So you have written a book, where are you going to get a cover? What even makes a good cover to begin with? Unless you are a natural as an artist, most writers aren’t, which is why we use computers, it is difficult to know where to start and also how to get there. What elements do successful book covers have in them and how do you as a writer, not an artist, replicate that success?
Things that must be considered when designing a cover are very simple:
1. How do you promise to inspire, motivate, change someone’s life and make it amazing? You sell them a vision by the art on the front of your cover, it might be that it is a beautiful woman sitting on a tranquil beach, or it might be a gorgeous moonlit night. The consumer is shopping with their dollars wanting to buy the vision that you are selling. As authors sometimes we forget that we are in fact selling, we are selling our craft, ourselves, and the fantasy that comes with our personal brand.
2. Make the reader want to know more about the cover, for example, why do you think that romance novels are so popular? It is because the covers border on scandalous, there is the gorgeous woman with a burgeoning bosom and also the man with his hair flying in the wind. All of these covers reflect the fantasy that the reader wants to have as a part of their experience.
3. Get a well-crafted book cover, which is beautiful, inspirational and meaningful. DO NOT insult your readers with a poorly designed cover. The cover is one of the largest success factors of a book. If it is not beautiful and inspirational when someone sees it they will pass over the book simply because it was not attention grabbing enough. The graphic images on the front of the book need to make the reader want to pick up the book and open it. If your book cover looks like it was made out of construction paper it will not be acceptable to anyone, mainly the reader and it will interfere with the sales you are trying to accomplish.
So we have established what works and what doesn’t work. But here is one of the most important points, if you are not an artist how do you design your own cover? There are a few different schools of thought here and a few different options.
You could draw your own abstract cover for the front of the book utilizing your own talents if this is done however it is important to know that you will not be able to use the original piece of art. You will need to get a great digital camera and be prepared to take lots of photos of the art. Also you are going to require different kinds of cover designs. So for example you may need to provide a.png file for some, a jpeg for others, and finally a pdf for some others.
In addition to having these different kinds of files on hand it is also important to know that different formats will also require different sizes of photos. For example, this also means you must be familiar with resizing images in many different programs and formats. Most PCs will come with a resizing tool like Microsoft Photo Editor or Paint.
However, if you are not a master at software like this what is there that you can do to increase your ability to manipulate and change images? There are quite a few free programs out there like Gimp which allow the user to do some amazing things with images.
However, one thing about the free programs is that they are not necessarily the most user friendly programs. It behooves the writer to download the guide and to plan to spend a lot of time reading it and figuring out the intricacies of the software. This means that the most popular effects will be slightly difficult to master. Upon logging into Gimp the first time the user will be slightly surprised at the number of options and the number of buttons.
If you are not a designer and have never used a program like this before a few things to consider are key terms which are universally applied to programs like this across the board.
Alignment: This indicates if the photo should be left justified, right justified, or center justified. If it is left it will be to the left hand side of the page, right will be to the right side and center will happen in the middle of the page.
Size: This indicates the size of the image and whether it should be changed and manipulated. Kindle e-books utilize a maximum amount of pixels for a concentrated image. For this reason the images will be bright and will show great detail. When modifying a photo you can choose to re-size it either by pixels or size by selecting the radio option.
For a proper Kindle format the image must be adjusted not by the size option but by the pixel option. For best quality on the Kindle, your cover art image should be 1563 pixels on the shortest side and 2500 pixels on the longest side. The Kindle platform will have a maximum of the size of file that it is in fact able to withstand and upload. For this reason please take this into initial planning when designing the cover.
Resizing a photo by size and not pixels is also known as Scaling. Gimp is utilized by many a starving artist as it does not cost anything whereas a competitor like Photoshop can costs many thousands of dollars and Gimp has all of the same effects and features.
Masking: It is also possible to use this feature to add and or delete certain features from the existing frames in a photo. Maybe you only want to show a particular part of a feature, you are able here to utilize Masking and to cover the part that should not be seen. It could be a brand, a logo, someone’s personal information or any aspect of a photo that must be changed.
Transparency: In Gimp transparency there is an option which allows the user to change the degree of the background image for clarity and sharpness depicted. The background image may be either slightly blurry, clear, or transparent. The user is able to determine the graininess of the photo by using this feature. Different levels of transparency can change the old time or historical attributes of the photo.
Layering: You have the ability to Layer images as well in Gimp by utilizing their Layer feature. This essentially means that you can stack multiple images, up to 5 on top of one another in order to be able to choose how you want the main cover to look.
Zooming: Like any other software, zooming allows you to go into a tiny area of the cover and to make essential changes to the cover to ensure that it is perfect and is error free. Sometimes with a photo of a real or live piece of art, there can be little details that may not be seen until zooming in very closely, these might include wanting to smooth out lumps of dried paint, removing the signature of the artist who painted the piece etc. All of these are possible to see and to remove and tweak with the aid of the zoom feature.
