Monday, February 13, 2012

Do we have you covered?

I like doing the occasional guest blog post. Having done one for Aleksander Romance on the Insanity of Being a Multi-Genre author, I was asked to do one on covers. First of all, I'll say I'm not the total cover wizard. I don't pay thousands of dollars to have my covers done professionally (I'm an Indie author- who has the $!). So, much of my book production process involves doing my own. Is it easy? No way! Once in a while you get lucky and the pieces fall into place, and the cover looks great. Most of the time, however, I'm battling for weeks to get it right. And for me, there's a feeling of personal pride when I get a cover that looks good.

OK, so you ask, what makes a cover great? I've read many blogs on just the subject. Some say covers have to be bold, primary colors; others say match your cover to what you find in the chosen genre. Still, more say that lettering and your name is the most important part. Personally, I think a blend is good.

Let's look at just one of my covers: the one I did for the free ebook Space Crazy. It's a sci-fi adventure, not a terribly long book- just 44,000 words. It was suggested by another author to put out a free book to hopefully draw more readers to my other books. Has it worked? Actually, for the most part, yes. My goal was to produce a book with little to no cost out of my pocket. Mind you, the book is not perfect, but it has been fairly well received.

As you can see, it's a simple cover. Just a gloved hand reaching for the stars. Why is this important? It's actually a visualization from a scene in the book. How many of you have picked up a book because the cover looked great and the back copy (or ebook synopsis) sounded good; but when you read the book, the cover had NOTHING to do with it?! Is that annoying or what? Does it kind of make you feel cheated? Maybe the book was awesome, and the cover didn't do it justice. There are those out there too. I always like to have my covers resonate some relevance to the story. Some have argued with me on that, but I'm the author and it's my book, and if I make a cover that isn't right for the book, well, it's my own fault!

How did I go about making this cover? It was fairly easy. Step 1: find a background. I went online and found several sites that have free computer wall paper images. This image was part of a wall paper. Since it was free, I took the image, cropped what I wanted, and had my base to start with. Step 2: the hand. Yes, that is my hand in one of my old fencing gloves. I got my middle stepson to photograph it over a dark blue towel. Then I used Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 (PSE)  and masked the image and fixed a few things on it. Once I had just the image of the glove and no background, I pasted that over the background image. It required a little fiddling to get it right, but finally I had a workable second layer. Step 3: Text. PSE has a wealth of script options. The program can be a bit stubborn to work with, but if you stick with it, you can make some great covers very easily. Once the text was done, I saved the full image. I recommend saving it twice- once as a JPG and once as a PSE file (just in case you need to go back and fix something) The PSE file will maintain all the layers you have worked with.

If you plan on doing a print run of your book and need a full cover, I recommend a program called BookCoverPro. It's not cheap, but once you get good at using it, you can offer services to make covers for other authors. I've done a few, and have just about paid for my initial expense. The program works on a very basic Photoshop type level. Every part of the book is seen as a layer. As with PSE, in the beginning, it's a little confusing, but when you get it figured out, you can have a full cover done in less than an hour!

Here are the links for the products I use. There are many others out there on the market, these just happened to be what I found usable. There are also newer versions of what I use. The key is to find something you can feel comfortable working with.

In the end, the cover is really what makes the book. If the cover isn't catchy, then a reader may well look for something else. Unless you're H.G. Wells and have the notoriety to have a bland cover like this, you better get busy and make some magic!

Good luck, and happy designing.
Until next time, my creatively obsessed friends,


PS: if you'd like to check out some of my other covers, you can find them on Amazon: