Chorus of Covers, Part 1

Book covers are pretty important, and ebooks are no exception.  After all, a book cover is supposed to catch someone’s eye, and whether you’re browsing shelves or browsing a website, you’re going look at what grabs your attention.

My cover for Highsong was done by a friend well on her way to becoming a professional illustrator, as a gift because she liked the story.  My own background in art could have probably allowed me to make my own cover, but I realize not very many people are that lucky.  Most of the time, if your life up until your ebook consisted of selling insurance or programming, you’ve probably never even heard of Photoshop, let alone know the principles of aesthetic design.  It’s not to say that there aren’t terrible professional book covers, but really, you don’t want to be this guy:

In fact, don't be this guy in any sense of the phrase.

Or this:

Boring, boring, boring, for starters. Stock imagery, overuse of black dropdown shadows ... this person managed to make Jane Austen look like a vanity publisher!

At least in terms of design and all that.  So, now that we know the proverbial bottom of the barrel here, how about some tips?

1. If you’re buying a cover: regard your cover as your biggest expense. Seriously.  It’s worth it.  Especially since ebooks can be published for free and you probably have a day job.  If you’re considering hiring an artist, look at their portfolio.  Can they draw heroes with correct proportions and spaceships that don’t look like pasted photos?  Believe me when I say that if you hire a cheap artist, you’re going to get cheap art.  The guy who dedicates 2 hours a week to learning how to use Photoshop is not the guy you want. (And unless the artist in question is a professional 3D compositor, stay as far away from 3D as you possibly can.)

2. If you’re doing it yourself: research. Look at what makes good covers AND bad covers.  Googling “bad book covers” can give you a pretty good ballpark of where you don’t want to be.  Look at fonts and why they work, or even use a professional book cover as a reference for your own.  Loopy, indecipherable fonts with bad colors is a recipe for that potential reader to move right on down the line.   If you think you can’t draw: you’re probably right.  Stick to stock imagery or even collages, which are easier to create and can be just as engaging without being literal.   I can’t stress this enough, since ebooks are a relative of that horrible literary cousin vanity press, and both lend themselves to art that vies to be as bad as the writing.  Take the time to do your cover right, and approach a professional level of some kind.  Anything that says “Amateur!” doesn’t need to scream it to make a potential reader get the point and look elsewhere.

In the next half, we’ll look at how to make relevant book covers (as opposed to vague, artsy-fartsy, or just plain misleading ones), and image resolution for the purposes of posting and printing (pixels are bad.)

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About coyoteclockwork

I am 29 and living on the outskirts of the North Austin, TX area. I'm an illustrator and a writer of YA fantasy. I'm also an avid video gamer and have a lot of background in good-old tabletop RPG, when I'm not editing manuscripts for myself or part of my writing group at the Austin SCBWI.
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2 Responses to Chorus of Covers, Part 1

  1. KaxantheDragon says:

    Very helpful. I’ll do just that while I work on my own art.

  2. Pingback: Chorus of Covers, Part 2 | The Highsong Project

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