Tuesday, March 1, 2016

IWSG: Tips For Designing Your Own Book Cover

I learned a few things when I made the covers for my 3 short stories, but I found out how much I didn't know when I tried to make covers for my upcoming Thriller/Mystery BLOODWALKER

I’m not an expert, but I can give you a heads up about things I’ve learned.


DESIGN FOR YOUR GENRE

The Big 5 publishing houses have been marketing to readers for many years. They know what works, and the styles of covers they use have affected reader expectations. 

For instance, Fantasy covers tend to be colorful 

while Horror ones tend to be dark and ominous. 

Romance covers usually use realistic pictures of the main characters

while Thrillers often show landscapes or something simple (a bloody chess piece, a silhouette of someone running).


Get an idea of what’s “standard” for your genre by:
1) Going to your genre’s Amazon Top 100 list.
2) Look at your favorite author’s books.
3) Google “Best (your genre) Book Covers” and see what covers bloggers or book sites have chosen as best.

Things to look for:
1) What colors are used.
2) Does the cover show a detailed background or an out-of-focus one? Or is there simply a flat color for the background?
3) What style font do they use and how big is it?
4) Are there strong contrasts between different colors, or light vs shadow, or picture color and font color?

**Secret tip**
Go to large book cover design sites—the ones that would charge $200 or more for a cover—and look at the “Pre-Made” covers they offer for your genre. See something you like? You can create close to the same design using images of your own.


USING IMAGES

Ideally, you want images that are “free for commercial use” or “free for commercial use with attribution,” which means give the site/photographer credit for the image at the front of your book where the copy right info is. 

Here are some sites with free images (or free with attribution):
Freepik.com
Bing.com
Morguefile.com
Pixabay.com
Commons.wikimedia.org

If you don’t find anything you can use, you can buy images relatively cheaply on sites like 123RF.com, Shutterstock.com, Dreamstime.com and Photobucket.com.


USING FONTS

There are a ton of awesome fonts out there. It’s like looking in a candy store! But think twice before you use a fancy or “artistic” font. Unusual fonts are often a hallmark of a homemade cover. Try to use the type of fonts most often used on covers in your genre. 

Great font sites:
Dafont.com
1001fonts.com
Fontspace.com
Fonts101.com
*Suggested by commenters: Fontsquirrel.com

**Beware!**
Many of the fonts are listed as “free for personal use.” That means NOT for commercial use. You need to do some digging and find out if the font designer wants money or an attribution or doesn’t allow any commercial use at all.

**Secret tip**
Have you found a good font, but think it’s too wide or too short to look good on your cover? Put the lettering on a transparent background, use the perspective change to squish or expand it, or make it taller or shorter. Then copy/paste it onto the cover. 


TECHNICAL DETAILS

1) The cover base you want to work on should be at least 1333 x 2000 (even better 2500 x 3750). However, different vendors want different sizes. Check Kindle, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Apple for their recommended sizes. 
2) High resolution. It’s good to use dpi (dots per inch) of 300.00, not the usual 72.00 used by most blog pics that have low resolution for quick loading.
3) File format. It’s good to use a file format of .tif (LZW compression)  instead of .jpg or .png so you can avoid the color blotching that frequently occurs on bright colors like red.
4) If your book will be printed, you’ll need to make a much wider image with the cover image on the right, the book spine in the center, and the back cover with the blurb on it on the left.





** STOP! DON’T GO YET! **

Please help me choose the cover for BLOODWALKER. I’ve made 8 and you can choose which 2 you like best.

Go check out the 8 covers and vote for your favorite on the poll beneath them.
http://lexacain.blogspot.com.eg/2016/02/choose-your-favorite-cover.html



This is a post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. It exists so the community of blogging writers can share and support each other, blog-hopping to cheerlead and commiserate. To find out more, visit: Insecure Writer's Support Group. Plus, check out the IWSG Website for lots of helpful info and links.

49 comments:

Lynda R Young said...

Great tips, Lexa!!
It's so important to get the cover right.

L.G. Keltner said...

Thanks for the great tips!

Kate Larkindale said...

Great tips! Hopefully I'll never need to design my own covers, but you never know...

Cathy Keaton said...

These are great tips! I hadn't known about .tif. I'm going to have to look into that file extension.

I just wish I could make my own cover for my current WIP, but the genre is so specific, I don't think I have the skills to make it. Gonna need a pro, I think.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Some good thoughts here. I can see you've done your research for this. I might check,out those free image sites, not for me, but because some of my students might want to post their English book trailers on YouTube. I usually advise them to choose from Creative Commons and there's an excellent web site, Jamendo, which has music the composers are offering free(must look it up, in case it's gone or has gone behind a paywall since I last used it).

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent tips and list! We should have you write one of these for the IWSG site.
The tone of the cover does need to match. Fantasy and science fiction both need covers with great artwork, so don't skimp.

Natalie Aguirre said...

These are great tips I hadn't even thought about. And both you and Alex are right on the fantasy genre covers.

Denise Covey said...

I loved this Lexa. I like browsing that Book Designer blog to see what's hot and what's not!

JeffO said...

Why, that didn't seem insecure at all!

Great tips, Lexa. If I ever design my own book cover, I'll come back here and check it out again.

Jennifer Hawes said...

That was extremely informative! I LOVE perusing through book covers and would love to design someday.

