Creativity when it comes to book cover design (like the art of actually writing a book) comes from focus and of course inspiration regarding the subject itself, now this inspiration will come from reading sections of the book (as not many authors and publishers have the time for you to actually read the entire manuscript) and in-depth discussions with the author. This is where gaining as much information about the author’s book is paramount to the success of the project.
So prior to any book cover design it’s important to get to grips with the concept of the book, this can be easier to achieve than you may think, but only if you ask the right questions of the author. One of the best questions that we’ve found is to ask the author to sell the book to us but in only 30 seconds, given such a window the author normally hones in on the most important elements within the book itself.
From here you have a good idea as to what the most important elements within the book cover design should be, but you still need to develop those ideas. With brainstorming and research you should be able to design several rough drafts which can be worked upon prior to delivery to the client, these can be as pencil sketches upon paper or digitally in Photoshop (at this point it doesn’t matter too much).
But getting back to the original point, creativity comes from inspiration as well as focus upon the subject, so what does that mean when it comes to book cover design? For a start, the brainstorming sessions that will form an integral part of the design will help but you still need to do more with your creativity, but like any form of art, creativity is found all around you, in essence it means keeping your eyes, ears and mind open.
For me personally, one of the most inspiring processes is to simply take a walk, getting out into the sunshine and fresh air does wonders for your thought process, it also exposes you to elements which can lead to ideas within the design you may be working upon. This can be in the form of people you see, situations taking place in front of you or simply the nature (or city) around you.
To give an example of how ideas can come from unexpected places, there was a designer working on one of the Star Wars movies, he had to come up with a design for one of the villains in the third of the prequels, now he had been back and forth with drafts and nothing was gelling, so whilst sat upon the toilet ‘pondering’ his dilemma he looked over to a shelf to see a spray bottle which was facing him. It was this spray bottle top which became the basis for his character and made it in to the movie, the moral of this story….keep your eyes open!
Ideas and creativity can (and will) come from everywhere, this is why it’s important to be open-minded enough to see the inspiration when it’s right in front of you, but also being prepared to capture it once you see it. But this can be easy to do, as most of us will always have a cell phone upon our person, it can be straight forward to capture that idea and element of inspiration (either as a note or an image upon your camera). Again, inspiration is everywhere as long as you keep both your mind and eyes open to it.
The use of a professional book cover design is recommended by any publisher, agent and serious author these days, but the advertising of your book goes further than the cover. As anyone who uses social media understands, engagement (along with your digital foot print) needs to be consistent with your cover too.
If you take a moment or two to do a little research you will see that the big hitters within the publishing world have worked hard (either themselves or their publishing houses) at establishing a professional and consistent public face/brand. You’ll also find that the social media feeds they use are specific to them as authors and not as individuals, this is a distinction that’s worth making before you start actively using your feeds to promote.
Having a personal Facebook and Twitter page to promote your book (and series of books) can get a little awkward when you start to build a following of readers, this can be especially difficult for some genres, for example, if you are a horror or crime writer and your Facebook page shows you playing lovingly with your pet dog, it may not fit in with the overall image you’re trying to portray.
So keep the feeds separate and build your own followers, this way you’ll be able to keep your theme consistent and save the personal/stupid stuff for your own friends and family.
When it comes to the numerous media streams to use you should only take on board what you’re comfortable in actually using, what I mean by this is that although at first you’ll want to start using every single service that the internet has to offer, the novelty will soon wear off. If you can consistently upload content and engage with followers on three or maybe four services on a daily and weekly basis then stick with that (there’s nothing worse than going to a page only to see that the author hasn’t updated it in months).
Once you have decided upon several sites and services to use you should consider your branding upon these pages, your profile page upon your own personal feed maybe a selfie whist on the beach or out with friends but something more professional is needed for your author’s page. The best approach is to remember why you’re using social media in the first place….. to sell books! So that being the case you should consider your profile shot carefully, does it match with your genre? If you’re a children’s author then maybe even using a cartoon version of yourself could be a better idea, the options are endless but the more tailored to the genre the better.
Your banners are the more prominent feature to your home page, getting these to match across your many platforms is a must, it shows consistency and professionalism (if you take it seriously then your readers will too). The main elements that should be on display will be your book, title and author’s name, the other elements within the banner should reflect the concept of the book itself (but beware, adding too much to the image will overpower the banner and confuse, so keep it relatively simple).
Your book cover design will normally be uploaded to your chosen publisher in the form of a one-piece PDF, there are of course exceptions to this rule with some independent publishers wanting your book in sections, even some of the bigger players (like Barnes & Noble) will want your front and back pages separately too.
But for the overwhelming majority of book cover designs the finished project will be as a single ‘landscape’ PDF, this will vary in size depending upon the page count of the book, paper chosen, dimensions of the trimmed book and style of book (ie; hardback/paperback). Many of the bigger names in Indie Publishing do offer the use of templates for their book cover designs to be sized to, this can ensure that the finished design is correctly sized for the printer.
It is the spine width that makes the biggest difference to any book cover, the wider it is the more you’ll be able to place upon it (such and names, title and publisher’s logo), but with a smaller page count the spine width becomes too narrow to have your book’s title and your name printed there, for the likes of Createspace they even advise for any book with less than 101 pages to leave it blank.
