They say your cover is the most important part of your book. I don’t know who “they” are, or if that’s necessarily true, but your cover is important. It needs to convey your genre, it needs to be eye-catching. The font for your title and author name needs to look professional, yet suited to your genre.
This is a tall order if you want to do it yourself. Way back when I was new at this, I didn’t know as much as I do now, and I was adamant that indies could do their own covers. And you can. You should.
But let’s step back and figure out what a “good” cover is.
I wrote Don’t Run Away as a NaNoWriMo project in 2015. After I released Summer Secrets, I started editing it, I mean, really editing it, so that it was publishable. I took out all the head-hopping, the mixed up POVs, and I turned it into the book that’s going to be released on the 18th. So for the year I spent editing, I blogged about the publishing process and making your own cover. While I blogged about making your own cover, I came up with some doozies, that were, ah, well. See for yourself.
Yeah. I blogged about creating this cover. Did I say that I liked it? No. Am I embarrassed that I put something like that on the internet? Yes. But that was naivety and inexperience. Cover design takes practice and a good eye.
Did it get better? No.
Then I came up with this piece of crap. Yeah, it’s better than that pink monstrosity above, but I would never buy a book that had this for a cover.
Luckily for me, lots of time went by, and I took a break.
When I was nearer to publication, I came up with this:
And that’s not so bad. I even would have maybe used this. But the problem was, or is, is that Don’t Run Away is book one of a trilogy, so not only did I need to make one cover, I needed to keep in mind that I needed two other covers, and they needed to look like they belonged together.
I came up with these two for books two and three:
I mean, as far as covers go, they aren’t that bad. But ultimately, I turned all three of them down because, in the end, I felt the couples looked fake. When you look through sites like www.canstock.com or www.dreamstime.com there are three different categories of people. Real people:
You don’t want real people on your cover. I think this is where a lot of indies go wrong. Real people aren’t models, and the photographer didn’t touch up the photograph to make it look less real. I suppose if you found the perfect person, you could run the photo through some filters, modify it somehow so that she doesn’t look like a real person giving you a goofy look through some weeds. But you definitely have to do something to it. That’s where the pink “hell no” cover at the beginning of this post comes from. Real people don’t work.
The second category of people on stock sites are real, but they look better than real.
She looks good, ya know? She looks like model material, but approachable. The photographer added some sunlight. Depending on your genre, these make perfect covers.
The third category of people are fakes:
There’s a genre for actual models (erotica and
porn), and I didn’t need anything like her for my covers. I needed my couples approachable. My characters aren’t billionaires, they aren’t sheiks, or princes, or even CEOs. My characters hold down-to-earth jobs and have real people problems. I needed my covers to convey that.
So I did manage to find this couple, and I was lucky to find two other couples that looked like they were taken by the same person. Two of them were, but the third was taken by someone else. I probably won’t write anymore trilogies, but if you do, or even a duet, or even more than three, make a plan for your covers because it’s a pain in the ass to change them. Not only do you have to go through the submission process again for CreateSpace, if you use IngramSpark, they charge you for every change you make. And you have to remember to change your cover on Goodreads, too. (Which isn’t the best because your old cover will always be attached to your book on the book’s page.)
Here are the three I chose for my covers:
I also decided to make the whole picture wrap onto the spine and back cover, so the position of the couple was important too.
Here’s how Don’t Run Away turned out:
I’m pretty proud of it. And it turned out nice in person (ignore how goofy looking he is):
Of course, even when you find the perfect picture, you need to play with font, where everything will go, that kind of thing. At first my cover looked like this:
And I didn’t have any qualms about it. But after the proof came in the mail, I realized the title was way too big. It didn’t need to be that large. My friend Gareth made the crack that, what, I didn’t need people be able to see it from outer space? No, I didn’t. So I fixed it, but then the spine was off:
I was tempted to leave it, but I couldn’t. So again, I sent it in to be fixed, and it came back okay.
I guess my point is, covers go through an evolution of sorts, and it’s never too late to start playing around with fonts and photos.
Look around at other covers and see what’s popular in your genre. Maybe even see if other covers are using the same people you’re thinking about using.
I found this nice one while looking around:
The site selling it wanted $50.00 for it. I’m sorry, but I like mine better, and it was free. Well, did pay http://www.canstock.com five credits for the picture, which turned out to be around 4 dollars. The fonts I used were all allowed for commercial use for free and I downloaded them from http://www.1001fonts.com/. Be careful if you use this site because some are for commercial use, and some are not.
That ends my cover adventure for Don’t Run Away. If you want to know how I used the photo for the spine and back cover, let me know. It’s fun, and it solves the problem of what to put on the back. Some people don’t care about the back since you’ll sell more e-reader versions, but still. If you ever do a book signing or a giveaway, perhaps on Goodreads, you’ll need a paperback version.
Let me know your thoughts!