Most writers (a lot of them anyway) have their book covers created for them by professionals. I don’t. Yet another rule from the writing world I have broken.
I could say it’s a cost cutting measure, but pre-designed electronic book covers can be picked up for modest sum, so that’s not true.
I simply prefer to do it myself.
I enjoy the process, and I have only myself to blame if it’s a flop. I’m also really bad at telling someone I don’t like their work, so if I had a professional designer do the cover I would probably just accept whatever they came up with without protest if it wasn’t exactly what I want.
So, here is my process for designing a book cover.
I start by using Google to find images of other book covers in the same genre. By browsing through them, I can get an idea of the feel I’m aiming for. It also provides good ideas regarding spacing, text fonts, and general design. The cover also needs to give the reader a hint of the story inside. Many romance suspense/thriller novels have half naked men on the front, but as my stories don’t have sex scenes, having this on the cover would be misleading.
The cover for Seeing Red has red curls; an integral part of the story. The lack of further detail does, I think, add mystery, and suits the genre of the story.
Once the basic concept is ready, the next step is locating appropriate images.
There are lots of sites where you can get images. Some are free, some require a subscription, and some can be purchased on an as needed basis. The singularly most important thing I do when choosing an image is to check the licence on the image. I have to be confident that the image is the site's to sell or give away, and that I can use it on my cover.
I buy my images from iStock, which is a Getty owned site. The licence allows me unlimited use on the internet (website, social media, etc.) and up to 499,999 print copies when used on a book cover. It also allows me to manipulate the images to a certain degree. The cover for Seeing Red, for example, is only a part of the whole image, and it is reversed for the back cover of the book.
The cost? The image for Seeing Red cost me $13, but images from iStock can be up to $36 each.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It took me about six months to find and decide on the image I used for Seeing Red. It was fun to begin with, but turned into a desperate search for perfection as I slowly honed in on exactly what I wanted.
Okay, so you have a concept and an image. Now comes the detail.
I use a company called IngramSpark for my print books, so their process is the one I’ll describe. To create the cover for an Ebook, I simply crop the finished print version to the correct size.
Each print book must have an ISBN. In Australia there is only one company you can buy them from – Thorpe Bowker. Each ISBN costs me $8.40. Bear in mind that each format of the same book needs a different ISBN. The print copy, the Amazon Kindle Ebook, the Kobo Ebook, etc., all need their own ISBN. There are ways around this, but I won’t bore you with that information.
IngramSpark send me an electronic template to guide me in designing my cover, complete with a barcode set up for my ISBN. Before they can do that, I have to tell them how many pages my finished book will have, so they can create a template that will fit. The templates are in either PDF form, or InDesign.
Gloss or matte finish? Most book covers have a gloss finish, as Seeing Red has. My White Rose books have a matte finish, which has a lovely, silky feel to it.
Putting it all together
So I have a template, complete with barcode, an image, and an idea of how I want it to look.
All I need to do now is play – or should I say direct while my ever-patient hubby moves things around on the template. Sometimes the design comes together easily, and other times it takes a lot of experimentation to get it right.
There are only a couple of non-negotiable items with the design as far as I’m concerned:
1. The barcode must be on the lower right hand side of the back cover
2. The title and author name on the spine must be positioned to leave room for library stickers!
I failed to think of this with Roses, and the result is both the book title and my name are partially covered by spine labels of various kinds (including one noting I am a local author – not that you can really see my name). A hard lesson to learn, but learn I have.
Once I’m are happy with the look of the cover, I close the file and walk away for a good few hours, and then check it again before uploading the it to IngramSpark.
An electronic proof of the finished product is emailed to me, usually within a day or two of the files being uploaded. If everything still seems to line up, it’s on to the final phase – ordering a print proof.
The scariest part of it all...
I have real trouble with this.
A small parcel arrives in the mail. I know it’s the proof of the book. I know I can still change things if I don’t like them, but I am always scared to open the parcel and see my book for the first time. I haven’t quite worked out why I feel that way, but I do.
So how does it look? Amazing!
Special thanks to Kim for asking the question that inspired this post. Alison.
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