Monday, February 11, 2013

Top Five Hints For Better Covers

If you’re an indie writer, you may be going it on your own.  Good for you!  Still, you’re competing with professionals so the quality of everything needs to be top-notch.

Book covers can be expensive, but they can also be done well by you.  Yes, you, even without a background in design.  

Here are five hints to help you create the best cover you can.  

1.  You need a graphic design program.  Which one?  It depends on what you want to spend.  You probably have a very basic one in the computer such as Paint.  You can get a freeware program that some people say is equal to the best--GIMP or Serif.  There are semi-serious programs like Adobe Photoshop Elements.  More expensive ones like those found at Corel and of course, Photoshop.  Most have a download trial version.  See which one you like then get it.  Take the time to learn your way around the program.  Make a couple practice covers. 

2.  Know the standard size for an ebook cover and stick with it.  Amazon is looking for a height/width ratio of 1.6 which translates into 1563 pixels on the shortest side and 2500 on the longest.  As ereader/tablet screens get larger, the demands have increased.  Every program will let you set the size before you begin so there should be no problems there.

The easiest cover design is to go by the Rule of Thirds which simply means to divide the blank space roughly into three sections.  One section for the title, one for the image, one for the author name.  

3.  Finding your image.  You want an image that suggests what the book is about whether plot or theme or characters.  There are many stock photo sites where you can look through thousands of images and the prices range from free to hundreds of dollars.  I routinely pay under $5 from places like Bigstock Photo or Photodune.  There is also Stock Exchange, iStockphoto and many more.  You will probably spend the most time creating a cover in this step looking for just the right image.

Depending on what you like and need, you can buy a photo or a vector illustration.  The smallest size will probably be sufficient.

What kind of image should you choose?  Look at the book covers in your category or genre for hints.

4.  Place the image on your correctly sized cover template.  If the image is too large, you may have to crop it to make it smaller or you may need to resize it.  If it’s too small for the space, you may need to resize it to be a bit larger.  You won’t be able to make it super large, however, because if you purchased the small size image, the quality will begin to deteriorate at a certain point.  

Should the image be in the center of the cover?  That’s the standard way and it works very well.  Then you will need to decide if your name should be on top or on the bottom.  Fortunately, you will be able to play with these elements and try them all out to see which you prefer.

5.  Here’s a crucial element saved for last.  What fonts should you use for your cover?

First, choose two fonts, one serif and one sans (sans meaning without) serif.  What is a serif font?  Times New Roman is a serif font.  It has the projecting features you can see at the ends of the letters.  Arial is a sans serif font.

Use one style for your title and one for your name.

Use fonts that are easy to read in thumbnail size.  The more you can stick with standard fonts, the better off you will be.  Puffy fonts, curly fonts, script or handwriting fonts can be very difficult to read.  Don’t make it hard on your potential audience.

What colors should you use?  Dark on light, light on dark.  Black and white is very readable.  Dark blue and dark red is almost impossible to read.  Think contrast.  Step away from the monitor and see if you can read the cover from behind your chair.

Don’t outline the fonts.  As long as you have colors that contrast, you don’t need any special design tactics.  Simple is best.

That’s it.  You’ll get better with practice and there are no points taken off for redoing a cover if you don’t like it in a couple months.  You will only be out your time and the cost of the image if you start over.  Nearly every indie publisher has redone covers, it’s smart business sense.

by Barbara Morgenroth


BECKY said...

Great information! Thank you!

Sandy Cody said...

Good advice, Barb. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

Readers, read on! You can still leave a comment about the "Covers That Make You Cry" and your name will go in the pot to win a book. We think the stories within those covers will make you smile.

Leigh Verrill-Rhys said...

This is great advice, Barb. And your covers are a testament to your understanding of the craft. Thank you for contributing your expertise.