Building Your Book Cover
The path not taken
When I decided to take the nontraditional path to publication, I relished the idea of creating the cover art for my book. I have an extensive background in art, but I believe it’s not essential to the task. There are so many ways to manipulate photographs and images today that most people can design a cover themselves with a little patience–remember, you’ve written a book. With some experimentation, a book cover is a possibility.
The process began by choosing one of my favorite pots. It was purchased in Santa Fe a couple decades ago and created by C.G. of the Jemez Pueblo. Its motifs are carefully defined and the artist used bright turquoise on one side. I added to this a sage smudge stick from The Ark, a metaphysical store in Santa Fe, a candle and several colors of feathers, one turquoise to repeat that color in the montage.
Putting it all together
For the background, I chose a painting I did years ago. The classroom assignment was to paint an “other worldly” scene. The leafless tree limbs and the skeletal buttes seemed just right for the look I wanted: a supernatural interpretation. What you see is not the entire painting, but just one corner of it. After arranging the objects, I set the painting behind the table and raised it using blocks until it was the best height.
With the tableau set, I began taking photos. At first, I didn’t light the candle. It was observed that without a flame, someone might mistake it for a glass of milk. Okay, point taken. Light the candle.
I took about a dozen photos. Distance was varied, objects positioned and repositioned. You can see the photo I chose before it was enhanced. I imported it to Picasa where I edited it in “Creative Kit.” There I used its effect called “Heat Map 2.0” to warm it in the “Thermal” setting. The second photo shows this warming process (and this photo has the unlighted candle). This one was heated too much and discarded. I tried again and liked that it blurred the photo just a little making it seem mysterious. The background gave it the sinister feel.
Turn some letters
Once I had the appearance I wanted, it was time to choose a typeface for the cover. Because it is a metaphysical story, it seemed better to go with a font that was not clearly defined. Picasa had several which fit the bill and you’ll notice them on the trial cover. Using the “Text” box, I was able to size it perfectly. Eventually, I chose “Angstrom.” I liked the caps and the weather-beaten appearance of the letters.
The font for the author name was easy because I wanted that straightforward and clear. “Georgia” gave that clean, sharp look I wanted. Voila, a book cover!
While building a book cover is intensive work, it’s also creative and great fun.
Ahead of the curve
Self-publishers, begin thinking of your cover long before the manuscript is complete. Pick up clues from your storyline. Would an action, still life or photo be most appropriate? Do you want people in it? Landscape only? Or conceptual work? If you use a photograph or art work other than your own, please make sure it is “public domain” or you have permission from the photographer or artist.
The phrase, “You can’t tell a book by its cover,” dates back to the days when all covers looked the same. Today, you should be able to tell a book by its cover. Traditional publishers work hard to establish a brand for each author’s book. Indie publishers should too. If you’re writing a series, each cover should resemble the other to give you a trademark design.
Building your own book cover is a chance to have some fun, stretch those creative muscles in another direction. Give it some thought. Draw sketches, and set your imagination loose.
— G G Collins