Writing Tips: Cover Design

Hello fellow wandering writers!

Oh the joys of cover design. Anyone who writes will say the old saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is a big fat lie. We always judge a book by the cover before we even pick it up off the shelf, or open it online. Most of the time we might not even realize we’re doing it!

I am self-published, for now (Hey agents, pick me!), and the market for us is really difficult since we don’t have a publishing house to create a cover for our work.

The Rise of the Heroes series
Book One in the Dust to Ashes series

Self-published authors have to do it all themselves or hire out for the work. Even then, the author usually has to decide what they want the cover to look like first and then find an artist to do it and the costs can be really high. I’m here to offer advice on how to do a decent cover for self-publishing if you can’t afford to get a designer. I feel I should also mention, I LOVE COVER ARTISTS! This post is not a way to take them out of the picture, we need them! But, not all of us can afford one right out the gate, so I’m simply offering alternatives for the ones with smaller bank accounts like mine.

A good cover will draw the eye, offer a little snippet of the story within and have a catchy fun title to go with it. Plenty of covers have a single object as a photo with a plain backdrop and it works well. It really depends on your genre and how much you want going on. I have seen covers with characters, landscapes, creatures, romantic smooches and starships. The sky really is the limit on creativity. But how can you get that creative vibe without graphic design skills or even an ability to draw?

Photography. ALL my covers are real objects that have been photographed and then edited. KDP allows you to upload your own image into the cover creator as you go through the self publishing process. Why not an actual photo? Now it sounds easy right? Nope. Nothing worth doing is easy, but it is fun. I highly recommend taking some courses on lighting, angles and effects. Or you might be allowed to just have a chat with a professional photographer and pick their brain. I am lucky and have a brother who is a very talented photographer. He took the photos for my novels and together we set up the scenes and prepared the props. It was a fantastic experience. If you want to hire out, try a photographer! Just remember to research all the copyright laws and credit appropriately in your book.

The first book in my latest series Dust to Ashes

I prefer a camera to take the photos, but with the new technology of smart phones, I don’t think it would hurt to try it out (let me know how it goes!)on a smart phone. Just be sure the pixels aren’t going to appear in the print form of the cover and that its a clear image. I haven’t tried yet because my phone is older than dirt and I have a camera that works well. What can I say, I’m old school when it comes to technology.

Always order a proof copy of the finished novel. You can find all the messy bits and do what you need to correct them before you finish the KDP process and let the world check it out. I also do this for the final read through and I mark out the oopsies with a red pen. Sometimes the whole book is covered in red ink, but that’s a different blog post.

Whatever you decide to do, do it with courage. Its scary as hell to self-publish and sometimes you’re going to make a mess. But have no fear, all the messes and failures and ugly crying into a pillow are part of the learning curve. If I could draw anything more than a crappy stick figure, I’d draw out the covers of my novels, so if you can draw? DO IT. Try it out and see what happens. Keep on writing my friends, the world needs our stories.

Until next time keep them boots wandering and that wild heart writing and reading stories!

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