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How To Create Fantastic Covers For Your E-Books

This was done with a $15 piece of stock art. This was done with a $15 piece of stock art.

My next go to place, particularly when working on historical stuff, is ArtRenewal.com.  If an artist has been dead since before 1927 (some later, but my lawyer has threatened to flay me alive if I use anything later than that, with a few exceptions) then you can use the art. (Note not the frame, though.)

For various reasons, including that if you use a painting in toto it gives the impression it’s a scholarly or classical reprint, it’s best to use a figure or a detail of the painting.

Under that heading and not exactly free, but cheap, I have an extensive collection of Dover Publications titles of old paintings.  You know Great Victorian Fantasy Paintings, or what have you.  I’m sure I haven’t (yet) used enough to justify what I paid for them, even at discount prices, but looking through them sometimes sparks an idea for something else.

But let’s imagine you’ve gone through all of those and not found anything you want.  You’re doing a cover for a period romance, where the face of the model has to show, say, but it has to be a photograph, so old art won’t do.  Or you want to do a specific fantasy setting and you’ve not been able to find the right look.

The answer is to go to one of the stock-for-pay places.  I use dreamstime.  I use dreamstime because it’s best for my piddly use.  (I.e. I buy half a dozen photos a month or so.)  As you know, PJM uses Shutterstock.  My friend Kevin J. Anderson’s company – Wordfire – uses Shutterstock also, because he buys in batches of a hundred or so and the “monthly membership” comes out cheaper.

How much will art for a cover set you back?  Well… the cover above cost me $15 for the maximum size, which means I can use it for print.  Now, is it exclusive?  Oh, heck no.  In fact, I’ll have to get away from this artist, because they’re head and shoulders above all other designers, and so a lot of fantasy authors use the exact same cover.

(Yes, the cover design sucks and the lettering is so so – it’s a learning curve, okay?  I am better now, but there are a lot more cryingly bad covers I have out there.  This one will wait its turn.)

Now, if you go through all of that, and still don’t find what you want, you’re either going to have to change what you want (some of us have done it!) or you can cruise Deviant Art.

I have never got anything from Deviant Art.  My requests for price or asking whether things are for sale go unanswered 9 times out of 10.  The tenth time I get an indignant “it’s already sold.”  That’s fine.  That’s me.  I have friends who’ve got art there, though.  Be careful before you enquire, though, and run the art through a reverse image finder.  I’ve found people posting as theirs public domain or – worse – someone else’s art.  I don’t think this is exactly “on purpose” or to defraud, but very young artists who just want approval, but there it is.

Anyway, that’s where to find art.  The rest we’ll leave for next time, including how to manipulate a photo so it looks like a drawing or painting.


Next: in Part 3 see the tools you need.