Some Advice on Book Covers

Two of the most important--and just as often overlooked--features of your book are the blurb you write describing it and the cover you put on it.

 

They are important because they are probably going to be the very first things about your book anyone ever sees. For this reason, the blurb needs to be letter-perfect: not only does it have to make your book sound attractive and interesting, it is the first example of your writing anyone will see. If it is rambling and ungrammatical, with poor spelling and worse punctuation you will find few people willing to wade into a couple of hundred pages of the same thing.

 

The cover, too, needs to make a good first impression. It may be the first thing that attracts the reader's eye. It will likely be what gets the reader to stop and read the blurb.

 

And, just like a badly written blurb, if it is confusing or amateurish the potential reader may well give your book a pass.

 

You might think of these things as like being careful to be neatly dressed and well-groomed when going out on a job interview: first impressions are important.

 

I won't say there are any hard and fast rules to creating a good cover. There aren't. They are more like, as the pirate said, guidelines.

 

The fact that there are guidelines at all sets book cover design apart from the other visual arts, such as illustration. This is because the book cover has a very specific, tightly focused purpose. And that is, of course, to get a reader to stop and look at the book it is on. As I have mentioned before, book covers are much more akin to posters than any other art form. And as a poster, a book cover has a specific, utilitarian function to perform.

 

In fact, in that regard, a book cover is probably even more closely related to packaging.

 

Book covers are often confused with book illustrations--but they are not the same thing at all. There is no requirement that the cover of a book accurately depict any particular scene or event. In fact, many if not most book covers don't even try. Once again, this is because the purpose of a cover is not to illustrate the book but to sell it. In order to do this it must make an almost instantaneous impression. If there is a key scene or a visually striking set piece in a novel that would both get across something of the character of the book while being eye-catching at the same time, then the cover design can include an illustration. Indeed, whenever I get a cover assignment, the first thing I do is carefully scan the text, looking for just such visual set pieces. However, if I don't find one I look instead for something that would represent the nature of the book: an isolated image or combination of images, a central character or characters, or even a symbol of some sort. (In fact, of all the covers I've done for my own novels, only one is based on an actual incident described in the text. Out of the several hundred covers I've created for traditional publishers probably less than 10% have depicted an actual scene from a novel.) 

 

One of the hardest things a DIY cover designer needs to overcome is subjectivity. When you are creating the cover for your own book, it can be very difficult to remember that while you know everything about what goes on in the story your potential reader is not privy to this information. Something that may seem to you to be overwhelmingly important to get on the cover may only mystify and confuse the uninitiated. You need to divorce yourself from your book and try to approach it objectively...as though you'd never seen it before.

 

A corollary to this is to avoid putting imagery on the cover to make sense of which requires knowledge of the book.  I've often used the example of the author who put a pastoral photo of a stone bridge on the cover of his fantasy adventure novel. It looked like the cover of a travel guide. When asked what in the world the photo had to do with a fantasy adventure he replied, "Why, that's the bridge the troll lives under."

 

I've asked many authors what in the world some utterly mystifying image has to do with their book and have been told, "Oh, you'll realize what that is when you get to Chapter Twelve!" Well, that's putting the cart before the horse.

 

This sort of thinking is one of the reasons I will sometimes be hesitant about working directly with an author on a book cover: the lack of objectivity. When working with an art director at a publisher, we are on the same page, working toward the same purpose. Which is, of course, getting people to come to a skidding halt to look a new book. It's hard for most authors to realize that getting their favorite scene included or making sure that all the buttons on a uniform are correct are not the most important considerations.

 

Speaking of objectivity...

 

Your precious little snowflake may have made the cutest drawing in the world in her kindergarten class but trust me, it probably doesn't belong on the cover of your book.

 

You also need to control the urge to put everything mentioned in the book on the cover. This is what I call the "kitchen sink school" of cover design. The hero of your story may drive a Lamborgini and own a gun and fly a plane and visit Cairo and have a girlfriend and recover some stolen jewels...but it is not necessary to put all of these things on the cover. You will only wind up with a cover that looks like a bulletin board.

