Self-publishing a novel is a complex, time consuming and potentially expensive process. Paying for a designer to create a book cover for you is one expense you can avoid; if you have some basic design skills, and the confidence to do the job yourself.
You’ll need some design software. I used Adobe Elements, a cut-down version of Photoshop, with most of the functionality, but at a fraction of the price (I had this software already, so it cost me nothing). There’s probably some free software out there that would do the job. Or you could download a free trial version, but you’ll need to be quick, as you only get 7 days free with Photoshop, or 15 free with Corel Draw. If you’re not familiar with the software there’s a lot to learn in a short time.
There are really only two approaches. The easy way is to find a photograph you like, and which evokes the spirit and subject matter of your book. There are a huge range of professional photos available on the wibbly-wobbly-web. Sources such as Unsplash allow you to use images from their archive for free, for both non-commercial and commercial purposes. Having downloaded a photo, you can copy it into your cover file. You can just have it on the front cover, leaving the back cover and spine a solid colour. Or you can have it wrap around the spine and onto the back cover (but make sure it isn’t too dark/light so that the small text won’t show up). Then you just need to position and format the text (Title, author name, blurb, price and ISBN) and leave a space for the barcode. It’s an easy way to get a serviceable, professional looking cover.
And then there’s the hard way. Instead of using a stock photograph (which won’t be unique to you by the way, so it could potentially turn up elsewhere; maybe even on the cover of another book) you could use one of your own photographs. You could then start adding other effects, such as an opaque panel overlay. The author name could straddle this panel, with the first name above it, in the same colour (and opaque) and the surname cut out of the panel, in negative. You could draw the outline of a figure, shade it and blur it, to create a shadowy profile. And then, while you’re at it, why not teach yourself Aboriginal-style dot painting, so you can create some interesting dot-painted shapes to swirl around the figure, then wind their way round and across the back cover. I’m rarely one to take the easy option.
Creating the cover for my latest novel took me a long time, but I am pleased with the result. I think it looks professional, but distinctive. It looks as if it’s been individuality designed, as if some thought’s gone into it (which it has), which I hope will make it stand out, in a good way, from the generic, photo-based covers that are more usual for a self-published book. I’m hoping, in fact, that it doesn’t look like a self-published book. But you can be the judge of that. Next time…
Text and images ©Graham Wright 2019