Creating Cover Text

Acestor TextSo you’ve written your book, you’ve formatted everything, and have a snazzy cover image. All you have to do now is slap the title on your image and you’re good to go, right?

Well, yes…if you want a quickie cover. But if you take some time, you can make it a lot more appealing. I got some ideas from J.M. Grimm, who has a Cover Design Primer on her blog; check it out, it’s invaluable information.

The image above is what I’m using for the cover of The Ancestor and Other Stories. It took me around six hours in total to mock it up–but most of that time was playing around, trying to get it just right. Now that I know the process, it won’t take as long–and you can benefit from my trial and error! Here’s what I did (all of this was done in Paint.net, a free program):

I created a small canvas, 500X275 pixels. The size doesn’t really matter, but keeping it small meant I had to fit all my text in that area–an area I knew would fit on the canvas for the cover image, which is 600X800.

Next, I added several layers and labelled them. I made the background layer black so my text (which is going to be a light color) showed up well; later we’ll be deleting that layer. I have three layers for text.

Cover Title 1

Making layers for the text

Select your font. Be careful where you get your fonts–many of them are licensed, and will cost you. I went to Font Squirrel, which has tons of fonts for free. Get two fonts, as it will create some tension and contrast in your cover. I decided to use one font (Carousel) for the capital letters, and another (Goblin) for the rest of the text. See J.M. Grimm’s advice on her blog; she talks a lot about the different kinds of typefaces, and some basic design advice as to which works with which. Very important information.

The capital letters went on one layer, and the rest of the text on a separate one. This enables me to move the capitals separately from the rest, so I can position them easily. Otherwise you risk clipping one or the other as you draw select boxes and move stuff around. Make your life easier, and use separate layers.

Cover title 2

I just put the title and subtitle in the middle there, but you can draw a select box and move it wherever you want.

Build your arrangement–again, J.M. Grimm has some good advice. You want it to look dynamic; it’s all well and good to have your title all on one line, but switching it up can make it look more interesting. It depends on the “vibe” you want to give with your cover, and it’ll be different for every book. Play around until you find something you like.

Cover title 3

I changed the font of The to all Goblin. I think it looks better, and draws more attention to the A.

When you’re satisfied, save it under a separate file name–say, titleworking–which will let you go back to the original if you decide you don’t like it.

Finally, go to your title block and merge all your layers except the background (if you keep the background, you’ll end up with a black rectangle on your cover). Use Ctrl+A and Ctrl+C to copy. Then open up your cover image and create a second layer called “Text;” again, this allows you to move it independently of the background image. Move it to where you want it to be to make sure it fits, and that you like the composition.

Cover title 4

As you can see, my subtitle doesn’t fit–I had to go back and change that.

That’s step one. This post is getting longer than anticipated, so I’m going to split it–watch for step two tomorrow, where we’ll talk about making some nice effects for your title.

In the meantime, I’m pleased to announce that The Ancestor and Other Stories is formatted and ready for release! If you’re on our Community List, you’ll receive a free copy soon. If you haven’t signed up, do so here before 12:00 Mountain Time and I’ll send you a copy too. You’ll save a couple bucks.

If you have any tips or tricks with graphic design, let us know in the comments. See you tomorrow!

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Creating eBook Covers–For Newbs

In yesterday’s brief post, I mentioned that I spent some time this past weekend learning how to format eBooks and make covers. Now, I’m by no means an expert at either, but I learned a great deal–and since this blog is about learning how to publish, why not share what I learned? Today, I’ll touch on creating covers–but fair warning, this is a large topic, so it won’t be a comprehensive how-to. Look in the future for more tips and tricks on making eBook covers.

For now, we’ll start easy. Why should you even bother? The short answer is what I’m going to call “Browse Potential.”

A lot of books get sold because readers are familiar with the author or because they’re aware of the story; some get sold by word of mouth or people reading reviews. But a lot of books are sold because someone was wandering the aisles in the bookstore and found something cool. This is my favorite way to shop for books: browsing. You never know what you’re going to find, so it’s a bit like a treasure hunt. And when I’m browsing, it’s often the books with the flashiest covers that catch my eye.

It works the same when you’re buying eBooks, but I’d argue that covers are even more important. It’s easy to just breeze by all the little thumbnails on your screen without giving any of them a second thought. Or worse, picking out a particularly bad cover and deciding (without having read it) that it’s an amateurish or poorly written book. In other words, not worth buying.
The sad truth is that people will judge your books by it’s cover–so make it a good one!

Now, I’m no artist, so I can’t pretend to know anything about effective composition and drawing the eye to the corner or color theory. But I do know what I, as a reader, like to see in a book cover. I think this is the best place for someone new to start: design a cover for a book you’d want to buy. You may not share everyone’s tastes, but chances are your readers–having chosen to purchase a book in the genre you’re writing in–will share at least some aesthetics.

So you’ve got a concept you think will draw people’s attention. What then?

There are lots of people online who will design a cover for you, for various fees (I’ve seen them go up to $200 for one cover). I haven’t started generating revenue yet, so I don’t want to pay that right off the bat…but I still need a good cover. Fortunately, my sister-in-law is an artist, and has agreed to help me out. She’s providing the artwork in a digital file, and I’m using graphic design software to make it into a cover.

I went to a site called eBook Rights Management, which offers DRM protection for eBooks, as well as templates you can use to design covers. Their covers are free, but if you’re going to use them, it’s only fair to credit them in your book. I mocked up a simple cover, then downloaded the image and loaded it into a program called Paint.net to manipulate the image into what I wanted.

(I’m not going to get into how to use Paint.net here, as it’s outside the scope of this post and you can find much better tutorials than I could write online. Suffice it to say that it’s got most of the functionality of Photoshop,  but it’s free!)

This was the arduous part. I’m picky when it comes to this kind of thing, so it took a few hours to get one solid image–the one above–which I’m not completely sold on yet. But it’s a start. While I was making the image, I saved a template with the correct canvas size for an eBook; this will enable me to quickly create new covers without doing all the set up first.

The next step was finding a font. The number of fonts you have will depend on your own software, but it’s easy to find new ones online. A word of warning, though: many font packages will cost you, and some of the ones that say they’re free actually aren’t (they involve royalties, or when you click through to download it asks you to pay). Do your research before settling on a font, and make sure you’re attributing it correctly in the book’s front matter. Nothing in this world is completely free, but that doesn’t mean you should rip off someone else’s work!

Now all you have to do is put it all together. I’d recommend creating a new layer in your image for anything you add–it will make further edits much simpler. A layer is just what it sounds like: a layer you can edit without affecting the image beneath. I had one for my border, another for the image, a third for my title, and a fourth for my name. It seems like lots of work, but it’s well worth it for the hassle you’ll save yourself.

And there you have it: a quick and dirty cover. Of course, this is a very basic way to go about things; I have some experience with image manipulation, but I wouldn’t call it graphic design. If you want a seriously well done cover, you should either learn the programs you’ll be using, or pay someone else to do it. You don’t have to be incredibly ornate, but the end result should look better than something you threw together in MS Paint. And the more professional it looks, the more “Browse Potential” you’ll earn.

Got any tips for cover design, or a link to a resource? Post it in the comments!