 

One of the restrictive guidelines that sets cover art apart from illustration is the need to include the title and author's name. Needless to say, these are pretty important. 

 

One of the biggest mistakes I see most often in homemade covers is treating the cover art and the typography as though they are two separate issues. For instance, I'll see cover art that makes no provision for the placement of type, with the result that the title either covers up the most attractive parts of the art or, even worse, the title and author's name are crowded into the margins to avoid covering up any of the art.

 

The art for a cover can come from any source. If you are an artist yourself, you can create your cover art in any medium: digital or traditional. Some of the best cover illustrators working today work in traditional media such as oils or acrylics. Anything can be eventually scanned. Some artists will create a painting in a traditional medium, scan it and then complete the art digitally. This enables them to create special effects that would have been difficult or impossible to achieve otherwiise.

 

If you are not an artist, the resources for stock imagery on the Internet are almost endless. Two or three caveats must be mentioned here. The first and most important: be absolutely certain that you have the right to use an image you've found on the web. Just because it's on the web and just because there may not be a credit or copyright attached doesn't necessarily mean it's there legitimately. Be certain of your sources. There are plenty of reputable resources for public domain and copyright-free artwork. Many of these have already been listed elsewhere in the forums so I won't go into them here.

 

Another potential problem with using stock art is that a great many other people may be using the very same image on the covers of their books. I have seen this occur too many times. One of the things a book cover needs to do is make your book look distinctive, make it stand out from the thousands of competing titles. If your cover image also appears on a dozen other books, you risk diluting that impact. If you are using a stock image, then do whatever you can to make the image unique.

 

(This problem exists to a lesser degree with the use of templates: a thousand other people are using the very same ones you are.)

 

It's vitally important to consider both art and type together when designing a cover. They need to work together and enhance one another. If you are creating a cover image yourself or are having one done for you, be sure to leave room for the inclusion of the type. Professional cover artists leave at least 1/3 of the art open for the placement of the title and author's name. This doesn't mean that the art is simply blank in that area, just that there is nothing important in that space or anything that would compete with the type. Here is an example of this by Stephen Hickman

 

sfd  ddsasdf

 

Some artists will include the title and author's name in the illustration itself. A artist needs to be an expert at lettering to do this well, but when done right it can be very effective. 

 

In fact, the typography of a book cover is so important that hundreds of effective covers have been created that use nothing but type--or type and some small graphic. Take a look at the original cover of The Godfather, for instance.

g

 

Or this brilliant cover design...

jjj

 

By the way, speaking of type, just because you have design software that came preloaded with 275 fonts you are not compelled to use all of them. Pick one--at most two--for your cover.

 

Also remember that readabilty is of prime importance. The fancier the font, the harder it is going to be for someone to comprehend...and they just may shrug their shoulders and move on to the next book. Keep it simple, bold and readable.

 

And since there are thousands of fonts available, try to choose one that is appropriate for your book. Comic sans rarely works for an urban vampire story. By the same token, try to avoid fonts that are massively overused, such as Papyrus, Mistral or, God forbid, Bleeding Cowboy.

 

When designing a book cover Mies van der Rohe's injunction should always be at the forefront of your mind: Less is more.

 

It's been pointed out--too often--that a book written by a famous author can get by on the author's name alone and that the remainder of the cover is pretty much irrelevant. Well, this is more or less true. But what gets lost in that argument is the fact that by and large most Lulu authors are not famous. In which case, the design and artwork are of paramount importance. What is also lost in that argument is the fact that every famous author had to have had a first book. Sometimes the covers of these--such as Mario Puzo's Godfather, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye or Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man--have become almost as memorable as the novels themselves and show up in almost every list of great book covers. It can certainly be argued that they contributed materially to the initial success of those books. 

sdd

 

Stephen King may today be able to sell a book with nothing on the cover but his name and the title...but when he started out his novels needed the help of strong cover designs.

Comments

  • Thanks Ron.  That is really informative and gives me soemthing to think about as I get closer to completing my next book.  Also the possibility of redesigning my previous two.