It is a similar story when you look at Ingram Spark too, although they won’t allow you to place any text upon the spines of books with page counts less than 48 pages (too be fair, even for books at 50 pages the words will be incredibly small).
But when you’re designing a book cover the spine is something that you’ll need to be very flexible about, the spine width will be one of the last things that an author will normally confirm and so creating your files in such a way that they are then adjustable (both larger or smaller) is paramount.
Using Adobe’s Photoshop and InDesign does make the whole process a great deal easier though, with the majority of the art work created in Photoshop the layout can be resized within InDesign and the art work reapplied to the layout, this enables you to grow or shrink the spine without having to do too many alterations to your cover.
However, in some cases (normally where the book cover has been started months in advance of the publishing date) the end page count is very different to the estimated one give, this can mean some drastic alterations to the layout of the book cover design itself and as such having the elements within the design still kept within their individual layers is highly recommended.
In most cases the finalized count alters by a couple of pages and the adjustments are so slight that the author won’t even see the change, it will still require the use of InDesign to adjust it but the end cover won’t differ in size that much from that of the draft.
When it comes to the layout of your eBook cover you’ll first see that the DPI minimum will drop from 300dpi to 72dpi and there won’t of course be a spine or back page! The layout will vary from e-publisher to e-publisher, the most popular one being Kindle, and they advise to have the longest side of your cover no less than 1000 pixels and preferably to be 2500 pixels (nothing bigger than 10,000 though), we tend to build ours at 1562 x 2500 as this works very well.
Using a template for your printed book always makes things easier and it’s advisable to do so, the bigger book publishers tend to offer this service for an author so our advice is to use it.
For any author who is taking the publication and advertising of their new (or existing) book seriously, then having a website is a must. This is in an era where self-publication is the ‘go to’ option for thousands of authors every week of the year, with so much competition, you need to do something more in order to stand out from the crowd.
But for many authors the thought of creating a website fills them with absolute terror, for a start you may still be under the impression that a thorough knowledge of coding is needed in order to develop a site yourself, or if not, you’ll need to pay a website developer thousands to create one for you.
Rest assured, you only need a little bit of creativity and imagination to build a website yourself, in some cases you can even have a new website up and running in an afternoon. So where do you go to start your new author website?
Well the internet has a great choice when it comes to ‘build your own’ services, many will start for free (although you will face some restrictions) and go up to around $25 per month, the more expensive options tend to be for those who want to open an online store and use the site for business.
So here we have a list of five of the most popular website building platforms (and in no particular order):
There are of course many other companies offering this service to anyone who needs a website, but for the author you need to ask yourself what is important when it comes to your website?
But there are several key elements that your site should contain of course, these will be:
Having a website is a great way to connect and at the same time get your message out there, building a mailing list (as any promotional expert will tell you) is also a very important element to your growth but should also be treated with respect, people will come back to your site, blog and mailing list as long as you avoid the consistent ‘hard-sell’, give them something which is informative and interesting.
The process of designing a book cover is one which doesn’t vary too dramatically from book to book, the basics of which are understanding the concept and key elements within the book, the individual genre and audience along with symbolism and a massive pinch of creativity. Of course if you could boil a creative process down to a couple of steps then everyone would be best-selling artists with exhibitions in London and New York.
But this said, there are steps that a designer will take in order to get the most effective solution for the book or project’s needs and requirements. For us we have this initially condensed into a client brief questionnaire, using an interactive form we ask each client to tell us what makes their book tick, what’s important (and what’s not), this questionnaire has come about over the course of several years and has altered to become more honed to the needs of each client.
Getting this information along with the ‘Sell me, don’t tell me’ approach to a client’s book ensures we get the important elements (when I say ‘sell me’ it means you should pitch your book at me in a short time frame, it helps to focus the mind of the author on the key points of the book’s concept).
Now many authors will be asking themselves just why doesn’t the designer read the manuscript to get a feel for the book? The reality is that your designer will be working to a set timeframe, most authors won’t want to allow an additional couple of weeks for your designer to read the book, it would also add further cost to the project due to the time your designer is now spending reading the book (as it would be classed as research).
So the designer will draw out the important elements from the author, in fairness many authors will come to the project with ideas of their own (and it’s hard not to develop an idea when you’ve worked on the book for so long). Some of these ideas will work and some won’t, the danger is that many authors want to encapsulate too much detail upon the front page, as a result it makes the design hard to read and in some cases even confusing to the reader.
Letting go and trusting your designer can be a hard task for some authors, but at the same time you are actually paying them to create something for you, using their skills and knowledge to design a cover which will represent your book and help it sell once published. The best advice is to let them get on with it, you obviously chose them because you like their work so let them create your drafts and go from there.
Once a designer has the relevant information from an author then the next stage is the research on the existing market place, this is something that follows certain trends as design culture and popularity alters over time. Most designers understand this very well and keep ahead of the trends by constant research, if you work within a field you love then seeing what happens in its entirety becomes easier.
Having this information, the designer now starts to formulate ideas based around the brief, this starts off simply with drawing out key words and elements, from here these elements are worked upon and brainstormed into something fuller. Like a snowball rolling down a hill the more you work upon an element the more detailed it becomes until you soon have something tangible, this then becomes the basis for your first draft
With the use of paper, pencils and Photoshop you can further develop these ideas into drafts which will represent the concept of the book perfectly and help to sell the book to its audience.