The cover of your book is very important so it’s definitely worth spending some time on. It is probably one of the key areas that self-published writers fall down on. If what you have produced doesn’t look great on the outside then people are going to be much less likely to take a peek inside.
The cover of your book is the first thing people will see – so you want to make sure that it looks professional. Bear in mind the people that it will appeal to: what kind of image would draw in the right readers? Whilst we would always encourage you to be creative and original, you should be mindful of your customers and remember that if someone is looking, for example, for a crime/thriller, there is a certain type of cover that will attract their attention. Emma Barnes, the co-founder of the award-winning Snow Books offers some excellent advice on this theme on the Snowblog. She stresses the importance of a cover positioning a book in its genre:
“Take a copy of your book cover into store, go to the relevant shelf and see if it fits. Does it stand out? If it does, it’s probably wrong. The blurb and the cover and the writing is unique, but the only way the reader will discover it is if the packaging explains, at a subconscious level, what the words are about. You wouldn’t expect to open a cornflakes pack and find pasta, would you? Same deal.”
You don’t have to be a graphic designer to create some great results if you have the time and the tools to do so. Perhaps the most important and striking part of a cover is its main image. Take your time to select a good photo and your job will be half done. For even more professional results, programs such as Adobe Illustrator are great for creating graphics. Adobe Photoshop or its free alternative Gimp are excellent for manipulating photos to make them look great.
Although Gimp has a useful online users’ guide, it and the Adobe programs are quite complicated and will require quite a lot of time to learn to use them properly. If you are after a quicker solution it might be worth using a program you are more used to such as a word processor or a simple graphics application. With a bit of time and effort you can produce good results yourself.
The best book covers, particularly those that are going to be seen as thumbnails on a computer screen as well as across the floor of a bookshop in hard copy, should have a large, easy-to-read title and author name on them. This makes it much easier for the reader to identify the book.
Emma Barnes (of Snow Books) has some excellent advice on titles: she warns against covers where the title looks “plonked” over the background image. The font and the text spacing and position should be integrated with the image. She also has some helpful rules of thumb to make sure your cover typography observes the conventions of the genre:
Crime has a ‘destroy’ type font:
Zombie / werewolf / vampire horror has a layer or two of distressing:
Commercial fiction aimed at women has a handwritten font:
Perhaps you have a great photo that you think would be perfect for the cover? You can use programmes such as Adobe Photoshop, widely used by professional designers. If you are looking for a cheaper option, there are a few web-based photo editors that you might like to try:
If you don’t have exactly the right photo, remember that the internet has some great archive images that are a great resource. Some you will need to pay for, others are free. If you do use someone else’s image, just check that you have permission to do so! Make sure you get an image that is 300dpi as this is the standard resolution used by printers. To get a decent sized hi-res version of an image on these websites you might only need to pay £5 or less, so it’s definitely worth investigating.
How CompletelyNovel can help
If you publish your book yourself on CompletelyNovel, you can use the CN cover creator for free. If you don’t have your own complete design, you can either choose from a selection of stock images or you can upload your own picture and then add the text.