  • You could have carried on replying in the other Thread about Covers, but hey ho.

     

    Two of the most important--and just as often overlooked--features of your book are the blurb you write describing it and the cover you put on it.

     

    Yes that can be true if you are unknown, but people still have to know you have a book for sale so they can look at it. I have no idea how many books are on Amazon, but I doubt that people look at every single book, even when a search is only for types of books. For SF alone there are 352,454 books, and I think that's just on the US site.

     

    They are important because they are probably going to be the very first things about your book anyone ever sees.

     

    But see how and where unless they know it's somewhere to see?

     

    For this reason, the blurb needs to be letter-perfect: not only does it have to make your book sound attractive and interesting, it is the first example of your writing anyone will see. If it is rambling and ungrammatical, with poor spelling and worse punctuation you will find few people willing to wade into a couple of hundred pages of the same thing.

     

    Yes that is indeed true, and just as true when sending a letter of introduction to a traditional publishing house, or even to a publication requesting a review.

     

    The cover, too, needs to make a good first impression. It may be the first thing that attracts the reader's eye.

     

    Once found a book does at least need to look attractive. Athough not everyone has the same idea of what is.

     

    It will likely be what gets the reader to stop and read the blurb.

     

    Possibly, but it may be the title that makes them read the blurb, not to mention the name of the writer.

     

    And, just like a badly written blurb, if it is confusing or amateurish the potential reader may well give your book a pass.

     

    Quite so, but that's one of the problems that self-publishing has added to the market, and some self-publishers don't see it as a problem.

     

    You might think of these things as like being careful to be neatly dressed and well-groomed when going out on a job interview: first impressions are important.

     

    Well true, but what about "Don't judge a book by its cover"? Or a person for that matter.

     

    I won't say there are any hard and fast rules to creating a good cover. There aren't. They are more like, as the pirate said, guidelines.

     

    Indeed Smiley Happy

     

    The fact that there are guidelines at all sets book cover design apart from the other visual arts, such as illustration.

     

    But many other forms of design and visual arts also have guidelines.

     

    This is because the book cover has a very specific, tightly focused purpose. And that is, of course, to get a reader to stop and look at the book it is on.

     

    But stop and look where? As I said in the other thread, on book shelves you normally only see the spines, but the shelves are usually labelled with a famous writer's name in a specific labelled section. On my Amazon example above, there's 1000s of them to browse through if they don't know who they are looking for, or are not fussy. How many people take the time to do that?

     

    As I have mentioned before, book covers are much more akin to posters than any other art form. And as a poster, a book cover has a specific, utilitarian function to perform.

     

    In many instances, publishers will also create actual posters to hang on a book store's walls and windows. Even pay for a launch window display. On line banners all over Facebook for example. Publishing companies market books just as Heinz market soup.

     

    In fact, in that regard, a book cover is probably even more closely related to packaging.

     

    True. But then again, products are also advertised in other manners. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mQvKzZenjo with new products stores will often not stock them until the manufacturer has created a demand.

     

    Book covers are often confused with book illustrations--but they are not the same thing at all.

     

    But sometimes a cover is an illustration from off the pages, with text added.

     

    There is no requirement that the cover of a book accurately depict any particular scene or event.

     

    Not precisely no, but they do usually give a 'feel' to what is in the book.

     

    In fact, many if not most book covers don't even try.

     

    I will disagree with that, strongly. Some are a bit abstract but they do indeed represent the stories. http://shortlist.com/entertainment/the-50-coolest-book-covers and here are the covers of one of the top book sellers in this and the last century >>> http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/index.php/books the examples of covers that are exact illustrations of the contents are immense.

