Wednesday, 21 September 2011

How Can I Design my Book Cover for Free?

Completing a kindle novel is only part of self-publishing. The indie writer may wonder how to conceive a great book jacket design for the novel or ebook for nothing.

A Great Book Jacket Design for Ebooks

An array of book cover designs can be found to bewilder the indie writer on how such effects can be attained. Book cover design services are at hand to assist the author who knows little about the visual elements of a book cover. However, an effective book cover can be created at little or no cost with just a little time and knowledge. Not only does this offer the writer full control over what the cover looks like, but also saves money. In simple terms a book cover simply consist of
  • The image
  • Text
  • Special effects (if any)
So without a designer, how does the writer dream up the perfect book design for a thriller, horror or crime novel? Firstly, take a look at what’s out there. Horror or thrillers feature a lot of black with a splash of colour, crime a lot of moody shades; historical, props of the age. Browse from the viewpoint of the potential customer. Bear in mind that all book covers are thumbnail sized and so not everything stands out. What catches the eye, what themes are prevalent on your chosen genre? It is important to convey the feel and mood of your book to the consumer, yet also to make it stand out from the crowd. It is true that many judge a book by its cover, and a good one could potentially generate sales.

Do’s and Don’ts of Book Jacket Design

The following tips when conceiving a book design may help:
  • Keep it simple. Avoid needless clutter and too much detail in your design. Close-ups, oblique lighting or something punchy will make the book cover more eye-catching.
  • Ensure the quality of the photograph is top-notch. This means high resolution, good lighting and a carefully-arranged composition.
  • Keep in mind that the thumbnail view of the book’s cover as seen on Amazon is quite small, and detail will not be perceived well.
  • Ensure the image is in keeping with the book’s content and feel. It would be misleading to feature an idyllic village scene if the plot centres upon secret agents at work in the inner-city.
  • Allow large area of a particular tonal area to dominate where the text will be. A fade-out effect, mist, sky or shadow can be used. Patchy colours will render parts of the text invisible.
Free Book Cover Designer

Copyright-free images and stock photos can be found on the net, such as Amazon’s Createspace or Creative Commons, but I prefer to create my own cover image. Any good digital camera will serve well. I use the highest resolution setting (usually portrait). Consider the following when creating the visual design.
  • Take time to set up the scene, be it a landscape view, a figure or a still life setting. This can often be more time consuming than the shots themselves. Of course, a painting can similarly be photographed or scanned, if the cover image consists of this medium.
  • Take several photos rather than just one – there will always be dud photos which can be deleted. Camera-shake, poor lighting or blurred focusing are demons to be avoided. I took around 30 photos for my cover design of Domestic Bliss. I wanted just the right lighting and viewpoint. This meant shifting the binoculars around and tilting the eyepiece at different angles.
  • Lighting is crucial for mood. You don’t need lots of lighting equipment. In fact, I prefer natural daylight, (unless you are after a candlelit scene). I wanted a moonlit shot for my cover A Hard Lesson, and of course, dim light requires tripods and lots of luck. So I took some shots in bright sunlight. In Pictures Programme, I increased the tonal contrast, muted the colours and shifted the overall hue to blue. The scene looked moonlit.
The Book Cover Creator for Books

Allow plenty of background area. This superfluous area will be trimmed off when uploading onto Amazon’s print on demand division, Createspace. Incidentally, Createspace offer ‘Cover Creator,’ which enables you to design your cover from scratch for free. Templates, fonts and images can be used. I use ‘the Palm’ for my novels, a blank template, as this gives the author complete control over the appearance of the book cover. The feature enables you to view your book cover and fix any issues, such as elements cropped off or off-centre.

Best Fonts for Publishing

Paintshop or Photoshop enable you to play around with different fonts and effects. You can adjust the transparency of the font, fade from one colour to another or stretch them out. Choose your fonts carefully; avoid anything too fancy or indecipherable. Is the title of the book readable in thumbnail? Try different sizes. Simple and bold are often best, although elegant can be good for historical or romantic novels, impact suitable for thrillers.

Design Software for Book Cover Designs

There is an array of software out there, but all I use are Paintshop Pro, Pictures and Paint. You can do a surprising amount with just a few simple features. Lots of special effects are really unnecessary, but worth experimenting with, such as art media effects, distortion and aged effect. I always save a copy of the original photo before playing around in case something goes wrong.

Tips for a Great Book Jacket Design

The writer does not have to shell out a lot of money to create a great book jacket. The elements of a book cover are really only an image and text. Conceive an image that is in keeping with mood and genre of the book. Take a look at like-books out there. Make yours stand out. Make the image memorable, moody or punchy.
  • A good digital camera is often all that is required to take photos. Use high resolution. Take the time to compose the image and take plenty of photographs.
  • Experiment with different effects as can be found on Paintshop Pro but keep a copy of the original image in case something goes wrong.
  • Try out different fonts but ensure the title of the book can be made out when viewed as a thumbnail.
  • Retain superfluous background area for trimming areas, as will be found when uploading the image onto Createspace.
  • Uploading the image onto the Kindle platform is easy. Simply browse and select the relevant image. I would insert an image of the cover design within the first page of your Kindle ebook, as this image will be in view in the customer’s kindle library.
Other helpful articles

Experiment in book cover design to increase sales
Advice on novel writing
Formatting your kindle ebook

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