You’ve written the book, yeah!
You’ve edited the book, super!
You are ready to publish the book, wahoo!
You need a book cover.
If you are not a graphic designer like me, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. You are creative with words, not pictures. How do you begin? Where do you start?
Programs: If you have Photoshop – perfect. If you don’t try Gimp (it’s free). There are also a lot of other programs for graphics available to you, Corel, Paint Shop, just do a search and you’ll find a whole slew of them. Make sure you can save as PDF. If you can do effects, like filters, textures, and layers great, those are incredibly helpful. Not necessary though…
You could also work in publisher or even PowerPoint. Word is an alternative as well, as many office programs have text effects and colors, royalty free images and clipart (not suggested as clipart is so 90s). If you don’t have Microsoft office you can download Open Office (it’s free as well) Open Source programs are making the world so much easier to work in. (hmmm, possible blog topic)
Layout: If you are self-publishing with Lulu or CreateSpace or others they can usually provide you a cover template (layout). When you are looking at a real template, you see the back cover on the left and the front cover on the right and there is extra space in the middle for the spine text. *It is VERY important that your spine text area has the exact dimensions as the finished thickness of your book, otherwise your spine will not be centered or your front or back cover may be cut off. A good cover template generator will ask the number of pages in your book and generate the template accordingly.
Now it is time to get creative.
Title: You have a really catchy title right? You’ve put plenty of thought into it, it describes the book in a few short words and is as original as you can get… right? Well then lets work on fonts. Open a word document and type out your title, then try it out with different fonts, sizes and colors. If you don’t have many great fonts to choose from there are some marvelous websites that you can download free fonts to use. One is 1001 Free Fonts. There are so many shapes and sizes to choose from it could be overwhelming but worth it when you find the font that goes so perfectly with your book. Will it be bold, tall, curly, script, artistic, cultural?
* Do make sure that the font you choose is easy to read, you don’t want your potential reader to put the book back because they can’t make out what it’s called.
By-Line: Is there a subtitle or by-line to the story? This goes directly under the title in a smaller font. Maybe the same font, maybe different, but play with it until it looks good together. You don’t want your font choices to clash.
Author Name: Yes, that totally needs to be on the cover! But it needs to be smaller than the title (unless you are Stephen King or Daniel Steele) and most likely at the bottom. It doesn’t need to be the same font, but don’t use more than 2 or 3 fonts together, anything more tends to look busy and self-made. You can do it – just believe in yourself!
Picture: Does your book need a picture or can you get away with solid color? Yes. On both accounts but remember the old saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words” then ask yourself that question again.
Where do I get pictures? You can buy stock photos but they are expensive and there may be limitations as to what you can do with it. Read the fine print before you buy one. You can do an image search on Google or Bing but some images may be copyrighted (you do not want a lawsuit). You can narrow your search parameters by filtering out the protected images and using royalty free but ideally you will want them to be pictures you’ve taken (no worries with those).
Also search for large images. If they are small, and low-resolution, you will not be able to enlarge them and they will look blurry and pixilated. This tends to look horrible, cheesy and amateurish. While you are an amateur, you don’t need to portray yourself that way.
Oh how boring! My own pictures? I’m not a photographer! Ugh!
That is where Photoshop or Gimp come into play. Grab two or three images that pertain to your story. When you think about your book what images come to mind? A scene in the book? A color? A person? Then use a filter, change the color of the sky to pink, the flower to black or the person to blue. Layer them over one another, put a stormy night over a floral field, mix and match, really get creative – I’ll bet you will find it fun once you get into the groove of it. By manipulating multiple images into one, you have created one brand new image. When you’re done with your image, decide how big you want it, complete cover, half cover, a strip on the cover. Then place your title, in its font and color preference making sure it isn’t too hard to read over the image or that the colors don’t clash. Carry the color from the front to the back and write your back cover text. Don’t forget your spine text and author name in the middle going up and down. And make sure you’ve left room on the back for the ISBN barcode. (CreateSpace’s template will have that built-in.)
Export as PDF and upload and see how it looks. It’s not simple but if you put your mind to it, it can be fun. And even if your cover doesn’t come out great, you’ve got a great start if you ever need to hire someone to create it. Having already put the time and consideration into it’s design helps incredibly when someone else creates it for you. You already know what font you like, what imagery you want and what colors you prefer. But even if you keep the project all to yourself, the more you play with your programs the better you will get and the more creative your covers will become.