Who doesn’t love a gorgeous book cover?
To those of you raising your hands in the back, you may sit down now.
But honestly, I’ve never met a reader or author who didn’t inexplicably admire and love a beautiful book cover. As authors we want our books to someday sit on the shelves beside those covers, and maybe, dare we hope, even be just as lovely.
Book cover design is a skill and an art. Crafting a beautiful cover requires countless hours of editing, practice and time, so it’s no doubt that many high quality covers are worth a pretty penny. While these covers are no doubt worth their price, that doesn’t always mean a budding author has the budget for one right out of the gate. Thankfully with the popularity of graphic design software, there is always the option of creating a book cover yourself!
Of course, let’s be honest. Are we all going to be pros on our first try? Eh, probably not (remember all those countless hours of practice I just mentioned?). BUT, that doesn’t mean we still can’t try and have fun learning!
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Canva. For someone technologically challenged such as myself, it’s pretty simple to learn. It has tons of templates and sizes, as well as a huge range of free photos and fonts to use. You can always upgrade for more features, but so far I’ve found their free version to suit my needs for the time being. As I’m on that aforementioned budget, all of my photos are free stock photos found on Pixabay or Pexels.
I’d like to share my book cover design process, and how I’ve come in about 6 months of trial and error. I know my skills are still pretty basic, but with each new attempt I’ve learned more and more about what makes a good book cover. I’ll be using my mock-ups for my novel Ocean’s Daughter as it’s been through the most rounds of edits.
Book Cover Evolution for Ocean’s Daughter
Attempt # 1
I made this cover as a way to motivate myself while working through NaNoWriMo. I’d never designs a cover before, so I used one of the basic templates that Canva offered and simply added my own image. To be honest, I wasn’t really a fan of the model since, despite what the title may suggest, the novel’s protagonist is not female, and I felt this gave off a more contemporary YA vibe than fantasy.
I quickly made a new cover, and realized I like using objects instead of people much more. I liked this one a little better, but it really didn’t have much to do with the story at hand except that they both featured the ocean. By this point I had found a series title I was happy with, but the lettering itself was still bothering me.
I changed the placement of title a bit more and once again went hunting for a new image. I LOVED this jellyfish and felt it really gave off a proper magical, fairy tale vibe. Admittedly, jellyfish don’t make a large appearance in the novel, but I was struggling with what to use as a focal object as the story doesn’t really lend itself to one symbolic item.
As much as I adored the previous image, the more I studied it the more I realized it was simply too fuzzy and there wasn’t a more high quality version available. But I stuck with the jellyfish theme since so far it was the only thing that gave off the right vibe. At this point I also started adding much more detail. I loved the border and I began numbering all of my novels as well. I also began playing around a bit more with fonts in search of something a little more appropriate.
Unfortunately, as much as I liked my previous cover, it didn’t fare very well when I asked for critique. Apparently the jellyfish looked strange to many people and it was repeatedly chosen as the least favorite among all my other covers. Not only that, all my other covers had flat backgrounds while this one was quite different. I decided to go in a new direction and settled on a seashell instead. Additionally I decided to alter the border as the previous one was crowding out the text a bit too much. I also played around with the fonts a little bit more.
Attempt # 6
As much as I felt like my last attempt may have been my final one, I was taking a new direction with my covers to make them more cohesive and I decided I wanted all black covers. This proved more challenging than I thought! Even as I settled on this image, I knew I wasn’t 100% happy with it as it looked slightly fuzzy and the contract was a little too stark for me. Still, I lived with this cover for quite awhile.
My newest cover! I decided to do away with ocean-themed images altogether and I’m pretty pleased with it! I tightened up the cover a bit so it’s all on one line and matches more with the rest of the series. As can be expected, this is my favorite cover yet!
So there we have a quick run-down of my book cover process! I’ve had a lot of fun learning what does and doesn’t work, and I like to think I’m improving a little bit with each try. Ultimately I would love to hire a professional cover artist for my novels, and that’s the goal I’m working toward. But in the meantime, if the chips don’t happen to fall that way, I figure it couldn’t hurt to give it a go myself.
Do you make your own book covers? What program do you use? Do you enjoy it? Can I see them?!?