When self-publishing, the average Indie author wears many hats while transforming the words of a manuscript into an ebook or paperback. This means handling multiple jobs of the publishing biz that would normally be done by specialized pros: editing, interior formatting, cover design, marketing, etc. The Indie dilemma–you can’t just write unless you have deep enough pockets to hire out for many professionals.
Enter discussions in forums and you’ll likely hear energized opinions of what authors should or should not do for themselves. Editing probably stands out the most, but another heated debate is on cover design. Should an Indie author design her/his own cover? Well, the tools exist online to do it for free, so is that reason enough to give it a try?
It was for me. I’ve done it 7 times, and although my covers haven’t been nominated for awards (nor will they), I do sell books. Ultimately the reviews and referrals sell more than the covers, but let’s not get off track. This post is not intended to be an argument for or against doing it yourself; it’s just to give examples from authors I’ve met in cyberspace who made their own covers and are willing to share experiences. This is not a contest nor is it meant to be in any order, and for those who still insist on hiring out… at the bottom are affordable solutions.
Before judging these books by their covers it’s important to recognize that plenty of Amazon best-sellers have less-than-stellar front faces. http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/ is a list of top 100 paper-books, not ebooks, and it may surprise you to find many simple designs (basic photo or graphics with text) on best-selling books. Seems about 20% of the books on this top 100 list are simple enough to be reproduced by the average Indie.
Here are some covers made by Indie authors using (mostly) free resources.
Title: Love of My Life: Memoirs of a Love Lost
Author: Angie Russell
Description from author: Cover was made using Adobe Photoshop CS2. Basic elements were applied like text, cropping of photograph, soft glow, etc. I’m a novice in Photoshop but was still able to make a cover I was proud of. Took me about 2 weeks and 8 drafts.
Author’s blog: www.angienrussell.wordpress.com
Amazon Kindle page: www.amazon.com/dp/B004YQDPR6
Author: Raisa Marika Stohyn
Description from author: I used a Kodak digital. I brewed a pot of traditional borshch, with hand cut vegetables. As I have no experience in food photography, it took ten days to get the shot! Days 1-9 were frustrating. I got complicated, adding a head of garlic, a lemon slice and bread. I soon discovered that cold borshch looks unappetizing; I heated and washed utensils daily. Lighting, props, even spoon angle had to be precise. Once I was happy, I used Picasa’s free photo editing program to fine tune and add text.
Author’s website: www.ukrainiansoulfood.ca
Amazon Kindle page: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006WPZE6M
Author: Shawn Cannon
Description from author: I created my book cover for free. I used an open source program called GIMP. It is very similar to Photoshop, without any cost. Google was a terrific resource to find royalty free images. There was one photo, that I did ask for permission to use. Custom fonts were found online for free as well. After that, it was just trial and error. By no means am I an artist. I was just dedicated to playing around with GIMP until I found some looks and features that I was ultimately pleased with. I did not want a cover that looked like it was created by an amateur, and I was determined to keep my costs down in the process. I probably spent ten hours in all from start to finish.
Author: Jonna Ivin
Description from author: I knew what I wanted for the picture, so I asked a friend to pose and another friend with a good camera to take the shot. The rest I did in photoshop. Found the text on line and downloaded it for free. Painted her sign myself. All free!
Author’s website: http://www.jonnaivin.com/ (Still working on website. I don’t know much about them.)
Title: The Red Poppy
Author: P. Alan Davis
Description from author: The making of this cover was very simple. I used a photo of a Maui Poppy I took last year. Because I needed a more vertical image for a book, I rotated the image 90 degrees. I posterized it using Nero and adjusted the color from lavender to more of a red hue using the same software. The image was inserted into a MS Publisher file and the title and by-line were added. I saved it as a PDF then converted it to JPG. I did two separate covers–one for Kindle and one for paperback using the same image but different layouts and text.
Author’s blog: http://padaarch.blogspot.com/
Amazon Kindle page: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00652M1G8/
Title: From Interviewed to…YOU’RE HIRED! A Short Guide to Interview Success Strategies
Author: Dr. Angela Massey
Description from author: First, I studied some of the book covers on Amazon to get a feel for what’s selling and would probably work. Second, I paid for the cover picture from iStock.com. Third, I created the cover in myeCovermaker.com. Since I’m not a graphic artist, I wanted something easy to use, yet sophisticated enough to provide a nice looking cover. I went through four revisions before settling on the current cover, and I’ll probably change it again! All in all, creating the book cover was the most demanding part of my book writing process.
Author: C. S. Einfeld
Illustrator: Aaron Einfeld
Description from author: Aaron designed it originally in pencil, then using CGI, primarily DAZ studio and a bit of Bryce.
Author’s blog: www.authorcseinfeld.blogspot.com
Amazon Kindle page: http://www.amazon.com/Neverdark-ebook/dp/B0069TD5AI/
Title: Desert Harvest
Author: Wando Wande
Description from author: I used open source software, Gimp. The painting is a public domain image by Federick Remington.
Author’s blog: omnifish.wordpress.com
Amazon Kindle page: http://www.amazon.com/Desert-Harvest-ebook/dp/B006OEVPB4/
Title: Twilight of the Bald and other stories
Author: Robert Challis
Description from author: I wanted a striking image featuring a smooth cranium, for which I was the ideal model. After taking a digital photo and adding the text, I experimented with photoshop effects rather randomly. The effect I used is from filters/stylize/glowing edges, then adjusting the fine controls to the degree of brightness I wanted. A self photo removes any copyright issue as well as being satisfying to the vanity!
Smashwords book page: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/75022
Author: Jason Matthews
Description from author: Mostly proud of this because I made it in 20 minutes. The photos are freely available from Flickr’s Creative Commons. I used Inkscape for everything including the photo transparency and text graphics. This cover is from a free short story, and it’s the example in my video class teaching e-publishing with free resources.
Author’s website: http://ebooksuccess4free.webs.com/
Amazon Kindle page: http://www.amazon.com/Extreme-Skiing-Psychedelic-Mushrooms-ebook/dp/B005OZJ1JC/
Now for those who really want some affordable professional solutions, here are some ideas:
- If you email email@example.com, you can get a list of cover designers as well as ebook formatters–experienced, inexpensive and approved by Smashwords.
- Contact Bradley Wind via his Flickr page – http://www.flickr.com/photos/bwind3/sets/72157617997470513/ and see about an affordable cover.
- oDesk.com specializes in hiring out for small jobs with people from all over the world.
- 99desings can have multiple artists competing for your job, though expect to pay more for it.
- Some of my favorite free online programs useful for making book covers include: Inkscape for graphics editing, Flickr Creative Commons for photos, and Picasa for simple photo editing.
- In the comments sections, feel free to either offer your services or recommend a cover designer.
I titled this post part 1 because I believe many other Indies might show up in the near future with covers and stories of their own to feature. Look for an update here if it’s out.
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