the edges of your cover, hidden by the bar code, or on the fold of the spine.

    graphic elements over cover template

  6. Add text to your book cover template.

    Add your text. Be sure to centre the text on the front and back cover images. In the image below, make note of where the text is placed in relation to the elements marked on the original template:

    finished cover template fully formatted

  7. Convert your book cover to PDF.

    When you are happy with the layout, go to “File,” click “Save a Copy,” and save as a PDF to upload to KDP. At this point, you will be asked to select the settings. On the Standard menu, I always choose PDF/X-1a:2003, although PDF/X-1a-2001 should also work.

    Save Adobe PDF standards for cover formatting

    Click “Save PDF.”

Congratulations! You have just formatted your paperback cover, ready to upload to KDP!

If you are still unsure about creating your own cover, contact EMSA Publishing to create your cover and upload it for you.

Three New Publications Hot off the Presses!

Get into a good book–new educational and fiction books just published.

Braelynn’s Birthright–Book 2: Fallen Angel

Join Braelynn and her friends as they face their greatest challenge yet!

Inheriting her grandmother’s ring and the family curse was just the beginning for Braelynn. A few years have passed since then. Braelynn and her friends have graduated high school and set up a supernatural detective agency of sorts, helping people cleanse their homes of malevolent spirits and paranormal creatures. When what should be a case of a simple haunting turns out to be a portend of dark things to come, Braelynn soon realizes that she’s up against a fallen angel with powers the likes of which she never imagined.

Braelynn realizes she’s been chosen to fight against this force of darkness. It is her calling to navigate the dangerous world of otherworldly attachments, shapeshifters, and the mysterious troika, who follows her every move. Along the way, she meets other hunters who become her allies and friends as they battle to save the world from the chaos and destruction of Armageddon and their souls from eternal damnation. With the fate of the world at stake, they set out to defeat the fallen angel in a dangerous quest that will push them to their limits and test their strength and courage.

Set in a contemporary world where magic and the paranormal are real, this thrilling tale of adventure, danger, and self-discovery will keep readers on the edge of their seats. With its thrilling blend of contemporary magical realism, paranormal and urban fantasy, the supernatural, and a touch of romance, this book is sure to leave readers eager for more.

Buy Braelynn’s Birthright–Book 2: Fallen Angel at Amazon.

Also available: Braelynn’s Birthright–Book 1: Wendigo at Amazon.

365-Day Writing Challenge: A Year of Writing Prompts

Looking for a way to keep your creativity flowing every day of the year?


With 365 writing prompts, one for each day of the year, you’ll never be short on inspiration. Use this book to jumpstart your writing routine, break through writer’s block, or simply explore new ideas, genres, settings, and characters. With a year’s worth of prompts at your fingertips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more prolific and confident writer.


 Are you ready to take the challenge?

Get ready to explore new ideas and develop your writing skills with this amazing resource.

Start your writing journey today and see where these prompts take you!

Buy 365-Day Writing Challenge: a Year of Writing Prompts at Amazon.

Also available: The Shape of Stories: A Comprehensive Guide for Fiction Writers at Amazon.

Using Film as Text in College-Level Courses

If a student has difficulty meeting some of the expectations for a course, it doesn’t mean they cannot meet any of the other expectations. In this case, as a teacher, your goal is to pivot to differentiate your instruction while figuring out how else you might get students to demonstrate achievement of as many of the remaining expectations as they can.

The goal of this book is to illustrate methods of differentiated instruction, demonstrating how teachers might pivot their practice and change their approaches to allow their students to shine.

Longtime teacher Elise Abram’s eureka moment happened while teaching grade 11 college-level students when she noticed that students had difficulty recalling and analyzing fiction when presented with the text but not after watching the film version of the text. Using the concept of differentiated instruction (changing the efforts of the teacher to accommodate the students in front of them), Abram switched out film versions of texts for the remainder of the semester and saw a marked improvement in student performance.

