Indie Author Tips 1: Covers

Perhaps, like me, you’ve decide to publish your own book, tracking down beta readers for that early manuscript, rewriting and polishing, until finally you’re ready to hit the ‘publish’ button on your enterprise. Only then there’s the cover. You don’t do art, but the cover’s the thing that will attract readers to your book, so it needs to be special.

It can be difficult to hand the project over to a professional designer, when you’ve put so much of yourself into your book so far. And expensive. Possibly you know what you want already – have done the research, checked out the covers of similar books that look good in the genre that fits your book. (Like the traditionally published books above, there’s a huge range cover styles, dependent on things like genre and reader expectation.)

So how hard can it be to do your own cover? Well, the good news is you don’t have to get out the paint brushes, dust off that camera or even purchase expensive software. There are some excellent cover designing options at your fingertips online and mostly they are free. I had a go at some of them:

Canva – This is a very simple-to-use, drag-and-drop site for making all kinds of presentations, from posters and menus, to facebook headers and album covers, as well as kindle and ebook covers. There’s a selection of free templates, all designed and ready to go, you just have to swap in your photo or artwork, change the type then tweak the design. There’s even a selection of pictures and graphics you can download, or upload your own. Included are Canva tutorials, but there are more on youtube that are really helpful. If you want to publish a simple how-to book or other non-fiction work at minimal cost, you could easily create a professional looking cover with Canva. There are some paid-for options as well.

Adobe Spark – Similar to Canva, Adobe Spark offers a bunch of templates over three main themes: posts, pages and videos. There’s a blog to offer inspiration, and you can create everything from labels to invitations to banners and, of course, book covers. I found I could add drop shadows easily to type on one cover I designed and there’s a nice eyedropper tool that lets match your type colour with a part of the picture. I found Spark particularly fun to use and like Canva, you can easily upload photos or use the link to images from free photo libraries. Overall, it was better to download my own pictures however, and crop them to suit the shape of a book cover first – I used iPhoto, but MS Paint would work too.

Shutterstock – Yes, I know this is an online photo library, but they offer some good deals on images, if you only want a few. Make a Shutterstock account, and save selected photos to your own collections folders. Then click the Designs tab and start designing. Again, the ebook cover is just one of a selection of design options, including facebook posts, twitter banners and presentations. You’ve got a range of fonts, the ability to add a filter, change the brightness, and there are some design templates to get you started. I liked the option to see how a particular Shutterstock image might look as a cover – a kind of try-before-you-buy feature.

There may be other book cover design tools out there – there’s a heap you can do with Word even, so have a bit of fun and stretch those designing muscles. Even if you don’t come up with your own cover at this stage, it will give you a better feeling of what kind of cover you want in the long run. Happy designing.

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