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?
Writing a novel is not easy. But if you’ve done it and you think it’s a worthwhile read, you have a new difficult task ahead of you – getting it published.
There are many ways to get your novel published. They are the traditional way, self-publishing, and numerous ways in between. This article is about the newest and easiest way to get published—self-publishing.
Although self-publishing is the easiest way to get published, it is the most difficult for getting your name out there because you also have to self-market. And although it is often relatively free to self-publish, if you truly want your work to get read and possibly even popular, you will need to be prepared for certain expenses.
- Writing Supplies – This is an expense you will have whether you self-publish or go the traditional route. Writing supplies can include a computer, software, notebooks, notecards, pencils, etc. Costs may vary depending on your wants and needs.
- Beta Readers – Beta readers are the most basic type of reviewers. They are your friends, family, or other informal readers. They can help you find plot holes and minor errors. They can tell you which characters, scenes, chapters, and other things they like most or dislike the most. Keep in mind that these types of reviewers are not likely to provide a professional opinion and some of their feedback may even be wrong. Also, their opinions may be biased. Family and friends will probably do this for free, but if you want more objective reviewers you may want to offer an incentive to people who are not friends or family. I’ve paid between $50 and $100 per beta reader.
I found some decent beta readers on Simbi.com. On Simbi, I exchanged services rather than paid them. They read and critiqued my book and, in exchange, I offered to do some art work for them. If you can provide a special skill, maybe accounting, dieting coach, or pet training advice, for example, you can offer your skills in return for beta readers. Keep in mind that some of the people you solicit will not follow-through. But at least all you’ve lost is time.
- Content Editing Service – Unless you’ve already had training as a writer, a content editor is a must. They not only provide an objective review, they also provide a more detailed review. They can tell you exactly what you’re doing right as well as exactly what you’re doing wrong. They will understand more about whether your book will capture a reader’s interest and keep their interest. They will be able to find plot holes better. The will tell you how to build your characters better, your scenes, and so many other things.
I can’t stress the importance of this enough. When I wrote the first draft of my sci-fi, I knew and beta readers knew it wasn’t as good as it could be. But we weren’t knowledgeable enough to know what could be done to fix it. My content editor saved me. I think my book is ten times better now than it was originally, thanks to her feedback. Her services cost me about $500. And just so I can have a second opinion on the rewrite, I’ve hired another content editor for about the same cost.
One thing about a content editor, they will be bluntly honest about your book. It will be very difficult to hear. You will want to get defensive about their opinions. But don’t. Listen. Listen to everything they say. Write it down. Then take a step back and think about it for a week or two. If you can learn not to take their advice personally, you will become a much better writer.
- Line Editing Service – A line editor will look for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. Nothing is more irritating than reading a self-published book and finding dozens and dozens of errors. Hiring a line editor is very important for self-publishers. I’ve recently paid about $500, but the person was in my writer’s group and was doing a favor. I believe the service can cost much more.
- Art – You will need a book cover for your book. And unless you are an artist, you will need to pay someone else to do it for you. Although I am an artist, my specialty is not in sci-fi art so I’ve paid an artist to do my book cover. It cost me about $100 this time but I’ve seen sci-fi artists charge as much as $500 or more. I’ve also found art on photo sites. These look deceptively cheap so be sure to read their guidelines. Most photo sites require you to pay $100 or more if you plan on using the photo or art as a book cover.
- Publishing – Although it is possible to get your book published for free on some sites, such as Create Space or through Amazon’s e-book publishing service, other places may charge you. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. So while Amazon and Create Space is free, your only exposure for selling your book is on Amazon’s website. Plus, some writers believe the Create Space publishing format is not all that great. Other publishing sites can charge $50 or more to set up your book so that it can be available for print on demand. And they may also charge you for an ISBN, which is something all books will need before you can sell them. An ISBN can cost about $100 or so, I believe.
- Marketing – Since you are self-publishing, you really need to do a lot of work in order to market your book. There are so many ways to market and so marketing costs may vary. Here are just a few marketing ideas:
-When selling on Amazon, Smashwords, or other online book-selling websites, make sure you use good keywords and that your book description, or synopsis, is very appealing for would-be readers.
-You can pay for online ads on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites.
-You can run your own blog and website, which may cost you in hosting services. If you have your own blog or website, you may need to spend a lot of time optimizing these sites so that they can be found ahead of other writers’ blogs and websites. Be careful about companies who say they can do this for you. They will charge you, but their practices do not always live up to their promises.
-You can promote your book at book stores, which means you need to pay for a supply of books to keep on hand. Independently owned book stores may agree for you to do a book signing at their store.
-Depending on your genre, you can pay for a booth at comicons, expo-shows, or local events. I have a friend who is rather successful at selling his books at comicons. But the booths are very expensive. Over time, he’s learned to supplement his book sale income with sales on t-shirts, art, mugs, and other things which have pictures of his book cover art on them.
-You can try to find people to review your book and post their opinions on their own blog or website. This can backfire, though, if they give you a bad review. Some people will ask for small compensation for their time. Be careful with this because a paid review can come across as biased.
These are the expenses I’ve encountered in self-publishing so far. There could be others. I’ve heard of some people paying the self-publishing sites for additional services. This could be helpful for you, especially if you don’t know how to do something yourself. And despite your expenses, there is no guarantee that you’ll make the money back. Selling books is hard work. But at least you will have the good feeling of finally getting your novel published.
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?