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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lim

MF 249 : Finalizing your cover, formatting your manuscript files, and proofs

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

We’re heading to the finish line. On this episode, we take a look at finalizing your cover (including dimensions and spine width), formatting your manuscript files and ordering proofs. More at

Moving Forward is also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

[NOTE: the books mentioned in this episode are out of print. For more, check out episode 388.]

Part 1: More on formatting your book cover

We’re nearing the home stretch and over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to focus on the final stages to get your book prepped and out there to your awaiting readers and fans.

Let’s revisit cover design with some added details.

As you finish your manuscript, if you decide to publish both the ebook and paperback, you’ll need two separate cover graphics.

eBook cover

The ebook or Kindle version will only need a front cover. If you are designing the cover yourself, you can use Amazon’s KDP cover design tool or a graphic design platform.

For my book, I used Canva, which has a specific ebook template. Simply design your front cover, download it as a PNG file, and if you’re using Scrivener to format your ebook files, you can pop it right into the section that asks for the ebook cover.

Paperback cover

For the paperback, the process is a little more involved. First, you’re not just dealing with the front cover but the back cover and the spine in between. If this is confusing, take a paperback book from your shelf, open it up and put it face down and you’ll see what I mean. If you’re using a 6″ x 9″ cover design, for example, your cover will actually be 9 inches high and the width will be 6 x 2 plus the width of the spine.

This brings us to the spine. To get an accurate measurement for the paperback width, compile the paperback version file into with the proper dimensions and get an accurate page count.

On KDP, you’ll find a cover template creator where you can input the page count for your paperback. This will create a downloadable file, which will be 9″ tall by 6″ (front) + 6″ (back) + spine width (using 6″ x 9″ as our example).

Choose your trim size and enter your page count.

Notice the template has broken lines near the edges and within the cover. These represent bleed markers for printing purposes; indicating areas to avoid placing text or other important information. Moreover, you’ll see a yellow rectangle on the back cover, lower-right position. This indicates where Amazon will imprint your book’s barcode, so you’ll want to avoid putting any important information or graphics there as well.

If you’re using Canva, create a custom template using the same dimensions as the KDP template for your book. You can then upload the KDP template and place it within your Canva canvas. Stretch out the template so the edges and corners align and voila – you’ll have a perfectly fitted canvas to design your book cover, including the back and spine.

As you design and spruce up your cover design, keep a few things in mind.

Front cover

Make sure your text, including the title, stays within the bleed area but that your backdrop goes to the edge. This will ensure that your cover is formatted properly when it is cut for print-on-demand.

The spine

The text will be formatted sideways and should be clearly readable when stacked in a bookshelf – take a look at books on your shelf for examples.

Back cover

As with the front cover, keep any text within the bleed area but make sure the backdrop stretches to the edge. Also, remember to work around the barcode marker – avoid putting any important text or graphics there. For Making Fake Star Trek, I placed a photo of Andy and me in costume right next to the barcode, making it a part of the scenery.

Text justify hack for your back summary

[UPDATE: I just discovered that Canva now has a justify-text feature which is fantastic! You can write your back summary and format it correctly without leaving the platform. My workaround steps are provided below just in case you’re curious].

John’s workaround (prior to Canva’s update – provided for additional information). If you are putting descriptive text or blurbs from reviews on the back cover, I recommend using a Word processor like Word or Pages. Simply format a 6″ x 9″ page, add your back cover graphic and use a text block for the back summary and formatted it justified. I find it’s a little easier on Pages but Word should work well too. Once you have your back summary, export it as a PDF and from there, you can export it again as a high-quality PNG graphic, which you can upload to Canva and place it into the back cover area.

Once your paperback cover is complete, export it as a high res graphic file to upload to KDP or your self-publishing account.

Part 2: Formatting your manuscript files for publication

Let’s jump into file formats and proofs for your book.


Word: Amazon’s KDP platform has templates for Word which you can download this use for your manuscript or copy and paste into for formatting.

Scrivener: If you’re using Scrivener for the final formatting, you can export it into a .mobi format, which is what KDP uses for ebook publishing. This is one of the reasons why I love Scrivener as it has .mobi as a native export option.

I highly recommend you download the Kindle previewer software from Amazon and open up your .mobi file. This will simulate a Kindle device on your computer so you can review your ebook. You can adjust the simulator for several Kindle devices and change the font and font size; just as you would on a Kindle device. Go through your book page-by-page and review it for the look, feel, and any errors before uploading to your KDP account.

Once you’ve completed your review, you can upload your .mobi file to your KDP account.


Reminder: you should have a separate file for your paperback version. If you’re using Word, use KDP’s Word templates and guides for self-publishing. For Scrivener, export your paperback into PDF using the correct size (eg 6″ x 9″). You should have already done this to get the page count for the spine width.

Upload the cover and the PDF of your book to KDP and open the book previewer inside KDP to do a page-by-page review. Reminder: you should have uploaded or created the cover separately. You can also download a PDF proof of the book.

Proof copies: I highly recommend you order an author proof copy for you and your editor. This will take approximately 3 days to one week to arrive. Go through the paperback proof and make sure everything is correctly formatted. If you have time, read through it cover-to-cover as a last-minute proof check. You’ll be amazed at what you may pick up that you missed before. Make any corrections to the original file and replace the publication on KDP as needed.


If you’re at this stage, start prepping your cover along with your ebook and / or paperback files. Order proof copies for the paperback and use the Kindle previewer to review the ebook.

Part 3: What I’m reading

The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion (***): the third book in the Rosie trilogy, which started with The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect. Spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books, stop here.


Don and Rosie have been married for several years and now have a young son named Hudson. The story starts out in NY and the story takes them back to Australia where Don gets a faculty position at a university while Rosie continues building her career in medicine. Don is forced to take a leave of absence due to a misunderstanding in one of his classes and takes on stay-at-home parenting duties while opening a bar. The story focuses mostly around Hudson who shares many of Don’s quirky personality traits and has trouble fitting in at school. The Hudson character is the highlight of this book but sadly, Rosie, the title character is mostly relegated to a side character and doesn’t get as much storytime as she did in the first two books. Overall enjoyable and a must-read for fans of the first two books.


Scrivener (available for Mac, Win, IOS) is a book writing program that auto formats for self-publishing on Amazon’s KDP and other platforms. It’s a great tool with rich features that allow co-writers to collaborate through Dropbox. Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve but I’ve been a fan since 2017 and have talked to many authors who use it as their go-to. If you’re interested in Scrivener, you can use the coupon code MOVINGFORWARD to get 20% off your purchase (for Mac or Win). It’s a one-time license fee and available for Mac, Win, IOS.

Note: this section contains affiliate links and coupon codes for which the author may receive some compensation.

Need a great editor for your book?

Book a call with Megan to talk about getting your book from draft to publish-ready.

[NOTE: the books mentioned in this episode and in the book writing series are out of print. I am leaving these episodes mostly as is and strictly for informational and instructional purposes only. I have retracted my story from the book discussed in this episode and its sequel with full reservation of my copyright. For more, check out episode 388.]

Books by John

  1. Check out my Amazon author profile.

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