Book Covers

Tips on Making Covers or Working With a Cover Artist: Part 2

I’m going to cover the viewpoint of the author, and Stephannie Beman will cover the viewpoint of the cover artist.

Today, we’re going to talk about what to look for when choosing the “look” for your cover.

1.  Less Is More (Or Keep It Simple Silly)

Ruth’s Thoughts:

There is a tendency to want to put as much on covers as possible.  The problem is you can only fit so much on a cover.  I like to think of the cover as a snapshot where you give the readers (at a glance) what kind of book you’re giving them.  In my case, I do romance, and in romance there is usually a woman, man or the couple is often the focal point.   But you don’t want the background to overpower the cover.  I could have a cover with a bride, a stagecoach, a horse, a dog, the hero, a couple of kids, a mercantile, and a lasso on it.  But just how attractive would cramming all that stuff into one cover be?  Maybe all of those things have something to do with the book, but it’s not necessary to put it all into the cover.

My advice is to pick 1 focal image and 1-2 images for the background.  This could be a bride for the focal point, a carriage and a field for the background.  Of course, you can get away with using just one picture.  Some of my most popular covers are ones with a single stock image.

Steph’s Thoughts:

As a cover designer, I run into lots of authors who want to add all the key elements of their stories on the cover. While in theory it might sound like a good idea, it isn’t. Keeping your design simple does two things for the cover design:

  1. It doesn’t confuse the message you want to give the readers
  2. It allows the image to be better seen when it is shrunk down.

Too many items and people clutter your cover. It’s best to pick one main element from your book to place on the cover design. If you aren’t sure what that item should be, ask someone who reads your book to tell you. Or you can do as I suggest to my clients and describe your book in one sentence. This will give you a better idea of what you should place on the cover.

2.  Use Professional Images

Ruth’s Thoughts:

Don’t hand draw something.   If you want an image is drawn, get a professional artist to do it for you.  Most of the time, though, you’ll be looking for pictures.  Unless you are skilled with a good camera, I would advise you to choose a stock photo site and buy a royalty free image.  Your cover doesn’t have to look just like a big traditional publisher’s book, but it should be attractive.  I would advise authors to buy the images and send them to the cover artist.  Stephannie can explain more of “why”, but in a nutshell, it helps to protect your right to have those images on your cover.

Steph’s Thoughts

I know that wanting to I save money on a cover and scouring the Internet for free images to use might sounds like a great idea, but it’s not. I suggestion using professional images from a stock-photography site, hire a photographer to take pictures, or hire an illustrator to draw your cover. Yeah, it costs money, but in the long run it can also save you thousands of dollars.

You should purchase professional images because:

  1. It would really suck to find out later that the free image you used was uploaded to Flickr by someone who didn’t own the rights and now you have to pay $8,000 for its use. (True story)
  2. When you purchase the licensing rights this allows you to use the image according to the stock provider’s terms of use. Please read the licensing terms of each site carefully. You don’t want to find out later that you have to pay a percentage of your royalties or that they can demand that you remove your cover with the image on it and purchase another at a later date.
  3. You can download your proof of purchase so when someone comes to you for using the images and the option for going to the designer there because they’ve gone out of business, cannot be reached, etc., then you have proof.
  4. There may come a time when you need an extended license because you want to use the images on other items, you might not have the option of going to the designer because they’ve gone out of business, cannot be reached, etc., and with an account you can manage this yourself.

Unless you are really good with a camera or know how to enhance the pictures you take, I don’t suggest using your own images. Most amateur photographers aren’t aware of the tricks that make a picture useable. Including and not limited to lighting, shape, direction, color, balance, position, etc. Does this mean you can’t use them? Not at all. Just that you should know more about photography before you use one of your own.

3.  Listen to Your Cover Artist (if you hire one)

Ruth’s Thoughts:

While you should have an idea of what you want on the cover so the artist knows your vision for the cover, there are times when the artist’s experience can be beneficial.  The artist has worked with a lot of images.  They’re familiar with fonts, colors, lighting, and how things line up.  This comes from experience.   Maybe you wanted to use a certain picture on the cover, but it turns out the photo is at an awkward angle that makes the way you want to use this image a bad idea.  The artist will probably see that right away.  They may suggest you find another picture or maybe they’ll find one that is better.  Be willing to take their advice into account.  If you are in serious doubt, have them do both pictures–one yours and one with the way they think it looks better.  Then pick the one you want from there.

Artists usually allow you 2-3 rounds of proofs for free so you can give them feedback on what you like and don’t like.  If you keep changing things though, be prepared to pay for the additional proofs.   But go ahead and do as many proofs as you need to get the cover you want.

In the end, it’s your book and the artist will consent to your wishes, but be open to new ideas and at least take a look at what they suggest.

