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Book Covers

edited April 2018 in Writing
Advice please on designing my own cover for my books using photos or my own artwork.


  • It took me a lot of playing around until I was happy with mine. I'm sure an expert eye would say there is a lot wrong, but one of the things I have noticed on very amateur-looking covers is that the title is placed too high, or over a busy bit of picture, so it's good to see a space in the picture where the title can happily sit.

    I tried out different fonts and text sizes, often making the first letter bigger than the rest. I used the same font on the spine.

    I also designed (most of) them as a double page - front and back, plus spine space, so that there was continuity.

    Here are my children's books:

  • Check how it looks when it's the same size as shown on Amazon (or wherever you plan to sell/advertise it).
  • Your covers look very professional, TN.
  • TN - I love your covers. What tools do you use?
  • How did you do your volcano one, LizY?
  • I bought it from Magic Owl Designs but sales covered less than a quarter of that cost!
  • TN - I love your covers. What tools do you use?
    They have evolved really, Lizy. The photo for Mandrake's Plot was given to me free of charge by the photographer (so I mentioned him inside the cover), then I just used a CS template for the rest.

    For the others, I have used images (free for commercial use with no attribution required) from Pixabay. Sometimes this has involved overlaying another silhouetted image (Glass Dreams, The Secret of Pooks Wood), or I have had to add another image to the original (Martha and Mitch). I have made the back covers interesting too by adding tiny details rather than a large image.

    You can do a lot with text using Word. I had to bend text for Charlie Chumpkins so that it looked as though it was in the glass of water. I used reflection for the text of Salt as it's set at the coast.

    I haven't paid a penny for any aspect of my books.

  • I will take time to recoup that cost, which is why marketing is so important.

  • If there's a particular feature that interests you on any cover, just ask me!
  • I will take time to recoup that cost, which is why marketing is so important.

    With twelve books, I'd have to fork out four figures for professional covers which is why I didn't go down that route - although I would have loved to!

    Marketing is the hardest part of this game.

  • Oh, and I used Publisher.
  • Some nice covers there, TN. I especially like the "Secrets of Book Wood" - quite atmospheric and dark.
  • I use Adobe InDesign in my day job to design artwork, consequently I would recommend it.
    Very easy to manipulate text and images and to save / export into a variety of formats.
    Cost of the application (a monthly fee is charged these days) would likely be detrimental to many.
    It is what I used to put together the "mock up" cover for my WIP.
  • I was afraid of my first venture into publishing looking amateur, but I can't justify any more expense. Even if I'd opted for an 'off the shelf' design from Magic Owl it would have cost enough, but I had to have one modified.
    Hence my need to learn the DIY process.
  • *Prepares for Lizy Angst*
  • Now you 'own' the Magic Owl design, can you re-use it somehow, like change the colours for a new cover?
  • Yes! Especially if it's the next one along in the series... or do a close up of part of it...
  • I actually asked her that months ago, but apparently she keeps the copyright or something? I could only reuse it by paying her to redesign it.
    No, I don't understand it either.
  • Look on Pixabay. I am sure there will be a choice of volcano pictures, if that's what you want. Check top right of the screen for Free for commercial use and No attribution required.
  • There are some great images on pixabay - which appear to be listed as free for commercial use. Worth investigating, Lizy.

  • I actually asked her that months ago, but apparently she keeps the copyright or something? I could only reuse it by paying her to redesign it.
    No, I don't understand it either.
    I can - it would be like a publisher publishing your story in a different book without paying you again. If it's in a different book, with a different cover and a different ISBN, they have to pay you again.

  • Baggy mentioned a copyright free image site - what was it called?
  • TN and Cladia mentioned pixabay.com.

    Baggy's link was about designing your own covers.
  • I've been following a tutorial online about creating covers in Word, and want to superimpose a figure on a background.
    I've got as far as inserting the second image in a text box but I can't remove the background of the second image because I haven't got that button on my screen. Is there some app I should download to get it?
  • You can remove backgrounds etc on an image on mac just by opening it and using the tools that are at the top of the image. I can also do it in iPhoto, or photoshop. Do you have Photoshop elements?
  • I haven't got mac or photoshop.
  • Lizy :

    The following link gives info of photo manipulation software that is free to use. These types of applications can require steep learning curves but, whichever one you decide to try, you should be able to find tutorials and "how to" videos online.


