BACK IN PRINT
Lecture #3: Creating a Cover
You’ll need some things ahead of time when it comes to creating your cover:
1) Back cover blurb
2) Publicity photo if you want to use one on the back cover (needs to be a .jpg file)
3) Artwork in a .jpg file
4) A Desktop Publishing software package.
Let’s deal with #4 first. If you don’t already have one, you can get one free. They all work very much the same and it simply takes playing around with them to get comfortable using one if you haven’t before.
The free one is found at You can get a freeware program called Page Plus to use. Cost for the Starter Edition is $0. If you find there are lots of other things you’d like to use it for, then pay for an upgrade, which is still fairly moderately priced. We’re going to use just the Starter Edition here. You can find it at www.serif.com/desktop-publishing-software/. If you have a desktop publishing program you don’t have to get this one though. Just making sure everyone has what is needed to build a cover, that’s all.
Time to get that illustration though. You can’t use the cover that appeared on your book originally because the rights to it don’t belong to you. They belong to the artist who did it. This means you need a new clip to use. Think about the various scenes in your book and then simplify them down to a category a computer search will recognize.
You need to have ROYALTY FREE artwork, so a web search for posted pictures won’t necessarily work. There is a fairly inexpensive way to go though. There are various firms where artists post their drawings or photographs for sale.
Personally, I use Dreamstime. It is a graphics site that has royalty free photos and drawings. They aren’t free, but they are relatively inexpensive. And the selection just keeps growing. Once you’ve joined and paid the minimum of $9.99 for credits, you’ll be able to click on and download the picture of your choice. I rarely download anything that costs more than 3 credits, and as I have been building covers for backlist books, I’ve used their service a lot. It’s free to join but if you intend to download photos, you’ll need those credits. Of course you can look through what they’ve got before ever purchasing the credits.
Find Dreamstime at www.dreamstime.com.
It isn’t the only royalty free graphics site out there, it’s simply the one I use, and I chose it because of the set up and the conveniently low cost for using a photo. (By the way, if you are a photographer or artist and would like to sell usage of your art through them, that’s also a service they offer.)
Find your art work and save it to your computer (actually I save it in two places, to make sure I have it). At least one copy is in MY PICTURES.
One you’ve got your art work, we’re REALLY ready to move on.
Now I’ve got two different sets of covers in the Visual Workshop Examples section on my website (www.RomanceAndMystery.com) that I built for show and tell. One was created with my old Print Shop 21 software – that’s the set for FORTUNE AND FOLLY (though it’s not the cover I finally went with). THE CASE OF THE BEFUDDLED QUILLSTER covers (there’s no such book, I was playing) were done with the Page Plus Starter Edition. (Find the samples by clicking on Visual Workshop Examples and then Self Publishing.) What I did is show something being built, changed, modified, moved around so you could see that it doesn’t come together POOF…it needs as much “editing” as your manuscript does.
If you look at the avatar that shows up with this lecture today (for MR FAR FROM PERFECT) you’ll see that I used a fairly simple set up…white background, clip of a guy’s arm with flowers in his hand. I played with the lettering of the title to grab attention though, trying to match some of the coloring to a shade in the flowers.
Tomorrow I’ll change my avatar to give you another illustration of a completed cover with NIKROVA’S PASSION, then this weekend change it to LUCKY, which really looks like the simplest of the set ups but took forever to find the illustration and then decide on the font.
But let’s get started on YOUR COVER.
Choose to do this in Letter size paper. You might have to stumble around a bit to find out how to do things but playing with what you can do is part of the fun. (Okay, I confess. As a former graphics person putting together ads for the newspaper, I love all the things the new programs allow one to do that I never could do before – I was stuck with cut and paste for my ads back then.)
If you plan to have a white background you can move on. If you already know you want a color background, find the box from the offerings on the left hand side of the screen then on your “canvas” drag the mouse (while holding the left hand button down) from one corner to the next. You can head to the upper right hand corner of the screen to click on a color to fill it. Resize it to a little over 6x9 so you have color out to the edges (what’s called color bleed, I believe).
