5 Things to Remember When Designing Your Book Cover With @AuthorhelenJ

5-book-coversToday 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:

3 Things You Need to Create The Perfect Gothic Story

11 Must Do’s When Creating A Podcast

4 Top Tips For Self-Publishing Your First Novel

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…

dsc_8827The 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.

oak-and-mist-final-cover

You can buy it here.

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:

Rights managed

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!

front-cover-image

Book 2 – you can buy it here.

Royalty Free

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.

Free

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.

Own Photos

hills-and-valleys-front-cover

Book 3 – you can buy it here.

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.


 

57 comments

  1. The saying never judge a book by its cover comes from the days when the cover was simple two boards covered in leather which protected the precious pages of vellum or parchment inside and kept them flat. Of course everything changed with the development of paper and the printing press, and the old addage just doesnt apply any more. In fact, I think the reverse is true; someone who has gone to a great deal of trouble to create a beautiful and professional cover that stands out from the crowd is more than likely to have put the same effort into crafting a great story and well formatted manuscript. Great pist, Helen, and sound advice. ?

  2. The info about the stock photos was interesting, and I totally agree about fonts. People pick the worst fonts, use two that don’t match and then place the text in the wrong places Aaaaaagh. I do like Helen’s covers, I think she’s achieved exactly what she was aiming for.

    1. Interesting about non matching fonts, I heard not using the same font all over the cover was a good thing. But I’m not a designer and therefore have no idea if that’s right or nor

      1. Sorry I wasn’t clear, I meant using two (or more!) different fonts that don’t go well together. I think that’s where a graphic designer or at the very least, someone who has worked with fonts, can be a real asset.

  3. Fab post, Helen. (Thanks, Sacha!) I so agree and really do judge books by their covers. I’ll admit to that. However, if word-of-mouth suggestions are really good, I’ll grab it regardless. But it’s crucial that the first thing you see (ahem…cover) attracts you. Great tip about making sure you see what it will look like in B&W for all those using e-readers. I just went through that. (I LOVE Helen’s covers. Always have. Simple and elegant. I think it’s fair to say I covet her covers.) 😉

  4. A cover is definitely important, though I would be more drawn by the title and the tagline. I rarely get to see the cover of my ebooks or audiobooks. I’m straight into the body of the book.

  5. I treat book covers like I do labels on bottles of wine. If I like it, then I’ll buy it. If it catches my eye, then it’s a sure winner for me.
    Very useful post for me considering I’m in the middle of getting a book cover designed. I think covers for short story collections are far more difficult to come up with, especially when they cover many genres but, none-the-less, I’ve hired somebody who is doing a really great job for me. Needless to say that the author needs to love their book cover, otherwise they are probably going to feel negative about promoting it.

    1. haha, what an awesome analogy! like wine labels. you’re too funny. I agree – it is really difficult to get a book cover for a short story because as you say, which story do you pick ? Do you go with a theme? Something else? I agree. I want to LOVE my cover, I want to love it so much I’d have it printed onto canvas and hung on my wall, ya know? If you don’t love what you’re doing, promoting it is going to be really hard.

  6. I did my own covers for Checkmate and Harbingers, and I used a combination of stock photos from Unsplash (all free for commercial use) and my own photos…and then I went one further and did my own font for the title of Harbingers too! I see a lot of self-designed covers where writers haven’t really thought about legibility, and it’s always really important if you ARE going to do it yourself to get someone who does do design to take a look at it before you stick it on Amazon!

    1. Amazing, dead impressed you did your own covers. I might be able to slap together a pretty blog photo but that’s where that shit ends! I wouldn’t dare touch my own book cover! How on earth did you create a font? So impressed.

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