Today is the last instalment from my lovely friends, who have been keeping my blog stocked with juicy tidbits in order to give me time to finish my book. A huge thank you to everyone who helped out, without you, I wouldn’t have had time to finish it
You can check out the other posts here:
But today, I welcome the lovely Helen Jones, to talk about book covers. I recently talked about mastering your genre’s book cover. But Helen goes into a tone of useful things you need to consider, that I hadn’t even thought of. So her post was super useful for me this week, because I just sent off my cover design brief! *squeal*. Without further ado…. Helen…
The old adage says ‘Never judge a book by its cover.’
However, that’s exactly what many of today’s book purchasers do. With such a wealth of books available to choose from, having a strong, professional looking book cover is one way to stand out from the crowd. Of course, an exciting blurb and a well-written story are also very important, but you only get one chance to make a first impression. Whether you create the cover yourself or work with a designer, there are several things to consider when designing a cover for your book:
ONE – Make the finished design as professional as possible
Just as your story should be properly edited and formatted, so too should your cover look as though it has been designed professionally, especially if you want to compete against the other 99,000+ books in your category.
TWO – How the design works at different sizes
You may have commissioned a beautiful painting or detailed photograph that looks amazing at full size, but which loses many of the details when it’s at thumbnail size (the online display size for your book). Using strong text elements can make it stand out more when it’s at a reduced size.
THREE – The style of your cover
The type of font you use and the image you choose should suit the story inside. For example, flowery curling fonts are well suited to novels in the romance genre, while solid block type tends to suit thrillers or crime novels. Look at other books in your genre for inspiration (but not outright copying!)
FOUR – Repeating Elements
If you’re writing a series, creating a design element to be used on all book covers throughout will tie the whole thing together and give readers a strong visual to guide them through the series.
FIVE – Different devices
Consider how the cover looks in black and white, as this is how it will display on many e-reader devices. Even though at that point you’ve probably already made a sale, a well-designed cover will catch the eye, especially if the reader has a lot of books to choose from.
Many writers who choose to self publish use stock images for their cover artwork. There are several reasons for doing so: the images are sharp and professional, they are easily found online, and it’s not always possible to take the photo you need yourself. Several years ago, I used to work in advertising, and one of the roles I held involved purchasing all stock photography for a large agency. I had to negotiate rights and usages for each image, so it would be fair to say I know a little bit about the process. Stock photos tend to fall into one of three categories:
These are images which require rights to be purchased for their usage. These fees are based on number of uses, the area where the image will be used, the length of time it will be used for and a few other variables, including fees paid to models who may appear in the image. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend using this type of image for your cover, as it’s quite difficult to predict how many copies you will sell or where, and to purchase a blanket usage license would be quite costly!
These are images for which you pay a single fee, then you’re free to use them as often as you like, wherever you like. Therefore, they are quite useful for cover designs. However, you don’t own the exclusive rights to the image, so it can be used by someone else at any time.
There are lots of sites offering free stock images, some of which are excellent. However, some downsides can include the images not being of the best quality, or that you have to enrol and pay a subscription fee to access the images without watermarks. Also, I have seen free sites with the disclaimer that images are not to be used for commercial purposes, which then discounts them being used on the cover of your book. I recommend to always check the fine print before using any of these images.
You could also try taking your own photographs. I’ve shot some really nice images with my IPhone and it’s fun to play around with them and see what can be created. Apps such as Prisma let you try different effects, and even Microsoft Word has a number of tools to add filters, change colours, adjust exposure, or crop the image into something much smaller.
When it came to designing the covers for my Ambeth books, I wanted them to have a vintage feel, like the embossed leather books you find in antique shops. I also wanted an element that could be used across all the books, tying them together as a set. I worked with Rich Jones at Turning Rebellion (who also happens to be my brother) – the sword and cup images are my own illustrations, then my clever (brother) designer came up with the band element and the wonderful shaded backgrounds. Suffice it to say I’m very pleased with the end result.
Of course cover designs are as subjective as stories themselves – some people will love what you’ve done, while others won’t like it at all. But if you present the most professional, well-designed cover you can, I think that’s half the battle.
Oak and Mist, No Quarter and Hills And Valleys are all available on Amazon.
Helen Jones was born in the UK, then lived in Canada and Australia before returning to England several years ago. The thought of finding magic in ordinary places is one that inspires her; when she was a child she did find a strange valley and hear a scream – the incident stayed with her and was the starting point of the Ambeth Chronicles. She has worked as a freelance writer for the past ten years, runs her own blog at http://www.journeytoambeth.com and has contributed guest posts to others, including the Bloomsbury Writers & Artists site. When she’s not writing, she likes to walk, paint and study karate. She’s now working on several other novels unrelated to Ambeth, enjoying the chance to explore other fantasy worlds.
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