First things first: no matter how many entries are to the Silver Shark contest, you will have one in 25 chance of winning. We will be giving away two files per each page of (50) comments. :) So additional people entering do not affect your chance of winning.
That said, you guys are kind of crazy and I mean it in the best possible way.
I a huge fan of your Magic series and an avid reader of your blog. I’m also an aspiring writer and former front-end web developer. A couple of my published author friends have asked if I could help them create covers for their self-pubbed e-books. I told them “maybe,” since I was always more coder girl than art geek. I was wondering how you learned to create your amazing covers. Were you a graphic designer in a previous life? Could you point me to a link or two that you like for cover-creation techniques?
I am not in any way an authority on cover making. I am self-taught and my work is often sub-par. With that in mind, there are a few things to be aware of when you are making a cover for an ebook. These are just some common sense things, learned through trial and error.
I think the best strategy is to find a cover artist you like and pull their covers apart. :) I go to deviant art and look at cover artists there.
Whatever you make will be shrunk.
Covers exists to snare readers. They are especially important for a debut author. Someone with visibility can theoretically just put their name on a colored rectangle and their fans will purchase the book anyway on the strength of the name. Which is likely the thinking behind Penguin’s e-Specials.
From obsessive watching of sales ranking, I can tell you that covers make a difference. A book can be available for preorder for weeks, but when the cover hits Amazon, the preorders rise, often sharply. When people browse, they tend to gloss over blank covers. We can’t help it. We’re hard-wired to note bright colors because they might be good to eat or poisonous.
Print covers have the benefit of being larger. They offer choice for additional styling, such as metallic foil or raised font. E-covers do not. Most often Amazon will account for the majority of the e-author’s sales – this is a fact proven by years of my royalty statements – and Amazon shrinks the cover first to 245 pixels in height on the book’s page and then to approximately 192 pixels when viewed as a list of search results.
How does this affect the covers? This is how:
What is on that cover? What’s the author’s name? What is that a picture of?
Looks better, doesn’t it? A simple strong image is better than a really complicated beautiful piece of art.
Good contrast is a must. Also legible font helps.
Keep it simple, keep it clean, make sure the contrast is good and the font is readable.
Small font wisdom I have learned from making covers and having results that are less than satisfactory: let go of gradients. They rarely look good when .jpeg loses quality or when it’s shrunk. Drop shadow and stroke is your friend. It’s a hard lesson to learn for me because I luurve gradients. (Curran 2 cover, cough-cough)
Much better. You can try contrasting colors to see which one stands out more. Ilona on top has a 3 pixels black stroke, a drop shadow, and I also did a black outer glow and set it to Multiply.
I had a chance to produce a number of mockup covers for an author I greatly admire. This was one of the mock-ups I made:
I thought it was decent. It was a regency. It had good contrast. Our agent, who was facilitating the cover, looked at it and said, “Phyllis A Whitney.” Or how about this one:
Can you say Johanna Lindsey?
The branding of this particular author featured woman with her back to the reader. This was the final cover image:
Branding is important. The best thing is to pick a single look or element and stick with it. Twilight series covers, for example.
You’ve seen Silver Shark cover. Anything featured in this world – if we return to it – will have similar word-across-the-cover treatment. That will the be the branding for that series. For Kate, it’s girl and a lion. For Edge, it’s girl with weapon and shiny and a disembodied dude.
So to reiterate:
1) Single strong element.
2) High resolution large image (don’t buy cheaper small size; it will look awful.)
3) Legible font.
4) Decent contrast.
6) If you don’t know how to do something, google for photoshop tutorials.
You can do it. If I can do it, pretty much anybody can.