Steph’s Thoughts

To add to what Ruth said above, if you are hiring a cover artist to create your book cover design, chose one whose design portfolio has covers you like. This will go a long way to getting a design you like.  A good designer understands the trends in design. They know the little tricks that make a design better or suggest the right genre.

It’s your job to have an idea of what you want, it’s the designers to create a cover that reflects your vision. However, be open to suggestions. A good designer will protest a bad design choice and explain why it would be bad. They will suggest a better choice and tell you why it would be better. If their suggestions makes sense, listen to them. They are doing what you paid them for and trying to make a great cover. Remember this is their job and a bad cover reflects poorly on both of you.

Categories: Book Covers | Tags: ,

Tips on Making Covers or Working With Cover Artists: Part 1

Covers are the visual your reader sees when they see your book on a book site.  In addition to being an author, Stephannie Beman is also a cover designer.  As for me, I’m just an author.  So she’ll take the viewpoint of the cover artist while I take the viewpoint of the author.

Here is the first of many tips–stay-tuned for more–we have come up with while talking about cover design…

Tip #1. At a glance, your cover should tell people what your genre is.

Ruth’s thoughts as an author: The average person will only glance at your cover while searching through books.  So the first thing you want to do is tell them “The genre for this book is….” Some people buy books based on the covers.  They don’t go through and read the description first.  Whether or not you think this is the right way to do things, the fact is some people choose to buy books this way.  This is why it’s crucial to have a cover that tells them, “This is a historical western romance” or “This is horror novel where the protagonist is a kid” or “This is a paranormal about a werewolf” or “This is a science fiction novel that takes place on another planet”.

Just by saying the “This book is…” I bet certain images popped in your head without even realizing it.  For the historical western romance, you might expect a cowboy, a woman in a long dress, a couple embracing, fancy fonts, and a happy feel.  For the horror novel with the kid, you probably visualize a dark background with a kid who looks scared.  The font will probably have a creepy feel to it.  For the paranormal werewolf cover, you probably will get a man and the image of a wolf or a couple and the image of a wolf somewhere.  It’ll probably have a little bit of dark feel to it, though not as dark as a horror novel.  For the science fiction novel featured on another planet, you probably expect a scene from outer space with space shuttles or spaceships (perhaps ones ready for war), maybe a planet or two, and maybe a bold font.

You might want your cover to stand out from the crowd, but people are so used to seeing covers in all the genres that it’s a good idea to make sure your cover is similar to the others. That doesn’t mean you take a cover and make the exact same one.  But what you do is take the elements (the common themes) and use it in your cover.  For example, if you have a thriller about a serial killer who is a man, you might want bright red letters in a bold font with a gray or black background where a man is standing in the rain holding a gun and looking like he’s ready to kill the next person who talks to him.  I bet all of us could take that idea and we’d all come up with different covers because the way I’m visualizing this cover in my mind is different from how you do.  But it’s the same idea and the same genre and will tell readers the same thing: this is a thriller about a killer.  This message in a single image can reach the right person to your book and tell the wrong person to go elsewhere.  (For example, if someone would rather read a medical thriller, they will probably look for something like a needle or a medical instrument.)

Steph’s thoughts as a cover designer: I agree with everything Ruth said above! :D

Readers, like most consumers, are drawn to the packaging of a product. Like Nike or Pepsi that design needs to be memorable and catch the attention of a passerby because that is where the bulk of your readers will come from. Your cover is your foot in the door. It’s usually the readers first glimpse of the book. That first glimpse needs to tell them a story that makes them want to hit buy. Otherwise they’ll wander away to another shiny book.

Now that book you’ve slaved over for months might be your baby, but to everyone else it’s entertainment. And book covers are your marketing tool. They tell the reader what they are about to purchase. Which means they need to tell about the story and the genre in a single glance. If you don’t know how a cover in your genre should look, your cover design may not work. So do your homework.

Research what is trending in book cover design in your genre. Take screenshots of books that stand out in a good way, with designs and fonts you like. Check out The Book Designer’s (http://www.thebookdesigner.com/tag/awards/) ebook cover awards to see some of the good, the bad, and the plain ugly covers. The Book Design will even tell you why they are his pick for good and bad design. Pay attention and you’ll learn a lot.

So for fun I thought I’s post a few cover designs for you to look through. Can you guess their genre?

Children'sStories,AnimalAdventuresStrategicPlanningUnleashedeCoverMichelleBoth_Sides_of_Broken_ecoverHistorical Western CoverParanormal Fiction CoverHistorical Fiction CoverHorror Movie PosterPrettyPregnantEBookCovereBook CoverHistorical Western Romance CoverPoetry Cover

Categories: Book Covers

How to Use KDP’s Cover Creator

The other day I posted How to Publish in KDP and mentioned that I would cover how to use the new KDP Cover Creator. Here is that post.

