You know what the most important part of your book is? Okay, the second most important part of your book?
C’mon, you know I’m right. How many times have you passed over what turned out to be an awesome book because the cover was just all meh?
I know almost nothing about designing book covers, or how you’d even go about having one designed. There are people who will do it for you (Okay Creations has designed pretty much every New Adult cover in existence, it seems) or you can do it yourself (Chelsea M Cameron did her book cover for Sweet Surrendering and it looks mighty pretty).
What I do know is this, because it’s been passed around so many times like a two bit hooker: thumbnails, thumbnails, thumbnails. Meaning you want the cover to look just as good and distinguishable as a book cover in thumbnail form as you do full size. You can see the mini-size on places like Amazon or Goodreads, but here’s something I didn’t think of (thanks to the lovely Anna Alexander for this tip): search images on your smart phone. It’s already got a small screen, so if the picture you like looks good on your phone, chances are it’ll look good when you look at it on your computer’s monitor.
Next question: where do you go for those images?
Well, if you’re doing it yourself, or you want to provide the designer with an image to use (I think this might kind of be like a mechanic – some will let you provide your image, some will get up all up in your grill and be like, nuh-uh, Imma gonna pick it out for you), you’ll want to check out stock photo sites. I was on Shutterstock searching for images for this blog (isn’t the one on the front pretty?) and came across a number of stock images that I’d seen as book covers. Bigstock is another place to find stock images. With Shutterstock, you can sign up for a yearly membership, or you can buy packages of three or five images at a time. Yay options!
This is where I run into trouble. I’m uber-picky when it comes to things like aesthetics, and book covers fall into that category. The cover should tell the reader a little something about the story inside. Got yourself a smexy story? You can totally get away with that shirtless guy on the cover. But, um, if you’ve written the next Jason Bourne novel, having a shirtless guy on the cover is going to make me think of Matt Damon running around with his shirt off, and not about the bad guys he’s chasing down.
And the font. Oh, the font. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had to click on a thumbnail just to read the fucking title. Yes, the curly script is all froofy and frilly and sparkly, but for fuck’s sake, if you can’t read the title in that font when your cover is a thumbnail, PICK SOMETHING ELSE.
Some people only do the front cover, because they think, hey, that’s all people will see if it’s an ebook. But most of the tutorials I’ve found walk you through doing the whole thing, front, spine, and back, so you might as well take the time to do it that way. Personally, I think it looks more professional.
Speaking of tutorials, there are about a milliondy YouTube tutorials on how to create a book cover in Photoshop. I don’t have Photoshop, probably won’t invest in Photoshop unless I get a hankering to self-publish all the things and design my own covers, so if you’re like me, you might find this tutorial useful. It takes you step by step through designing a cover in Word.
Or, you know, if all that sounds like too much work, you could just pay someone to design the cover for you. I wouldn’t recommend googling book cover design. You’ll end up pulling up sites that may be on the wrong side of sketchy. So if you see a design you like, try to find out where it came from. Sometimes the author will thank them in the acknowledgements or in a blog post. If they don’t, don’t be afraid to contact them! Authors rarely bite 🙂 A few places to start: Okay Creations, Hot Damn Designs, Danielle Fine, and Book Beautiful are designers I’ve seen recommended before. Make sure the designer knows what you’re looking for and what you don’t want (or point them to your back cover blurb for ideas), because it would totally suck to end up with a cover that you paid for that makes you cringe every time you look at it.
I’m a firm believer in the less is more mantra. I’m drawn to book covers that have a minimalist look, and I love stark covers. So here’s a few of my favorites (and you need to read these, because they’re all amazing):
Interesting that none of them are romance. Or not, because I dislike pastels and soft focus, and a lot of romance covers feature one or both, coupled with froofy script. I do, however, really like the covers for Entangled’s Brazen line.
There you have it, the bare bones of cover art. Does it still look like I don’t know what I’m talking about? What are some of your favorite covers?