Let’s Get you Covered!
So, #2 of this series. For #1, we discussed professional approaches to cover design, and what you need to keep in mind when hiring an artist. Covers are an important point not only in the promotion of your book, but also in establishing your brand. For series, covers are expected to have the same style with each new book, and if you are constructing a blog or website, the cover colors and fonts are frequently used as part of the theme, in order to create a more cohesive look.
Nothing beats a professional’s touch, and I still recommend it as the primary approach any serious author should take. However, I also know that budget is a critical thing, and for many of us, writing is the secret dream we hide under the mattress and take out when nobody can see us. So for those tight-pocket dreamers, I’m going to give you some simple tips in how to improve your cover design.
Types of Cover:
There are many different types of book cover, and you should know all of them in order to better determine what kind of cover you are going to need. Throughout our post, we are going to take a look at them, from easiest to create to most complicated.
For today we have number one in our list: TEXT-ONLY.
Type 1: TEXT-ONLY Covers.
TEXT-ONLY Covers are probably the simplest, and easiest to design. To create a TEXT-ONLY cover you only need a good package of fonts (which you can purchase or create your own) and a background image or color that it’s simple and showcases the ambiance of your book. While some people may be fooled by the plainness of the design, these types of covers are great for thumbnail display (like that of self-pub sites such as Amazon and Smashwords) and can deliver a very sophisticated image if done right.
Pros: Easy to achieve a professional look, less likely to incur in copyright claims, easy to design.
Cons: Not very visually appealing, not appropriate for all types of book, especially genre writing.
To create a TEXT-ONLY Cover:
- Make sure to use fonts that are easily readable. As much as you may like them, cursive and flowery fonts are not too good for your cover, because when readers browse online, ebooks are thumbnail-size most of the times. You have to make sure they can read your title clearly
- Use contrasting colors. White on white is not good, neither is pink on white or brown on black. Visibility is your first priority, so if you have a dark background, use bright colors for your fonts, and if you have a light background, make sure your texts are darker.
- Prioritize your title. Author’s name is not as important as your title is, unless you are an uber-famous, best-selling author (in which case, please do hire a designer, come on!). An interesting title is almost as crucial as a good cover. Readers need to be able to see it, so make sure it takes the greatest amount of space in your layout.
- Don’t crowd your cover. Title, author’s name, maybe a small catchphrase. That’s it. Don’t include your Goodread reviews, Amazon comments or Facebook likes. None of it is important and it signals the mark of an amateur. Professional covers are simple and sophisticated. In the case of a TEXT-ONLY Cover, less is indeed more.
- Avoid patterns and heavy textures in your background. Textures can add realism and give a professional look. However, you have to be careful not to overexert yourself. Use textures that are soft and uniform (paper, grass, sand, canvas…) and don’t have a lot of shades and colors. Avoid plaid textures and textures with too much details, because they can take attention away from your text. Patterns can be good eye-catchers but use them wisely. A single thread of a pattern in the middle of your white background is good, a single thread of white in the middle of your patterned background is BAD!
- Use a professional software. Believe it or not, Microsoft Paint will not get you anywhere in cover design. Avoid amateur softwares such as this. Try to get Adobe Photoshop (personal favorite) or similar and get familiar with it. There are thousands of free online tutorials that teach you how to use those softwares, so check them out. Don’t expect the whole process to be a piece of cake, it never is, that’s why designers charge as they do. It may be tedious and boring at first, but it’s better than releasing your book with a cover that it’s just so bad readers don’t even want to look at it.
- As a side note, and if you definitely can’t deal with Photoshop or don’t have the money to buy even the simplest platform, instead of Paint I recommend Microsoft PowerPoint or Microsoft Publisher as alternatives. Even though these are not design softwares (not for a second!), for TEXT-ONLY Covers they are actually more useful than Paint. They help with layout and have pre-determined options that can spawn an at least decent-looking design by the end of it all. Below is an example of a couple of covers I created with PowerPoint to illustrate this (click to enlarge):
You can check if your cover works by setting the view to “Large Icons” (don’t know how it’s for MAC, sorry) in your explorer. Step away for a minute, close your eyes and open them. If you can read the text at first glance, then you are good to go. If you can’t, or it takes you more than a second (I’m serious, just a second) then you should probably start over.
Overall, simply be creative and play around with your design. Discover what goes well with your topic and what doesn’t, but still falls within the guidelines above. Take your time and don’t get frustrated.
I’ll leave you for today with a couple of useful resources to start creating your very own TEXT-ONLY cover. See you guys in #3!