(Click images for full size if you need to)

If you want to know how we got to this step, please check the previous post, otherwise I am going to assume you’re right with us at the “add a cover” stage.

Click the “cover creator” button.

1

This may bring you a pop up. Depending on what you’ve been doing to your book, you may want a different option, but we want to save our changes so we don’t have to enter all the info again.

2

A little box with an orange swirly will pop up. depending on your connection speed it may sit there swirling for a long time, or a very short time. My net was running good tonight so it went fast.

3

When cover creator first opens it will have a “how to” splash screen that doesn’t really tell you much of anything. Feel free to click “don’t show me this again” and then click continue.

4

Now we have some more options. First we’re going to try browsing their gallery. I don’t really recommend doing this because if you’re using that image, who else is? But, we can take a look because those pictures are free and can always be a good cover placeholder until we get some cash or find a free image elsewhere.

5

You’ll get a pop up with photo categories. Browse through them and see if there’s something you like. I am going to choose Black and White.

6

This opens a selection of black and white photos. Let’s scroll through and find something creepy and/or mystical, shall we?

7

Once you’ve selected a picture, click on it. This will bring up an image overview and a bigger version. If you don’t want it after all, then click on the category name in the upper left to go back to the thumbnails. If you do like it, then click “use this image”.

8

The page beneath the pop up now loads with a bunch of design options. If you see one you like, feel free to “choose this design”

9

Personally, I am going to try uploading my own image now, so I am heading to the “choose new cover image” option.

This pops up the image screen we started with. This time I am going to select “upload my own image”. Note: Images should be .jpg or .tiff and should be between 1000 and 2500 on the longest side.

10

Click the cheery computer icon to get a browse dialog box. Navigate to the image you’d like to use and click open

11

You’ll get another orange circle that may take a long time to disappear, or may go away fast, depending on your connection speed.

Once it loads you’ll see we have those same design options again

12

This time we’re going to actually commit to this image and choose a design. Of course, you don’t have to. You can continue to upload and/or browse until you find something you like. Then, choose a design when you’re ready.

You’ll notice there are options that require no picture. If you choose one of these, you still get to edit the colors, text, and layout. Since those tools are EXACTLY the same as the cover with photos, I’m not going to do a separate section for that. You can use the following steps for either the image layouts or the non-image layouts.

Hover over the design of choice so that it says “Choose this design”, then click on it.

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A new screen loads. 

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You’ll want to close the tool tip box by hitting the x. Remember that you can change designs at any time by choosing “Start Over” or change your image by choosing a new one.

KDP has automatically put the title in for us, including the “short” that I added, which in this case looks silly. So I am going to close it out (by hitting the x in the upper right corner of the cover creator), change the title and go back in. Half a tick.

Back.

I changed the title, but it made no difference, as the cover creator refused to update. Since I am not going to use this cover it doesn’t matter for me, but if you plan to use it, make SURE your title is the way you want it before you hit that cover creator button.

There are lots of things to edit here. Let’s start with the fonts.

You can either use the Font Tool, which lets you choose from pre-made “themes”:

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OR you can hover directly over the text you want to edit:

15

And then click to get a box of options

17

Here we can change the font by clicking the arrow and choosing a new one

18

The size (including an auto fit option)

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Change the color:

20

Make the words Bold, Italic and drop a shadow behind them (useful on lighter backgrounds)

21

And change the position (Justify, left align, center, right align)

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As you may notice, I centered mine and changed the font and the size, but left it white.

Now you can do the same for the author (you can see an example of drop shadow on it) and if you have a subtitle (alas, I don’t).

23

What about those other buttons? Let’s play with the layout next.

When you click on it in the tools, you’ll get a string of layout options:

24

Click through them to see the differences. When you find one you like, click on the layout tool again to make the strip go away. Sadly, I like the original best, so I am sticking with it.

Now it’s time to play with colors, because that neon pink is terrible!

Click on the color tool and it gives us the option to choose colors individually, or to pick a premade color theme. To try different themes just scroll through and click on them:

26

Terrible, I know, so we’re going to choose the colors ourselves.

Click the color you want to change:

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And get a pop up. Click on the teeny tiny squares to choose your color:

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Repeat for the other colors.

After I got the colors changed, I decided to change the layout, too. Now, we can preview the cover by clicking the preview button:

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The preview lets you see it in color, black and white, and in thumbnail. Switch between them by clicking the icons on the left.

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If you’re happy with it, click the Save & Submit button. You’ll get a white screen that says you’re submitting your cover, and then be taken back to the edit project page. From there you can finish your publishing (see previous post) and submit your book.

Have you tried the KDP cover creator? If so, what did you think of it?signature

Categories: Book Covers, Book Setup | Tags: , , , ,

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