The purpose of this book is to share this unit with you should you ever find yourself in a similar situation. Inside, you will find:

  • Organizers you can photocopy and use in your practice.
  • How to use choice boards to differentiate your assignments.
  • Tips for creating groups, techniques, and student seating during collaborative activities
  • Suggestions for writing effective paragraphs and summaries.
  • How to get students to make meaningful text-to-world connections.
  • Ways for students to discuss theme in a text no matter the format.
  • Checklist rubrics and other ways to evaluate student work, be it diagnostic, formative, or summative

Whether you use this book as a unit plan or break it up into a series of individual lessons you can employ in your practice, this book is sure to give you a better understanding of how college-level students work and learn.

Buy Using Film as Text in College-Level Courses at Amazon.

Also available:

The Importance of Beta Readers

Getting feedback on whatever you write is crucial for helping identify areas in need of improvement and giving you a sense of whether or not your story resonates with your target audience. This is where beta readers come in.

woman reading book

What is a beta reader?

A beta reader reads your manuscript before it is published to provide you with feedback. They can be friends, family members, writing group members, or even strangers. Beta readers are not involved in the creative process, so they can provide an objective perspective on your story. They can provide feedback on things like plot holes, character inconsistencies, and pacing issues. This feedback can be invaluable as it will help to make your manuscript stronger when it comes to polishing.

What can a beta reader do for you?

Beta readers can also give you a sense of if your story will resonate with your intended audience. For example, if beta readers are confused by a particular plot point, chances are that your readers will be, too. If beta readers are bored by a particular scene, it may indicate that it needs to be made more exciting.

It is important to note that a beta reader’s feedback is not the only type of feedback you should consider, but it is definitely a piece of the final puzzle. Be sure to get multiple perspectives, and don’t lose sight of your own vision and voice as an author.

How to get constructive feedback from beta readers

When it comes to getting feedback from beta readers, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s important to be clear about what you’re looking for. For example, do you want to know if the story is interesting, if the characters are well-developed, or if the pacing is good? Provide your beta readers with a specific list of where they should focus their attention so you will receive clear feedback on these areas. You can make it easy for them by providing them with a feedback form or a list of specific questions to answer.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that beta readers are doing you a favour, so be sure to thank them for their time and effort.

Beta readers can help identify areas in your writing that need improvement. Keep these tips in mind when building your “street team,” a tried and true devoted group of dedicated beta readers.

For more on the role of beta readers, see Self-Publishing: The Complete Guide.

Hooking Readers with Strong Opening Pages

boy reading a book

When it comes to writing a novel, short story, or even a blog post, the first pages are critical. The first few sentences need to hook the reader in, making them eager to read more. Without this, you run the risk of turning off the reader. The danger is that they might put down the book and move on to something else. If in doubt as to the power of a strong opening, consider these iconic lines:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” –Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” –F. Scott  Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” –Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird 

How to write strong opening pages

Keep it interesting from the start

Your opening should be strong and interesting. It doesn’t need to be action-packed or filled with suspense to grab the reader’s attention and keep them reading. One way to do this is to start with a question or a statement that piques the reader’s curiosity. For example, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” makes the reader wonder what is going on. “When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow” might cause the reader to question how he broke his arm and want to read what happens next.

Begin with strong imagery

Another way to hook readers is to start with a strong image or vivid description. This could be a description of a character, a setting, or an action. The key is to make it as detailed and evocative as possible. For example, “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun” (Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). This description sets the scene by creating an image in the reader’s mind that draws them in.

Introduce a sense of urgency early on

You can also create a sense of urgency by starting with a problem or a conflict. This could be a character dealing with a personal issue or a group of characters facing a larger problem. For example, “’Where’s Papa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”  This opener establishes a problem that needs to be solved from the first page (a conflict exists because her father holding an axe is unusual occurrence), and it makes the reader want to find out what happens next.

Establish tone from the first page

A strong opening should also establish the tone of the story. You can do this by using specific words and phrases or introducing the characters. For example, “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were” (Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind). This opener establishes that the story is about a popular and beautiful young woman, and her courtship is likely going to figure into it.


A strong opening is crucial if you want to hook readers from the first page. The first page contains some of the most important words of your novel. Don’t neglect the opportunity this valuable real estate presents. When it comes to grabbing and keeping your reader’s attention, take the time to carefully craft your opening pages.

How to punctuate dialogue in fiction: A guide for authors

Dialogue allows readers to get inside the minds of your characters. As an editor, I have realized that many authors struggle with how to punctuate dialogue correctly.  Here is a primer that explores the basics of punctuating dialogue in fiction with tips for making it more effective.

