No decent parent would send their child out poorly dressed, and an author should be no different. While they tell you not to judge a book by its cover, let’s face it, it’s hard not to. You want your cover to attract the right kind of people: the people you aimed your book at. But you also want it to look professional, and say something about your story.
While I can’t give you a masterclass in how it’s done, I can show you my experience. Fate has been through at least five covers, now, not all of them good.
The first Fate cover is one of the worst things I’ve ever created. When I first put my book on Tablo, I needed a cover, and fast. So I went with the first thing that came to mind; getting everyone I knew to send me a photo of their eyes, and using Paint to stick them all together.
Aside from the obvious aesthetic problems, here are three major problems with this.
- Image quality – Not only is every image a different quality, but they were almost all taken on phones. If this were really blown up to be a cover, it would be pixellated.
- The text – In order to fit, the text has been stretched. Not only does this look bad, it makes it harder to read.
- Software – If you read through the reams of terms and conditions on Paint (or at least how they were in 2014), nothing you create on there is allowed to be used commercially. This means that is it was redistributed as a cover or in advertising, Microsoft would have the right to kick off. As a young teenager, I did not have the money to be sued.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realise this before putting together the next cover. Realising how awful my first cover looked, I took the best quality eye photo to make a new one. My next version used a PC app called PicsArt, with the aim of looking as professional as possible. This program, too, would not allow things created with it to be distributed commercially, and when I discovered this, it was back to the drawing board.
On a less legal note, lil’ 14 year old me decided to make the eye purple. Why? Why not? Other than the fact that none of my characters have purple eyes, and my main character has green eyes, which is the original image colour… While I could have got away with it, it’s not the best decision.
One I realised that PicsArt might sue me, I naively went back to Paint. Just because a program comes installed on your computer doesn’t mean they would allow you to use it commercially. I went a little mad on trying not to be sued, using only things that I made myself. This included making my own font out of yellow lines. Not only did this prove entirely pointless, given that it still wasn’t allowed, but it looks much worse. Not to mention the wonky letters on my name.
My most recent cover wasn’t designed until I finished Fate. I had been too scared to make another one after my struggle with copyright. It wasn’t until I read a book on Tablo about cover design that I found Canva. Canva is mostly free, and will let you use whatever you create for whatever you want. For a free website, it has almost everything you could need in creating a cover, including access to many free images. It’s also possible to get a premium subscription, which allows you to access more preset images and use other tools like saving images with transparent backgrounds. The final (or at least I hope so!) cover was made on Canva, using the same eye image but with the reflection of a bridge overlaid. I also found an image of some paper to add texture behind the title.
While I didn’t use it in the Fate cover, the other useful tool that Tablo pointed me to is Unsplash. If you don’t already have a photo to use, Unsplash has thousands of high-quality photos that you can use commercially for free. In fact, most of the images you see in our post titles are from Unsplash, and edited on Canva!