Tag Archives: cover design

The Basics of EBook Cover Design — post by Mary C. Findley

talisman cover

(Pictured above is one example of an ebook cover I made as a sample of my work. It incorporates many of the elements covered in this post. Can you spot the layering, use of vectors, and making the font complement the genre-specifics of the cover?)

This post may get a little involved and technical, but I hope it will help struggling authors who are trying to make their own ebook covers. I posted about print book covers in the previous post, and you can refer to that too. This post will help you even if you are making a print cover first, from scratch. Some authors pay a designer to make the ebook version and then create the print book cover themselves. Either way you do it, these two posts together will hopefully give you some help.

I will say that there are many photo manipulation programs, from costly to free in price and from relatively simple to difficult in use. I won’t say any are easy, and I will say that there can be a big learning curve because of all the features and variations some programs have. The different interfaces can be easier or harder to cope with.

I use PhotoImpact, formerly made by Ulead, now sold by Corel, and have for many years. It is comparatively inexpensive and can be purchased here: http://www.paintshoppro.com/en/products/photoimpact/  I had a Photoshop Lite version before that, and I think the features are in many ways similar. Both are feature-rich, meaning they have many tools and many options for designing, tweaking, and creating. I also know that even experienced professional designers mostly only use a fraction of the features a program has available. Familiar tools that do the job become old friends. Trying new things can be time-consuming and difficult. The last thing a designer wants to do is spend tons of time on a single cover, particularly if he is also a writer responsible for producing the story that fits that cover.

I don’t know what program people will choose to use so I am going to try to make my references to tools, menus, etc., within the program as generic as I can. As I said, my reference is PhotoImpact so bear with me if not everything specifically applies to, or is easy to find an equivalent of, in your program. My purpose is not to teach photo manipulation. That takes a long time to learn to do well. I just hope to be able to make it possible for some people to expand their do-it-your-selfer skills.

Determine the size of your final book. We make ours 5.5 x 8.5, a standard size for paperback books. Many people prefer 6 x 9. If you say, this will only be an ebook, why does it matter what size it is? I reply that you may wind up making a paperback someday. Formatting your manuscript for a print size is not a waste of time. There are details of print formatting that don’t apply to ebooks but if you set your ebook up with appropriate margins, page breaks, and proper beginning and ending chapter formatting you will have an easier time if you later want to make a print book. It will also look more professional to readers who grew up with “real” books.

russell asv bible system

This is a 5.5 x 8.5 cover, or, 1650 x 2550. If it is not showing full size in the post you should be able to click on this or any other image to get a full-size version. The image at the top of the post is a 6 x 9 or 1800 x 2700

If your cover is for a 5.5 x 8.5 book, create a blank file that is 1650 x 2550 pixels, 300 DPI. If it is 6 x 9, make it 1800 x 2700. Always make the image resolution 300 DPI. That’s a required resolution for print. Again, think of the future, and the possibility that it might be used for print someday. 72 DPI is all you need for screen resolution, and it will make a smaller file size, but your image will appear clearer and sharper, even in smaller sizes, if it’s 300 DPI, and therefore be more attractive to potential readers. What is DPI, you ask? It means dots per inch and refers, simply put, to the level of realistic detail in an image, which in digital form is just a bunch of dots, or pixels. The more pixels crammed into an inch of space in an image, the clearer and sharper and better it looks.

The image size is in part determined by the requirements of the ebook upload sites. Last time I checked, iTunes, or, in this case, iBooks, sets the standard for minimum dimensions of a book cover. It doesn’t have to be either of the sizes I suggested above, but it has to be at least 1400 on the smallest size and 2500 on the longest size. Dimensions are typically given with the width first and the height second. (1400 x 2500, in this case) And they are given in pixels, not in inches. The dimensions I gave above are larger than those minimums, which will keep you in good shape on major ebook retailers for upload.

[Now for the bad news. PhotoImpact was designed many years ago and seems to have become an orphan as far as updates are concerned. There have been a few but it is a bit slow and clunky with these large file sizes, especially when doing the much larger print layouts. You will have to be patient through the slow wait times for it to catch up with your process, especially if you place a large amount of text and then try to change and move it around.]

