What if they asked you to die for your country…but your family could never know?
So begins the official Week 1 of my six-week experimental launch of The Calico Junction Incident series and already quite a few of you have downloaded and read the first installment. THANK YOU! Initial feedback has been enthusiastic -- whew! -- and I am currently hard at work getting Episode 2 ready for download next Monday.
(If you haven't gotten your free advance reader copy of Kill Team yet, click here.)
But today, we're here to talk about the cover because I promised a bunch of you I'd share the whole behind-the-scenes production process, and so I'm gonna.
Here's my quick and easy guide to making your own book covers:
Firstly, just a little caveat because I feel it will be important for those of you who feel intimidated by cover design and specifically Photoshop (or any of its free/low-cost/open source counterparts):
I, too, am fairly new to the fantastical world of PS. The Kill Team cover you see above, that's my second book cover I've ever made.
So be not afraid, friends. I know all those panels and buttons look like they belong on the console of a spaceship -- Transform! Warp! Vector! Rasterize! What be these things?! More importantly, what do I do with them?
Well, firstly, you must always wield your Photoshop powers for good. Well...as much as you can restrain yourself anyway.
Secondly, you must be patient with yourself...and be willing to Google everything. Search: "How do I bend lines?" or "How do I make the margins *&^%ing listen to me?!"
And don't forget YouTube. Chances are, whatever miracles you're trying to perform in PS, someone's already done it in YouTube. Start with: "How to make an ebook cover?" That may be all you need. 🙂
Now, listen, in the grand scheme of things, it's often smarter to hire a professional to do these things. There are loads of talented graphic designers and artists out there like Domi who can do your book cover up real nice with original art, detailed customization, and an experienced eye towards your specific genre. Even better, many of designers offer pre-made covers at a discounted price.
So you have to ask yourself what your long-term goals are. If you're interested in getting your book to market with a solid cover as quickly as possible and you have no interest in or experience making book covers, by all means, hire someone. That just makes good business sense.
However, I'm one of those people who wants to do it all by herself...or at least learn how to...and satisfying that desire is an important part of my long-term goals. Plus, I have so many stories I want to get out -- finished stories -- that if I had to hire out that many covers, it'd cost me a small fortune to do it.
That said, I have hired graphic designers when the task exceeded my humble skills, and I no doubt will again. I completely expect that one day down the road I'll have to update this series with new covers, and I'll probably want to do that with covers made by someone more talented and experienced in this regard.
But for now, it's just me, Photoshop, and YouTube. Doing is the best way to learn, and practice is the only way to get good at anything. So I keep doing. 🙂
2. Pick a Compelling Image
There's plenty of places to find free, high-quality, compelling images for your book cover. Websites like Unsplash and Pixabay are a great place to start if you're watching your pennies.
Personally, I like Bigstock. I've tried other places, but they're my favorite in terms of the size of their collection, the type of images I look for, and the clear-cut licensing terms. I pay for a month's subscription and download my limit of any and all images I can think of that might apply to current and future projects. So far, I've done that twice, and by the end of this second round, I should have enough images to supply my future book covers for a good long while. 🙂
Now, if you look at the cover for Kill Team, you might think, there's really nothing to it. And you would be correct. It's a very basic cover. Basically one image with typography. You can't get much simpler than that.
What makes the cover work -- I think -- and please comment below if you have feedback, suggestions, comments, or just wish to differ -- is that it's a compelling image. It's really just a few lines, but those few lines add up to an iconic image that everyone around the world can relate to. We all know what flying saucers look like, right?
Not only that, but the color of this particular image is electric and eye-catching. Funnily enough, the digital artist behind this image, "Lonely," did the same image I selected for my first book cover for The Cat Lady, which you'll see next week. I like the way he plays with light in his images, and I'm hoping to find more for the rest of the series.
I definitely feel like I lucked out with this image though. I think I had a concept in my head of combining two images, maybe a silhouette of a special ops soldier in a desert landscape, shooting star or UFO in the background -- ohmahgerd! It's easy to get carried away with cover design concepts, but sometimes simple is better.
My plan was just to erase the word "UFO" on the bottom and continue on with layering the words over it, but once I erased it, I realized the little spotlight beneath the words fit neatly beneath my own book title...so I left it.
If one were to look closely, they could see I didn't do it perfectly. It was hard to erase the bottoms of the letters without skimming the top of that spotlight, but I think it worked out just fine.
3. Use a template.
Yes, with a little bit of Googling and some patience, I could put together my own template that establishes the size of the cover, the type and placement of typography, and a bunch of other things...or I could just use a template and make my life easier. Plus, working from a template allows you to play with the various elements to see what works and what doesn't in design.
I'm certain there are tons of templates available out there. For my covers, I used a package of templates I purchased from KD Cover Kit. I should point out, I'm not an affiliate, and I don't know the folks running it. I just happened to come across their templates, and I'm pretty happy with the results. They're damn easy to use, and it makes getting started a lot easier.
I originally started out with this template. It doesn't much look like the final cover, does it? That's okay. Things will change as you get into a project. You won't be able to find the perfect image for your concept, so you'll have to adjust -- or you'll find something better and abandon your first concept. Also, fonts are a still a puzzle to me, and I had problems matching the fonts to the ones used in the template...so I just scrolled through what I had and made it work. Just like life. Lol.
For those of you who are still viewing this whole process with deep suspicion, let me assure you that most of this process is a drag-and-drop situation. True story! I was actually surprised at how easy it is once you get the hang of the controls. I'm hoping to get good enough to Photoshop dancing monarchs into funny kid pictures soon enough.
Just don't be afraid to search for your answers. The truth is out there.
Check it out. This little six-minute video....
...yielded my first 3D book cover. Huzzah! I truly thought doing 3D covers required some sort of special-er software. This took me 10 minutes. Learning this skill gave me superpowers and had me convinced for a full 24-hour period that doing dishes was a waste of my valuable resources. 😉
So I hope this was helpful to y'all. I know it's not a nitty-gritty guide -- nor was it intended to be -- but I hope it encourages those of you who are inclined to DIY and arting around to give it a go yourself. It's great fun! Just remember, you never know until you try.
And if you do try, leave me a link in the comments so we can all look and go, "How pretty!" Seriously! Do that! I love book covers!
Want a free advance reader copy of Kill Team before it goes up for sale? Just enter your email address below, and I'll send you a link where you can download it in .mobi/Kindle, ePUB, or PDF format. 😀