April 30, 2014

Your manuscript is polished to perfection and you’re ready to self-publish. Great. What about the book cover design? It’s a dilemma for many Indie authors. A lot of time and dollars can be spent finding a good graphic designer with the necessary insight to do your work justice.


Why not produce it yourself FOR FREE here at


You don’t need special programs, nor be particularly skilful. I confess to having only very basic operating skill. Hopefully that fact will give you some encouragement.


I’ll show you how to produce your own book cover using Microsoft Word and the photo manager tools that came pre-installed on my word processor.


I use ACDSee photo manager. If you don’t have it, you can download at:


I also use PhotoScape FREE from


And a fabulous FREE on-line facility called Picmonkey.


Each program has similar tools, but some site tools are easier to use than others. You will eventually work out what suits you best.


If you don’t have the time, don’t go the Do It Yourself route. It can take quite a few hours researching images, so if your enterprise is better spent earning daily dollars, or writing your next great novel, splash out the bucks and pay someone else.


However, don’t use the excuse, “I suck at art.” You could be missing out on some fun and it really isn’t as difficult as you might think. The only artistic talent required is an eye for what looks good. I’m sure you have what it takes.


Read on to find out what I’ve discovered, and how simple it is. I give instructions on how I achieved some stunning results with the most basic of tools and tell you how you too can have fun as a Do It Yourself graphic designer here at






There are 3 elements of every cover. I list them here in what I consider to be their relative importance.



The Image


The pictorial image is the single most important part of the design. Whether you choose photography, illustration, or simple typography, the cover art needs to be stunning and distinctive to set it apart from the other covers that appear on the book sellers’ lists. Easier said than done? I don’t think so.


The image does NOT need to illustrate the story. Or be particularly genre specific. But it does need to evoke a mood, and appeal to the reader looking for your kind of story.


For example: You may have written a steamy piece of erotica. Does it have to be illustrated with a hand running over a hunky torso? That stereotype image definitely gives the potential reader instant recognition of the kind of story they’re looking for, but will it stand out on a page of 500 other stock photo sweaty torsos?


Think ‘50 Shades of Grey’. You can’t tell me a monochromatic picture of a silk tie didn’t just flash in your mind. Try thinking along that line. Think rumpled bed sheets. Think lipstick on a beer glass... Think about other images that say “sex” in a different way.


But I’m not here for a fight. I’m just making suggestions, so I will leave you to decide your own approach to image selection.


There are a lot of free images in the public domain. I must, however, remind you that most artists’ work is quite rightly copyright protected. You should look into the matter if you’re not fully aware. This article is about design and production, so I apologise for the fact that I can’t go into detail about the difference between Free and Royalty Free. Just ask Jeeves.



Your Author Name


Do not play down this element because you’re an unknown author. I see it often. The author name printed in small type in the bottom right hand corner.


Present yourself as if you’re already famous and invoke an impression that the reader maybe should have heard of you. Make your author name as big, and in most cases, bigger, than the book title.


Why? You’re building a brand, and that brand is you. Virtually no big time author has their name printed in small type at the bottom of the cover. Why should you?


The exceptions could be if you don’t want to distract from the image. Sometimes, splattering your author name across the subject’s nose just doesn’t work. Or maybe you want your cover to have a more refined, elegant look.


You might also consider the author name itself. Is your own name memorable and easy to spell? If not, think about using a pen name. In which case, imagine someone searching for you on-line, somewhere like Amazon. If misspelled, or if using initials with or without periods, .... nothing. You can’t be found. Think Dan Brown, Mr. Geoffery E L Smyth.



The Title


Don’t worry if the title, or even your author name, can’t be read at thumbnail size when your book cover picture appears on the retailers’ lists. Remember: The title will be printed in bold type, along with your author name, next to the book cover picture.


The title is the third thing most readers look for, so you can afford to treat it with a certain amount of contempt if it helps the cover image have more impact. Unless, of course, you decide to play up the title and make it your main element.


I will attempt to illustrate my point with sample covers I’ve produced for FREE and hope they will inspire you to search out images that express the flavour of your story.




A Technical Point:When choosing an image, the preferred size is a minimum of 1600 pixels x 2400 pixels @ min 300 dpi. This may not seem important when viewed at thumbnail size, but when an undersized original appears full size on a reader device, it will look fuzzy and unprofessional. It is obviously essential to obey this guideline if producing POD paperback copies.

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Author Frank Wall

© 2014 Frank Wall


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