Dialogue is set off by quotation marks. Each time a character speaks, what they say should be enclosed in quotation marks. For example,

“Hello,” said John.

When a character speaks, their dialogue should be followed by a tag that identifies who is speaking. Tags can be a simple (“said” or “asked”) or more descriptive (“yelled” or “whispered”). For example,

“Hello,” said John or “Hello,” John yelled.

It’s important to note that punctuation in dialogue comes before the quotation marks and not after them. For example,

“Hello,” said John. NOT “Hello”, said John.

When a character speaks for multiple sentences, the sentence before the tag ends with a comma unless it is the last sentence of the character’s speech, in which case it should end with a period. For example,

“Hello,” said John. “How are you doing today?”

If your character speaks in paragraphs, changing the subject one or more times in a long speech, the convention is to omit the close quotation marks from the first paragraph, begin the next paragraph with an open quotation mark, and continue in this manner until the character is done talking. At that point, end the speech with an end quotation mark.

When a character’s dialogue is interrupted by another character or an action, use a comma to separate the dialogue and an em-dash to indicate the interruption. For example,

“Hello,” said John, “How are you do—” Before he could finish his sentence, the phone rang.

Use an ellipsis to show a pause in a character’s speech (“I just…I don’t know.”) or when the character trails off before finishing their sentence (“I just can’t believe…”). 

It’s also important to consider the context of the dialogue when choosing punctuation. For example, if a character is shouting, you could use an exclamation point to indicate this (“Get out!” he shouted.), but the fact that the tag says he shouted is enough (“Get out,” he shouted.). Try to use exclamation points sparingly, as people rarely shout entire paragraphs. Try to use the character’s words to show they are enraged instead of ending every sentence they utter with an exclamation point. Also, avoid using multiple punctuation marks at the end of a sentence (!?).

By understanding the basics of punctuation in dialogue, authors can write conversations that are clear, believable, and engaging. Remember that good dialogue is not only about what is said; it is also about how it is said, and the right punctuation can make all the difference.

For more on writing dialogue in fiction, see The Shape of Stories, A Comprehensive Guide for Fiction Writers. For help with dialogue in your current manuscript, contact EMSA Publishing for a quote.

The Art of Dialogue: How to Write Engaging Conversations

Dialogue in fiction serves to advance the plot and reveal information about characters, but it also brings the story to life. Many authors struggle to write dialogue that feels natural and engaging. To help with that, here are some tips for writing more effective dialogue.

Dialogue should sound like real people talking, but try to avoid filler words like “um” and “ah” and overly formal or stilted speech. Too many filler words and pauses slow your dialogue, thus slowing the pace of your narrative. Consider the setting and culture of the characters in your story, as the way people speak in a small rural town will be different than in a big city. Also, the way people speak and the slang they use will be very different in a historical piece than in a modern one.

Another important aspect of dialogue is subtext, which refers to the underlying meaning of what characters say. Subtext can add depth to a conversation, making it more interesting. For example, a character might say “I’m fine” when they’re clearly not; the subtext is that they’re hiding something.

When writing dialogue, also consider the pacing. Long monologues can be boring and slow down the narrative. Instead, break up the conversation with shorter exchanges and include nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions to make the conversation feel more natural and engaging.

Another thing to consider is a character’s personality and motivations. Each character should have a unique voice and way of speaking. This can be achieved through the use of different filler words, patterns in grammar, and sentence structure. For example, a character with a more formal education might speak differently than a character that dropped out of high school. A scientist might think of everything in scientific terms (e.g., “clavicle” instead of “shoulder bone”).  

Dialogue should serve a purpose. It should reveal information about the characters, advance the plot, and create tension. Avoid including dialogue that doesn’t add anything to the story, including long conversations about small talk. Consider picking up your conversations in medias res (Latin for “in the middle of things), eliminating lengthy greetings. Similarly, don’t be afraid to stop reporting on conversations after the important things have been discussed but before their natural conclusion.

Lastly, when editing your dialogue, read it out loud to make sure it sounds natural and believable. If it sounds forced or unrealistic when spoken, it will likely sound the same when read.