You now have a blank image of the correct size and resolution. Time to fill it with a wonderful book cover. First you must determine the genre of your book. The most important thing a cover does is attract readers. But it must attract the readers that really want the book you wrote. If you put a kissy-face couple on there, or a rose and a string of pearls, or a heart, or anything that looks romantic, it had better be a romance. If you put a sailing ship on a stormy sea with a crew struggling to keep from wrecking, it had better be some type of historical adventure. I can’t tell you the exact cover that’s right for your book. I can say it needs to send a clear signal about the subject, immediately, to people who might see it 1/16th of full size (or smaller) for one second. It must at least say STOP AND LOOK CLOSER! before the potential reader just says “Meh …” and moves on. I can give detailed instructions all day long about how to put an attractive cover together but I cannot make the point too strongly that you have got to nail your genre or few people will give it a glance. Genre is a category or subject into which your book fits. Maybe you will say, “My book is nonfiction. That’s not a clear genre.” But it still has a subject. Bible Study. Cooking. Home Repairs. Overcoming Depression. Whatever it is, keep looking until you find the perfect image that stands up and screams, “THIS BOOK IS ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO READ ABOUT!”

philip two struck imagea

Try to guess the genre of this cover in the comments below.

So you may ask, “Where do I look for images?” That depends in part on what you want to pay. There are stock photo sites that charge a lot of money for what are sometimes excellent images. Two examples are iStock and Getty. You can pay $20 or more just for one image. Some sites charge $5 or at least under $10 per image. CanStock is a good one, and so is Fotolia. There are many others, and, if you plan to make a number of covers, you can get a subscription or a package, paying so much for a certain number of images at discounted prices versus single images. You may not want to pay for images. That is your choice. Many photographers and even “photoshoppers” offer free images on sites like Pixabay. That is one of my favorite free image sites. But remember the quality of images, especially free ones, varies considerably. You will probably have to look at hundreds before you find an excellent one, paid or free. In the next section I’ll give some suggestions on why you want to keep looking.

Depositphotos_76032491_original  winter-1145732

(First imageis from Depositphotos. Second is Public Domain from Pixabay.)

Why use a paid versus free image? It depends on what you need, want, and can afford. The first image above is a free one. It’s very nice as pictures of horses go, but the second on, which is paid, shows the exact two horses I needed as a promo for two young adult historical books I had written. That’s why I paid for it, to get just what I wanted, and also because of the surrounding finishing touches — the lighting and cloudy shapes. I also have been able to twice purchase a highly-discounted image pack from Depositphotos. Look hard for deals if you want a lot of great images.

You need an image, whatever it is, to have certain qualities. These include clarity, simplicity, lighting, and composition. There are other things, but these are the basics. If you are tempted to use a homegrown images, such as your son’s picture of your dog, it had better be professional quality in size and resolution. Don’t use grainy or blurry or too small pictures unless you are going for a specific artistic effect and can truly pull it off and convince people you didn’t just thoughtlessly put a crummy picture on your book cover. The same goes for handmade art. If your cover needs refrigerator art, okay, but don’t use unprofessional art just because it has some personal significance to you. It has to attract readers. Use the largest size you can get. Stretching it often makes it distorted.

I am more and more convinced that all book covers attract more readers if they make proper use of light. Thomas Kinkade attracted millions by being the “painter of light.” Find a way to incorporate light into your cover. Find an image that has excellent light to start with and you don’t have to manipulate anything. Even if it’s a creepy thriller, incorporate a haunting, eerie light. If it’s inspirational, use a candle or oil lamp or glow of sunlight or moonlight. Light attracts attention. Find a way to use that to your advantage. Learn the different light-enhancing techniques of your program. Don’t just stick in a spotlight or bolt of lightning. The idea is to make it glow invitingly.

  delicate and fragile 25 phoenix 25 gothic unwilling 25

Examples of the use of lighting to get your cover some attention, no matter the genre.

A note about using a single image as your cover: I discourage it for several reasons. Some stock sites include in their very lengthy and complicated terms that you should not re-use a complete single image in something you mean to sell. Some specify that you must substantially change an image to avoid copyright issues. Even if you “buy” an image from a stock site, you don’t really own it. There are restrictions on how you use it and how many times you can reproduce it and all sorts of limits. You are responsible to use that image in a responsible manner. It contains digital information that is kind of like a GPS. They can find and track it. So, what you need to do is follow their terms of use, and, also, incorporate two or three images in a cover to be on the safe side.

People, animals, genre-specific objects, and backgrounds are the usual image components of a cover. I don’t recommend putting more than about three images together into a cover. It becomes cluttered and you lose control of the ability to make them all appear to blend and belong.

     teen sleuths 25 dystopian end times disaster 25 historical chekov 25

Examples of using people on covers. The first includes a “free” image. use such images with caution. The second includes silhouettes, which can be free and there is no need to worry about model releases because no one is recognizable. You can also use free images that show the back or lower parts of individuals. Anything that does not show a face is fair game if the image itself is pubic domain. The third cover is a composite of two paintings. These are great options for historicals, and allows for including people without incurring the need for model releases. As long as the painting is more than 100 years old, and the photographer just took an unaltered image of it, his photo can’t be copyrighted and the image is public domain.

