Self-Publishing Cover Art - Part Two

Tips for DIY cover design.
For the true DIY self-publisher, doing your own book cover can be another way to maintain 100% control over the product.
For that, you will have to have the software capable of manipulating photographs, and the knowledge on how to do it.
If you’re just starting out and want to create ebook only files you can download a free program called GIMP ( ) This image manipulation program will help you do the basic things you need to make a cover that can be used for ebooks. It works in RGB (Red Green Blue) only so it will not be able to create your print book files which require CMKY (Cyan, Magenta, Key (black), and Yellow). For print-ready files you will need something a little more powerful. The most popular would be PhotoShop.
Now, I won’t be going into detail there (if you want a Photoshop manual, I’d suggest hopping down to your local bookstore.) What I will do though, is give you some guidelines on the basic elements of a good book cover.
A book cover contain three basic elements: striking artwork, a bold book title, and a legible author's name.
Let’s start with art. The first thing you should ask yourself is. what’s my genre?
When picking cover art, you need to use something that fits within the “norm” for your genre. Look at other books and see what overall theme or style they use. For example: Urban fantasy. Lately, the trend for urban fantasy is a kick ass female on the cover. She’s generally in front of or apart of some city view. How about Romance? Generally romance covers have a man and woman in an intimate setting. Simple enough, right?
These are the norms and what you want to use as your jumping off point for searching out your artwork. You want to make sure your readers, who expect a certain “look or feel” to know that your book fits with their standards. That does not mean copy someone else’s cover, it means use it as a springboard.
Once you have an idea of what you want, you’ll need to locate the artwork. There are many places online to find and purchase royalty-free images. Here are a few listings to get you started.
As you can see, there is a wide variety of photo’s out there for you to purchase. Prices and quality span the ranges through the sites but if you’re willing to spend the time looking, you can come up with some beautiful art.
Something to consider when choosing your art.
Because book covers are not just for hardbound and softcover anymore, you’ll need to make sure your artwork translates to the ereader screen as well.
Ebooks are all the rage and that means your cover has to work with ereaders which primarily have a gray scale screen. Certain colors (red for example) will not show up well on a gray scale screen. The same applies to many pastels. You’ll need to check out your artwork in a black and white or gray scale form before finalizing it. Don’t risk alienating readers because you didn’t ensure the artwork was compatible.
Along with that, please keep it simple. Many new self-publishers feel the need to make their cover stand out by encompassing every single element possible from the story. Less is more! Some of the best covers out there are ones with simple yet bold statements.
Beyond beautiful artwork, there is also the typography to consider too. Your title and author name needs to be clearly visible to readers. Remember your cover is the first thing they see. You want to make sure they can clearly distinguish you and your book on first sight.
Things to consider with font.
1. Organize size of fonts in order of importance. Title of the book should be the largest font on the cover. Author name should smaller. Any subsequent text or quotes you wish to add should continue to be smaller in size.
2. Select color of fonts to stand out, yet still feel like it belongs.
3. Organize placement of fonts to work with the artwork, not against it. Don't cover up beautiful artwork with your words. Yes, some things will get covered, but you do not have to plaster a title across the best part of the picture.
4. Don't clutter the cover with text. Only text that is absolutely necessary should be there. Quotes are nice, but limit it to one on the cover. Use your interior pages for continued praise of the book.
Pick fonts that are striking and bold enough to be seen in both large and small sizes. You have to account for the people who might pick you up on a store shelf as well as those browsing the virtual racks.
Amazon is one of the biggest ebook retailers and when browsing through their store book covers are shrunk to about 105x135 pixels. If your book cover doesn’t look good that small, it will turn readers away. Picking fonts that are strong enough and clear enough to be read at this small of a size is a must!
Do not pick more than 2 fonts to use on your front cover. You might think it’s cute to have different fonts for the title, author name, and various quotes, but trust me, it only makes your cover look amateurish. Stick with one, or two fonts for the cover. That includes front, back, & spine.
Once you’ve got your font picked out, placing it on the cover art can be tricky. You want it to fit nicely within the art or around the art without detracting from it.
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to type placement on book covers. No matter where you decide to place the text, try to avoid running your text all the way to the end of the image. In print, you’ll end up cutting off part of the title in the bleed area. In ebooks, your title will just look crowded.
Read more tips and tricks in my handy dandy little guide.

Available exclusively on Kindle!


Darian Wilk said...

Another great post! Hope you don't mind, but I wanted to share a link. It's another site with oodles of royalty free images Loving your posts lately, thanks!

Katie Salidas said...

Awesome! I'll check that site out. Thanks for sharing.

Coral Moore said...

Love this pair of posts on cover art. Thanks for sharing your insights with those of us who are new to all this. It's so timely for me. Got to start thinking about this now that the first draft is finished. :)

Anonymous said...

Every author should read this

Richard said...

It's a good idea (as you stated) to use royalty free sites for photos, even if you have to pay a few dollars. Several times while browsing Smashwords and Kindle Store I've seen the same ebook cover art on different books by different authors. Not good for building your brand.

One other thing to consider for brand building - create some consistency with font types, text height, color or image that this book is by you about your genre or subject (think Clive Cussler, the way his book covers look. That's branding. Especially helpful for series books or characters).

I didn't do my own cover on my first ebook. Tried, but didn't have the patience. I went with a respectable professional who only charged me $35.00.

David H. Burton said...

Bookmarking this post! Thanks!!!

Larissa said...

Thanks for this helpful post! I had no idea about the royalty-free images. It's a great idea and saves me from buying a digital camera and taking the pictures myself. Not to mention it's cheaper. I'll defintely consider this option! Thanks again.

Nightly Cafe said...

I am reading the posts backwards but EXCELLENT! I could use this on my marketing blog, dang if only I found you first lol. Thanks for sharing it was extremely useful.


Katie Salidas said...

Richard. You can still find duplication of pictures with royalty free sites. Remember that with those, you are only paying for the rights to use them. They are not your pictures. You still have to be careful.

CareyCorp said...

Really great post. I'm linking to it from tomorrow's blog post.

Katie Salidas said...

I always appreciate a good link! Thanks Carey!!

I'll stop by your site too. =)

Cassandra said...

Just stumbled across this guide from the other side: I'm a small time graphic designer (and crazy fiction/romance reader) interested in making some book covers.

When I studied graphic design in college I had fun making a fiction cover (a redo of a JD Robb cover) and would definitely like to try something like that again.

I'm looking for an author to try me out :) At the moment I'm 100% working for free and you've no obligation to use my work of course!

Email me anytime at

About The Author

Katie Salidas is a USA Today bestselling author and RONE award winner known for her unique genre-blending style.

Since 2010 she's penned five bestselling book series: the Immortalis, Olde Town Pack, Little Werewolf, Chronicles of the Uprising, and the all-new Agents of A.S.S.E.T. series. As her not-so-secret alter ego, Rozlyn Sparks, she is a USA Today bestselling author of romance with a naughty side.

In her spare time Katie also produces and hosts a YouTube talk show; Spilling Ink. She also has a regular column on First Comics News where she explores writing from a nerdy perspective.