Writing dialogue is an art form in and of itself, requiring practice and attention to detail. If you keep the techniques discussed above in mind, you are bound to create engaging and believable conversations that will help reveal character, build conflict and suspense, and keep your readers invested in the story.

The Process of Self-Publishing

including how to format and upload a book to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or other platforms

Self-publishing has become a popular option for authors in recent years, allowing them to bypass traditional publishing routes and take control of their own work. However, the process of self-publishing can be daunting, especially for those who are not familiar with the technical side of things. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to format and upload a book to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or other platforms.

Step 1: formatting your book

Before you can upload your book to any platform, you will need to ensure it is properly formatted. This includes ensuring that the text is properly aligned without errors or inconsistencies. There are various tools and software available to help you with this process, such as Scrivener, Microsoft Word, Vellum, and InDesign. For eBooks, Amazon provides free software called Kindle Create and Kindle Kids’ Book Creator for children’s picture book eBooks. Each platform has its own set of parameters for paperback and eBooks, so be sure to check out these specifics before beginning.

Step 2: cover design

Your book cover is the first thing that readers see when they come across your book. It’s important that your cover is professional, eye-catching, and relevant to your book. You can either create your own cover or hire a professional designer to do it for you. Begin this process with a Google search for book covers in your genre to see what’s currently in fashion or for ideas. 

Step 3: choose a platform

There are several platforms available for self-publishing, including Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo Writing Life, Barnes & Noble Press, and Apple Books, to name a few. Each platform has its own set of requirements and guidelines, so be sure to read through them carefully before deciding which one to use.

Step 4: uploading your book

Once your book is formatted and your cover is designed, you can start uploading your book to your chosen platform. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is one of the most popular platforms for self-publishing. The process of uploading your book is relatively simple and straightforward and can be completed in a few easy steps.

Step 5: marketing and promotion

Once your book is live, it’s important to promote it. This can include using social media, book clubs, and online communities to spread the word about your book. You can also consider offering promotions and discounts to attract new readers and increase sales.

Self-publishing is a great way for authors to take control of their work and reach a wider audience. Formatting a self-published book can be a daunting and frustrating task, so it is important to be patient and persistent as you navigate the process.

If the process proves too daunting and frustrating, let EMSA Publishing do it for you. Contact us for a quote.

New Merchandise for the Sassy Writer or Editor

Brand new merchandise, suitable for writers, editors, or lovers of English grammar.

These t-shirts are Gilden unisex ultra cotton tees

  • 100% Cotton (fiber content may vary for different colors)
  • Medium fabric (6.0 oz/yd² (203 g/m²))
  • Classic fit
  • Tear-away label
  • Runs bigger than usual

Purchase a sassy saying t-shirt through my Shopify store at

5 important Tips for Writing a Compelling Plot

A good plot will keep your readers interested in your characters and events. Without a lively and multi-layered plot that leads to a satisfying resolution, readers are unlikely to finish your book. Here are five important tips for writing a compelling plot:

  1. A strong idea will set the stage for the story and guide the characters and events. Start with a strong concept that is clear, interesting, and unique, with the potential for adding twists and turns as you build toward your climax.
  2. Characters are at the heart of any story, and readers must relate to the characters if they are to care about them. Characters should have distinct personalities, motivations, and goals, and they should be fully developed and well-rounded if they are to pass as real people.
  3. Tension and conflict drive a story forward toward the climax by generating suspense. Conflict is rooted in the characters’ goals and desires. The character’s journey toward attaining their goals and dealing with the conflicts they encounter provides the tension of a story, which should escalate as the story progresses. This is what keeps the readers on the edge of their seats, wondering what will happen next.
  4. Use subtext—the story’s underlying meaning—to add depth to your plot and complexity to your story. It is also what makes it multi-layered and gives it a deeper meaning. Subtext is usually incorporated into your story with the use of symbolism, metaphors, and themes.
  5. The story should come full circle at the end, with the characters having faced and resolved all conflicts in a way the reader will find satisfying and fulfilling.

In the end, it’s important to remember that writing a compelling plot takes time and effort. It’s a process of trial and error and is not always easy, but by following these tips and continuing to practice and improve your writing, you can create a story that will keep your readers engaged until the very end.