A few special notes about including people on a cover. Even if you use images labeled “Public Domain,” if they include people, you should try to ensure that there is a model release. That means the person or persons gave permission for commercial use. If there isn’t one, you could be sued by that person. Some images are labeled “editorial use only.” That means you can use them on a blog or for educational purposes but you can’t use such images on something you mean to sell. Some models also specify that they don’t want their images used in any way that they or other people might object to. That can be a broad objection that’s hard to answer, say, if they object to the image on a Christian book cover because they are atheists. It’s up to the cover artist to walk the fine line of compliance when using people. Rules are even stricter for copyrighted images, logos, or things that are very famous. Be careful about images you use. Get permission, when in doubt.

If you choose to make a cover with no people, you can make a very striking cover just out of text, which I’ll deal with momentarily. You can use inanimate objects like fruit, weathered wood, or seashells. Doing this makes clarity, lighting, and simplicity all the more critical. You can use animals, landscapes, or interesting room settings. The possibilities are almost endless. Just choose the best of the best and remember the keys of clarity, simplicity, and lighting.

 sherry chamblee flaire 25 funny little love drops 25 tea time troubles 25

Some examples of covers with no people. Can you guess the genres in the comments?

Don’t crowd or clutter the cover with all the elements or subjects in your book, unless your book is about crowding and clutter. One author wanted me to put a host of characters from his book on the cover. At least seven, I think. Can you imagine how impractical that would be? If it’s an ensemble cast, you still should focus on the leader, or maybe the two or three most important characters. Remember the first impression people get of the cover is probably going to be tiny on a search page. If a reader sees nothing but blobs of color he may not stop to figure out what it is. I’m going to expose myself to some extent here, and show you a very early cover I made for my first Benny and the Bank Robber book (the most recent version is pictured below the next section of text.) This is an example of how NOT to do a cover more than anything.

254717_1808425104563_6589645_n

Quickly going through some of the no-nos I have learned since doing this cover: “Floating heads” are mostly bad. I have a whopping FIVE of them, which makes it five times as bad. I painted a fake hat on one character and boy does it look fake. The Bible and the cougar (oops — SIX floating heads) makes seven images, plus the forest background … and the attempt at painting texture looks … amateurish. The only good thing about it is that the text is fairly readable. Don’t let this happen to you.

So, whatever elements you have chosen, it’s time to see if they work together on your cover. This is called compositing. Each object you add to a cover goes on its own layer. You can move them up and down the “stack” and around on the “page” at will with tools like “send backward” or “bring to front” or “center horizontally.” You can also resize, flip, or rotate. (Just watch out for any lettering, such as on a T-shirt) that might end up displaying backwards.)

This is not an art or design course, so I can’t go into a lot more dos and don’ts. But here are a few. Do match up shadows and lighting. Imagine where the main light source is in the composition and make sure all the elements fit with that lighting. If they don’t, find something that does. There are people irritated enough by shadows falling the wrong way to reject your book. However great the story is, you’ve got to convince them to pick it up. Your cover’s got to impress them, not make them say, “Hey, the guy has a shadow on the left side of his face but the girl’s is on the right. that looks weird.” or “That woman is so faded she looks like a ghost next to that bright, colorful guy.” Somehow you have to make the elements match. This is where learning to use your brightness and contrast settings can help. Play with them and if you can’t get them right, consider another image. Match quality, intensity, light and shadow, and everything you can.

Use the tools you have, such as erasers, faders, feathering, and other types of edge-softeners, to get rid of unwanted backgrounds in the images you put together. Be especially careful with hair and spaces between fingers, elbows and waists, and other spots that could stand out and make the final image look amateurish. Match the edges of the images to the background if at all possible — dark on dark, light on light.

Watch tutorials on techniques. Strive to improve. Magnify until you can see tiny details. Add shadows and directional lighting if you can. Play with the direction objects are facing and something might just click into place in your mind to improve the overall look. My best advice when it comes to placing objects for a cover is that you may not be able to realistically match, say, people to a scenery background, without some tricks. You’ve no doubt seen people that look pasted onto a background. You might not be sure what’s wrong, but it’s just clear they don’t belong in that scene. Sometimes a light mist or smoke or fog can really help blend a scene.

  i just don't see it good bad angel painted benny ebook 3 12 2017

Do the elements “match” among these images? Why or why not?