     

    Once again, this is because the purpose of a cover is not to illustrate the book but to sell it. In order to do this it must make an almost instantaneous impression. If there is a key scene or a visually striking set piece in a novel that would both get across something of the character of the book while being eye-catching at the same time, then the cover design can include an illustration. Indeed, whenever I get a cover assignment, the first thing I do is carefully scan the text, looking for just such visual set pieces. However, if I don't find one I look instead for something that would represent the nature of the book: an isolated image or combination of images, a central character or characters, or even a symbol of some sort. (In fact, of all the covers I've done for my own novels, only one is based on an actual incident described in the text. Out of the several hundred covers I've created for traditional publishers probably less than 10% have depicted an actual scene from a novel.)

     

    So you do design covers that represent the contents then? I would agree that if you have not written the book or read it and absorbed it, then it's not easy to come up with a cover that has something to do with the contents. But if I was doing a cover for a story that has no key points or 'strong' people in it, I would perhaps not bother. Smiley Happy

     

    One of the hardest things a DIY cover designer needs to overcome is subjectivity. When you are creating the cover for your own book, it can be very difficult to remember that while you know everything about what goes on in the story your potential reader is not privy to this information.

     

    Ah yes, that can also be true though.

     

    Something that may seem to you to be overwhelmingly important to get on the cover may only mystify and confuse the uninitiated. You need to divorce yourself from your book and try to approach it objectively...as though you'd never seen it before.

     

    When faced with that it's best to design to describe the title as an illustration.

     

    Our neighbors had a bomb

     

     

    A corollary to this is to avoid putting imagery on the cover to make sense of which requires knowledge of the book. I've often used the example of the author who put a pastoral photo of a stone bridge on the cover of his fantasy adventure novel. It looked like the cover of a travel guide. When asked what in the world the photo had to do with a fantasy adventure he replied, "Why, that's the bridge the troll lives under."

     

    I recall that, and the cover was never changed. Sigh.

     

    I've asked many authors what in the world some utterly mystifying image has to do with their book and have been told, "Oh, you'll realize what that is when you get to Chapter Twelve!" Well, that's putting the cart before the horse.

     

    We have seen a few of those here.

     

    This sort of thinking is one of the reasons I will sometimes be hesitant about working directly with an author on a book cover: the lack of objectivity. When working with an art director at a publisher, we are on the same page, working toward the same purpose. Which is, of course, getting people to come to a skidding halt to look a new book. It's hard for most authors to realize that getting their favorite scene included or making sure that all the buttons on a uniform are correct are not the most important considerations.

     

    They are to some readers. Especially with real uniforms.

     

    Speaking of objectivity...

     

    Your precious little snowflake may have made the cutest drawing in the world in her kindergarten class but trust me, it probably doesn't belong on the cover of your book.

     

    And at times not even for books for children.

     

    You also need to control the urge to put everything mentioned in the book on the cover. This is what I call the "kitchen sink school" of cover design. The hero of your story may drive a Lamborgini and own a gun and fly a plane and visit Cairo and have a girlfriend and recover some stolen jewels...but it is not necessary to put all of these things on the cover. You will only wind up with a cover that looks like a bulletin board.

     

    That sounds like a James Bond poster, or any poster from the 1950s.

     

    image

     

    One of the restrictive guidelines that sets cover art apart from illustration is the need to include the title and author's name. Needless to say, these are pretty important.

     

    Possibly more important than any picture. Book covers became more colourful and complex as the ability to make them so became cheaper and easier.

    image

     

    One of the biggest mistakes I see most often in homemade covers is treating the cover art and the typography as though they are two separate issues. For instance, I'll see cover art that makes no provision for the placement of type, with the result that the title either covers up the most attractive parts of the art or, even worse, the title and author's name are crowded into the margins to avoid covering up any of the art.

     

    I know what you mean, but some covers do make a point of doing that on purpose.

     

    image

     

     

     

    If you are not an artist, the resources for stock imagery on the Internet are almost endless. Two or three caveats must be mentioned here. The first and most important: be absolutely certain that you have the right to use an image you've found on the web. Just because it's on the web and just because there may not be a credit or copyright attached doesn't necessarily mean it's there legitimately. Be certain of your sources. There are plenty of reputable resources for public domain and copyright-free artwork. Many of these have already been listed elsewhere in the forums so I won't go into them here.