TBM said...

Wonderful tips. Covers are vital to a book's success.

mshatch said...

Great tips, Lexa, and I can't wait to see the final cover for Bloodwalker :)

Linda Kay said...

Thanks for some good tips, Lexa.

Loni Townsend said...

Terry Brooks was one of the authors I looked at for examples for how I wanted to model my book covers. I love the symbolism.

Another font place I like to go to is fontsquirrel.com. Squirrel!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

That is one awesome, helpful post! I'm not sure I could do a cover, but you make it sound easy.

Chrys Fey said...

Neat tips! I'm glad I have cover artists with my publisher, but I do have to give them ideas to get it right.

Cherie Reich said...

Thanks for the tips! And I like what you've done with the potential covers for Bloodwalker and have voted on my top two favorites. :)

Crystal Collier said...

Great tips! I attended a publishing workshop shortly before my first book was under contract and had all kinds of thoughts regarding covers. Thankfully I got to share them, but my graphic designer is beyond epic. I love him!

Rachel Pattinson said...

Fantastic post, Lexa, thanks so much for the great tips :)!

Heather R. Holden said...

So many great tips! As an artist who plans to release my comics in print someday, cover designing is definitely on my mind a lot. It can be so hard to come up with an eye-catching cover!

Also, since fonts were mentioned, I'd like to give a shout-out to FontSquirrel.com. They feature lots of amazing fonts that are free for commercial use!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

No, don't use 72 dpi! Your cover will look like crap.

Anytime you can use your own image, do it. Then you know there's no legal or monetary issues. Almost all of our covers we created. (For some, it helped that I'm also a pro photographer.)

cleemckenzie said...

When I started writing I had no idea that I'd be a markerter and a cover designer. Author jobs are non-ending. Loved your post, and I weighed in on your cover earlier. Can't wait to see what you choose.

Bish Denham said...

I'm so ignorant... I'm not sure I could do all this, or want to. But this information is wonderful!

Stephen Hayes said...

While I've created covers for other writers, I've never created one for myself, and it's probably a bad idea for a writer to produce his own cover anyway. Picking a cover is no doubt much more difficult than one would imagine.

Murees Dupé said...

Fantastic post, Lexa! I have been thinking of attempting to make an e-book cover, but I didn't know where to start. Thank you so much for sharing this post. You are amazing.

Olivia Rose said...

Great tips and advice. Its so important to get the cover just perfect.

Olga Godim said...

Fantastic post! Thank you so much for all of it, especially the secret tip about font 'squishing'. I didn't know the trick. Should be extremely useful.
PS: I voted on the cover #2.

lorilmaclaughlin.com said...

Wow, thanks for listing all those tips! I like to come up with my own design and then have a professional polish it. There are some things I just don't have the skill to do with Photoshop.
I voted!

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

Excellent tips. I voted on a cover too!

Ravyne said...

Great tips, Lexa! I wish I was creative enough to create my own covers. Would probably have to hire a pro. Enjoyed this! ~Lori~

L.G. Smith said...

A friend of mine is good with Photoshop, and he got talked into re-doing some covers for a writer who had attempted to first do them himself on a whim. The difference was amazing. Just a little research and know-how can make a big change. Excellent tips!

Samantha Dunaway Bryant said...

Some great tips. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Excellent tips! I've used wikimedia commons, but I hadn't heard of those other free sites. Thank you!

Ann V. Friend said...

Yes, excellent and helpful tips Lexa. Thanks! Blessings

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Wonderful advice, Lexa. I'm saving it in case I ever need to make a cover. I hope not, but one never knows.

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic advice! I do a lot of research when I have to make my own covers. I try to keep things simple too. I don't want to make it too difficult for me! I voted for my favorite cover of yours. Those are some awesome and creepy covers!

messymimi said...

If i ever were to write a book, i'd love to use these tips.

Heather M. Gardner said...

This information is golden!
You should write a how to guide!

Heather

Michelle Wallace said...

This is such an informative post!
...and thanks for the secret tips too!
You are quite knowledgeable about this, Lexa! Well done!
Off to vote!

Samantha Redstreake Geary said...

Valuable advice! Covers are a crucial element in selling any book. Thankfully I've a close network of graphic designers who handle this for me in exchange for coffee and wine:)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Excellent tips, Lexa. I have to spend more time and go through them step by step. Thanks!

Julie Flanders said...

I'm so impressed at how good you are at this! I am so hopeless I can only imagine what my cover would look like.

Kathryn McKendry said...

Those are great tips! Thanks for sharing!

J.H. Moncrieff said...

Wow, that seems so complicated. Even when/if I self-publish, I think I'll be leaving the cover design and formatting to someone else. :)

Sandra Almazan said...

I've played around with simple covers for short stories and for my haiku book, but I prefer to hire someone with more experience. Kudos to you if you can do your own!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

These were marvelous tips, Lexa. I've bookmarked this post. Thanks so much.

Medeia Sharif said...

These are wonderful tips. I've always been concerned with fonts, since the ones coming with my computer are plain. I would buy them if the time ever comes to do my own cover. I once did my own cover just for the fun of it and everything looked good except for the font.

Carol Riggs said...

Great post and advice! I voted too! :)

WritingNut said...

Amazing tips! Thank you so much for sharing :)

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