The three images above represent different phases of my cover design career. The first, entitled “I Just Don’t See It,” was made quite a few years ago and includes so-called “free” people images. In fact, the man has two different images composited. His head did not come with his body. That’s why I included it, to see if I hid it well enough. I probably wouldn’t use it at this phase of my career, both due to the permission issues with the people, and the fact that I am not convinced my compositing skills are that good. The middle image is an attempt at a “painted” fantasy cover requested by an author friend. He didn’t think it was what he wanted but I did sell it to another author who thought it was perfect for her. I composited a whole bunch of photographic components in this image, especially on the demon figure. Again, it was made a few years ago, and my skills and image choices have improved, I think, since then, so I would do it differently now. Still, I was pleased with the results of my experiments on the whole. The third image was made very recently and consists of three images — the sunlit forest background. the boy with the suitcase, and a cloudy mist layered over the top. Simple but effective, I believe.

I could go on for pages about compositing but this is supposed to be a brief explanation. So, to help blend images, try the light screen overtop idea. I have used that with success more than once. It can be as simple as a picture of mist or sunlit rays made transparent and laid over the image. One thing you can do is just set the images on a textured background like a collage, as in the “Tea Time Trouble” cover above. Don’t try to make them fit together. Just include them, perhaps fading or shadowing, and present it as a sort of shadowbox or scrapbook page. Those can turn out quite well. Divide the cover into sections and include separating elements or make them framed by the title to aid the composition.

 civil war 25 middleastern military romance 25 unlikely romance 25

As you go along creating your final cover image, don’t forget that you need text. Author and title at a minimum, and possibly a tagline or subtitle. Those should, if possible, not cover your images, or, at least, not important parts of them.  Text placement can be great fun and should harmonize with the rest of your design.

armor inside out

This example of a cartoon-style cover uses multiple images, which were relatively easy to composite because these art-style images are usually vectors or .png files, which means they often don’t have a fixed background and can be resized any way you like. They look a bit like Colorforms and can be set in place without worrying as much about blending in. As long as you choose artwork of similar styles, hopefully by the same artist, you can do exciting things.

The capitals text on this cover is a free font, in a series called Kingsthings. This font designer makes charming, detailed fonts and offers them for free. I made the capitals larger, aligned them within the chain of the heart locket, and tucked everything together in a technique called “nesting.” Try not to get too many different fonts going on a single cover. Remember, we are concentrating on simple. I used the same font on the subtitle and the author name.

Mix up ornate fonts with simpler ones, straight with curly. Try different sizes, such as tall at the beginning and end of a title to create a sort of mirror effect. By the way, be very careful about getting free fonts. Font sites are common sources of viruses. Stick with a few reputable sites, like 1001 Free Fonts, Dafont, and FontSquirrel. Check carefully because not all the fonts on these sites are free. Some are pay, some are donation, some are other arrangements with the creator. One font creator asked that if I use his font I send him a copy of what I did with it.

I have hundreds of fonts, including a package from MyFonts that I downloaded for $20 with many classic fonts. If you can use 10 fonts out of a package like that it is worth buying, because fonts often cost $20 or more just for one set of one good design. Beware of free fonts that are missing punctuation or other elements. You can sometimes substitute from a complementary font and still get a good result. Some font packages also include “dings,” which are shapes that can be very useful. You can pretty up a title treatment with dings, vector objects, and even small images, as on the series covers below, the second cover being for a book I am currently working on. In the first, the Baron’s Ring is incorporated into the B in the title, and in the second, the “T” is formed by the sword. Swirly vectors add some flourish to the text. The similarity of the placement of the images and text styles and ornaments tie the series together. People can see at a glance that these two books go together.

     baron ebook 10 22 2015 25     the captain's blade 10 21 2015 25

When your cover is completed, (and please, save and make backups all along the way) save it as a project (In PhotoImpact that is a UFO format. In Photoshop it is a PSD. There are many options to save but those are two to help you keep projects straight.) This is critical if you need to come back and make changes later. The other file format, the one you will later upload to ebook publishers, is either a jpg or a png. The png format is a larger file size, but better quality. Also insert your ebook cover into your text file at the front. Many sites require this and remember, if you ever change your cover, you have to upload a new version of the text with the updated cover included, too.