     

    The internet is a great place to know people from all over the planet. If, for example, you need a photo of a volcano and do not live near one, ask someone who does to take one for you and email it. Same for all manner of places. Then you can be sure there's no copyright infringement and that it's also unique, as Ron says you can also always 'play' with an image in some art/photo application.

     

    (This problem exists to a lesser degree with the use of templates: a thousand other people are using the very same ones you are.)

     

    Indeed, but most books are Title, (sub-title), writer. Some people do even need frames to get those in the 'right' place.

     

    Need a Cover Image?

     

    It's not impossible to create a decent and even unique cover in Lulu's Cover Wizard, if one takes the time. I think that's often the problem with some self-publishers, they just want to get their 'great' words out there.

     

    Some artists will include the title and author's name in the illustration itself. A artist needs to be an expert at lettering to do this well, but when done right it can be very effective.

     

    In fact, the typography of a book cover is so important that hundreds of effective covers have been created that use nothing but type--or type and some small graphic. Take a look at the original cover of The Godfather, for instance.

    g

     

    That does indeed say what the book is about. Even about manipulation.

     

    Or this brilliant cover design...

    jjj

     

    But I don't see what's brilliant about that one. That's an example of it without doubt making the words paramount, but nothing else. In reality it has no need of the huge Y.

     

    By the way, speaking of type, just because you have design software that came preloaded with 275 fonts you are not compelled to use all of them. Pick one--at most two--for your cover.

     

    Most fonts are based around a very small few anyway, and the difference can only be seen when two or more are side by side, that is if you know what to look for.

     

    Also remember that readabilty is of prime importance. The fancier the font, the harder it is going to be for someone to comprehend...and they just may shrug their shoulders and move on to the next book. Keep it simple, bold and readable.

     

    And since there are thousands of fonts available, try to choose one that is appropriate for your book. Comic sans rarely works for an urban vampire story. By the same token, try to avoid fonts that are massively overused, such as Papyrus, Mistral or, God forbid, Bleeding Cowboy.

     

    Text and the background is important also. Make sure the text is legible on the colour you pick for a background, and that also during printing the colours do not 'bleed'. I have a bad example out there I have never got around to fixing yet.

     

    http://www.amazon.com/Lilium-Saffron-Dewbell-Parts-And/dp/1471625680/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333836483&sr=1-9

     

    When designing a book cover Mies van der Rohe's injunction should always be at the forefront of your mind: Less is more.

     

    'KISS'

     

    It's been pointed out--too often--that a book written by a famous author can get by on the author's name alone and that the remainder of the cover is pretty much irrelevant.

     

    No I did not say irrelevant. Even a famous name on some awful art can be detracting, but just the famous writer's name will do.

     

    Well, this is more or less true. But what gets lost in that argument is the fact that by and large most Lulu authors are not famous.

     

    That is true. But at the time we were discussing covers in general.

     

    In which case, the design and artwork are of paramount importance. What is also lost in that argument is the fact that every famous author had to have had a first book. Sometimes the covers of these--such as Mario Puzo's Godfather, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye or Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man--have become almost as memorable as the novels themselves and show up in almost every list of great book covers. It can certainly be argued that they contributed materially to the initial success of those books.

     

    My point to do with famous writer's and there first novels, was that in a great many instances they were already well-known writers in the likes of magazine and short story compilations. A known name.

     

     

    Stephen King may today be able to sell a book with nothing on the cover but his name and the title...but when he started out his novels needed the help of strong cover designs.

     

    Nope, as I said in my last reply to you in the other 'cover' thread, was that he also already had a large fan base. Publishers love existing fan bases.


  • kevinlomas wrote:

    My point in the other thread about covers Ron was that there's far more to selling a book than just the cover.

     

    http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/promote-and-market-your-book/

     

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorgan/2013/11/05/how-to-market-and-sell-your-book-in-five-steps/

     

    http://www.thebookdesigner.com/marketing-your-book/


    I agree, but I'm only addressing cover art at the moment.

     

    And while a good cover hardly guarantees that a book will sell, a bad cover is certainly not going to help.

