Monday, November 25, 2013

How to create a book cover yourself

So, you have finished your book and you are about to get it published or self-published. The first most important thing about your book is the cover. 

Some might think that it’s the blurb but let’s not kid ourselves (with publishers that might be the blurb but not with the actual readers). The first thing people are going to look at is the cover.

And if the cover sucks then no matter how good the blurb is, the chances of getting someone interested are gonna be slim.

That is because it is easier for a person to take in the visual information rather than the text. So if you want to make a good first impression with your book then you’re gonna have to come up with a great cover. Here are some of my cover works (Presence novel, Beta novel). 

Unless you have a lot of money to spare and can afford to hire a good professional artist, or you’re singed with a big publisher like Harper Collins, you will find yourself choosing between the cover that your publishing house’s art department is gonna come up with (and let’s be honest, most of them are not gonna listen much to your ideas and opinions about it) or the cover that you would make yourself.

Yes, sometimes the art department guys manage to come up with a great cover but that doesn’t happen too often and you should be prepared to not liking their version all that much. And that is a big problem because later on when you’re marketing your book you’re gonna have to feel 100% confident about it. And if you’re gonna lack the confidence then you will not be able to push it as hard as you need to push it and show it to as many people as possible.

Besides, who else might know your book better than you do? Who else would be able to come up with a design that would represent your idea in the right light but you? You’re the creator so why not go all the way and create the cover yourself. 

The task isn’t that hard really. All that is required of you is a basic knowledge of how graphic editing software works, programs like Adobe Photoshop or any other you like.

So here is what the process would look like:

1.     You need to come up with an idea, a design for your cover. You can find the great deal of inspiration browsing through the covers of the books that are already published. On you can find lists dedicated to finding out the best covers there are. Here for example

And remember that the cover should be informative and give a reader a basic suggestion of what the book is going to be about. Don’t be abstract. Some abstract images on the internet are easy to find and they look nice but they give no information about the book whatsoever. Try to be specific and find the details in your book that deserve to be visually highlighted on the cover.

You can always come up with a couple of ideas and do both and select the best one later. Don’t rush the process.

2.     Once you have an idea in your head it might be helpful to draw it on paper first. Let it be crude and rough around the edges. It’s just the sketch for your own reference.

Then you’re gonna have to browse through the stock photos and find ones that have the elements that are going to be present on your cover. You can find images that are free to use on sites like this…   Or just google stock photos and the name of the element that should be on one of them, i.e. stock photo trees and branches.

You can always photograph something yourself but be sure you know at least something about the angles and the lighting. Hard shadows and soft shadows might create a completely different look, emotionally that is, so be sure you know at least something about how photography works.

3.     If you want a character from the book to be depicted on your cover then you might consider creating a 3D person using software like Poser Pro or DAZ studio. It might take you some time to learn how to work those programs but it’s gonna be worth the while.

Again, you can feature one of your friends or family member on your cover, if you get them to agree to that, and photograph them against some plain solidly-covered surface, i.e. white wall in case you want to change the background later. But again be sure you know what you’re doing with that camera.

Soft shadows (left) vs Hard shadows (right)

4.     Once you’ve collected all the pieces and images in one place on your computer it’s time to put them together in Photoshop or any other program that allows you to work with layers.

Background starry layer + planets

+ gradient layer + text layer

All the layers together

Working with layers allows you to create the background and cut out the needed elements from other images and put them together against that background. Cutting something particular out of the image can be done with Magic Lasso tool in Photoshop or if you need to say replace the sky or the plain background you will need to use the keying. If you don’t know how that is done you can find plenty of tutorial videos on YouTube which will guide you step-by-step. Like this one

5.     The important thing that comes next is finding the good font for your title and your name. You want it to be distinctive and Times New Roman or Ariel won’t do. So go to one of these sites and download some awesome fonts for free. These babies will really make your title pop out.

6.     Then, once you’ve put all the elements together and you’ve moved them around and found the perfect balance, it’s time to finalize it and export you picture as PNG or BMP file and then open it again in the Photoshop to add effects.

You might also have skipped through the first five steps and photographed the image that you believe doesn’t need any alterations. Well, good for you. Take that image and add some effects to it to make it look even better.

Photoshop has a number of its own effects but if you want something fast and professional-looking you might wanna download the plug-ins like Alien Skin Exposure or Snap Art or Eye Candy. These ones are great and they have a trial period. So does Photoshop itself so you might not need even to buy any of them.

Alien Skin Exposure

These plug-ins allow you to add some professional-looking effects like texture and dust and scratches and you can apply color filters that will make all the pieces of your collage look very much together and as one piece of art.

You can also process and add effects to your image online and for free using one of these sites

That is about it, and don’t forget that you should be making your image at 300dpi so that it is good for printing. Watch this video to see what that means

So it wasn’t that hard was it? In any case, you will at least have an alternative to what the art department guys offer you. You might like your cover much better. Or your image might provide the reference for them and they will build upon your idea instead of coming up with their own. They won’t listen to you if you will be trying to explain your idea with words but they might look at your image and see the appeal for themselves.

So I think it’s worth trying and for some of us, authors who have to self-publish their books, creating a cover themselves is the only option.

Send me your covers via email (perie_wolford @ and I will tweet them and show them to my followers.

I hope I helped.


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