Just for fun, I will close with a book I have yet to write, but I had a lot of fun designing the cover. It’s inspired by a character in Treasure Island. Look for the ideas I’ve discussed in this post: making the genre clear (hint: remember that humor is also a genre), making the images fit together or at least complement each other, text treatments, and anything else you notice. Please comment with your observations. Also, let me know what I missed in this post. Remember, I want to help.

blind pew not so 25

Though making excellent covers is not easy, it can be enjoyable. Don’t try to get too complicated as you learn. Remember clarity, simplicity, and lighting.

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Cover Designing Secrets — Mary C. Findley

queen by force

I have been called the queen of free when it comes to cover designing. That means I try to produce an eye-catching product with free images and elements. I was reading for inspiration an interview with another cover designer, and he mentioned that he created a crest for a fantasy cover using a program that costs over $700. And that was just one element of that admittedly stunning cover.

Well, I want to design stunning covers too, but I can’t afford that much for just one designing tool right now, however cool it may be. So I tried some things I have on hand, and I’m going to show you how I created this cover, which I think is pretty cool.

 

scary man small

I started with this man, a free image from Pixabay. My first do-it-yourself tip is make sure you find the highest quality and resolution images you can. Well-trained and well-equipped designers often hire models, create costumes, and shoot their own pictures for covers because they have control of the quality, resolution, and lighting,  critical elements of a knock-your-socks-off cover. But this image’s resolution and lighting are perfect for the effect I wanted, and it’s free.

I didn’t want such a clean-cut scary guy, however. so I grabbed some of his own hair, trimmed and faded edges, twisted and turned it in different directions, created different lengths and shapes, and gave him a case of bed-head that changed him forever.

Next I changed the color of his eyes. Neither one of them stayed its original shade. From blue-grey they went to one ice-blue to match his jeweled crown, and one gold. I wanted the gold eye to match the background, which is also free on Pixabay. I loved the gritty but glowing variety it made.

I decided he ought ought to be a king, so I gave him a crown. These raised shapes, in the crown, the corner ornaments, and the “O” in Force, came with my design program. They have many metallic and colored finishes, and even leathers, furs, fabrics, and plant textures, that I can apply. I have more options I can add, too, from free sites like Webtreats. I just had to tweak the shades and metallic and jewel finishes and add shadows.

So the images were finished, but next I needed a catchy title. Technically I want to sell this as a premade, so I don’t get to decide the final title. But I really hope it’s something with an “o” in it so I can use the Queen’s crown I made as a design element. I love it when the text is a design in itself and incorporates a story element. This font is freebooter, and the author name font is called Hayden.

If there’s someone out there writing a fantasy or even historical fiction story about a forced marriage, or just a creepy old king, let me know if I can help you. My creepy old king needs a home.

Anyone who has questions about cover design, or feedback or suggestions on what kinds of tutorials I could share in the future, please let me know!

If you would like to contact me about any of my covers or designing, here are my links:

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/marycfindley/the-design-in-your-mind-book-cover-services-by-mar/

Fiverr: https://www.fiverr.com/maryfindley (I have two gigs — cover design and editing/proofreading/formatting)

UpWork: https://www.upwork.com/freelancers/~01b20038ca35b8d397

Or just post a comment here! Thanks!  — post by Mary C. Findley

 

 

 

 

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Premade Cover Sale! — Guest post by Jen Gentry

2451015_orig

Some of the most talented cover designers I have the privilege to know have come together for a great cause. They have donated several glorious pre-made book covers to help create scholarship money to assist aspiring indie authors to attend the upcoming Christian Indie Authors Conference. This is an excellent opportunity for Indie Authors to score a professional book cover at a very good cost and help a fellow Indie Author at the same time.


The sale is going on right now and ends on July 4th. The organizer Samantha Fury says they will be adding new covers daily until the sale is over.


I personally have enjoyed just looking through the wonderful selection of interesting, breathtaking, and artistic works on display. Anyone who purchases will be working directly with the designer to personalize each piece.


If you are looking for a cover for your own next masterpiece be sure to check out this book cover extravaganza.  Here is the link for the facebook event. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1594999634107302/

To learn more about the #CIAN2015 Conference please visit their website here
www.christianindieauthors.com/cia-conference.html

Original post from: http://jengentrysbooks.weebly.com/gems-from-jen/book-covers-supporting-a-good-cause-for-indie-authors

site.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1594999634107302/

To learn more about the #CIAN2015 Conference please visit their website here
www.christianindieauthors.com/cia-conference.html

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Nominations for Best Christian Indie Covers of 2014 — Post by Mary C. Findley

Cover Design by Ben Patterson

 

Cover Design by Jaye L. Knight

 

 

Cover Design by Ben Patterson

 

