Making Your Own Book Cover (If you have to.)

It’s not the best idea to make your own cover. Even if you have some art background, you don’t have book cover design background. That’s a problem. Chances are, no matter how hard you work on the project, it isn’t going to look professionally designed.

A professional cover for your project can cost anywhere from $35 for a pre-made stock cover to $600 or more for original art. Let’s face it, not all of us can afford to spend money on a cover. A pre-made stock cover using stock images might land you with a cover that looks like someone else’s book, but other options get pricey fast.

Let me be quite clear, graphic artists work hard and deserve the money they charge for cover design. I’m not saying that a professional cover isn’t worth the money, it is. Good looking covers sell books. However, some of us simply can’t afford that professional cover, especially if you are starting out in self publishing or publishing something yourself just so you can hold it in your hands.

I can’t afford a professional cover at this time, but I have a project I’m preparing for a Kindle Scout Campaign. Here’s how I created my cover.

pinkpalace3     original-wh-coverpic-blank
This is the house that inspired the book.  Keep in mind that you do not need permission to
use a picture of a building, so long as you can take it from a public place without trespassing.

I started with a picture I took myself. I’m wary of using other people’s photographs. Even if you use a “royalty free” image, they often have “personal use” clauses. That means to use these pictures on the cover of a book that you are going to sell requires that you purchase rights to the image. You also run the risk of another author using the same media for their own book. I’ve seen it happen.

The picture I decided on was cropped, and then run through several filters I found online. First I changed the color. I needed a moody cover for a paranormal mystery. Then I did a smoke effect to break it up a bit, a vignette to darken the edges, and a filter that added a night sky effect. It wasn’t that straight forward; it took a lot of trial and error to find something I liked. While the cover was being vetted in an online forum, someone suggested adding a moon. I did so in Paint Shop Pro by adding a light blue circle and putting some texture over it with a brush. I also painted a few stars, and toned down the blue in the sky slightly.

original-wh-coverpic-blank-jaden original-wh-coverpic-blank-jaden-smoke original-wh-coverpic-blank-jaden-vinette original-wh-coverpic-blank-jaden-vinette-dabih50 whcoverartblankfixed-moon
Color shift, smoke, vignette, space, and sky toned down with hand painted moon and stars in PSP.

I had my cover art, then it was time to add the fonts. It sounds simple, but this took the most time, and the most versions. In the forum where I asked for opinions, the art was quickly accepted, but the fonts and placement took work. The first one looked a little Scholastic to me. You know, the publisher that prints books for school children. The second version ended up looking too precious, more suited to a romance than a mystery.

I liked version four at first. After I slept on it, it looked too young for an adult book. It had gotten a little Goosebumps. Someone suggested drop shadow for the text, and that really made it pop. This is where online helpers also suggested that for a digital book, I really needed a tag line. They were right. Most digital books have tag lines these days. The first version I tried was too precious, and I hated the placement.

wh-cover-1 whcoverfive whcoverseven

Final version! I went with a much simpler font. I simplified the tag line and put it in a more traditional spot. The title drops slightly, and there’s my book cover!


I’ve skipped small changes for brevity’s sake.  The final cover was version ten.

Is it as good as a professional cover? No, it really isn’t. However, it’s not bad. It was worth the many versions and the time I took to get other people’s eyes on it.

If you need to make a cover yourself, keep these things in mind:

-Choose pictures or art that makes the genre clear. Look at other books in your genre and see how the art or pictures reflect the genre.

-Keep fonts simple. There are some truly lovely, artistic, fonts out there. Sometimes you can use one that’s a touch artistic. Keep in mind that it has to be legible, even in thumbnail size. Readability trumps fancy every time. Once again, make certain the font you choose reflects the genre. What’s great for a romance won’t work for a thriller.

-Be careful of color and saturation. We have to see those words! If you use art that’s very light in some places and very dark in others, consider letter-boxing it in some way and putting the text over a plain color. Not all art will work with letters on top of it. Don’t make your text hard to read.

wh-cover-1   whcovertenwtag
Look at version one next to version ten.  Small changes make a big difference.  Plus, I learned how to blur drop shadows!  I rock!

About JulianneQJohnson

I am a writer in Indiana who lives with two cats, two ferrets, and one fiance. I enjoy cheap coffee and expensive chocolate.
This entry was posted in Art, Book Covers, writing, Writing Advice, Wyrd House and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Making Your Own Book Cover (If you have to.)

  1. Nice! I love the drop shadows–they really add. How do you do the blurring effect? I assume you’re in photoshop?

  2. A.S. Akkalon says:

    Wow, I’m impressed by your cover-making skills!

    I would never make my own cover because I have zero artistic sensibilities. I can totally see myself loving something I came up with that everyone else thought was dreadful.

    • That’s why I got lots of eyes on it, both at Absolute Write and Kboards, as well as friends who are readers. I was pretty happy with version one, but ten is so much better. Not everyone can make their own covers, and that is okay. We’re writers!

  3. Bob Mueller says:

    Love the final version, and I was happy to be part of the process. You should be proud of the final result!

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