Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Self Publishing Tips #3: Creating a Book Cover

Self-publishing guru Lyn Horner returns for her third post in her self-publishing tips series. Lyn has had resounding success in self-publishing on Amazon. Today she discusses Creating an e-Book Cover. Come back at the end of every month for the next installment.
Thanks for joining us again, Lyn!

The Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines state that a Marketing Cover Image Is Mandatory. This image is what customers see on your product page.

Amazon Requirements
The preferred size is “a JPEG image of 2500 pixels on the longest side (with a minimum of 1000 pixels on the longest side). Covers with less than 500 pixels on the smaller side are uploaded, but are not displayed on the website.” You can also upload PNG images. I prefer them because colors don’t bleed and the image stays sharper.

The guidelines say not to stretch a small cover image, “because this does not add any quality.” In addition, your “cover image should not infringe other publisher’s or artist’s copyright on the same cover,” and should not “mention pricing or other temporary promotional offers.”

NOTE: I did add an awards badge to my Darlin’ Druid cover after the book won 2nd place in the Paranormal Romance Guild 2011 Reviewers Choice Awards Contest. Amazon has not objected.

Authors are also required to include an Internal Content Cover Image in the uploaded book file. For more details read the guidelines and download the pdf file for future reference. Go to page 14 of the guidelines for cover image requirements.

Graphics Programs
I design my own covers using two programs. One is “Paint,” available under Accessories in my Windows program. Instructions in the Paint help menu are limited, so it requires some practice to master the features. I use this program to combine elements of my cover images (background, cover model photos, book title and author name.)

GIMP is the other program I employ. I’m told it’s very similar to Photoshop. If you fully master it, you probably won’t need to use MS Paint. I use it mainly to blend colors and increase image resolution (number of pixels per inch.) The latter helps meet Amazon’s size requirement. Best of all, the program can be downloaded for FREE here!

Sources for Photos and Graphics
Artwork for book covers can be found in many different places. For my very first Darlin’ Druid cover, a friend let me use a photo she’d taken of Texas Longhorn cattle grazing in a field of bluebonnets (Texas state flower.) Later, I changed the book cover upon the advice of author friends. The new cover is “hotter.”

Some of my background images come from websites such as and They stock millions of images that include landscapes, human faces and figures, graphics and cartoons. Prices vary, but I’ve never paid more than a few dollars for one image. There are also free clipart sites on the net, but always make sure their images are royalty and copyright free.

When it comes to finding models for a book cover, some authors recruit family members or friends to pose for them. Others purchase clipart figures. An author friend clued me in about a male cover model, Jimmy Thomas, who runs a site where he sells electronic photos of himself with female models in many different poses and period costumes. They range from fairly tame to erotic. You can buy a pose for $10, but this doesn’t give you exclusive rights to it. You may see the same pose on other book covers. Jimmy also does exclusive custom photos, but they cost more. You are allowed to alter the poses any way you like. For my “new” Darlin’ Druid cover, I purchased three poses, altered and combined them to suit my book, but I was trained in the visual arts. If you don’t possess some artist knowhow, you may not want to go this route.

Once all necessary graphics are collected in my photo gallery, I use MS Paint to combine them. I start by laying in the background. If it needs some touching up, I may go to GIMP for that. For Darlin’ Druid, I combined three background elements: a cloudy night sky, a Celtic cross symbolizing the Druid connection, and a cowboy riding after a calf, showing the Texas theme.

Next I reopen the image in Paint, add some extra white space to the palette (page,) and use the “Paste From” feature under Paint’s Edit menu to open my doctored cover model image. I then “select” this image, choose the transparent background style in the options box just below the toolbar and drag the image into the foreground of my cover. Finally, I add the book title and my name using fonts available in the “Text” feature on the Paint Toolbar.

I hope all of this makes sense. As I did, you will need to play with Paint and/or GIMP for a while if you want to learn how to apply all the features.
Here’s a condensed demo of the steps involved:

Would I advise you to follow my example? Well, that depends upon how much time you want to spend on your cover. You don’t absolutely need a lot of artistic experience. You might choose a likely photo and use that for your book cover without making any alterations. Adding text and/or clip art graphics is also doable by anyone.

Obviously, the other alternative is to hire someone to create your book cover. Search online and you will find numerous companies that do this type of work. I have not looked into how much they charge, but I’m sure their fees vary according to what you want on your cover. If you choose this path, I invite you to comment about it here. I and others would be very interested to hear about your experience. Meanwhile, I will discuss “embedding” a book cover in your book file on my next blog. Thanks for visiting!

Come back the end of November for the next self-publishing installment from Lyn Horner!


Ruby Johnson said...

You're just a wealth of knowledge. I am enjoying your posts. My only problem is I don't know enough to ask an educated question.
Thanks again for being on our blog.

Lyn Horner said...

Ruby, what I've learned, I'm happy to share. And I often ask uneducated questions, so feel free to ask away. ;)

Bryan Grubbs said...

Thanks so much for all the great info! Leaves us with a lot to consider.

Lyn Horner said...

Bryan, you're so welcome. Self-publishing presents many problems, but also opportunities. Best of luck with your endeavors.

Earl Staggs said...

Great info on preparing a cover, Lyn. What you've given us should help me when I begin that process soon. Wish me luck!

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