Maximizing your reach: the importance of marketing for self-published authors

1. Introduction

As a self-published author, it is essential to understand how important marketing is when it comes to the success of your book. Though it can be tempting to focus only on the writing and publishing process, your book may struggle to reach its audience and achieve the sales you desire without a strong marketing strategy.

Marketing helps increase the visibility of your book and attract potential readers. It is a crucial part of the publishing process and can mean the difference between a successful book and one that goes largely unnoticed.

As a self-published author, it is important to focus on maximizing your reach. With so many books available, it is imperative to find ways to stand out so you can reach as many potential readers as possible. A comprehensive marketing strategy can help you do just while ensuring your book has the best chance at success.

2. Marketing Strategies for Self-Published Authors

As a self-published author, there are several strategies you can utilize to market your book and increase visibility. Some effective marketing strategies for self-published authors include:

Building an online platform: An online platform, such as a website or blog, can be a powerful tool for marketing your book, providing a central location where readers can learn more about you and your work. It can also help establish you as an authority in your field.

Utilizing social media: Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, can be excellent tools for connecting with potential readers and promoting your book. Posting regular updates, excerpts, and other engaging content can help to build an audience that will drive book sales.

Networking and building partnerships: Building relationships with other authors, industry professionals, and influencers can be a great way to market your book. Forming partnerships with others can provide opportunities for cross-promotion, joint events, and other collaborative efforts that can help increase your reach.

Running paid advertising campaigns: Paid advertising, such as sponsored posts on social media or Google Ads, can be an effective way to reach your target audience to drive book sales. These campaigns can be tailored to specific demographics and locations, making it easier to reach your ideal reader.

3. The Importance of a Strong Online Presence

In today’s digital age, it is essential for self-published authors to have a strong online presence. A well-designed website can serve as a central hub for all of your marketing efforts and portray a professional persona for potential readers. Your website can include information about your book(s), an author bio, media appearances, and other relevant content.

Email marketing is another powerful tool for reaching potential readers. Building an email list allows you to communicate with your audience directly to promote your book through newsletters, special offers, and other updates.

Utilizing search engine optimization (SEO) techniques also helps increase your website’s visibility, making it easier for potential readers to discover your book(s). Optimizing your website’s content for specific keywords can help improve your search engine rankings, increasing the chance that you and your book(s) will be found by readers.

4. Traditional Marketing Strategies for Self-Published Authors

While the Internet has significantly changed the way books are marketed and sold, there is still something to be said for traditional marketing strategies for self-published authors. Some traditional marketing strategies to consider include:

Utilizing local resources and events: Local events, such as book festivals, author talks, book clubs, and gift shows, can be excellent opportunities to promote your book(s) and connect with potential readers.

Reaching out to bookstores and libraries: Many bookstores and libraries are willing to stock self-published books, especially if they are locally based or written by local authors. Reaching out to these institutions and offering to do readings, book signings,  or other events can be a great way to promote your book(s).

Utilizing traditional media outlets: Traditional media outlets, such as newspapers, magazines, and radio programs, can be excellent ways to promote your book(s) to reach a wider audience. Consider reaching out to these outlets to offer to do interviews or write articles to promote your book.

Local writing groups: Besides offering master classes and networking opportunities, many local writing groups have connections to booksellers and book-selling opportunities in your community. Those with a membership fee might also subsidize tables at events, allowing authors to participate in expensive, large shows, such as Word on the Street, that they might not otherwise be able to afford. Go online to see if you can join an active writing group near you and the perks they offer when it comes to connecting with other authors and booksellers in your area.

5. Conclusion

It is essential for self-published authors to understand the importance of marketing when it comes to the success of their book(s). To increase your visibility, reach potential readers and drive book sales, create a comprehensive marketing strategy, including both online and traditional tactics.

By focusing on maximizing your reach and increasing your visibility, you will give your book(s) the best chance of success. Don’t be afraid to try new marketing strategies and continuously evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Once you have a strong marketing plan in place, you can effectively promote your book and be on your way to reaching your publishing goals.

Do you have a tried and true method for increasing your visibility as an author and reaching more readers to increase book sales? Please share what has and/or has not worked for you in the comments below.