Cover Designer not named

 

Cover Design by Ben Patterson

 

Cover Design by Mary C. Findley

David Bergsland, avid reader, reviewer, blogger, and book designer, nominated the above books (plus Paryn’s Gold, below). He has multiple sites/blogs.  http://www.bergsland.org/ and http://radiqx.com/ are two of them. Resistance was also nominated by
Alicia G. Ruggieri

Cover Design by Kirk DouPonce

 

 

Cover Art by Pat Carbajal

 

Cover Design by Mary C. Findley

 

Cover Art by Sarah Scarborough

 

Cover Design by Mary C. Findley

 

The preceding covers were nominated by Peter Younghusband, avid reader and reviewer. (David Bergsland also nominated Paryn’s Gold.) You can find lots of great books on his blog. http://christianfictionreviewguru.blogspot.com/ Kirk Dou Ponce DogEared designs link: http://www.dogeareddesign.com/ GhostBox was also nominated by Jill Domschot.

Cover design by Kirk DouPonce

 

Nominated by Lynette Bonner (http://indiecoverdesign.blogspot.com), Caryl McAdoo’s Hearts Stolen. Also nominated by Caryl McAdoo.

Cover Design by Lynette Bonner

 

Cover Design by Rachael Rossano

 

Cover Design by Sevenlives Design

 

Cover Design by Rachel Rossano Designs and Alicia A Willis

 

Cover Design by Kirk Dou Ponce

 

Covers above were nominated by Alicia G. Ruggieri, author of The Fragrance of Geraniums (link above)   Link to Rachel Rossano Cover Designs: http://rossanodesigns.weebly.com/

Cover Design by Odd Mr. T

 

Cover above nominated by Sally Apokedak The Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency http://www.sally-apokedak.com/ Link to Odd Mr. T : http://www.oddmrt.com/

Cover Design by Caryl McAdoo original art by Judy Downs Levine

Cover nominated by Caryl McAdoo. (She also nominated Hearts Stolen, above) Judy Downs’ art site is ArtFelt.com

 

Cover design by J-Shan Art Studios

Cover Design by Alexandre Rito of Design Project

 

Cover Design by Jan Thompson

Cover Design by Tekem Studios Photography by Danyell Diaz

These covers were nominated by Heather Day Gilbert, author of God’s Daughter.

Cover Design by Widhi Saputro with 99 Designs

 

 

Cover Design by Christian Guldager

Design by Kirk Dou Ponce

The covers above,  as well as Ghost Boy and Kept by Sally Bradley, were nominated by Mirtika Schultz, author of Waiting for Appa.

Cover Design by Lynette Bonner

Cover design by Lynette Bonner

Cover Design by Tamian Wood

 

 

The above covers were nominated by Scott R Rezer, author of The Leper King, Love Abideth Still, Shadow of the Mountain

Cover design by Jenny Zemanek

 

The above cover was nominated by Sally Bradley, author of Kept.

Cover Design by K.M. Carroll

Cover Design by K.M. Carroll

The above books were nominated by Bethany Jennings http://simmeringmind.com/

 

 

 

 

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Best Christian Book Covers of 2014

2015 covers

These are not my Best of 2014 cover choices. They are just the covers for my 2015 Writing Goals

Recently several author groups shared around a post called “Worst Christian Book Covers of 2014”. I’m not going to link to it, because, frankly, I don’t want to give it one single more view. Many sites are set up to include a “worst of” whatever so that people can make clever but snarky and often cruel comments and feel superior. Instead, please share your “Best of” covers. If you can’t come up with just one, that’s okay too.

But I’d like to set some ground rules so we are not just posting one for our best friend or to promo our cover designer, or other criteria than what really IS the best. I also want to encourage people to offer brief but positive and helpful critiques explaining what makes the cover an excellent one.

Part One: Christian and Independent

I’d like to encourage people to chime in and post the best Independently-published Christian book cover you’ve seen this year. When I say independently-published, I mean not with a big, well-known, famous traditional publisher, but with a small press, or a cover made or purchased or fully-approved for that book by the author him/herself.I am not excluding books where the author purchased a premade cover by saying this. I am excluding books that were made in-house by an employee of a publishing house.

Part Two: Fonts

1. Title Fonts: Are they attractive, contrasting, readable, appropriate for the genre, and well-formed and colored?

2. Subtitle/tagline fonts: Are they compatible with the title, the right size and sort to complement and support the title and genre?

