Writers in the Storm welcomes Jacqueline Diamond, author of over 95 novels, including romantic comedy, romantic suspense, fantasy, mystery and Regency historical romance. A two-time finalist for the Rita Award, Jackie received a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times and is a former reporter and TV columnist for the Associated Press. She writes the Safe Harbor Medical miniseries for Harlequin American Romance and is revising and reissuing some of her old favorites as e-books.
By Jacqueline Diamond
As a reader, you may scan dozens of covers each time you select a book. Some appeal to you instantly; some put you off. Others are confusing. You wonder, Why isn’t this obvious to the cover designer?
Then one day you self-publish a book and have to design, choose or commission a cover of your own. Even a previously published book needs a new design since rights to the original cover usually remain with the original publisher.
As your own artistic director, you’ll discover this seemingly simple task is more challenging than expected.
Five Tips To Get You Started:
- The genre should be immediately apparent to the reader
- The image and words should be easy to discern in a very small reproduction.
- The colors should show up well against a white background.
- Keep it uncluttered. Don’t try to include every element in the book.
- Strive for an emotional connection with the reader.
One reader told me she bought my romantic comedy The Cowboy and the Heiress partly because the cowboy was so cute. I designed this cover myself using Photoshop Elements and a model whose image I bought for $10 from a stock photo site. I also used visual elements (a wooden frame and magical wedding rings) from free sites such as Stock Xchng and RGBS Free Stock Photos, making sure to thank the artists.
Some authors are trained artists or have a family member who is. Others may choose to pay several hundred dollars for a professional cover.
Here are the basic cover design options:
- Find and hire a professional designer. The results are likely (but not guaranteed) to please you and readers.
- Buy a cover from a site that will adapt pre-designed covers to your name and title. There are numerous choices, and the look is professional. However, you risk having a cover very similar to other books.
- Use an aspiring cover designer or other talented semiprofessional. You will pay less, or possibly nothing, and in return provide a credit and exposure. Results vary and you are not necessarily guaranteed exclusivity of design.
- If you have an artistic eye and are willing to spend the time, learn to use a program such as Photoshop or the simplified version, Photoshop Elements. You can purchase photos of models from a stock site such as iStockphoto.com and Dreamstime.com. There are various pricing arrangements. I also buy many of images at ShutterStock. Canva has free as well as photos to purchase.
- Cobble something together with a less sophisticated program and hope for the best. This is risky in today’s competitive e-book market, especially for novels, but it suits some authors.
A word on Photoshop: I don’t recommend trying the professional edition unless you’re a serious graphic designer. Photoshop Elements is more beginner-friendly, but if you have no digital design experience at all (I didn’t), it too can be daunting. If, like me, you would enjoy learning to design covers, it can be fun, but it’s definitely not easy. For starters, I recommend buying a copy of Photoshop Elements: The Missing Manual (here’s the link for the latest version, Photoshop Elements 11). This book provides an overview and a lot of helpful information. I also recommend subscribing to Photoshop Elements User.
Caution: if you use a picture of a “real” person, make sure you have a signed model release or buy it from a stock photo site that keeps these on record. I recommend against using any image that was simply posted on a sharing site, as you risk infringing on copyright.
There is no perfect answer for every writer or every book. I’ve used several approaches. My Regency romance covers, Lady in Disguise and A Lady's Point of View, etc. were professionally designed by Kelly at Custom Graphics at Etsy.
For my romantic comedy Yours, Mine and Ours, about a nanny who discovers she’s supervising her own triplets via egg donation, I bought a delightful stock photo of three children (I looked at hundreds of pictures before finding it). The background is a courtyard I photographed while on vacation, and touched up with Photoshop Elements.
Hope this helps start you on your journey to e-book cover success
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