Transform: This feature will allow you to flip the image and even has a very interesting Random Assignment feature for an image. In case you are feeling more inspired and less planned you might be able to utilize this feature with multiple images to add spice to the alignment of the cover.
Filters: There are many filters which are sorting options for features, some are very advanced like inserting animation into a photo and others are still very basic. However in the toolbar itself you will find roughly about 50 options for the filters.
Gimp is easy to use once the author gets the hang of it, but prior to starting any book cover project it is very important that the author reads all of the guides for Gimp. Having not done this myself once I was amazed at how quickly it is to become frustrated with all of the bells and whistles. Something as simple as opening a file for modification can be slightly daunting, as the old saying goes when in doubt read the directions.
This is a simple program and a very easy one to use. If your mind is on overload when you open up a program and you only want to see two tabs then this is a great program for you. In the File tab you will find all of the similar commands that you have seen in the past in the Word format, PowerPoint format, Excel and every other format. For this reason it is a nice standby. The second tab contains all of the features and changes that need to be had to manipulate the images.
Resize: Here you are able to choose the size of the photo and the changes which need to be made. You can either change the photo by Scaling or by Pixels. After this resizing make sure that you save the results of your changes. One wise thing you might want to do is to create a folder on your computer for each project you are working on and then put all of the book cover revisions in that folder.
Conversely, there can be an issue when you are making multiple revisions of the photo because you might not be sure where you are putting all of the different revisions. When you need to reference a file and convert it back and forth from format to format you need to know where everything is at that moment and have it at the end of your fingertips.
Shape Selector: This feature allows you to square and to choose different shapes to insert into your photo.
Fill: Allows you to paint inside a shape or to paint inside a background for the cover.
Text: Here you are able to choose the font and the size of the font to put lettering on the front of the book. All of the same fonts, sizes, and features are available just as in Word and in the same locations. Also here you are able to change the color of the text. Make certain that the text color does not interfere with the background of the book specifically. So for example, if you have dark backgrounds make sure that you choose a darker background for the text.
Text formats should be bright and bold, wide fonts without crazy characters so that the person who is approaching the book from far away is clearly able to read the title and also read the name of the author on the cover without losing themselves in the background. The easiest way to do this is to use fonts like Times New Roman or Arial Bold.
When utilizing fonts which are curvy it becomes difficult for readers to read from far away, it also makes it more work on the brain to remember the title because of the curvature of the letters. This is why it is easier for the mind to process information which is printed, versus the information which is written in cursive.
Another program which is typically installed on all computers and is very helpful for writers is Snag it. It allows for the author to grab copies of a photo or of a desktop and save that image and utilize it for different formats. It automatically saves itself as a.png file and yet can be modified easily for use in the aforementioned programs.
Make certain that you know how to use the basic formats of Snag It in order to be able to take screenshots, and to save different kinds of images so that you will be able to implement it to add great drawings to your work.
File Save As
If you are trying to save a file in a different format for example jpeg, png, rtf, tif and are not sure what to do, open the file you have and copy the image, then copy the image to a Word document and use the File option and select Save As. After using this option you will be able to choose the format output you need.
Different Sources of Covers:
1. Do It Yourself: As discussed earlier you can create your own cover by your own drawing or your own painting.
2. Professional Cover Designers: These are available for a small fee starting with around $50 for a stock image cover with no royalties or can also be custom designed on a book by book basis starting at around $150 and going up to $ 800 USD. When an artist designs a cover it is very important that they sign a Nondisclosure agreement (NDA) if they are working for hire stating that they will contribute to the book but are not seeking royalties.
What is the difference between flat fee and royalties? Here one thing to remember and consider is if you pay a writer a flat fee for their work they should not expect royalties when the book is published. However, once the book begins to take off sometimes this is not clear if it is not stated on paper in a format like an NDA.
3. Deposit Photos: A website like deposit photos, photo bucket etc. offer royalty free photos which can be purchased and then have the information required added to them. This means that a photo can be sold to the author or artist with no royalties due to the site and no royalties due long term in sales. This means that outright the author has bought the rights by paying for the image or by buying the image through a subscription plan.
A subscription plan is a great idea if you are using massive amounts of content. Maybe you are using stock photos for a book you are working on or have multiple projects; all of this can be accomplished easily with a subscription plan.
4. Friend’s Art: Using a friend’s art for your book cover is a great way to help them with exposure. However, one thing to consider is you need to have your friend sign an NDA and agree on the terms way before the final cover is designed, uploaded and used.
Hopefully after this chapter, you feel better, more in charge and have a direction of where to go. Here are a few other things to think about when planning the image.
1. The cover is as important as the title: make it memorable, gorgeous and approachable.
2. Decide how you are going to obtain a cover.
3. Make certain to understand the intricacies of the source whether it is using technology or working with a friend.
4. Have fun, covers are the main touch point for the reader of the book. Even before they read the title, whatever image is chosen will stand out in the minds of the reader.