3. Author Fonts: Is the author name readable, strong, but not distracting from the title?

Part Three: Image(s)

Does it use images of good clarity, quality, and that evidence care in the choosing? Are they appropriate to the subject? Are they attention-getting without being simply beautiful or startling or attractive without having any relationship to the book’s title or subject? Are they right for the genre, setting, time period, or otherwise truly “right” for the book?

(Let’s make a separate category for covers with handmade art. Some people just irrationally hate to see anything that looks hand-drawn or colored or painted on a cover, but I think there’s a place for it.)

Part Four: Overall Composition/Design

1. Is the effect clean, organized, and drawing the eyes around to the important elements?

2. Are the colors, shadows, lights, textures pleasing, harmonious, and right for that book? Or, if the purpose is to create suspense, terror, or other emotional responses appropriate to the subject or genre, is it effective in doing that? Do things fit together and seem all to belong in the same composition?

I am hoping many people will participate in this, and make it a celebration of the best in cover design, as well as a learning experience for those who want both to learn to make better covers, and to stop being superior and cruel in our critiques.

Please comment or email us at findleymjmc@gmail.com with covers you’d like to see included. Hopefully by the end of the year we can present a Top 100 Independent Christian Book covers list.

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Cover Samples and other graphics I Can Do — by Mary C. Findley

I can make you a pretty nice book cover using the large number of stock images, textures, and fonts that I own. I can apply metallics, leathers, fabrics, stone — some very cool backgrounds, text, and objects. If you wish to use an image I don’t have or can’t find for free, you can purchase it and send it to me, so that you own it, not me.

did we win 10

I made this sample with free images I found at various online sites. The background is flames, and the title is a photo of a broken window I applied as a texture. I have quite a few “free” people I can use.

I can provide an ebook cover that meets the larger file size requirements of iTunes and Amazon, in jpg and tiff formats. The one shown above and the others on this blog are 10% of their actual size, and all my covers are 300 DPI so that they look their best and translate into print covers without a problem.

I can also make full print covers to CreateSpace specifications and give you a jpg to show off and a pdf to upload to CreateSpace.

chasing print 10

This print cover also uses free images, and the font is a metallic texture using several different fonts to achieve the best effect and fitting the words together. This print cover is also 10% of the full size.

My cover package includes ebook, print book, bookmark, and a facebook cover (an image you can upload to facebook on your author or regular page) that includes your book(s) and a small amount of text with a complementary background.

latest mike author fb cover 50

This is a sample facebook cover at 50% actual size, incorporating a 2-D book image, an appropriate background for the book’s subject, and a quote from the text. Facebook does not permit links at this time.

various graphics for authors

You can also request a Twitter cover, 3D images of your books included in your graphics, and ad graphics to promote your books for an additional charge.

ebook covers for others

Here are some of the ebook covers I’ve done for clients.

print covers for others

Here are some of the print covers I’ve made for other authors.

Check out my pinterest board of cover designs for others. http://pinterest.com/marycfindley/cover-commissions-i-have-done-or-pitched-for-other/

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Findley Family Video’s Publishing Journey

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my books 2013

A sweet blog reader was kind enough to say she’s been following us for some time now, and likes our writing and content, and also the way we promote our books. She asked about how we publish, and also how we promote, so here, I hope, is an answer to that question. I’m including links to other blog posts I’ve written about publishing where they apply.

We have been writing for over 30 years, but publishing about 4. So our publishing experience is not vast. But we do everything ourselves at this point, from writing, to editing, to formatting and cover design and actual uploading to publishing sites. Here’s a post on the mechanics of preparing and publishing an ebook. Part Two: Make It Clean, Get It Out

We use Amazon and Smashwords for the ebooks and Createspace for the print books. So far we only have a few print books but we will be doing more soon. Our philosophy of publishing is to make our works available as inexpensively as possible and that’s why we started with ebooks. Here’s a post I wrote on our philosophy of e-publishing. The Hows (And Whys) of E-Books

I was an editor for a publishing company and feel confident about my self-editing at this point. Here’s a blog post I wrote about things to look for when editing. Righting Sew Reel Ayes Reed Passed Yore Tie Till We also have worked as videographers and have graphic design experience, so I make our covers. The program I use for that is Photo Impact from Corel. Here’s a post on book covers Part 2 1/2: Cover It Beautifully .That has been a journey, and you can see how my skills have progressed at our Findley Family Video Facebook page, under the photos section, where our stages of cover design are stored. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Findley-Family-Video/149992491693629?sk=photos_stream I also have illustrated versions of some of our books. Here is a blog post I wrote about a site where all the images are offered free by the photographer, and about our latest cover redesign. Dressing up for the Holidays: Free Images to Help You Make Ebook Covers

