Covers from a newb perspective – Part 3

Sorry this is late! I’d blame NaNoWriMo, but really it was trying to do a much larger, more complicated post than I should have. So I’m breaking this into two parts – the resources and ideas for covers (Part 3), and an example of how I do it (Part 4). Part 1 of course dealt lightly with trends in the cover art world, and Part 2 was taking a specific title – Ben Aaronovitch’s “Midnight Riot” (“Rivers of London” in the UK) – and looking at three different covers and discussing what worked and what didn’t.

First, I am not a professional anything  – designer, photographer, artist – and I am especially not a professional book cover artist. But I am an amateur all-of-the-above, and so this is how to do this and what to take into consideration from the AMATEUR perspective, for the AMATEUR audience. Book covers, banners and promotional material made this way will use the same techniques as the pros. But if you are doing this for something intended to be super attractive and sell your book to readers, I very strongly suggest going with a professional. As much because honing these skills takes time away from writing as any other reason 😛

Now to the covers.

For the example in Part 4, I will be making a temporary cover for my upcoming book, Muses. So there are some things we’re going to need: The book blurb, the book’s main character’s descriptions, and the book’s genre. These are all thing you’ll want to give your official cover designer anyway, so it’s a good idea to have them together. I’ve posted my Blurb and Character descriptions for Muses as a separate post. If you want to read them for inspiration, they’re here.

Brainstorming the cover:

Peter Grant gives a run down on the common elements for the major speculative fiction genres. Whatever genres you what to publish in, look at a broad swath of the covers. Chances are, you already know what you like and what you look for is also how readers in general clue in to what genre they’re looking at. THIS IS IMPORTANT. If readers look at a photo of trees on a hillside with curly font, they are NOT going to be thinking Thriller. Farah Evers gives a good list of 10 things to avoid in making your cover, and being too generic for your genre is one, and being not specific enough for your genre is another. So there is a sweet spot to hit.

I looked here for ideas, themes and trends – a giant aggregate for pre-made book covers in different genres, most of them under $100. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find what you want and you can skip the rest of this blog, hahaaha… wait, where are you going?? I have links to more cool sites below!


If you’re using photoshop or a similar program to make a cover, chances are you need to start with a photo. That photo HAS to have the right licensing – don’t think for your banner or Wattpad or NaNoWriMo book cover that you can just get away with it because it’s not meant for profit. YOU CAN GET SUED. Yes, even if you credit the source. If you modify it, it needs a modify licence. If you intend to use it commercially, it needs a commercial licence. … ah, I see you scampering back to that pre-made site! Well, it’s actually not THAT hard to find images that you can use free and clear. A good site for that is CCSearch, which trawls through a dozen different websites (one at a time) for your search terms, returning things that have Creative Commons licences. Another good one is MorgueFile. If you can pay a modest amount of money, allow MorgueFile to search in the other pay sites (iPhoto, Fotolia, etc.) for a broader selection.

And finally if you want a hand-drawn cover, a good place to start is DeviantArt – not to TAKE an image (there are very few that are creative commons), but to contact an artist whose style you like to either see if you can use their drawing on conditions, or if you can commission something for you specifically. You’ll be surprised how inexpensive that can be!

Altering your photos:

Got your photos? OK, now we have to set them up to best work together. For this you’re going to need a program. A good one that you can get for free is GIMP, but it has a bit of a learning curve. I say this as a person who has used photo-editing software for years. Here are some other free software, rated by PCMag and About. GIMP is on both of these lists, and it’s what I’m going to use… mainly because it’s late and it’s the only one I have installed.

The best/scariest thing ever is to watch the pros at work. They make covers with crazy amounts of separate images and layers. In the example, I’m going to do… four.

When you’re incorporating multiple images into one, you’re going to need to get rid of the parts of the image that aren’t needed for the final product. Here is a good tutorial on YouTube for that – you can see that there are a LOT of GIMP and other photoshop tutorials on YouTube. I LOVE THIS!!!

Picking the Font:

This is the part I like the least. I’m sure it’s other people’s absolute favorite, but for me this is where I stare at a good 3000 font choices and nearly cry. So I want to kiss Derek Murphy for putting together this list of 300+ fonts for covers, BY GENRE! Seriously, come here cutie!!

Not all of those fonts are free, or if they are free it’s not always for commercial use. But you can check fontsquirrel and dafont to see what the licences are on whatever you fall in love with.

Now we’ve got our images prepped and our font(s) picked – it’s time to make the cover!

I will be walking you through that in the next part – Part 4, using examples from my own cover. But now that you have these resources, you might just beat me to it 😀 See you Saturday!


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