Next let’s drop in a picture. There’s a spot that will identify itself as the place to click to insert a picture. Hopefully you got one you really like – just be sure it was royalty free. Find it on your hard drive and do the necessary clicks to send it into the graphics program. Not seeing it? There should be a tiny little icon like box at the end of your cursor. Just left click your mouse and POOF the picture will appear. You can resize or move it around as you’d like.
Now we’re ready for the wording. You want to find the text box feature from those icons on the left hand side.
I start with the title. As you will see with the samples on my website I don’t really begin playing around much with the sizing at first. I concentrate on finding the right font – there are a lot of them! You want it to reflect well on the type of story, so having something that looks frivolous wouldn’t work well on a deadly serious tale about a serial killer. Nor would it be a good choice on a book about making Green choices in updating your home. Try a number of different ones until you find the one you really like.
Now decide on color for it.
Decide where you want to place your name on the cover – top, bottom, middle, offset? Again, you’ve got font and color to decide.
These are things we didn’t have any control over where are original covers were involved. The publisher chose them. Now you can do what you wanted all along. And by using a desktop publishing program you can come up with a much more creative cover than you could in one of the POD publisher cover wizards! You can also have a cover that’s ready to be dropped into Kindle or PubIt! for Nook, which wouldn’t be the case if you used a POD wizard for it. See, trying to make it all come together nicely in the end for you.
Once you have the font and color decided (and you can have more than two different fonts -- just not two frivolous or fancy ones -- and colors) its time to experiment with size and placement. On the FORTUNE AND FOLLY cover I went for two different fonts, comingling them in the title then repeated one with my name. On the BEFUDDLED QUILLSTER the same font was used for everything that appeared in gold, although the size of things and the placement changed, and a different one was used for the line that appears in white.
For MR FAR FROM PERFECT one word in the title was tilted (there’s a little “handle” or “crank” to the right of your text line that allows you to turn it to another angle). With NIKROVA’S PASSION the first letter of “Nikrova” was enlarged and in script where the other letters in the word were lower case in a different font.
Each time you want something to be a different size, different font, different color, you need to have a separate entry for it, by the way. It can’t all be done on a single line.
Going from stage two to the final version takes awhile even once you’ve done this a couple times. After all, unless you are doing something that will be a series, each cover will look different.
However, if you are doing a series, you’ll want to repeat some elements that tie them together but still clearly show that each is a separate book. Look at some of the books at the bookstore if you’re stumped. Some of the elements that can be repeated are a particular type style (think about the font created for the Harry Potter books so that the lightning bolt shape of his scar was apparent in the print. A single artist drew all the covers as well so the art work was similar). Look at the various mystery series available. There will be a particular “theme” look to them and if you will be releasing a series, whether in fiction or nonfiction, the theme will be an important decision on your part. And unless you can afford to hire an artist to draw things, you already know you’ll need to depend on the royalty free artwork available online. You can tinker with it though taking only part of a picture or having it in an oval or a square rather than the full cover. Plenty of options to play with.
Don’t rush this. The cover is your promotional tool, your first line of advertising. We might SAY “don’t judge a book by its cover” but if the cover doesn’t catch the shopper’s eye, it’s unlikely to be purchased. As independent (self) publishers we will be depending on the look of this on a website far more than in a bookstore (as only your local bookstore is likely to carry it, and then only three copies probably).
Here are the guidelines you need to follow in building this cover:
1) Attractive eye-catching illustration (whether drawing or photograph) that is appropriate to the style of book
2) Eye-catching, and pleasing, type font chosen and in a size that will show up well when the cover is displayed on a webpage in approximately 1”x2” size. This means something that looks great on a book cover, because it is larger, might be unreadable in the reduced image.
3) Limit the text on the front cover to the title and your name as much as possible, or add a very brief blurb if you wish, but keep in mind it won’t be readable on when the cover is posted on the web. (I learned this the hard way.) You don’t want your book cover looking as loaded as a magazine cover.
