Yesterday, I revealed the cover for Dead and Buryd. I’m very proud of my cover, and feel that it has a unique quality, as it is an original artwork. I will never find another book with the same stock imagery on my cover, nor will I find anyone with the exact same layout (unless they rip it from me.)
Creating a cover, whether you have someone create a piece of original artwork, you hire someone to lay it out for you, or you do it all yourself, is an art form that takes still and knowledge. I am of the belief that unless someone has the skill and knowledge of graphic design and image layout, they should probably be looking into hiring a professional. There are thousands out there, some of whom are very reasonably priced, and you can find them from their professional websites to Facebook.
This is my cover for Dead and Buryd. I found the artist, Mia H, via twitter. I actually knew her from another website, but it was twitter which let me know that she was a very talented artist, and she did commissions.
We emailed back and forth for a while, talking about ideas and the book. I provided her with a synopsis of the book, and also explained some of the key elements. The collar, shown on the cover, for example, is a very important part of the book, but isn’t explained in the synopsis. I also gave her some artwork that a friend had done for me, as this artwork accurately displayed the feel of the book. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting her to come up with something exactly the same, but in this case, all information is helpful information.
We decided on a price early on. I wanted an eBook cover and a Print cover. Obviously, the front would be the same, but for the print cover, that required extra work.
One issue we had was with the spine of the book. As my manuscript was off with the editor, I was unable to tell her exactly how wide the spine would be. If you want a wrap around cover for your book, where the image flows from the front, around the spine to the back, you will need the manuscript ready to go before you commission a cover. Spine width is entirely determined on the number of pages, and to know the exact number of pages, you need a finished, formatted, and ready to go manuscript.
As I’m going to be selling via different platforms (kindle, kobo, nook, etc,) I also needed to make Mia aware of the difference in their specifications. Kindle, for example, prefers a 1.6 ratio, where as Kobo uses 1.5. Nook, I’ve just looked at, apparently likes a 1.2 ratio, vastly different from the others.
I will assume (as I haven’t uploaded to any of these platforms yet) that each platform would, in theory, simply scale down your cover until it fits their ratio, but is that a good idea? Wouldn’t readers prefer a perfectly fitted cover? So, if you want to be able to customise your cover so that it fits with the ratio of each device, you need to have a cover that can have edges trimmed where need’s be. This also means that it is imperative to find the maximum pixel width and height you will need across the board, so that you won’t have white space at one edge where your cover doesn’t fit the reader.
Covers are also a lot bigger than you would think. This is to preserve the quality of the image, even once it has been scaled to fit a device.
As I am aware, current specifications stand as such:
Kindle: 1563 pixels wide 2500 pixels high.
Kobo: 1600 pixels wide x 2400 pixels high.
Nook: 600 pixels wide 730 pixels high.
iBook: 1563 pixels wide x 2500 pixels high.
Smashwords: 1600 pixels wide x 2400 pixels high.
This is why you need high quality stock photos for cover art. I personally recommend iStock for stock images as they have a vast selection. While I didn’t use stock images for my cover, I have used stock images for promotional material (such as the cover for my facebook page.)
If you were to make a smaller cover, say 600×800. When it is stretched to meet Kindle’s specifications, it’s going to be distorted, pixelated, and generally not as high a quality.
eBooks, however, are nothing compared to a print version, and from my experience researching with Mia, print is the one you really need to adhere to. While a white space at the bottom of a kindle will be slightly annoying, on a print book? Shoot yourself now.
Cover templates are available from Createspace and Lightning Source, and my suggestion would be to go with them first. Find the size of your book and download the template.
A cover is still a cover even if it’s a postage stamp.
One of the best advice I was given regarding covers was that your book cover must work at a small size, because that is how it will be displayed by online platforms.
Take a look at these covers on Kobo.
Slightly bigger than a postage stamp, yes, but they are still much smaller than the book will actually be. On sites like Kobo and Amazon, your cover will be the only thing customers see. That and the price. Customers must click on the book to read the blurb, so the cover has to sell it. An unreadable or jumbled cover will simply not work.
Amazon has smaller images than Kobo. Their images on the lists stand at 110px by 175px. As a test, I shrunk my cover down to that size to see how it measured up.
Now, as I’m using the kobo draft of my cover (I’m not on a computer with Photoshop at the moment) this stands at 110px by 165px. The width is correct, but the length could be 10px longer. Still, you get the idea. Suddenly, my title isn’t as clear as it was before, my name is a little bit harder to read. You can still see the image, that’s as it was before, but the text is a little off.
I have a decision to make now, on whether I make the title and author name a little larger so that they are clearer for the lists. – Not much of a decision, I’ll be playing around with these elements later on this evening.
As such, I would suggest that even if you are getting a professional to create your cover, ensure that you either have the ability to alter it, or you keep up a running dialogue with your designer so that you can tweak things if needed. Most professional designers should be well aware of the need for covers to work as a small image.
Continuity and Branding
This is especially important for series, but should be thought about by all writers in my opinion. People need to be able to see instantly that the book is yours. The only time that this should even consider being ignored is when you are writing in a different genre. I have an image of Philippa Gregory’s new novel above, but even though her books are not always in the same series, or use the same characters, you will notice that she uses a similar font for her name across the board.
While you may be thinking that this is your first book, you can think about the brand and continuity when you get to the next one, remember that you will be conforming to this cover. Unless you change the cover for your first book, you must conform later books to this one. Therefore, make sure that it’s something you are happy with.
J.F Penn is an independent author, and a wonderful example of being professional, even when going it alone. Her books have a great example of branding for an author. Small elements change, like the size of the title, but each one is using the same font style, and her name is even in the same colour on all three books. There is no doubt, as soon as you see the covers, that these are by the same author.
It is never too early to begin thinking about these things, especially if aiming for a long and productive career.