(Mock up "how-to" ideas and a variety of covers created using this system for actual book covers, so keep scrolling down)

Build a Cover!

Building a cover is not rocket science, it's all about making an impression, snagging a buyer's attention.

First you need a graphics program to manipulate pictures and create wording. It doesn't have to be an expensive program, though you can do more with those, it's simply a bit more complicated to learn. I use Print Shop, a fairly moderately priced and easy to use program. You can also use a combination of Word and Publisher (and that's because Word will give you a PDF file but not a JPG file, which you need to load a cover to Amazon). There lots of places on the Net that will show you (some YouTube videos) how to build a cover in Word, but I'm building this in Print Shop.

Next you'll need a graphic that is royalty free. Fortunately, there are places you can purchase these for a very agreeable price -- we're talking under ten dollars here. The graphic used in our step-by-step build is from Dreamstime.com. I've also used 123RF.com and Shutterstock but there are others out there as well. Dreamstime has graphics that run cheaper than 123RF, Shutterstock and Canva, and I get far more of my cover graphis from them.

I have a set size I created in my Print Shop "signs" section that gives me a page size that is 6"x9", which is the size of a trade paperback cover. It works just as well for an e-book cover, I've found. And you can resize sheets in both Word and Publisher to this size, too.

When I dropped this graphic into the 6x9 and enlarged it to fit the 6" wide, there was a gap at the bottom. It could have been left blank, in other words, white. I wanted a bit more drama...the graphic sort of called for it. Therefore, I did a band of black at the bottom. I could also have given the entire sheet a black background then dropped the graphic on top, but this was just as effective. Either way the same amount of black would band the bottom of the cover.

The next step will take the longest. It is deciding on the font to use for your title and author's name.

I went through quite a few before I decided on this one. Fonts that were scripts didn't show up well, even when bolded. Fonts that were playful didn't suit the graphic, which should be giving a strong hint as to the type of story being told in this book. 

Once I decided on a basic serif font (I believe this is Bakersfield) the next decision was how large to make the words. I'll confess, I like to have them slightly different sizes. When I keyed them out in both upper and lower case, I didn't care for the look. All caps wasn't going to fly either. When I tried all lower case, I liked what I saw. 

At first I did the text all in black but it was rather blah, typical? There were colors at hand to repeat though. Repeating things in a graphic, my college art professor said, is good.

There was actually more than one shade of pink here. I tried the darkest and decided to go with one of the medium shades instead. I wanted the two words of the title to stand out so I used the green from around her eyes for the smaller word -- thus repeating even the "amount" of each color in the graphic. 

They weren't standing out well though. I headed to the enhancement features, like shadowing, outlining, and decided to go with a 50% 3D effect. Everything was repeated for the author's name at the top though in white so it would "pop". I also made the author's name smaller than the text in the title. Larger would have been overkill.

When you have the cover design looking the way you want, save it as a 300 dpi .jpg to use for posting to Amazon and other publishing sites where e-books and/or trade paperback size can be loaded. 

It doesn't take an art degree or even attendance in an art class to create an eye catching cover. Just follow these steps:

1. Buy and install a graphics program on your computer, or find a free one or, if you have Office, then you likely have both Word and Publisher already

2. Buy and download a royalty free graphic from Dreamstime, 123RF or another online supplier

 

3. In your graphics program, create a 6"x9" format for the cover

 

4. Drop the royalty free graphic in the cover format and resize it to fit. It doesn't have to cover the entire 6x9. You could use it on just part of the cover or use a series of smaller pictures down the side (see examples in the covers of the books below)

 

5. Choose the font, the font size, the cap or non-cap presentation, the color, the enhancement if you wish, and arrangement of text

 

6. Save in 300 pdi .jpg size

Another Cover Progression

The first idea plays on the Ransom Note idea - I did actually cut letters from a newspaper and taped them on a sheet of paper then ran a scan of it on my printer, though for the author's name I did letters from different fonts
and placed them at angles for that pasted together look
The second mutes the note, a feature on the Picture function Word,
and goes with gray tones for the author's "clipped letters" look
The third changes font on author's name to a simple lower case
 
But the fourth and final change of adding in a coordinating color to highlight the author's name that is the most eye catching version on this mock-up cover idea.
While I really only put the white border on to makes these stand out from
the background, I like the way it increases the visual impact on the final version.

I create covers for stories I'm working on although they are only used for the 6x9 trade size galleys I create for editing purposes. There's no reason that even if these covers are only seen by me they can't look professional.

If you are doing a series or a trilogy, having a "theme" look ties books together.
But you can do the same if you have standalone stories  of a specific genre.
Below are for my historical romantic adventure covers. I went looking for corsets and used a combination of a fluid script with more easily read serif font.
Scroll down for a look at what I've done for the romantic comedies.
And then lower still for the covers on the short comedic fantasy tales
and the prequel novellas for The Raven Tales, which are urban fantasy.

Notice that in the rom-coms above, the layout changes very little and the type face stays the same. It was only on SEDUCING SANTA that going totally with the red for the title suited because it was a holiday story. The rest of the titles follow the same set up as used in the first two book covers.

When it came to the comedic short fantasy stories, I was not only using a different pseudonym,

I needed to indicate that these were comedic in nature, thus the choice of a typeface that was

inconsistent in the way it presented. While the type font stays the same on each cover

the placement changes as does the color used. On SAVING PLANET MOM I went with the graduated color change because it reflected the tones used in the graphic of Earth that I found. 

With the two types of dragon eyes, I went with a single eye on one cover and two on the other.

This was partly because the red didn't need to be used elsewhere on the cover. It would be overkill.

In the second dragon themed story, I went with the colors in the graphic. By the way, this is

two of the same graphic, one flipped to be a mirror image. These colors were muted and

needed to be played up by using them again elsewhere on the cover, which I did with

both the line beneath the graphic and using one shade for the title and the other for the author.

For a series where a single look was created is the Covert Cog series where the same heading and a logo for the Allegory Society was created. The type face for "The Case of" is always in the same spot and the same size, though the rest of the title changes to suit the space allowed and is always larger, too. Otherwise, the background colors change, as well as the metalic colors on the gears, to distinquish each title further, as do the small portraits of characters.
Still it is a very distinctive format for these Weird West Steampunk tales.

Earlier I mentioned that you could use Word and Publisher to do covers.

Until I embarked on the most recent "look" for the Raven Tales Prequel novellas

I hadn't tried to do anything in either of these programs.

So, why make the leap now? Well, because in my Print Shop program I couldn't

trim a figure from a graphic and drop it in against a different background.

Actually, I was stunned to discover doing this was possible in Word.

So here was the progression

Once I had my guy ready to go I just dropped him in against different backgrounds for

the various titles and used the same type font and placement on each for all the other elements as well. And in an aside, the two different cityscapes of Detroit

featured on SONG and MOCK are two different sides of a single graphic.

I'd be lost without the crop feature!