Open Blog Weekend: Five Top Tips for Highly Creative Covers
You’ve written your book, edited it to perfection and are now ready to self-publish. YAY! Then the awful truth hits you – you’re going to have to put something on the cover. Now, most self publishing software has cover creators built in with standard templates that make designing a cover little more than typing in the title and your name, the rest is done for you. But why would you want your book, that you have spent a long time getting just right, to look exactly the same as a myriad of other books on the shelf, real or virtual? What can you do to make your book stand out from the crowd for all the RIGHT reasons?
Here’s my five top tips for things to remember when designing your own highly creative book cover.
- Be thematic but not literal with your pictures. What you want to do is evoke some sense of the feel of your book so, for example, you wouldn’t put pink sparkly unicorns and rainbows on the front of a horror book (although most people would agree that is a horrific enough thought, it’s the wrong type of horror). Also you don’t want to be too literal in your interpretation of your book. Literal is boring, you want to entice and intrigue your readers not hand the whole plot to them on the cover. If you can’t find a picture that works, why not go abstract?
- Be conscious of the colours you use. Learn about a colour wheel on the internet and use colours that contrast (opposites on the wheel) or tone (beside each other on the wheel) in order to make an attractive cover. Don’t use clashing colours unless it’s a deliberate decision – it will evoke a reaction but it may not be a favourable one. Also bear in mind that certain colours evoke certain feelings, for example, purple is luxurious, red is sexy, blue is calming and greens are fresh.
- Composition is key. Where you place things on the cover makes a big difference. And I don’t just mean the Title and name, I mean where you line up the picture. There is a composition tool in art called the Rule of Thirds. Divide your cover equally into a 3 x 3 grid and place the important things in your picture, like the eye of a face or a horizon, along those lines or at the crossover points. Or don’t use the rule at all and go for a horizon that’s well off the thirds line to add interest. But do it deliberately – as Yoda says “Do or do not, there is no try”. Being just off the line is a lot worse than being a lot off and looks lazy and amateurish.
- Don’t just pick any font or typeface for your title and name. They are also part of the design process and different fonts evoke different feelings. Again you wouldn’t pick up a book that had bubble writing if you were looking for a horror title, so think about the shapes of the letters and what feelings they evoke. And here’s a real trade secret – use different fonts for your title and your name. It adds interest to your cover and makes them both stand out. Don’t use more than 2 or 3 fonts on one cover though, that gets messy. The one thing you must make sure of is that your title or name is easily readable in the font you choose. There’s no point in publicising your book if buyers can’t read the title when they go looking for it.
- Finally and most importantly, stay legal! So you’ve found the ideal photo on the internet that you want to put on your cover – make sure you can legally use it. Check whether you need to attribute (i.e. give a written credit to) the person who created the picture, pay any royalties needed to use it for COMMERCIAL, not just private use, and most importantly, get permission from the copyright holder to use it. There are websites out there that have copyright free, no attribution, no royalty photos available – one I use a lot is morguefile.com – but always remember to read the licensing agreements every single time as they are different and, by ticking the “I Agree” box, you are actually agreeing to a legal document. The last thing you want, having got your book out there, is to have to pull it back because of a dispute over the cover photo.
Better still why not commission your own artwork or design for your cover by contacting one of the artists in the SPS Resources list. Then you can discuss with them exactly what it is you are looking for and they may also come up with some ideas for your cover that you never even considered.
Whatever you decide to do remember that your cover is of paramount importance. It is the shop window to your book, your main advertising image, it’s what leads people in to read your words. So treat it with the same respect as the rest of your book, give it due consideration and don’t just treat it as an afterthought.