    Personally, I wouldn't want to use Word to create a cover (but then I hate using it to even write letters with!). I am sure that someone will shoot me down and say that good results can be achieved but, in my experience- I design artwork as part of my business, and have the luxury (and the not insubstantial debit to Adobe each month!) of using the Adobe Creative Suite daily- it is best to use software that is geared to creating artwork. I would suggest a design programme (such as Adobe's InDesign) which will allow you greater scope when incorporating images and text for your covers. It also has the functionality to save and export files into a variety of different file types, PDF, JPG, PNG, TIFF etc. As with Photoshop it is not cheap - but both can be downloaded as trial periods, usually 30 days (for Mac or PC) - and also I suspect an alternative, but similar and free option may be available.

    Removing a figure (or object) from an image is something that is a common feature in almost all image manipulation softwares. Some experimenting might be needed when choosing brushes and altering the various settings to ensure a clean edge to the figure you remove. By working at the highest "zoom" that you can and by using the sharpest image file you have combined with a steady and patient hand, you should get results that you can use successfully on top of a second background without any untidy edges visible.

    My final tip....? Stay clear of Word for creating covers!!!!

    Hope some of this is useful. Sorry if it isn't.

  • Thank you for taking the time to respond to my plea, Kramer.

    I'm using Word because I've already got it and really can't afford to pay for another app, but I'll take a look at your link.

    I have worked out how to remove the background from a second image, but it only works if that background is all the same colour, so I'm searching for free images like that.

    Another possibility is to take a photograph specifically for my cover. I am still editing the text, so fiddling with another medium makes a change, even if it is frustrating not to be as clever as a real designer.

    Thanks again - bless you.
  • Will covers created in Word be of a high enough resolution for use on paperback covers? Unless you're only planning to do ebooks, it might be sensible to check that before spending too much time on the design.
  • This is a possibility. If you send in a Word document to a publisher it is redone with a 'professional' font which reproduces to a higher quality. Word breaks down very quickly at larger sizes as I found to my cost when I was printing posters. I had to go through thand blow each section up to huge proportions and fill in all the gaps in the letters. Then I realised Mac's own Appleworks didn't break down and was much better quality so used that instead. You'll also have to make sure the quality of the images you are using is good enough - the more you edit them the more they will lose quality. I sent a very slightly altered photo to Bath Lit Fest last week and it wasn't good enough to put in their brochure. My son had to take a raw photo and I sent that.

    But I would have imagined you could test this by getting some A4 photo paper and printing the image you produce as a photo and seeing how it looks.
  • Very true what Liz says regarding fonts and clarity when printing.

    Also, regarding images.

    Most images I get supplied with are in RGB format and my printers require images to be in CMYK format in any artwork that I send to them.
    It is and easy enough thing to change their colour profile in Photoshop and, I imagine, similarly simple in other photo manipulation packages.
  • I am already lost in the technical details you mention.

    Nell said she uses Word, which is what got me started on it. I suppose if I produce a cover I like using my own photo and superimposing title and author on that, then load it up to CreateSpace, if it's not good enough they'll tell me. They made enough fuss about two small errors in the text of my first book!
  • Yes, if the resolution is low they'll warn you – or not accept it at all, if it's really low.

    btw, Book covers is tomorrow's #writingchat topic.
  • I use Publisher, Lizy, but with text from Word.
  • btw, Book covers is tomorrow's #writingchat topic.

    How do I join in, or at least hover and follow? What time?
  • Lizy, we start at 8 pm.

    As you are following me and PM you may see the #writingchat comments come up in the main feed. So a good idea at 8 pm is to tweet something like hello (our twitter names) and the writingchat # so we can link you in whenever you arrive.

    Don't expect to keep pace with everything the first time.

    You won't always see every tweet, and sometimes you need to click on a tweet to see the replies. And if the hashtag isn't included you might not see the message.

    If you're on Tweetdeck create a column just for #writingchat.

    I just have two tabs open on twitter, the main feed, and notifications and switch between the two.

    Wednesday night at 8 pm there are a few different groups meeting on Twitter so tweets can get spread among those other groups, so the # is important. (A few tweet on #writingchat and another group in the same hour).
  • Thanks Carol. Your first paragraph might allow me to follow the thread but I'm not savvy enough to do any more - yet!
    I haven't even worked out how to backtrack on my own tweets to remind me what I said when someone answers me!
    It seems the # is important.
  • You don't need to backtrack, Liz - just click on their tweet and yours will be there to see.
  • Lizy, if you copy the hashtag ( #writingchat ) you can copy it in to each tweet, which is quicker than typing it. Using the hashtag means that others taking part can see your tweets and reply, even if they don't follow you.
  • And if you paste the hashtag into the 'search twitter' box, you'll see tweets by other people who're taking part – even if you don't follow them.
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