  • Indeed Ron, read your PMs.


  •  

    Once found a book does at least need to look attractive. Athough not everyone has the same idea of what is.

     

    That's your "a good cover is in the eye of the beholder" argument...which sounds very egalitarian but isn't really true.

     

     And, just like a badly written blurb, if it is confusing or amateurish the potential reader may well give your book a pass.

     

    Quite so, but that's one of the problems that self-publishing has added to the market, and some self-publishers don't see it as a problem.

     

    Exactly the reason for my post.

     

    You might think of these things as like being careful to be neatly dressed and well-groomed when going out on a job interview: first impressions are important.

     

    Well true, but what about "Don't judge a book by its cover"? Or a person for that matter.

     

    That sounds very nice, but you know people still do that. And in the case of a book, since people will indeed judge it by its cover it should be one that gives a good impression.

     

     

    The fact that there are guidelines at all sets book cover design apart from the other visual arts, such as illustration.

     

    But many other forms of design and visual arts also have guidelines.

     

    Yes and no. There are far more specific and constrictive guidelines in book cover design than in the other arts.

     

    This is because the book cover has a very specific, tightly focused purpose. And that is, of course, to get a reader to stop and look at the book it is on.

     

    But stop and look where? As I said in the other thread, on book shelves you normally only see the spines,

     

    That may be true for books on the shelves, but new releases are always displayed face out. This is also how books are displayed online.

     

     

    As I have mentioned before, book covers are much more akin to posters than any other art form. And as a poster, a book cover has a specific, utilitarian function to perform.

     

    In many instances, publishers will also create actual posters to hang on a book store's walls and windows. Even pay for a launch window display. On line banners all over Facebook for example. Publishing companies market books just as Heinz market soup.

     

    One of the major benefits to getting published traditionally: publishers can afford to advertise and market their books this way. 

     

    Book covers are often confused with book illustrations--but they are not the same thing at all.

     

    But sometimes a cover is an illustration from off the pages, with text added.

     

    That's true and I say the same thing...but even if the illustration depicts a scene from the story it has to be one that makes some sense to the potential reader without any prior knowledge of the book. My point is that while an interior illustration has some responsibility to be a more or less accurate depiction, the cover illustration does not.

     

    There is no requirement that the cover of a book accurately depict any particular scene or event.

     

    Not precisely no, but they do usually give a 'feel' to what is in the book.

     

    Exactly my point.

     

    In fact, many if not most book covers don't even try.

     

    I will disagree with that, strongly. Some are a bit abstract but they do indeed represent the stories.

     

    I meant depict a scene or characters from the story in literal detail.

     

     Once again, this is because the purpose of a cover is not to illustrate the book but to sell it. In order to do this it must make an almost instantaneous impression. If there is a key scene or a visually striking set piece in a novel that would both get across something of the character of the book while being eye-catching at the same time, then the cover design can include an illustration. Indeed, whenever I get a cover assignment, the first thing I do is carefully scan the text, looking for just such visual set pieces. However, if I don't find one I look instead for something that would represent the nature of the book: an isolated image or combination of images, a central character or characters, or even a symbol of some sort. (In fact, of all the covers I've done for my own novels, only one is based on an actual incident described in the text. Out of the several hundred covers I've created for traditional publishers probably less than 10% have depicted an actual scene from a novel.)

     

    So you do design covers that represent the contents then? I would agree that if you have not written the book or read it and absorbed it, then it's not easy to come up with a cover that has something to do with the contents. But if I was doing a cover for a story that has no key points or 'strong' people in it, I would perhaps not bother. Smiley Happy

     

    I never said I didn't design covers that were illustrative---my point is that being literally accurate is not the purpose of the cover art. If there is a scene in the story that would make an attractive cover, than by all means go for it.

     

     

     

     

    A corollary to this is to avoid putting imagery on the cover to make sense of which requires knowledge of the book. I've often used the example of the author who put a pastoral photo of a stone bridge on the cover of his fantasy adventure novel. It looked like the cover of a travel guide. When asked what in the world the photo had to do with a fantasy adventure he replied, "Why, that's the bridge the troll lives under."

