When it came to cover art, I knew I didn’t have the artistic background to handle the project myself, so I hired someone. A lot of independent authors do seem to have artistic ability though, and they’re interested in doing their own cover art. Or maybe it’s just a matter of necessity because they can’t afford to hire someone yet. Either way, you may be interested in some tips from someone who’s “been there, done that.”
Jenna E Johnson on Creating Your Own Cover Art
I want to start out by thanking Lindsay for inviting me to write a guest blog for her website. I hope that my insight can provide some help for those of you interested in creating your own book cover images.
Creating your own book image may seem like a rather daunting task, but once you have the artwork or picture you wish to use, it becomes simply a matter of how creative or complex you want to get. So, if you cannot afford a fancy graphic art program, or paying a professional artist to create your book image is just not in your budget, you might want to consider doing it yourself. Not only will you have full control over the creation of your design, but you’ll also retain all the rights when you are done (if you draw the image or take the pictures yourself).
If you (or a family member or friend) happens to be artistically inclined, then you are in luck. Maybe you can’t draw or paint to save your life, but do you enjoy photography? I’ve used pictures in creating book covers as well (opening them in Adobe Photoshop Elements and playing around with the different special effects until I got an image I liked). Of course, you also have to consider the genre of the book you are writing and the audience you are writing for. My books, for example, are aimed towards the middle grade and young teen crowd. If they were for a more mature audience, my particular style of drawing probably wouldn’t work as well as perhaps one of my distorted photos.
Maybe the thought of trying to navigate through your different computer programs sounds like a major headache. I understand, but if you aren’t an expert, don’t worry. I’m by no means a computer wiz; I learned by trial and error, and if I can do it, so can you! The key here: have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment. Maybe I’m crazy, but sometimes I enjoy creating my book covers and other marketing projects more than writing the books themselves. Just make sure you ALWAYS save back-up copies of the original images.
Now for the creative process . . .
The images I use for my Oescienne books are originally drawn on good art paper (torn out of my sketch book) and cut to a specific size (makes them all the same dimensions so I know they’ll be the same size when I upload them). I don’t use any fancy art tools, just a mechanical pencil (always stays sharp), a black pen and some colored pencils. Often times, it takes me quite a while to come up with the ‘perfect’ image and, in fact, I ended up recreating the cover art for my first book, The Finding, before I got the look just right. When I have an idea in mind, I start sketching until it looks the way I picture it, or as close to this image as possible.
I can’t really give you any tips on how to quickly come up with your own perfect cover image, but I can say it is similar to writing a new story: you just have to wait for inspiration to strike. For my Oescienne books, I decided on a common theme that included my main character along with one or more of the dragons from the books (I read on a blog once that dragons on book covers tend to attract more attention). The images on the back covers reflect scenes from the story itself, each cover portraying a specific scene from that particular book. Once my drawings are complete, I outline my pencil sketch in pen and then add the color, shading and layering until it looks just right.
One extra piece of equipment you will need when you’re finished is a scanner (or a friend who has a scanner). Once your image is scanned and saved, you can edit it by trimming off whatever isn’t needed. I always save multiple copies just in case. Once this is done, it is really rather simple. Since I publish my paperback books through Create Space, my final product needs to be saved as a PDF file (check your publishing company and their requirements for size and file types accepted).
The basic template for my book cover is a new Microsoft Word document (I use Word 2007), the page size set to match the book cover dimensions, plus the bleed (again, you should be able to find this out from the publisher). Using a text box, I create the book’s spine (width will be based on the number of your book’s pages) and center it within the document. From there, I use it to gauge where everything else will eventually end up. I insert a large text box in the center of the front cover and copy and paste my artwork in there. You can do the same thing for your name, the book title and the book blurb on the back; just insert text boxes and adjust them to the desired sizes and move them to where you want them.
I’m always amazed at how versatile the Word program is. You can add special effects to your images, pick a nice font, change the page and font color . . . just get on there and play around to see what you can accomplish. Believe it or not, it’s not just for writing documents. If your goal is not to create a full cover but only a front cover for an ebook, then you don’t need to worry about spine width or a back cover image with a book blurb. Just open a new Word document and set it to the dimensions of your cover and add your image, name and title, then save it as a PDF or JPEG (again, check to see what the publisher’s requirements are).
Besides book covers, I’ve created many other marketing images and files for my books, including fliers, bookmarks, posters, car magnets and business cards. I had to use a secondary source to print out many of these things, but it gave me the freedom to meet my (picky) standards. Local copy stores and online companies offer reasonable prices for marketing and promotional items, but creating your own design and putting it together yourself might save you even more money and it gives you the extra bonus of having full creative control over the end product (something that I’m personally quite obsessive over). With a little extra work, and hopefully fun as well, you might find yourself creating functional, exceptional works of art for your own books.
I want to thank you Lindsay once again for inviting me as a guest blogger on your site. I hope my advice can prove helpful to other indie authors, and if anyone has any questions for me they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also plan on writing a few more posts about some of the marketing ideas I mentioned above on my website, www.jennaelizabethjohnson.com, so feel free to drop by from time to time if you are looking for some economical ways to promote your books.
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