Making My Book Cover, Indie Style

One of the more exciting things I’ve found about getting your book together is making the book cover. I truly believe book covers can make or break a sale. While I’m much more understanding in the last few months on indie publishing (covers from scratch are pricey, y’all), I still judge books by their covers. If the cover is cheesy or looks like it’s kinda hokey or even just plain bad, it’s going to take one heck of a story summary to catch my interest into giving someone my money. People tend to air out their aggravations over “homemade” covers. I’m constantly looking at different ones on Amazon and taking note of what works for me and what doesn’t. We all do it and if someone swears they don’t, they’re lying to you. Good covers are better than bad covers. Period. Question is, what defines a good cover and how do you make one from scratch as an indie author?

For me, simple is better. I’m not saying I’m only using a photo from my iPhone with a Times Roman font title (I just made the designer in you cringe, didn’t I?), but I’m very much of the “less is more” fan club–maybe because I’m an introvert or laidback or just plain know my own limitations on what I can and can’t do. I know I can’t afford a super expensive cover artist, no matter how talented they may be. That means I have to find someone in a reasonable price range, but who’s also willing to listen to my ideas and not take over just because they’re giving me a bargain and now want the reins.

As someone who will push for e-book sales, I want to make sure the cover is eye catching enough to grab a reader’s attention from the website, where it’s more than likely mixed in with a bunch of other covers begging to be picked for a read, too. I also want to make sure my point gets across–that it looks like it has a paranormal appeal without giving too much away. But I want the readers to go, “Hunh. That looks interesting enough to read the sample chapter, at least.” Then I cross my fingers and hope they want to keep reading.

Here’s where my best friend comes in. Erica, a graphic design major and my since-college-bestie, is talented and knows me inside and out, including my “less is more” attitude. When we started throwing ideas around, she had me collect inspiring photos and covers to give her a better idea of what I was looking for. I had NO idea what I wanted at first. Literally, not a clue. I knew what I wanted the cover to have in it, but didn’t know how to make it come together.

It has to have a circus feel. That tells the reader the setting. It also HAD to have fire–my main character is a Firestarter and it’s the main component of her story. Unfortunately for Erica (because fire is difficult in Photoshop), I refused to let this one go (sorry, E). And you know what? That was it; that was everything I required. Other than those two things, I told her to do whatever the heck she thought looked good. Oh, and lucky for Erica, I didn’t want the usual magic swirls and fancy script usually appropriated by pretty fantasy novels–my character is a smart-mouthed jerk who doesn’t buy into girly or over-embellished things, so I figured it would look out of character for someone as straightforward as her. This way, the cover matches the feel of tone and characters–what you see is what you get.

Maybe four days later, I had very 3 rough drafts to choose from. I picked the first one, as it gave the best indication of where we were headed. I gave her my feedback so she’d know where to go from here. She warned me how difficult fire is, especially with her very tight schedule, so I started the great search for istock photos. After I emailed her a small novella with my thoughts, including several links to photos I’d found that might work for our purpose, she spent another week on the second drafts.

This is where it gets exciting. I got 3 back and knew almost immediately I wanted the first one (pattern much?). With only a few tweaks that Erica swears are no big deal, we talked a hundred miles a minute about what works and why we wanted it. We settled on what would be changed and I bought the istock photo for $18 (a freakin’ bargain, given the circumstances of what I’d pay otherwise).

It was fun to do–Erica and I have always worked well together. We did our own photography business logo in about three hours together and loved it, so she knows how I work. Even better, she’s reading the book and now has a great idea of why I want the things I do (I’d also like to note that she’s a terrible reader and actually texted me this morning to say she would’ve stayed up all night reading if she could. I take that as a good sign!). Being visually creative is a different kind of fun for me and the fact that I now have a rough draft makes it so much more real. I’m stoked. Plus, now I can say my cover was created by my best friend (and was free. Minus the lovin’ I give her)!

Hopefully, provided nothing crazy happens to her schedule, I’m looking at a final rough draft in another week or so. We’ll look over it, make sure we like the fonts and colors, and then it’s done. That means the next step is to actually put it out in the world (holy shit) and as Courtney told me, start promoting, promoting, promoting! Designing the cover was really fun and I’m so flippin’ excited to see the final product and show it to everyone. Then I actually have a real book, in the published world, with MY name on it.

Holy smokes.

8 thoughts on “Making My Book Cover, Indie Style

  1. taureanw says:

    Picking/designing a cover is something I am both excited about & dreading at the same time. Nice to know it has worked out for you!

    As someone who is also working towards the e-publishing route I am enjoying following your journey!!

    • LizLong says:

      Thank you! It is quite the journey, isn’t it? I’m honestly so glad to have some parts over with and moving forward because there’s no looking back, you know? Best of luck to you as well!

  2. M.K. Wilke says:

    Hey Liz I just did this whole e-publishing myself and I am trying to make a cover that really captures the eye. I believe in less is more too but the cover I have on amazon is currently not attracting much attention, would it be worse for me if I changed the cover now that its up or worse for business if I left it up.

    • LizLong says:

      It depends–do you have a large following/readership? If things are still a little slow, I’d go ahead and change it up to what you prefer to be more eye-catching. If you DO have a large readership, it’s probably best to leave as is and learn your mistakes for the next title. At least, that’s my opinion! 🙂

      • M.K. Wilke says:

        Thanks Liz and no I am just starting up so I guess It is still safe to have it changed,

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