Basic Ideas For Your Book Cover
Book covers are quite an important part of your product. You know the old saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’? Nonsense. Everyone does. If it has a great cover, it’ll catch your eye. If it doesn’t, people will walk—or scroll—past it and that’s not good for you. But, for those of us with little to no design skills, there’s not an awful lot of option out there to make a great book cover.
The first port of call for your cover, in my opinion, would be your friends. Most of us will know someone who has some level of talent in either graphic design or physical art. My friend just about knew how to use Photoshop so did my very first book cover for me. And my second. I did the rest of mine in Microsoft Publisher because I don’t know how to use real image software and it can save as a jpeg. The problem of asking a friend is that it can really muddy the water if money gets involved. I paid my friend £15 for my first cover and a further £15 for the second. I got him to throw in keeping my old website up to date for that price too, until I replaced it. If they’re willing to do it as a favour, or publicity, then that’s great. But if they’re not and they want paying for it then it can cause issues. You feel that they should do it as a favour, you feel that they should charge you a dirt-cheap rate because you’re friends or they feel that you’re trying to take advantage of them. These things aren’t guaranteed, obviously, but if you don’t tread carefully when entering a business arrangement with a friend it can go wrong quickly. Be nice, if they charge, pay it. If you can’t, then respectfully decline. Simple.
Do it yourself
As I said, I did four of my own book covers and I have zero design talent. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount you can actually do in Publisher, if I’m honest. Is it a good design tool? No, not really, but it’ll do in a pinch. You can use the shapes to create things (I’m quite proud of how I made an ankh) or you can take stock photographs from the internet and use them in your covers. If you use someone else’s material though, follow their copyright guidelines to the letter. I used a stock image for a cover I designed for a future book and I had to credit them somewhere for the photo through Creative Commons. Different places and photos will have different rules, but follow them. It’s only fair. And don’t just take an image off Google Images. Not only is it unfair on the person who owns the image, it’s illegal and you could get sued for copyright infringement.
You can always take your own photos and modify them in some way. Photoshop is expensive but there are free alternatives if you want to dabble in image manipulation. I have GIMP installed on my computer. It’s meant to be able to do lots of things with images, which I haven’t figured it out yet, but it looks like there’s lots of options. And I am most certainly not the person who can tell you how to fiddle with photos or images to make them look good. I can impart my wisdom of shapes in Publisher, but that’s about it. If you’re left without options, a crappy cover is better than none, if I’m honest.
You can learn how to take decent photos, you can learn how to manipulate them in your chosen programme and you can learn the science behind design. Online videos and guides, books, friends who are willing to show you the basics of these things. If you know you’re going to need a cover and you have a bit of time to work on it, it’s better to learn how to do it properly than not. A crappy cover is better than none, but a semi-decent cover or a really good cover, if you can pull it off, is what you really need.
Pay someone to do it for you
This is kind of self-explanatory, and is ideally the best option: hire a professional to do it. I recently did this after having covers designed by my friend and I for so long. My next release will have a proper, professional cover from a commissioned artist. It is so much better than I could ever do. Yes, it costs money, but in the long run I think it is worth it. I also got a design company to redo my website and help with my branding. Together it makes me appear so much more professional and I really like the consistency and quality.
The best thing about working with a proper designer, especially a good one, is they will extract your ideas from your head and make them reality. You can talk with them about the themes of your book, you plot, the story, the characters, everything so that they can have a full and complete picture of what you need to cover it. Let them read it if you can and they’re willing or just provide a summary or concept. As with everything you get what you pay for, so pay a professional to do the job professionally for you.
With self-publishing becoming more and more common place these days, designing your own book covers is following the same path. It’s better to be prepared now and have the time to do it properly, than be stuck and needing a cover quickly.
© 2017 David Chitty
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.