For the self-publishing author, book cover designing can be tricky. It’s not as simple as finding art online and using it. You have to make sure it’s the right size and you have to pay for use of the image. Nor is it as simple as having a friend drawn and/or design your cover. You have to make sure you leave room for the book title and other factors. The first part of this post gives ideas on where to find book cover designers or buy art already made and for sale. The second part of this post gives you important tips in creating or selecting a design. This entire post is specific to sci-fi and fantasy authors.
Where to find art for your book cover design:
- Freelance artists – Find a book cover designer on sites like reedsy.com, fiverr.com, and other freelance sites. Keep in mind that though the cost might seem like a bargain, you get what you pay for. Every once in a while, though, you can get both a good price and a great cover.
- Public domain art – My sci-fi book cover is made partially from public domain images from NASA. You can also find public domain art on Wikimedia Commons, the Library of Congress, and National Archives.
- Stockphotos – All my fantasy novels used art from a stock photo site. My favorites are Bigstockphoto.com, 123rf.com, shutterstock.com, istockphoto.com. Be sure to read the usage rights on these. Some do not allow for use on book covers. Or if they do allow book cover use, they charge a lot more. Count on spending at least $50 for the image. The average I paid was $100.
- Online art galleries – Deviantart is my favorite source for finding sci-fi and fantasy artists. If you see art you like, you might be able to buy it outright. Or if you see a style you like, you might be able to commission the artist. Not all artists are book cover designers so you will have to be specific in what size you need and the placement of your title and other text.
- Contact an art school – Contact the art school’s illustration and design department to see if they are interested in a project. Offer to support the school in some way as a form of payment.
- Ask a friend – This is what I ended up doing for my first sci-fi novel. If you don’t know an artist, ask your writer friends who they used for their art.
Tips for making a good book cover design:
- The image for your book cover design should be large and at least 300 dpi. This will be especially helpful if you plan on printing physical books rather than e-books. This will also be helpful for if you need to crop or re-size the image for other uses. I understand a lot of publishers want the image in .pdf format, but I’ve had no trouble using the .jpg format. You should have no trouble saving it in both formats.
- The book cover image should have thumbnail appeal. The image can’t be so busy that viewers on a computer screen can’t tell what’s on the cover. I like how the ebook version of Tad Williams’ book The Dragonbone Chair is just a simple sword.
- The image should be relevant without being cheesy. Again, I reference the cover for The Dragonbone Chair. Its simple design isn’t just easy to see in a thumbnail, it also indicates the book is a fantasy.
- When combining two different images, make sure they work cohesively together and not cut-and-paste. My cover on The Dragon and the Lion is made from two separate images that I edited so that the color scheme matched and they look like they belong together.
- Stick to classic fonts. You can be a little creative if you like, but don’t overdo it. And make sure that if you do get a little creative with your font that it is relevant to your book.
- There should be room in the art for text placement. If you’re cover is of a warrior or something, make sure the book title can be seen without having to cover the warrior’s face or other important elements of the cover.
- Don’t forget the back cover. If you have art for the back cover, make sure it is simply a continuation of the front cover and doesn’t introduce new elements or styles. Or you can simply use a solid color for the back cover.
That’s all I have for now. Where do you get your book cover art? Do you have any tips for making a good book cover design?
What do you think of this book cover art design for Book One of the Kavakian Empire: Starfire Dragons, art by Anita Young?
I have a basic idea for the book cover art for Part One of the Kavakian Empire: Starfire Dragons (Starfire Dragons is still a preliminary title unless I can come up with something better). The story opens up with a spaceship known as a Serpent being chased by another spaceship known as a Cougar. And the two ships are racing towards a blue-grey planet. So based on the descriptions I used in my story, here are the sketches of this scene.
The basic book cover art outline for Starfire Dragons, Part One of The Kavakian Empire.
The basic idea I have for the Serpent spaceship.
The basic idea I have for the Cougar spaceship.
My art sketches are really generic. Even though I am an artist, I really have no idea how to draw or paint a spaceship. So I have an artist that will be working on this for me.
What do you think?
I have finally finished the editing of “The Dragon and the Lion: Book Three of the Dukarian Legacy”. It will be published very very soon, hopefully as an e-book by the end of the month. And hopefully in the beginning of August as a paperback. In the meantime, check out the book cover design.
I paid for a royalty free image from 123rf.com. The image was of a sunset scene with the silhouette of the dragon. And I inserted free clip art of the lioness. The clip art was originally of a yellow lioness, but I modified the colors to match the silhouette of the dragon.
What do you think?
- “Blue Dragon” by Dawn Ross
My love for fantasy novels extends to fantasy art. I love Ruth Thompson, Nene Thomas, Boris Valleyo, Keith Parkinson, and many many others. While fantasy authors inspired me to write fantasy, fantasy artists inspired me to draw fantasy art. I didn’t just pick up a pencil one day and start drawing dragons. I have always been an artist. My theme has always been animals and/or nature. You can check out my nature and wildlife artwork at www.naturebydawn.com.
