Sunday, 7 April 2013

Cover Story

On my first look at the books available to buy on Kindle Direct, I was surprised by how similar the covers of the e-books were to that of their print brethren. Initially, this had me a little worried. Did it mean that I would have to commission a professional designer to create my book covers in order to compete in the online market? Judging by a lot of discussions I have read in many of the different writer forums, it would seem that the answer is yes.

Following brief research, I was able to find several links to professional graphic designers that specialised in e-book covers charging in the region of $30 - $300 (or currency equivalent). To me this seemed a little excessive given that the projected average earnings for a self published author are only about $500 and many make a lot less and sometimes nothing. I also found a lot of the "commissioned" covers to be too generic and quite frankly; soulless. Is it really worth paying for a manipulated stock image that will most likely be used by dozens of other authors as well? Personally, I do not think so, which is why I have decided to design all of my own covers.

Now my technological skills are as basic as they get. I also know nothing about "professional" design. Yet, it took just a few minutes of searching on Google to find several more than adequate photo manipulation packages to do the necessary job. In the end, for ease of use and accessibility I settled on FotoFlexer This website was quick, simple and most importantly, 100% free.

Since most of my novels were inspired by my days backpacking in Australia and beyond, I decided that my own personal photo collection should be adequate a place to look for the base image and again, cheaper than paying for a stock photograph. Once uploaded, I haphazardly tried applying the various effects offered by FotoFlexer until I found something that I liked. These effects are all basic, but effective. They range from heat, painting, retro, colour rotate, infra-red, night vision etc...

To the left of the screen is a selection of effects that I tried, all using the same low quality base image. As you can see I began by applying the "heat" effect. The result is dramatic, but a little too bright for what I was looking for. The next step was to play around until I found a more subtle colour scheme. I also added a more dramatic font for the book title. Then eventually, after much trial and error, I settled on the final image. Here you can see that I have matched the colour scheme to fit the subject matter (blue and copper of the outback) and applied a much bolder sized font to the title. I have also resized the image to meet with the guidelines that are outlined by the KDP service.

Whether my cover is preferable to a professionally designed one is purely down to personal opinion. I however, like it and would not change it for the world. As authors, we are obviously creative people and if we can overcome the fear of technology then there is nothing that we cannot achieve for ourselves. I also think that it adds a personal touch to the work too. When I buy a book I want to know that the author has put his all into producing it. For me, this includes the cover design.

We also need to remember that what separates the indie author from the corporate world of traditional publishing is the fact that we are not so much simply selling a product, but sharing our work. In the end, the more that a writer puts into their work, the more that the reader can take out of it. And I for one will be contributing my all in every aspect. And if the writing does not work out, then at $300 for the time that it took me to design the cover on the left, I can always try becoming a graphic designer instead.

I would be interested to know how others have found the cover creating experience and welcome any authors to post examples of designs that they have made themselves or offer links to their own content.

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