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How To Create Fantastic Covers For Your E-Books

What are you waiting for? It's time to join the independent publishing revolution.

by
Sarah Hoyt

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March 12, 2014 - 1:00 pm
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The Cat Wore Whiskers and other stories.

The Cat Wore Whiskers and other stories.

The other thing I use, which I found only recently, is Filter Forge. I got an advertisement from them back in December when they were having a firesale type of thing. At first I thought they were only a photoshop plug in, then I found they could actually be used as a stand alone program.

When my husband asked me why on Earth I’d spent money on this program, when surely GIMP filters did the same thing, I showed him.  Lets just say my son, the graphics geek, went “Whoa!  Can I play with it on your computer, now and then?”

Yeah, it’s that good.  It’s also addictive.  You’ll want to play with your photos and it and…  Control yourself.  This is work!  (Oh, okay, fine, you can play a little.)

So, these are the tools I use.

In the next – and last – post, I’ll put it all together and show you how to do a cover from beginning to end. I’ll do it using my tools.  You can feel free to use whatever you want.

I do recommend, however, that if you can, and if you have more than one cover to design (i.e. you’re a writer who has a lot of properties that have reverted or, alternately, you’ve got twenty short stories or novels under the bed which you’re not going to publish yourself by some means) you might do worse than to take the WGM Publishing cover workshop. Supposing you can afford it, it’s a tool that will last you forever, and better than spending the same amount each time for a cover design who might or might not know how to signal right for your subgenre.  I get no kickback from these, but I am a great advocate of learning to do things right if you possibly can.

I know some of you won’t be able to afford them, but for those who are, it will save years of stumbling around in the dark.

And, as my friend pointed out – what was a good cover for the early Amazon KDP program is screamingly bad now.  And your goal is to look professional. Yeah, I know, we all hear a lot about not judging a book by the cover, but the truth is everyone does. It might not be a matter of “is this a pretty cover” but “is this something that was professionally done enough that I want to bother downloading a sample” and “does this look like what I normally read?”

So, look at your resources and do the best you can with what you have.

At some point — three? — months ago I posted either here or on one of my other blogs about doing the cover for Death of A Musketeer. This was particularly difficult because for some reason you can’t find drawings of musketeers in the stock sites (not unless, you want girl musketeers, cat musketeers or anime musketeers. I just wanted a musketeer.) So I did the best I could and got the dead man from The End of The Game of Cards by Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier.  Since the painter died in 1891, his work is safely out of copyright. My problem is that I couldn’t use the whole painting, or it gave the impression I was reprinting one of the classical works out of Gutenberg and also that the work would be too dull for words, right?  (No, trust me on this.)

So I did the best I could by sticking the figure against a sketchy woodcut background, got from Fromoldbooks.com. It worked after a fashion (I’ve had worse covers.) But I wasn’t exactly transported by it, partly because though my idea was innovative, it also made the book stick out as odd, and therefore gave it a certain air of “literary.”  Okay, it’s a mystery with the musketeers as characters, but it is very much written for fun, not edification.

It looked like this:

This is an okay cover, but you can bet neither the figure nor the background were done on purpose for this book, right?

This is an okay cover, but you can bet neither the figure nor the background were done on purpose for this book, right?

So, I wasn’t happy about it, but within the resources I had, it was the best I could do.  It’s the cover that is up, still, as I’ve not had the time to upload the new one.  HOWEVER when I got filter forge I had an idea.  I got a photo from morgue file and I ran it through the aquarelle filter in Filter Forge, and then I ran the figure of the dead musketeer from Meissonier.  Then I did some color manipulation in Paintshop.  This is the result:

This, on the other hand, does look like a cover designed and painted for this book.

This, on the other hand, does look like a cover designed and painted for this book.

So, now I have to find the time to upload it, and do the other covers in the series to match.  Meanwhile, in the next (and final) post we’ll take one of my short story covers that was “good enough for old KDP” and bootstrap it from free or cheap sites, to looking good enough for the current KDP.

Now, are my current covers perfect? Heck no. Cover designer is a profession, and I’ve barely started. However, most beginner and mid-list writers get assigned to someone who either is a beginner cover designer, or is still learning. And that level I can get to. And so can you. There are tweaks I need to do (that series title should be white not yellow, because of where it is) but given that it’s a cover “from found objects” — it looks professional enough.

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Conclusion: Ready to get started? Sarah’s Step-By-Step Guide is up next

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