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The Horribly Incomplete DIY Book Publishing Guide - Part 37c

As we learned in Part 16, never trust a Faerie or book editor!

Today, I thought I would pick the rusty lock of the book cover and open the creaky door to peek inside. Oh, the horrors, we might find!

I won't go over subjects that I'm sure you already know, inside and out, and hopefully you can glean a thing or two from today's bloggery!

Yes, spell check, I know bloggery is not a real word but I quite like it and I call dibs for all eternity.

This is an example of a great book cover. Can you tell why?

The questions:

What are the elements of a great book cover?

My story/stories are fantastic and stand just fine on their own, do I really need to be concerned about the cover?

The excuses:

I'm not a graphic designer.

I don't have photoshop.

I'm a disgruntled book editor and you smell!

Okay, okay let's keep things civil. (find out who let that editor in here!)

Thankfully in this day and age, you don't have to be a graphic designer to create a magical book cover. However, you do have to possess a creative mind and have the ability to scour the internet for a great cover image idea.

Since you're an author or author to be, you can check off the creative box.

Finding the perfect image, illustration and photograph is by far, the hardest part of creating a great cover. Your cover must reveal, to the potential book purchaser, just what they might find inside said book. Therefore, it is paramount that you tell the truth and tell it in such an appealing visual way that your book sparkles like a diamond against a backdrop of dull charcoal.

Why did I say, tell the truth?

If you hoodwink, the potential book purchaser, into buying and reading your book and your cover is completely off the mark - you get a shite review! To be clear, if your book is about the history of stamp adhesive glue and your cover shows a picture of a scantily clad vampire licking blood off her fingers - then you have greatly missed the mark. This would be the lie of which I speak and this will forever dash your hopes of stamp adhesive stardom.

And why must your book cover sparkle like a diamond?

As I have repeatedly mentioned in other blogs, you are in competition with millions of other writers all vying for the same book reading pool. You have to stand out! The old adage that a picture tells a thousand words has never been more true. If you need a visual reference, just remember when you were free to roam around a book store and what did that brain of yours do? Via your eyes, your brain scanned the multitude of covers until it found a sparkling diamond. There were so many books to choose from that you couldn't possibly read all the covers and descriptions about what's inside. You had to make a choice based on your own personal likes and dislikes of visual imagery.

Here's an example of a great book cover. The colours, text and font choice are bang on and the image intrigues me. What the heck is going on here? I must know more.

It would be great if we could just judge a book on it's merits as a creative piece of literature. In the long run we do but at the outset, we judge a book by it's cover. And don't lie to yourself and say you don't! We all do and it's okay to admit it. Get over your high and mighty attitude and start thinking about how your book is going to catch my eye.

Where to find the sparkling diamonds?

I believe that the best place to start is your own cache or photos or that of your generous photographer friend. What better way to stand out than with an original photograph. Of course, it can't be just any fantastic photo. No, it has to relate to your subject matter and lure a potential reader/ purchaser in closer.

If you don't have an original photo of your own, don't fret as there are many options to discover and explore. So, let's go have a look at the internet.

WARNING! You cannot legally reuse or reproduce the intellectual property of someone else without their express permission. Not only is this legally unsavoury but in my opinion it's ethically forbidden.

The right and proper and legal way to use someone's intellectual property is as follows:

1/ Ask their permission and get that permission in writing(yes an email will do). This would usually be used for a photo or image you find that is not for sale by the creator but the creator will let you use on your book cover.

2/ Use advanced image search on the agenda engine Google. Using this tool provides you with many options for image searching and can limit the search to images that can be used freely and without legal ramifications. This is not fool proof however and do your due diligence by contacting the creator or their agent directly and asking permission.

3/ Wiki Commons. Supposedly, all images on this site are in the public domain. However, there are conditions for reuse - like attributing the image to it's creator where everyone can see it. I'm sure you've seen the small font on covers saying 'photograph by Joe Blow' etc - that's what I mean by attribution.

4/ Sites for artists to gain exposure. Pixabay comes to mind. You can use the images on this site for free and for any use including commercial, which you book cover is. All they ask in return is a little love by attributing the creator and pixabay and a social media plug. Now, if you want to go the extra mile, and you should, you can send a donation to the site or directly to the creator. The amount is up to you but just think of the karmic brownie points!

I'm sure there are more sources that I haven't mentioned or haven't heard of and if you know of such a place - please let us all know.

I can't stress enough that merely searching for an image in the public domain, does not guarantee the image is in fact in the public domain. Do your research and make sure you are legally in the clear.

So, now you have your glorious image and it's time to create the book cover.

How you go about this depends on a few things, one of which is which self-publishing platform you want to utilize and your level of skill as a graphic designer.

If you don't have such skills you can still use the templates provided by KDP. One of the main reasons I wanted you to go out and find that stellar image is to use KDP and hopefully you will see why it's so important.