     

    I recall that, and the cover was never changed. Sigh.

     

    I've asked many authors what in the world some utterly mystifying image has to do with their book and have been told, "Oh, you'll realize what that is when you get to Chapter Twelve!" Well, that's putting the cart before the horse.

     

    We have seen a few of those here.

     

    This sort of thinking is one of the reasons I will sometimes be hesitant about working directly with an author on a book cover: the lack of objectivity. When working with an art director at a publisher, we are on the same page, working toward the same purpose. Which is, of course, getting people to come to a skidding halt to look a new book. It's hard for most authors to realize that getting their favorite scene included or making sure that all the buttons on a uniform are correct are not the most important considerations.

     

    They are to some readers. Especially with real uniforms.

     

    Ah...but they have already read the book, an advantage new readers won't have had. If you are talking about accuracy in depicting things like military details, that's not quite what I'm talking about.

     

    I will have to admit to an exception with series books, in which visual consistency can be important.

     

    Speaking of objectivity...

     

    Your precious little snowflake may have made the cutest drawing in the world in her kindergarten class but trust me, it probably doesn't belong on the cover of your book.

     

    And at times not even for books for children.

     

    One of the restrictive guidelines that sets cover art apart from illustration is the need to include the title and author's name. Needless to say, these are pretty important.

     

    Possibly more important than any picture. Book covers became more colourful and complex as the ability to make them so became cheaper and easier.

     

    The title at least is the most important thing.

     

     

    One of the biggest mistakes I see most often in homemade covers is treating the cover art and the typography as though they are two separate issues. For instance, I'll see cover art that makes no provision for the placement of type, with the result that the title either covers up the most attractive parts of the art or, even worse, the title and author's name are crowded into the margins to avoid covering up any of the art.

     

    I know what you mean, but some covers do make a point of doing that on purpose.

     

    image

     

    That's a pretty nice cover...though I'm not sure how it illustrates the point either of us is making.

     

     If you are not an artist, the resources for stock imagery on the Internet are almost endless. Two or three caveats must be mentioned here. The first and most important: be absolutely certain that you have the right to use an image you've found on the web. Just because it's on the web and just because there may not be a credit or copyright attached doesn't necessarily mean it's there legitimately. Be certain of your sources. There are plenty of reputable resources for public domain and copyright-free artwork. Many of these have already been listed elsewhere in the forums so I won't go into them here.

     

    The internet is a great place to know people from all over the planet. If, for example, you need a photo of a volcano and do not live near one, ask someone who does to take one for you and email it. Same for all manner of places. Then you can be sure there's no copyright infringement and that it's also unique, as Ron says you can also always 'play' with an image in some art/photo application.

     

    Absolutely! Though even if a friend sends you a personal photo, make sure they understand the rights they are transfering to you. 

     

    (This problem exists to a lesser degree with the use of templates: a thousand other people are using the very same ones you are.)

     

    Indeed, but most books are Title, (sub-title), writer. Some people do even need frames to get those in the 'right' place.

     

    Need a Cover Image?

     

    Sure, lots of people need help like this...which is probably why they shouldn't be designing their own books.

     

    It's not impossible to create a decent and even unique cover in Lulu's Cover Wizard, if one takes the time. I think that's often the problem with some self-publishers, they just want to get their 'great' words out there.

     

    Sigh...too true, too true.

     

    Some artists will include the title and author's name in the illustration itself. A artist needs to be an expert at lettering to do this well, but when done right it can be very effective.

     

    In fact, the typography of a book cover is so important that hundreds of effective covers have been created that use nothing but type--or type and some small graphic. Take a look at the original cover of The Godfather, for instance.

    g

     

    That does indeed say what the book is about. Even about manipulation.

     

    Or this brilliant cover design...

    jjj

     

    But I don't see what's brilliant about that one. That's an example of it without doubt making the words paramount, but nothing else. In reality it has no need of the huge Y.