4) Use the back cover of the POD to run a longer blurb or to quote reviewers about this tome and any others you might have. If you don’t have other books available, or any reviews, stick with information about what the storyline is or what the content will do for the reader if it’s a non-fiction title. Also, try not to do anything that will date the book. If you say, “Coming Soon” and mention another book title on the back, you’ll either a) have to redo this cover when that one is released or b) have it appearing to have been sitting on the shelves untouched for a long time…even if it has, you don’t want it to look that way.
5) Have a coordinated look. If you’re not sure you can handle this, see if there are high school or community college or university students in your area who would love the chance to build a cover for you…you’ll have to pay them, you know. You could also sign up for a class or workshop at your local vocational school or community college. I haven’t added in university here as the price for a credit course is higher than at the community college, where it will be pricy enough. The benefit of this last is that a) you have an instructor offering suggestions and help and b) once you master it, you’ll be able to do hordes of covers yourself in the future. The downside is that they use more expensive desktop publishing software, the sort used at the advertising agencies most likely.
Once you have the cover looking the way you want it, you’ll need to print it out. Use either paper designed for photographs or card stock.
With a copy in hand, head to your scanner. (I’m figuring everyone has a 3-in-one or 4-in-one printer, you see. If you don’t, time to get one or find someone who has one that you can use.)
For POD we need a cover that is 6”x9”. My scanner is set for 600 dpi to get the best copy possible. That’s the highest range they’ll take, too. I box in what I need of my newly printed front cover to 6.00” by 8.99” to give just a bit of leeway. Every time I did it at exactly 6x9 it wouldn’t load but I never have a problem with 6.00 x 8.99.
Now why are you scanning this? Well, it’s the only way I get a .jpg file of the cover and that’s what you need. I tried doing a PDF of it but what was saved was an 8 ½” by 11” sheet with a 6 x 9 illustration of the cover in the middle of it. That, of course, would not load.
One you have the .jpg version saved in My Pictures on your computer, head back to Lulu or whatever POD publisher you are using that has a do-it-yourself system. Open your account. Choose My Projects (in Lulu). Click on this project – you’ll be revising what is in the file already. If you haven’t opened a project file yet, just follow the instructions and do so now. At Lulu the manuscript is loaded first then you move on to the cover. But I believe you also can fill in data to appear with the listing before you reach this stage, too, or go back and do it later.
The system will put you back at the beginning but if you have not made any changes to your text file there is no need to reload it, just click Save and Continue. You need to work your way back to the cover wizard section. You won’t be using it to build a cover using their templates. No, you’re using it to load your newly created cover.
Upon arrival click on the front cover section, then head to the right hand side and do the picture thing, picking up your newly created cover .jpg from your Picture file. When it shows up, click and drag it over to the cover work-in-progress. Left hand corner of the cover in the upper left hand corner of the cover. You want to cover any previous cover placeholder entirely.
Find that it’s looking funny? Go back and click on the various text boxes on the cover and erase the wording. You’ve already got everything you need on your .jpg file cover, right? If you built a back cover as well, do the same procedure to replace the old one. You can also simply load the copy into their system rather than build a separate back cover.
Check the way the title and your name appears on the spine. Make sure the color and print is a good match to what you built elsewhere. Once everything is in place, do the Save and Continue, the Print File Ready Copy and move on.
If you are using Lulu’s system as I do, the instructions online will take you through the rest of the process. You’ll need to purchase one copy…your proof copy. When it arrives, read it over carefully. Make any changes to your master copy and reload it if necessary. Be sure to proof read any copy on the cover. I’ve missed things there on mine, unfortunately, because I was concentrating on the interior. Once you’re proofed it all and are happy with it, then you can release it to the public. If you need to make changes you’ll have to purchase another “galley”, to okay, but that will simply give you a good copy which you were going to buy anyway. And you are buying it for less than the public is. And you got to pick the price you wanted to sell it at, too.
We say goodbye to the POD section of our adventure now. Tomorrow we tinker with our formatting to make it ready for KINDLE!