If you did an initial search of the KDP templates, you might think that there were a huge variety to choose from. But this is just window dressing to hide the truth that your options are limited. Once you login and start looking around you will see that the number of templates dwindles down rapidly depending on the size of your book. My book size is 6 x 9 and there are

only a few templates that look decent. Thankfully, because you have sourced your awesome image already, this is not a problem at all. The spine and back cover can be one colour and look quite good so don't be too concerned about that but the front cover is what attracts readers and book buyers. It's easy to upload your photo into the templates and find the one that best works for you. You may have to do some resizing before you upload - especially if you find the cool parts of your image are getting cropped out. After the image upload, create your cover text etc and off you go. Fairly easy and very free!

An alternative to KDP is Ingram Sparks Creating your smashing cover for Ingram Sparks is not easy! There is no easy to fill in template and in fact you must utilize graphic design software like photoshop to create your cover, spine and back cover. Ingram Sparks has their own proprietary pdf creator template that you have to use to upload your book - no exceptions. This requirement is rather unfortunate in that it will likely cost you some money to pay someone to create the pdf using your special image. If you have a friend who can help - sweet! If not try or a similar service site and it shouldn't make a huge dent in your budget.

At this juncture, I would be remiss if I neglected to talk about printers and colour.

Your gorgeous cover design looks terrific on your computer monitor. However, it might not look so great after digital printing at the print shop. Of course, your ebook isn't effected as it stays in the digital domain but if you plan on printing paperbacks, then your cover work isn't quite over yet. The culprit is the cmyk printers at said print shop which have a tendency to take the brightness out of your work and make it not only duller than you want but quite a bit darker. Here are three different proofs of my latest book to illustrate the problem.

The first book is the first proof from Ingram Sparks, the second is the adjusted proof from Ingram Sparks and the third is the first proof from Amazon KDP.

Let me comment on Ingram Sparks first. After my initial horror when I received my first dark and dull proof, I did some cmyk research and then tried to contact Ingram Sparks about the printing problem. That was 6 months ago and I still haven't received a response from Ingram Sparks. So, sadly, you are on your own! Luckily, I do have a graphic designer friend who was able to basically over-expose the cover image to compensate for the dark shadow like presence of cmyk printing. I think my friend nailed it and the paperback cover looks great(middle image). While I'm slagging Ingram Sparks, you should also know that each time you update your cover, you have to pay a fee. That's right - you get to pay to fix their printing errors which they won't admit to because they don't have the decency to respond to your queries. Oh, it's a wonderful world!

I just got the dark proof back from Amazon and I haven't had time to address that problem yet but at least my next cover upload will be free.

One more thing about proofs in general. I know that you might be at that point where your patience has dwindled and you are so excited, you can't wait to get your book published and out there. You might even consider foregoing the proofing process and hope that all goes well at the printers. I strongly advise against this! Remember, you are competing with millions of other writers and you don't want your cover to look just passable because of cmyk printing. Take a deep breath and make sure your cover is outstanding! It may take a lot longer but is well worth your time and effort.

This cover misses the mark for a number of reasons. The font style is odd, the font colour is odd and the black shadow isn't helping matters. The image doesn't tell me much at all. Could be about a pilot? A weekend getaway at the cottage? What hit the fan? Doesn't look like much of an aftermath?

As I mentioned, one of the characteristics of a great cover is the image that tells the reader - don't I look great and this is what you can expect inside - BUY ME NOW!

But what else?

Text, that's what!

The back cover and the spine are easy and not so important. You can never go wrong with white text on a dark background or vice versa. Just make sure there isn't an excessive amount of text on the back cover and that the justification is pleasing to the eye.

The front cover text should tell a potential reader the title, subtitle(if necessary), the author's name and perhaps a text teaser or any cool review quotes or awards you may already have received. But don't make it cluttered. Your font should also reflect what's inside. For example, if you were creating a book cover for Bram Stoker's Dracula, it would make sense for the cover text to be in a older pen and ink style font - because the book is actually a series of letters. See where I'm going? A sci fi novel would require a cool futuristic font.

An example of a great cover for a number of reasons. The image is worth a thousand words. Highways are usually desolate places and if this one is littered with the dead then you know some majorly dark happening has happened. The title text is clean and slim usually denoting the future. The authors text reflects his stature as a writer and something is a bit off - the degradation of the K and the I. And the colour choices allow the text to be easily read.

Speaking of legibility - Don't forget that your cover will not be full size on most websites advertising your book. Can you read everything on the cover even if the image is half size or smaller? If not make changes.

When you come right down to it, a great cover is admittedly subjective. When I searched for the best cover designs for 2020 or 2019, I was shocked by how many of the best cover designs I didn't like. In fact, I couldn't fathom their inclusion on the list. This proves my subjectivity point.

So, take my choices for good design versus bad design as just that - my subjective choices. And if by some very odd coincidence, I chose your book cover and didn't like it - please don't take things personally - it's just my opinion and do what you wish with my advice.

Wow me! Intrigue me! Make me stop at nothing to buy and read your book. But for heaven's sake, don't bore me or leave me scratching my head.

Good luck!

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