|That or "No matter how bad your life is, at least you're not |
middle-aged guy buying crappy films in a fat ballerina costume bad."
Don't believe me? Google "bad self-published book covers" and click on some of the articles. Then go to the images tab, find the worst cover and read the connected article.
|I picked this one. Who couldn't pick this one?|
The truth is, self-published writers don't have a monopoly on shitty covers. There is no shortage of horrid covers for great traditionally published books.
|Caitlin Kiernan is one of the most talented writers I know. I can tell you |
there is zero chance she had any say in these travesties of slash-fic book covers.
|Somewhere in New England, John Irving looks at these covers |
and wishes he could die so he could turn over in his grave.
|James, Shelley, Orczy, and Twain are just glad they are already dead|
In lieu of a committee, though, there are a few things we can do to make our covers better:
Hire a Professional
This option may get you the best-looking cover. There is no shortage of professional artists more than willing to read your book, and design a cover for it. The best options are going to be artists who also have experience in commercial design and/or advertising. After all, your cover, is your primary source of advertising for your book.
When Zack Mason published his Chronoshift Trilogy, he chose this option, and the result are book covers that look as if they came from the best traditional publishing houses:
Fortunately, there are still other options.
Learn to Use Photoshop
This is probably the best solution of the three I'll discuss here. While you may get a better product paying someone to make you a cover, chances are they will be using Photoshop to do it anyway. Learn how to use the program (or any of the free alternatives) and you are one step closer to designing your own cover.
But, you may be thinking, I already use Photoshop.
|Read that section heading again more closely|
More importantly, understand what you want on your cover before opening the program. There are plenty of online instructions on cover design. Read them.
In general, decide on a single image that encapsulates your novel and work with that. This can be an image from a pivotal scene in the novel or an image/motif that runs throughout the narrative. Don't try to tell the entire story with images mismashed on the cover.
The original cover of John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, for example has one image: an armadillo. This armadillo, though, is an image that runs throughout the novel as both motif and foreshadowing. Similarly, the background color and text of the cover resemble a granite gravestone, both referring to the title character who is the son of a granite quarryman and acting as more foreshadowing of future events:
It is simple, yet it still grabs your attention.
Brad Strickland, writing as Ken McKea, is a good example of using this technique in cover design. In each of these Photoshopped covers, he has chosen one powerful image that draws an audience in:
In the following example, the cover I designed for the re-release of Richard Monaco's Blood and Dreams, I found a public domain image of a painting that seemed similar to an early scene in the novel, then used paint.net to flip and alter the image to better fit the characters in the novel.
|(Left) Original painting by N.C. Wyeth|
(Right) Book cover
If so, there is still the final option:
Use Your Publishing Platform's Cover Generator
If you are publishing through lulu.com, Amazon's CreateSpace, or Books-A-Million's new publishing platform, you have access to premade cover templates that are as user friendly as the rest of the platforms. In other words, if you can navigate your selected platform well enough to upload your files and publish, you can use its cover templates as well.
In each of these platforms many of the design decisions have been made for you: You may have little control over where your title or name appears on the cover. You may or may not have the option for an author photo. You may have a limited selection of type fonts available to particular page layouts.
However, you should still keep the basic rule of cover design in mind: a single image that stands for the the whole narrative. Keep your cover relatively simple.
Below are two different covers to my own Emily's Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway and Other Stories, one from lulu.com, the other from CreateSpace. You will notice that in both, as different as they are, the image of an old cabin predominates since the cabin setting is important throughout the primary natrative.
|(Left) lulu.com cover|
(Right) CreateSpace cover
Whichever option you choose to create your cover, remember this:
Just as you should ideally have a beta reader for your manuscript to offer feedback and suggestions, you should also have others look at your cover ideas and offer their thoughts.
As embarassed as you may be having someone you know ridicule your work before it's published, it is nothing compared to your mortification when your poorly conceived cover becomes an internet meme.