Story Worms: Keep it Covered (Part 2)


Following on from Story Worms: Keep it Covered (Part 1), this post will look at the decisions you have to make about your cover, top tips, and where to buy great covers on a budget.

I’ve already discussed how important your book’s cover is, so now you have a lot of decisions to make. Where do you even start?

Genre: Each genre has tropes and trends for its book covers. Do a Google search for, for example, ‘fantasy novels’, and you will see a definite trend in the covers it displays. In fact, they all look pretty similar. There’s a reason for this.

You will find a lot of advice online telling you to stick to the trends of your genre. Clearly, most writers do. Why? Because fans of fantasy novels can glance at its cover and instantly recognise it as fantasy. As something they would want to read. You can see the benefits, right?

I totally understand that. Me? I like to do things a little differently, and here’s why. Another cover following the usual trends of its genre is just white noise. When I post my cover online—on social media, on my website, on blogs—I want people to remember it. I want it to stand out as unique and different. I want them, when scrolling through Amazon, to spot my cover and think “Oh, I’ve seen that online a lot.” That recognition, that familiarity, I hope, will stop them scrolling.

But it still needs to fit its genre. People need to know what to expect from the cover. Remember: they’re judging my book by it.

I am not going to tell you that my way is better. Both arguments are valid. This is a decision you need to make for yourself.

So, what essentials does your cover need?

  • Title. This is pretty obvious. But it needs to be big, it needs to be bold, and it needs to be readable at thumbnail size.
  • Series title. If your book is part of a series, put it on the cover. Not all books state which number in the series it is, but, as a reader, I find that information really handy. Don’t make people guess which book to read first.
  • Subtitle. Many writers choose to add a subtitle, or a line just to give a flavour of the book. Eg: “A thrilling coming-of-age story”, or “They came. They saw. They devoured.” Completely optional, but keep it short, keep it snappy, make it hook readers.
  • Your name/pen name. Unless you’re a writer of Stephen King’s calibre, keep your name smaller than the title. But still, you want it bold, you want it, preferably, readable at thumbnail size.
  • Image. This is the fun part. Have a good think about what you want. Then you have more decisions to make: artwork, photography, layered images, bold logos. Look for other covers you like and create a mood board.
  • Text. Don’t choose fancy, unreadable fonts. You’d recognise your own name written in heiroglyphics, but ask some people who don’t know your book to read its title, and your name. Ask strangers down the pub if you like. Make sure it’s readable.

And that’s pretty much it. Don’t clutter your cover too much. If it’s too busy, all the focus will be lost.

So let’s get down to the business of it now. Where do you find a cover designer, and how much will it cost?

You can pay anything up to several thousands for a cover. But there’s no need to, there are a lot of options to fit every kind of budget.

  • 99Designs is a bit like running your own design competition. You put up the details of the cover you want, and the designers come back with designs for you to choose from. Their design packages range from £189 – £749.
  • At Fiverr you can, quite literally, pick up a design for a fiver. You can browse the designers’ portfolios, and pay a little more to get upgrades on the design. Just be sure to look at their previous work and their reviews.
  • There are a lot of very talented artists on DeviantArt looking to improve their portfolio. Just be aware that having an artist create the image isn’t enough, you need a graphic designer to finish it off and place the text. Some artists will charge very little, some will work for shared royalties, some will even work for free. But please, please, don’t insult artists by assuming they will work for nothing. Please.
  • Pre-made covers. Many cover designers will have a range of pre-made cover designs, and if you can find one that matches what you want for your book, you could pay as little as $50. You can find designers through a Google search or….
  • ….asking for recommendations. See a cover you like? Find out who designed it. This information should be inside the book, or you can ask the author. Ask in writer’s forums, such as Amazon’s KDP forum, or on Google+. People may tell you that Google+ is a ghost town, but, believe me, the writing community is absolutely thriving there.
  • Use your contacts. Does your brother-in-law have a cousin who does design? How about your friend’s mate’s husband? Ask around, and see if you can get ‘mate’s rates’.
  • Find design students. Many are keen to build a portfolio, but again, please don’t expect them to work for free.

I’ll say this again, because it is so important; please, please don’t expect anyone to work for free. If they want to, fantastic. But don’t ever expect or ask them to.

With so many budget options, you really don’t have any excuse to just put something together in MS Word and figure ‘it’ll do’.

And enjoy the process, because it is really exciting to see your book cover come to life.

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