My first fantasy-like artwork was Horse in Armor. It was a pencil sketch I drew when I was a teenager. I had given it to my Grandma. Several years later when she died, I was given some of her books. And lo-and-behold, the picture I had drawn for her was laminated and was being used as a bookmark! It was a very memorable moment.
I didn’t draw fantasy art again until some years later. I don’t remember what my next one was, but it was probably the Blue Dragon. Birth of Chaos was next and was inspired by the title of Book Five of The Dukarian Legacy: Dragon of Chaos. Cave Fire Dragon is the most recent one I have done. I actually started it several years ago and put it aside. When I rediscovered it, the paper was messed up so I had to start all over again from scratch. It is sort of inspired by Lord Kildas in Book Two of The Dukarian Legacy: The Raven’s Fire.
My fantasy art is nowhere near as good as the fantasy art of Ruth Thompson and the others. But it was fun to draw and paint. I will never be a famous fantasy artist, or even just a famous artist (I may not ever even become a famous fantasy writer), but I just can’t help trying.
"Birth of Chaos" by Dawn Ross"
"Cave Fire Dragon" by Dawn Ross
I am currently reading “How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for Free” by Jason Matthews and this is helping me tremendously! I have already learned a few things, including how to get quality book cover art relatively cheap.
You may have seen my post about hiring a graphic artist for my book cover, but Jason Matthews says I can use a photo from sites like BigStock.com. I am already a user of BigStock.com for photos on my blogs, but I guess I didn’t read their terms of service thoroughly. After re-reading the terms of service I confirmed that it clearly says I can use BigStock.com photos for my book cover art.
I was a bit skeptical about finding a photo of a dragon on BigStock.com. But they don’t just have photos, they have artwork. The above photo is my proposed book cover art for The Third Dragon. What do you think? Nice, huh? And it only cost me a couple of dollars!
The Third Dragon is closer than ever to publication. I am currently building a website and converting the files to pdf and other formats. Keep posted to see when it is ready!
I am an artist, but I am not a graphic artist or illustrator. I am also not very good at drawing people, dragons, or architecture. The above painting is my first color version of what I wanted my book cover to look like. As you can see, it needs a lot of work. I wanted the dragon to fade out of the fire. I wanted the castle too look more fantastical and to look like it was on fire. And I wanted the fire to actually look like fire. Reyker and Tomis Dukar don’t look right either. Reyker’s face isn’t quite right. And Tomis looks like a girl. He is supposed to be a 10 year old boy.
I am reading a book on how to get published and it is talking about finding an illustrator to do my book cover art for me. This sounds great except it can cost quite a bit – probably $2,000 or more. Ouch!! But it might really be worth it. I am currently researching illustrators online but how do I know which ones I can trust to do the job right? How do I know they will follow through? I will probably have to pay an upfront fee, even for the preliminary sketches, so finding an established illustrator is a must. It can’t just be any established graphic artist either. They would have to specialize in fantasy art. And I would have to like their style.
If I do an e-book, I may not need a fantasy graphic artist. It would be a nice touch, though.
Those of you who have read the manuscript may be interested in how I pictured the characters. Lord Kildas is my favorite character as far as his looks go. He is well-built, regal, and handsome. Oh, and he is a good guy too. Lord Kildas’ head is a little too big in this sketch but other than that, I think he looks great. Lord Kildas is from the Raven clan. The sketches at the top left are meant to be the symbolism for the Raven clan.
The next sketch is of King Haban. I wanted him to look sinister so I gave him a narrow chin, but I think it is just a bit too narrow. This won’t be too difficult to fix.
You probably already saw the sketch of Tomis Dukar in the previous post, but here he is again. This is the second version of Tomis I drew after the first one didn’t work out at all. See a color version of the first one next (at the very end of this post).
Tomis looks too much like a gilr in this finished color version of the book cover. His hair is too long and he looks mean. Tomis is the main character and a good guy. He has had a difficult childhood, hense the angry look, but after seeing this finished version, I don’t think I want him to look angry on the book cover.
As an artist, I primarily draw animals and landscape. Branching out into fantasy was difficult. It’s not just the dragons, but the people as well. Check out some of the early sketches. The first one is of the main character, Tomis. Tomis was really difficult to draw as I could not find the right child to draw from. Drawing a child was more difficult than drawing an adult becuse most portrait drawings focus on the dimentions of adult faces. A child’s face has a different structure which changes as the child gets older. I went through many a portrait book and life drawing book to try to find the proper dimentions to apply to a 10 year old boy. As you can see from my notes beside the sketch, I still haven’t gotten it right. His forehead is too tall. His nose is too long. His upper lip is too short. And his eyes are too far apart.
The next sketch is of one of the primary heroes of the story, Reyker. This is just an outline sketch. No shading has been done. It is sort of right, but still off. I am not quite sure what is off about it. This needs more study and more sketches
The next sketch is of the castle. This was almost as difficult as the people as I am not very good at architecture. I studied a lot of ancient and modern architecture but this came out very badly.
Here are two of the dragons for the back of the book cover. Tomis is The Third Dragon, so I wanted two other dragons represented. This is just a basic sketch. While I can draw animals pretty well, I am not so good at animals with reptilic skin. I think the forms of the dragons are okay for just a beginning sketch, but I need to work on their scales.