I Need To Spend More Time Studying Book Cover Design

I’ve been staring at book covers this morning, trying to decide what it is exactly that have made some of my covers okay versus great, passable versus attractive, and some of them just blah. My covers are all right, don’t get me wrong. No one’s said my covers suck and my books sell so they can’t be that awful.

My bestselling series has a set of covers that are based on setting and tone. No people, no icons, nothing that makes them blend into the books I seem to be selling alongside. But the thing is, my books aren’t quite like the books I’m selling alongside. So there’s that; they look a bit different because they are different. I haven’t decided if this is helpful or hurtful to sales. There’s a lot of action in my books, and these are strictly single viewpoint stories in a narrow genre rife with multiple viewpoint stories. All in all, I think the differences between my covers and the other covers aren’t hurting, but there’s really no way to tell without creating new covers for the series and … I don’t really want to do that. I like the style of covers I’ve created. I just wish they were better, as is. Book 1’s cover is the strongest, or I’ve always thought so, but book 3’s cover has been growing on me a lot and I’m starting to think it might be the strongest after all. The vibrant colors, and the tone just seem so right for the book. Book 2’s cover is weak. Very weak. I’ve never been happy with it and someday, even if I don’t do anything about the others, I do believe I’m going to have to revisit that cover.

My other series has covers that are more traditional. In fact, to my eye, when placed up against current covers, they look at bit dated. More like what I grew up with versus what’s hot now. I’m not sure how to fix that, other than just trying again. I’ll be writing the 4th book in that series this year, so maybe it’ll be time to try again with those covers. I don’t know. Seems like a pain in the ass I’m not ready for. :D

I do a decent job with the technical aspects of book cover design. I make them the right size and use the appropriate resolution. However, it takes me forever to get it set up right, but I do seem to get it done. In fact, I realized after my last cover that I was probably going overboard designing at 600 ppi with the largest stock photo art I could buy. I’ll still probably buy the big art because the incremental cost is tiny once you hit medium size and that’s usually the least you should buy anyway. Bigger art (and by that I mean higher resolution) gives me more options in the long run.

I have the most trouble setting up the covers for Createspace. They feel like torture.

My last cover took me 12 hours to put together and that was for the ebook only. I haven’t even attempted the Createspace version yet and I keep putting it off because I know it’s going to drive me insane getting it set up right. I keep trying to come up with a template, but it hasn’t worked yet.

I’ve collected a lot of links over time where I’ve studied book cover design to make sure I’m doing it right, but the truth is, I need serious help learning the actual art of book cover design. Art isn’t something I’m good with. I know what I like when I see it but I have no vision for it. And to tell the truth, my tastes also run contrary to a lot of what’s popular.

I could enjoy myself if I didn’t find the whole process so stressful and tedious. I’ve corrected and repaired photos before and did a great job of it in my opinion and didn’t find that stressful in the least. I was able to fix a huge tear in an 8×10 taken almost 38 years ago. The fixed version looks fabulous and you can’t even tell the tear was there. Doing that taught me how to use the cloning tools and coloring, and even how to do some minor drawing of my own when zoomed in to the full resolution. My 8×10 corrected copy looks great printed.

I guess I mention this because I want to say that I’m familiar with photo editing and Photoshop and I’ve even created some maps in Illustrator, although that was a long time ago and I use Gimp these days.

But I need a massive amount of additional education and YouTube is overwhelming when I visit with the intent of studying another bunch of tutorials—where to start?

I need to find a better place to study.

And practice more.

Maybe I should write more short stories so I can create more covers? Or allow myself to create more covers for one book, some wildly different concept designs, with the sole intent of just practicing more.

Practice. That’s really what it’s going to come down to, but I need something to base that practice on.

So, back to searching for design resources, I guess.