Sunday, March 4, 2012

Designing Book Covers - Part 1

Every day this week, we welcome graphic designer and author Suzanne Williams, who shares some excellent information in a special series on designing book covers.

Part 1 – Should I Design?

The End. The manuscript is completed. Hopefully, you had a good (and I stress the word “good”) editor to comb over it. You’ve decided to self-publish. “Now,” you say, “comes the fun part! The book cover!” But wait, you don’t have any background in design. You’ve never used Photoshop. You don’t know what Vector graphics are, and have never heard of layering. Where do you begin?

One of the biggest problems independent or self-publishing authors run up against is what to do about their book cover. After all, the book cover is the first visual impact their book will make on potential readers, so its importance must not be understated. However, most authors are not graphic designers, and it is one thing to know what style of book cover you like and quite another to create it.

There are a few tips towards good design to consider should you decide to do-it-yourself. However, I must offer a word of caution before you begin. Just as in any profession, your first attempt is not going to look like a Picasso or a Monet. Sure, there is natural talent out there, but most graphic designers are taught. Whether self-taught or through hours of schooling, they began with the basics and worked their way up to more advanced design.

With that in mind, my first tip is know what you’re getting into. If you haven’t any background in graphics, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Trust me when I say it is worth your peace of mind to spare a few dollars and hire someone to create your book cover professionally. Please view yourself at the level of your abilities. If you are only beginning to work with graphic designs, your first attempts will look like a beginner. Trust me. It is only as you gain experience and develop an eye for design that you find your work on the level with those on the best-seller list.

That said, if you are still determined to self-design, then I have compiled a list of key features to book cover design. In this series of articles, I will cover what they are and how best to implement them. They are:

  • Composition (Shapes, Lines, Thirds)
  • Negative Space
  • Layering (Blending, Opacity)
  • Fonts (Style, Readability)
  • Vector Graphics (PNG, JPG, dpi)
  • Color
  • Back Cover and Spine Design

Now, if you read that list and are still determined to do it yourself, then the rest of this article series is for you. However, if you currently feel swamped, then that’s perfectly okay. No one will think less of you for hiring a designer. But here is a VERY important tip. When you hire someone, look at their previous work, and compare it to the covers in the Top-10 Best-selling list for your genre. Believe me when I say this. I have seen self-publishing authors use designers who create bad designs. If you want the best cover for your book, then aim for the best. Set your goals high, and strive for perfection. Above all, give yourself TIME to learn. Excellence in anything only comes through the amount of time you are willing to pour into it.

Still determined? Then tune in next for “The Basics of Design: Composition.”

Read more about Designing Book Covers:

Part 2 - Composition
Part 3 - Layering and Graphics
Part 4 - Colors and Fonts

Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter, Christian, dachshund owner, spelling whiz, wildlife enthusiast, photographer, graphic artist, and writer. She designs book cover art for independent publishing companies and self-publishing authors. She writes a regular column on digital photography for Steve's Digicams, as well as in her personal blog. Her book, Fearless, is her personal testimony of how God freed her from crippling fear. Her novel, Missing, debuts in April.


Diana Brandmeyer said...

This comes at a good time as I'm working on re-releasing an earlier book with a new cover.

Catrina Bradley... said...

I'm looking forward to this series! I don't have a book to design a cover for yet, but you didn't scare me off. :)

Sarah Lindley F. said...

I know it can be expensive, but I still recommend Hiring a professional designer. I am a bit bias because I am a professional designer, but depending on the book, the concept, it can only be a couple of hundred dollars. Well spent money, considering many people do judge books by their covers. I think if you honor God with excellent writing, you should honor Him with a beautiful cover to match. :-)

Tracy Ruckman said...

Diana, what's the name of your book? We'll keep an eye out for it.

Catrina - the scary part comes later in the series when she starts talking designer language. :-) But she does a great job of explaining everything, so maybe it won't scare you too much.

Great point, Sarah.

scw1217 said...

Thanks for all the nice comments. Sarah, I agree with you completely. I hope the series was helpful to everyone.