Writing About Writing: Cover Design – Part One

Hi, everyone!

So after my big news post on Monday, I’ve had several people mention that they’d like to hear more about the self-publishing process. I’ve noticed that there’s a scarcity of blog posts out there about self-publishing… the details, at least. One of the things I’ve recently been looking for – and haven’t found – are posts on creating professional-looking covers. And since that’s my favorite part, that’s where I’ve decided to start. 😉 This first post will focus on general tips, and the next one will provide a sort of process to help you design a professional cover.

First, decide whether you should design your cover yourself or hire a professional cover designer. There are actually some fairly inexpensive cover designers out there, and there are also places where you can buy a pre-made book cover. If you don’t have a lot of time and patience, this might be a better idea. Also, if you don’t have access to a photo manipulation program (Photoshop is what I use), getting a cover designer might be the better choice. (I believe there are also online programs you can use, but I can’t be sure). There are tutorials out there for creating covers in Word, but all the ones I’ve tried… *cough* I’m sticking with Photoshop. Just keep in mind that there are alternatives to making your own cover.

Your cover is the first thing readers will see, whether it’s in print format or ebook. Your cover needs to pique readers’ interest, while still being important to your story. If you’re writing a historical romance, your cover shouldn’t look like it’s for a zombie book or a murder mystery. That’s why the pictures you choose are so important, along with the fonts.

Before I go any further, I need to point out some things about copyrights. *sigh* If you use pictures from Google images, then there’s a high chance that you’ll be infringing on someone’s copyright. You have to make sure that you have the rights to both images and fonts. You have several choices. You can either buy your own images (and fonts) from websites that sell royalty free images (like iStock and Shutterstock). Make sure that you’re buying a commercial license for the picture, not just a non-commercial license. You can also use the stock fonts on your computer and pictures you take yourself. The fonts that come on your computer are usually unprofessional and easily recognizable… don’t use Papyrus, please. Honestly, the most over used font. 😀 If you’re a good photographer, or if you know a good photographer, doing your own photo shoot is the best idea. Finally, there’s a huge selection of free for commercial use fonts and images. You may not be able to find exactly what you’re looking for, but there are plenty of options. Always, always, always check the license on fonts and images before using them. If the creator/photographer does not specifically say that you can use it for commercial use, ask them. It’s always best to be safe. And let people know when you use their fonts/images. If they’re offering them for free, the least you can do is let them see what you’re using their creations for. Best advice? Unless stated otherwise, always assume that content is copyrighted.

If you made it through that paragraph, you deserve a reward. 😉 So here are some of the sites I use for photo and font finding. Pixabay is great. When you click on an image, the profile tells you whether it can be used for commercial use and if you need to give credit to the photographer. There’s also Unsplash. If you subscribe, they’ll send you ten pictures every ten days that are free for commercial use. They also have a new search feature, too.

For fonts, I use dafont.com and Font Squirrel. Both sites have fonts that are for non-commercial use only and commercial-use. Font Squirrel has a page for each font where you can see the license. On dafont.com, things are a little less clear cut. Just make sure to check with the creator, and read all read-me documents included with the font.

Now that we’ve got all of that stuff out of the way, here’s the best way to figure out what picture to put on your cover. First, make a list of all items and people that are important in your story… as in “cover worthy” important. Don’t choose something or someone that is important for a plot twist. You want your reader to be drawn in by the cover, but you really don’t want to give too much away. That’s why the cover is one of the most important aspects of self-publishing. Of any book, for that matter.

One last bit of advice before I end this post. Study other covers in your genre. You want yours to stand out, but you don’t want it to be too drastically different. Ashlee Willis has an awesome cover for her book The Word Changers.

And those are my tips for helping you design your covers. Hope you don’t mind how long this post was! 😀 Got a cover you’ve made that you would like opinions on? Post the link in the comments below! I can guarantee that at least one person will check it out. *cough*me*cough* I’d love to see them!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and that it’ll help you with designing your cover. Questions? Comments? Anything you want to see in future posts about self-publishing? Comment below!

Thanks to all of you, Paralyzed Dreams has gotten up to #37 in its category! Read it? I’d love to hear what you think! Haven’t? Go ahead! 😀 Stay tuned for updates on the upcoming Paralyzed Dreams virtual book tour!

42 thoughts on “Writing About Writing: Cover Design – Part One

  1. Sweet! Great post! 🙂 my book covers are under the “my books” tab on my blog. On the one for Amazing Honesty my friend took a picture for me, and I used lulu’s cover designer on both. It’s pretty good actually.
    Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cool post! I love finding free fonts to use on my own “covers”. 🙂 I’m not remotely close to the getting-published stage, but I do like play around with making covers for my stories, just for fun. I don’t have Photoshop, so I use https://pixlr.com/ which is an online photo manipulating site (yes, indeed, to answer your almost-question, they do exist!). 😀 IT IS SO MUCH FUN TO PLAY WITH COVERS. 😀 And I tend to take a lot of pictures and use those, though sometimes I’ll use things from pinterest… but I definitely will be careful about copyright if I ever try to publish. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like messing around in Photoshop, but I kind of feel like, if I self-publish, I’d probably want to pay someone else to make my cover. If I made it myself, I think that would increase the pressure on me, and I’d already be freaking out over “Oh my goodness, what if no one likes it? What if I missed an error or something?” On the other hand, an artist might not understand what I want as well, so . . . IDK.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoy graphic design-y stuff, so I might want to at least try doing my own cover, if/when I ever self-publish. However, I’m a perfectionist, so I’ll probably get upset with my amateurish abilities and pay someone. xD Anyway, this was so helpful, thank you!

    And is Paralyzed Dreams only available on Kindle? Is it there a paperback version, or could I get it on a Nook? I really want to get it, but I don’t have a Kindle. =(

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What wonderful tips! You did a remarkable job on your Paralyzed Dreams cover. I especially love the Photoshop curly brushes you used behind the title. They are subtle, yet add an element of flair that draws the eye to the words. Your parents must be so proud! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Writing About Writing: Cover Design – Part Two | The World Of The Writer

  7. Definitely bookmarking this post. I’m not thinking of self-publishing anything soon, but if I ever want to create a cover to give myself some motivation . . . 😀 And the image websites will be helpful; I’m always worried about copyright infringement.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey Bri,
    I’ve just been wondering if I have to find a free font for commercial use to use for my entire manuscript. Do I have to find something for commercial use or can I just use the fonts Word gives me? (Times New Roman, etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

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