My Experiences with E-book Cover Design

In this post I’d like to share the links to several websites that I found useful whilst I was putting together my book’s cover design.

I don’t claim to have produced the best e-book cover in the world. I’m not a graphic designer, but I am a keen photographer with a reasonable knowledge of Photoshop. The image on the cover started out as a photograph that I took myself. I then manipulated the image, cropping it, adjusting the colours and the contrast. Finally, I ran it through one of Photoshop’s in-built filters (Comic).

There are several advantages to working from an original image. Firstly, I don’t have to worry about the copyright or licensing issues that come from using web-sourced images. Secondly, the image is exclusive to me. Unlike images I might have sourced from galleries online, it won’t be used on anyone else’s book cover. Thirdly, it didn’t cost me a penny.

It seems to be a widely held belief that if as a self-publisher you can afford to outsource just one component of the publishing process then it should be the cover design. I agree with this, but, with no guarantee I’d ever recoup that money from book sales, I find it hard to justify spending out for a professionally-made design at this stage. I don’t feel this is a pessimistic viewpoint to take: I believe I’ve written a good book that readers will enjoy, but I’m just being practical. Of course, with a professionally-made cover perhaps I’d make more sales. I’m getting conflicting advice on this elsewhere. One rather prolific forum commentator has vehemently suggested that it’s a complete waste of effort to spend time on the marketing and presentation of all but certain genres of self-published books. Others have suggested that it would be worth me investing in a professionally-made cover. I won’t rule out changing my book’s cover in the future – even if to one of the several other designs that I’ve made myself – but it’s still early days. For now, I’ll leave it and see.

My main intention with the cover was to avoid making mistakes of the kind that are often featured on sites such as http://covercritics.com and http://www.lousybookcovers.com and http://kindlecoverdisasters.tumblr.com/. Those sites are worth looking at before you go about making your own book cover. The worst culprits exhibit one or more of the following:

• Illegible or difficult to read text – either because it’s too small or because it doesn’t stand out from the background image
• Genre-inappropriate/weak fonts or too many different fonts
• Pixelated or similarly poor quality images
• Poor compositing
• Compositions that are an overcrowded jumble of different images with no clear focal point

Hopefully, by erring on the side of caution and not being overly ambitious, I have avoided those serious bloopers. I’ve aimed for clarity and relevance and tried to ensure that the cover image works at thumbnail size and also translates well to greyscale.

http://www.fontsquirrel.com has a huge range of fonts that are free to download for commercial use. I found an interesting article on cover fonts here at The Book Designer. The Book Designer website is also full of useful information on other aspects of book design and its monthly e-book cover design awards are another great resource in which one can see what works and what doesn’t on e-book covers.

I found http://diybookcovers.com/ (offers free and paid templates for MS Word) to be another informative site. There are also numerous sites that offer ready-made book covers. The designer replaces the text on the ready-made cover with that of the author’s choice. If I were to go down this route in future I’d want to use a site where the cover template is unique and won’t be sold to someone else as well. Of course, if the designer has used non-exclusive stock images there’s no guarantee that another book cover sourced from elsewhere won’t have a very similar look even if the designer removes the purchased cover from sale. I’ve seen professional-looking ready-made covers for under $50/£40. That’s still a lot of money, but if, for example, one expects to sell at least fifty books at a $1 royalty each (or twenty-five at a $2 royalty) it could soon be recouped. http://paperandsage.com/site/category/pre-made-book-cover/ and http://www.thecovercollection.com/ are two examples of ready-made cover retailers, and their galleries are well worth browsing through.

Please note that, as I have not purchased any products or services from any of the linked sites, I am not endorsing any of their paid products. I’d be glad to hear about readers’ experiences (good or bad) of any products or services from the listed sites (or similar). Or did you design your own e-book cover? If you paid for a professionally-designed cover what criteria did you use when choosing where to purchase it from? Should I throw caution to the wind and invest in a professionally-made cover? Please feel free to add your comments below.

Self-published authors of ‘general’ fiction: recommend your book here

As any author who has self-published via KDP will know, Amazon allows the publisher to select up to two categories on the ‘Your book’ page of the submission form. Some books clearly fall into a specific category and, within certain categories (fantasy and thrillers, for example), there are also numerous subcategories. My own book, Departure and Other Stories, does not seem to fit well into any of Amazon’s categories except for ‘Fiction > Short stories’ and ‘Fiction > General’. The book is about real (well, they could be) people living in a realistic, modern day town, dealing with issues and situations that real people face. Amazon has a ‘family life’ category, but that’s not a theme in all of the stories that comprise my book.

Non-genre or ‘general’ fiction seems to be one of the hardest categories in which self-published authors can garner interest for their work. One contributor on a ‘support’ forum told me (and I’m paraphrasing): not to bother even trying, that I should switch to writing in a genre that sells.
I can see why it’s difficult to get ‘general’ fiction noticed. I’ve purposefully been looking for self-published works of fiction to read that are categorised as general like my own and I’m struggling to find many with the search parameters I am using. I’ve tried browsing in ‘Kindle Books’ under ‘Literature and Fiction’ and then in: ‘British & Irish’ or ‘Contemporary Fiction’ or ‘Literary Fiction’ or ‘Short Stories’ and narrowing down further from there. I’ve also tried using keywords/phrases such as: ‘contemporary short stories’, ‘modern British short fiction’, and similar. Even using those parameters, I’m finding a lot of genre fiction.

So, here’s an invitation: if you’ve self-published a book on Amazon that falls into the ‘Fiction > General’ category (whether it be a novel, a shorter work, or a collection of short stories) then please feel free to leave a link to your book in the comments section at the end of this post. Obviously, I can’t promise to buy and read every book submitted, but I’ll definitely aim to take a ‘look inside’ with the requisite free sample. If I like what I see then, you never know, you might make a sale. You will also be making your book known to other readers of this blog.

NB: If your book is categorised within a genre but you genuinely feel it has general appeal then you are welcome to also submit the link. But please don’t submit links to books that are predominantly horror, crime, romance, erotica, fantasy, science fiction, poetry, non-fiction, or installments in a longer series. Those are not what I’m looking for in this instance.

Carnival Day

As promised in my previous post, here is an excerpt from ‘Carnival Day’, chapter two of my book, Departure and Other Stories.

Download excerpt

‘Carnival Day’ was the last story that I started writing for the project and the fourth to be completed. It’s definitely the most light-hearted, and is one of my favourite pieces in the series.

Launch Day

Last night, I finally hit ‘save and publish’ to launch my first book, Departure and Other Stories on Amazon. Waking up this morning to find the book available in the Kindle store has left me feeling elated. At the same time, I’m a little nervous that my book – which, to date, has only been read in full by myself and my wonderful editor – is now viewable to millions of people across the world.

I hope readers will find it both thought-provoking and entertaining. You can sample the beginning of the book here. In my next article, I’ll be posting an excerpt from ‘Carnival Day’, the second story in the collection. Follow this blog to be notified of this and future posts.