Friday 15 August 2014

You Decide to Use a Photo of a Brick Instead of a Cover

Signs of a problem: thirty insipid photos of a brick in your smartphone camera roll.

The symptoms: chronic laziness, delusions of grandeur.

You don’t know how to use Photoshop and hey, it’s the age of publishing diversity, so you convince yourself that a pixelated, out-of-focus photo of a brick is a worthy substitute for a cover. You look at your insipid brick photo remembering the chapter that has a wall in it, and tell yourself that it’s perfect – this simple representation of your story is all readers need.

You are wrong.

Perhaps, if you were a trusted author, people would call your decision ‘daring’, ‘intentional’ and ‘unique’. But you’re not the artist formerly known as Prince; you’re the wannabe author currently known as nothing. Early in your career, people will just assume that you don’t know what you’re doing.

Your cover should include, at the very least, the title of your book and your pen name. It should look good as a thumbnail and at full size.

Picture editing software is easy to come by and so are friends who know how to use it. Offer a friend a copy of your eBook and a sugary treat in return for a lesson.

Once you’ve learnt the basics of manipulating photos, adding text and filling backgrounds, you are ready to design your first cover. Now that your eyes are open to the simplicity of basic but professional-looking cover creation, do you still want to use your insipid photo of a brick?

If your book is about the daily trials and tribulations of being a brick, then maybe, just maybe, there is an argument for incorporating a photo of a brick within a wider cover design. However, make sure it is the best brick photo you can find. If your own photography skills are lacking, you can buy some excellent royalty-free photos online or you could ask a skilled friend to take a photo for you (in exchange for a copy of your eBook, naturally). If your budget allows it, you could hire an illustrator to depict the perfect brick to represent your story.

Once you’ve created your cover, check you haven’t fallen into any newbie traps. Do not use text that is the same colour as its background. Do not obscure your artwork with text. Do not include an image of some ginger pubes bursting out of Swedish-flag boxer shorts.

Once you’ve checked your final draft, show it to some friends and ask for feedback in exchange for a free copy of your eBook.

Additional Blog-Exclusive Advice

By Katie W. Stewart

In the early days of indie publishing, many of the self-published books were easy to spot. A pixelated photo of a brick would actually be an improvement on what some people used for covers. Papyrus or Comic Sans font on a graduated turquoise background was a dead giveaway. These days, self-published books are getting harder and harder to pick, though Papyrus and Comic Sans do still occasionally rear their amateur heads. Why have things improved? Has everyone mastered Photoshop (in which case, Adobe must be getting very rich) or is there another reason?

Well, yes, some authors have a talent for doing their own covers. Not all use Photoshop either. I’m told there’s a free program called Gimp that does much the same thing. The fact is though, that along with the growth of the indie publishing industry has come the growth of the book cover design industry. Type ‘book cover design’ into your search engine and you’ll come up with a gazillion sites, all offering to create your perfect cover. Indie author budgets are tight though. That’s probably why you were thinking of using that photo of a brick. (Go on, admit it, you know it’s true.) One look at some of the prices quoted on these sites will send you straight back to your brick. The truth is, though, that it is quite possible to get a very decent cover for not a huge amount of money.

Type ‘pre-made book covers’ into Google and you’ll get just as many sites offering you covers already made. For nothing extra they will put your name and title on the one of your choice. Most are quite cheap, little more than you’d pay for a good new shirt. Of course, you may not be able to find exactly what you had in mind for your book. I’ve never actually seen a pre-made with a brick on it. However, if your artistic skills stopped developing in kindergarten, you may find the time spent looking through these sites is far more advantageous than the time spent trying to master a program like Photoshop. You may even find a few covers that inspire further novels. It has happened!

You’ve written a great story, right? If you hadn’t, you wouldn’t be publishing it. So why put a second-rate cover on it? Would you spend years doing body-building to get into great shape and then go around dressed in old sacks? Dress your book in the cover it deserves. Whether you make it yourself or get a professional cover, make sure your book looks as good on the outside as it is on the inside.

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