     

    In case you missed it, it's literally the "end" of "Christianity." Without the Y the large black dot would be just a large black dot and not a period.

     

    By the way, speaking of type, just because you have design software that came preloaded with 275 fonts you are not compelled to use all of them. Pick one--at most two--for your cover.

     

    Most fonts are based around a very small few anyway, and the difference can only be seen when two or more are side by side, that is if you know what to look for.

     

    True enough, but I was thinking of the plethory of decorative fonts that are available. Even if one is sticking to just text fonts, there is rarely any good reason to use more than two on a cover.

     

    Also remember that readabilty is of prime importance. The fancier the font, the harder it is going to be for someone to comprehend...and they just may shrug their shoulders and move on to the next book. Keep it simple, bold and readable.

     

    And since there are thousands of fonts available, try to choose one that is appropriate for your book. Comic sans rarely works for an urban vampire story. By the same token, try to avoid fonts that are massively overused, such as Papyrus, Mistral or, God forbid, Bleeding Cowboy.

     

    Text and the background is important also. Make sure the text is legible on the colour you pick for a background, and that also during printing the colours do not 'bleed'. I have a bad example out there I have never got around to fixing yet.

     

    http://www.amazon.com/Lilium-Saffron-Dewbell-Parts-And/dp/1471625680/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333836483&sr=1-9

     

    Very good advice! It's important to remember to make sure there is plenty of contrast between your type and the background. I don't know how many times I've seen red type on a black background.  This can work, but great care needs to be taken in choosing the red.

     

    When designing a book cover Mies van der Rohe's injunction should always be at the forefront of your mind: Less is more.

     

    'KISS'

     

     

    In which case, the design and artwork are of paramount importance. What is also lost in that argument is the fact that every famous author had to have had a first book. Sometimes the covers of these--such as Mario Puzo's Godfather, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye or Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man--have become almost as memorable as the novels themselves and show up in almost every list of great book covers. It can certainly be argued that they contributed materially to the initial success of those books.

     

    My point to do with famous writer's and there first novels, was that in a great many instances they were already well-known writers in the likes of magazine and short story compilations. A known name.

     

    Well, yes and no. Many of the authors I mentioned were almost literally unknown until their first book was published. )Mario Puzo was previously published before his first book, but he wrote exclusively for men's adventure magazines. Hardly a step up on the road to fame.) In any case, their names were scarcely household words with the public champing at the bit, waiting for the first novel to appear.

     

     

    Stephen King may today be able to sell a book with nothing on the cover but his name and the title...but when he started out his novels needed the help of strong cover designs.

     

    Nope, as I said in my last reply to you in the other 'cover' thread, was that he also already had a large fan base. Publishers love existing fan bases.

     

    What fan base did Stephen King have before Carrie was published? Before Carrie was published he was a school teacher who had perhaps a dozen short stories published---largely in literary journals (such as the University of Maine's "Ubris") and a few issues of Cavalier, a low-paying men's adventure magazine. I would very, very seriously doubt that he had anything resembling a fan base at that time. In fact, instead of publishers jumping at the opportunity to latch onto King's first novel, thirty rejected it before Doubleday finally took a chance on it.

     

    So, like I said, every best-selling author had to have a first book at some time.

     

    (By the way, this is a little off-topic, but it seems to be a good place to lay to rest the tired old canard that publishers are not interested in new authors. Not only do professional editors tell me that this is just not so, the publishers' own catalogs bear this out. Last year, I carefully looked over the catalogs of half a dozen of the major traditional publishers and anywhere from 15 or 20% up to 50% of the new titles listed were by first-time authors. What many hopeful authors fail to realize is that publishers are looking for novelty and quality...not the 10,000th urban vampire novel or rehash of Harry Potter.)


     

  • Wondering if you can help! I have a 1 piece cover design in PDF that will not load. It says that one of the fonts is not embedded...so how do you embed fonts?

    Cheers
  • I have no idea why it should be saying that to do with an image for the Cover Wizard. It's not something I have heard of before.

     

    Can you convert it to a jpg?

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