We write and format our books in Microsoft Word, following the Smashwords Style Guide for ebooks, which is free on their site and on Amazon. Other writers have suggested using writing and book design programs but we are keeping it simple for now.  Here’s another post on ebook creation and publishing. Part Three: Your Book, Where It Should Go, How It Will Look

Now for the hard part — Promoting. I have a Goodreads and a Library Thing account. I have two Twitter accounts, a Google + account, and between us we have 3 facebook pages and two personal pages, plus I have a Pinterest account. I spend a fair bit of time networking with other authors on facebook. I try to share and tweet and promote their works as much as I can. I belong to several author groups on facebook and we exchange advice and promotions. We also have this blog, which has all our books linked to Amazon and Smashwords.

The blog posts get tweeted automatically when we publish, and most of our blog followers have come from Twitter. Some also come from facebook. Some come from search engines. I always include tags when I post a blog, subjects the blog is about, and we get a lot of blog hits on our Bible-related posts. One of the things people have said they like about us and our blog is that it’s not always about writing. Sometimes we post guest blogs and book reviews and talk about our books, but that’s not the focus of the blog. But the books are linked there for people to see and click on if they wish. We also have short descriptions of all our books at the end of most titles, and a link to our blog so readers can connect with us and check out our other titles. Here’s a post about being a blogging writer. Stuff Blogging Writers Need to Know: Part One

We have tried paid advertising or free trials of advertising that would be paid, several different online sites, and honestly, the results have been pretty much zero sales or responses. I participate in author groups where we all post tweets and retweet each other, and, as difficult as it is to be consistent and keep doing that daily, that seems to be very effective. I’m going to treat myself to a paid version of a tweet scheduling program very soon, because right now I do it all manually and it’s driving me crazy. Here’s a post about Twitter. Curiouser and Curiouser … An Author’s Adventures in Twitterland

One thing that has helped us get some notice is offering samplers of our full-length books for 99 cents. Some of our 99 cent books are complete short stories or novellas and some are three-chapter excerpts. We have also tried pricing a couple of full-length books at 99 cents, and even tried Amazon’s KDP select program for one book. The results for Select were pretty disappointing, though we did get some notice and a few reviews. Smashwords has a distribution network to iTunes, Sony, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and others, and we are beginning to see regular sales there.

We have a wide variety of genres — Issues non-fiction, Homeschool Curriculum, Historical Adventures and Romances, and Science Fiction. We have something for most ages and tastes. We are not bestselling authors by any definition I can figure out, but our sales have grown a bit almost every month. It’s interesting to note that people are buying from all the kinds of books we have.

So my conclusions about marketing, so far in our journey, anyway, are as follows:

Having a good, clear, relatively simple, striking, easy-to-read and understand cover is a good thing. Having a link in the books is a good thing. Tweeting is a very good thing. Having a blog is a good thing, but probably not one that’s just about writing. Pinterest is something I’m still thinking about. It seems to have good points, such as the ability to display your books with prices and links to Amazon all in one place. If you can join some groups with readers in them, this may be a very good thing. But I see a lot of lookers on Pinterest, not a lot of buyers. Many people are there to ooh and ahh and get lost in pretty pictures, not to click a sales link and go read an ebook. Here’s a post about my pinterest experience. Pinterest Is My New Interest

I didn’t say much about Goodreads, but finding readers there and talking to them about other people’s books makes them think you are a nice person. Talking to them about your own books is not always a good idea, but they will check out that nice person’s books and blog sometimes. Having your books available in as many places a possible (not just on Amazon) is a good thing. Smashwords also deserves praise for upgrading their response time and technical support recently.

Pricing some books at 99 cents is a good thing. Having multiple titles and a variety of kinds of books seems to be a good thing. I have been told repeatedly that having a series is a good thing, so I’m trying that next.

Let me close this by saying that the mainstream, traditionally minded publishers and many traditionally-published authors are not there to help those who want to be indie authors. They consider you the competition. Many of them are getting on the bandwagon of independent publishing, or say they are. Some want you to pay them for advice and claim to be able to help you succeed. But the key to successful indie publishing, once you have made your book as good as you can, is marketing. And few, if any, of these people want to help you market. There’s a lot of talk about “platform” nowadays. That means having an audience who will buy your books. And these people know you have to have one, but they won’t help you get one. Odds are they won’t even take you on as a client or pay any attention to you unless you are already successful at doing your own marketing. And if you keep at it, finding things that work to get yourself known, you will be successful without their “help”.

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