Sunday, June 28, 2015

Guest Post: 10 things you should know before you make your own book cover.

We all know the importance of a good book cover when it comes to attracting new readers.  Here below is author and designer (and good friend on mine) Alexandra Engellmann's take on the subject.
Sky Ghosts: All For One Cover History

"Since the day I published my book, I changed the cover 3 times. It ended when I gave up on the old idea and painted a completely different cover that, I believed, would be a much better start for a series. The number of reasons I wasn't satisfied with the old one was huge: it was very limiting for the series, the title and author's name were illegible, the illustration wasn't as intriguing as it could be, it brought genre confusion and didn't stand out among the others. These are only the most important reasons.

No matter if you're planning to make your own book cover or hire a designer, you should know typical mistakes that self-published authors make when choosing a cover for their book. And I'd like to explain them using my own example. So, here's the list of things you should know before you start working on your book cover ideas.

1. It has to be catchy. There's no way around it. This is your best chance to attract the reader, considering the amount of books out there. Yes, it has to be bright, colorful, stealing the customer's attention from everything else. And yes, it has to have a big, intriguing element that stands out on the thumbnail.

2. Big, readable title and author name. Yes, there is the book title link next to the cover on Amazon or other stores. But the book will also go on many promotional sites where there's just a thumbnail. Your name and title are your brand, and it has to be visible. If the name is too long, make sure it's at least legible on the newsletter-sized picture (about twice as big as the Amazon thumbnail).

3. Covers have genre, too. Make sure that if your potential reader sees your thumbnail, they can tell it's their genre. My old cover could easily be confused with a horror book. A book cover designer will do it right, but if you want to make your own book cover, make sure your cover ideas don't interfere with your genre.

4. The thumbnail is more important than the big picture. I can't stress this enough. Especially, with Goodreads and its teeny-tiny thumbnail the size of a postage stamp. If you have a big, bright, catchy element on the cover, with the right air of the genre to it, you'll have more potential readers from Goodreads. When I changed my cover to the latest one, I got 5-10 adds a day instead of 3. Right away.

5. Be careful with symbolism. If people will understand the symbolic meaning of your cover only after they read the book - this is not the right cover. It has to be intriguing on its own.

6. Don't overload the picture. I have two big elements - the figure and the wings. I wanted the cover to show that it's urban fantasy, but I didn't need a detailed New York background. The result? A simple, blurry, pale bridge behind the figure.

7. Don't overdo the title, either. If you have a catchy illustration, you don't need a catchy font. They shouldn't clash with each other. It's a very subtle balance between the title looking too plain for the beautiful art you have, and overbalancing it and ruining the whole picture. With my last cover, I didn't have the slightest idea of how the title should look. I experimented with the layout, fonts, and colors. In the end, it was a color glitch that gave me the title I loved. I just saw it and said "This is it".

This is what you should look for, the title that will look like it belongs on the illustration. If you're not sure, go to sleep, and take a look at it next day. You'll see :)

8. Forget about what you like. You're making a cover for the reader to like, so it has to fit in with the genre. Yes, I loved black, matte, velvet book covers. No, it wasn't the best idea for my book, at least not with this illustration. I had to get over my own taste and make something that all fantasy lovers would find interesting. Do I regret it? Not a little bit.

9. Now, this is something I'm not sure I have to mention, but avoid cliche covers at all costs. I don't know if people who make/buy covers a la man chest/gun/rose/money/wolf/add-your-own-object will read this post at all, but don't put everything you have in a book on your cover! Look at the books in your category on Amazon and pay attention to what cliche covers you should avoid. Find a few covers that you think are fantastic, and don't settle for anything less. No bad quality photo manipulation or art. No illegible pictures. No trashy covers. Otherwise, you'll forever be associated with trash books.

10. And the last one, that I think is very, very important: seek advice. Ask other people's opinion before you upload your new cover to Amazon. You need a fresh pair of eyes, or better, three. And it's not your mom's advice, even if she's an artist. I used Reddit for it. There are a few subreddits where you can post your cover and ask for constructive critique. Digital Painting and Art are just a couple of examples. You'll be surprised how many things others will notice on your cover and you'll actually agree with them."

I don't know about but I've learned a lot here!  Here's a link to Alexandra's blog for more content like this.

And of course you can download her book at

And here's a snippet of her next venture into the Sky Ghost universe, Sky Ghost: Marco.

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