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!

Muzak for the Metro

In my ever continuing effort to experiment with this self-publishing thing, I spent much of the day yesterday playing with two programs: Paint.net, learning to make covers; and Sigil, an open source ePub editor, learning to format ebooks from scratch with HTML. It was enlightening–the editing, formatting, and graphic design work in publishing is two or three times the work of actually writing–but interesting. I’ll be sharing my experiences with you in the coming weeks.

But I wasn’t just fiddling around. I took my previous “test project,” Muzak for the Metro, and spruced it up a bit. I included a poem that wasn’t in there before–Adam’s Tree–and a snippet of a short story called Room With a Corpse–which will be included in full in my upcoming collection The Astrologers and Other Stories.

And now I’m happy to announce that it’s ready for sale on Amazon! You can purchase it here. If you do, please consider leaving a review!

The book has also been uploaded to the Kobo store for those of you up here in Canada, but it’s not live yet–stay tuned!

Editor’s Appreciation and an Interview

from Generationbass.com

So as I’ve been saying on this blog, my first publication–The Astrologers and Other Stories–will be published soon, and has been sent to an editor in preparation. That editor is Yesenia Vargas, who can be found here. Yesenia just started offering editing services, and I jumped at the chance to be a client for two big reasons: she’s a fellow indie writer with aspirations toward self-publishing, and her rates are great.

In fact, she’s got a special rate for a limited time–50% off! That’s an amazing $2 a page for copyediting–you will not find a better deal. Go here for details, and don’t dawdle–the discount is only for the next four clients!

Yesenia mentioned to me that September is Editor’s Appreciation Month–which is timely, given her venture and my first experience with professional editing.  I also thought that this confluence made for a great opportunity for an interview. Below is the first half of our exchange–enjoy! My questions in bold, her answers in regular typeface.

You’ve been blogging and writing for a while–what made you want to also offer editing services?

Not to brag or anything, but I’ve always been pretty good at grammar, punctuation, and those kinds of things. It’s something I enjoy and do even when I’m not thinking about it. In school, I was the one my peers went to when they weren’t sure about how to spell a word or use a comma. My friends would also regularly give me their English papers to edit or proofread before submitting them.

I never thought I could be a professional editor, though, until I read a writing friend’s book and pointed out a few typos and grammar mistakes I had found. She said I should be a copyeditor since I seemed to have a knack for it. Her comment really stuck with me, and I started researching what it took to be a great copyeditor and how to start my own business.

What are some of your experiences with editors?

To be honest, I’ve never worked with one as a writer since I’m not published yet. However, I do read some editors’ blogs and websites because there’s a lot I can learn from their experiences. In addition, I’ve chatted with a couple of editors via social media who seem like nice, hard-working people. I mentioned to one that I was going into copyediting, and she was actually really supportive.

How do you think editing differs between self e-publishing and so-called “traditional” publishing?

Well for one thing, the publishing house is the one that hires (and pays for) the editors, although the writer will most likely also communicate with them. In e-publishing (or self-publishing) the writer is completely in charge of finding and hiring an editor. In e-publishing, I would also say there’s a higher risk of getting scammed or having an editor who doesn’t really know what he or she is doing because the publishing house has access to people who regularly work for them and do a great job.

Either way, a writer shouldn’t think that just because a book is traditionally published that the editing will be 100% perfect or mistake-free. Editors are human. You’ll always have at least a couple of typos no matter who edits the manuscript. Nonetheless, it’s smart to make sure any editor has references and that you check them.

On Wednesday I’ll post the second half of our interview, so stay tuned! In the meantime, if you’ve had some experience with editors you’d like to share, post in the comments! We both want to hear from you.