You’re a writer. Not–necessarily–an artist. You’ve spent long hours poring over your great work of fiction and have edited it to near perfection. You want to publish it independently… but then you realize that you have no idea what to do for a cover. You’re not a designer. You don’t know fancy photoshop tricks or have any expensive photo editing software. Even if you did, you wouldn’t have the photos needed to make anything worthwhile. You don’t even know where to begin!
It’s no wonder that many writers get bogged down by the very idea of designing a book cover. Everyone judges a book by the cover, and if you don’t do a good job, no one will ever notice your writing or give you a serious chance. Of course, there are online services that can provide book covers for a fee, like www.thebookcoverdesigner.com. But it’s hard to find something that fits your novel to a T, that feels like your story. And investing money in a cover is a gamble.
I have never spent money on a cover. Every year I learn more tricks on how to make a fascinating, authentic book cover that will capture people’s attention while staying honest to my writing. How? Let’s take a look with a trip back in my writing timeline.
2010: I try out Createspace for the first time with my first NaNoWriMo bit, The Chrononaut. I discover that the truth is, anyone can create a book cover for free, easily. Both Createspace and Lulu (and I’m sure other Indie publishers) offer free templates that you can use with your own book. Just a few clicks of the mouse, and there it is!
2011: I go to Createspace again, this time for the sequel to The Chrononaut, Temporation. After messing around a bit, I learn that the many free templates available online are also customizable! I can change colors, fonts, layouts, and even background images and designs. I’m so thrilled that I decide to self publish a few other stories as well, including The Star Chronicles and Quirky and Mysterious.
2012: I get my iPad 2 as a college graduation present, and I start messing around with photo manipulation. This can be done on any computer or tablet, but I like the intuitiveness of using my fingers to move layers and blur edges. I start looking for stock photos and wallpaper images to manipulate, and self-publish a novel that my then-boyfriend-now-husband had written earlier. I use a manipulated image on the cover.
2013: I branch out from Createspace and also try Lulu for the first time with Mostly Human. I manipulate my own image out of two others and add my own effects. I also design an entire cover from scratch for the first time. It has its share of mistakes, but over all was a great learning experience.
2014: I finally learn how to get decent photos to manipulate. After scouring the Internet for free stock photos and being frustrated by the lack of quality and authenticity, I finally turn to DeviantArt and look around some stock forums there. And I am amazed. There are many talented artists who would love to get some publicity for their work! All I’ve needed to do so far is tell them I’m using their work and credit them on the inside, and they’ve been nothing short of thrilled.
I think this year’s cover is going to be the best yet, though I’m sure I still have a lot to learn. I have never needed to pay for my covers–there are many free backgrounds and photos online, and photo manipulation software can blend them together and filter them to give them a natural look. In addition to that, cover design templates make it easier than ever to find and create a cover that fits your novel perfectly.
What’s your source of great artwork when you need it? Do you know how to create the perfect book cover on a budget? Please share!