Design Your Own Book Cover

Recently, I read a couple of blogs about creating book covers. I probably should have read the articles before I designed my own book covers, instead of after, but mostly I read them hoping they would reinforce what I already knew.

I knew early on that I didn’t want to use the book cover designs available in CreateSpace (or BookSurge before it was CreateSpace), and someone suggested BookCoverPro. I investigated and decided to go for it, it was a fairly simple graphics package, and all the basics were there, adding text, borders, boxes, pictures. Once you put in the size of your cover, and the number of pages in your book, it figures out what size the cover (back, spine and front) must be and presents you with a blank template.

My first attempt was pretty basic, I plopped a picture of the Gulf of Mexico and clouds, with sun shining through on and sized it to cover the entire area.

After that I added text, and was done. This was a very simple cover, indeed, probably a bit too basic. I was going for a feeling, of loneliness, or melancholy. I’m not sure I succeeded with that. Once inside the book, the reader might think it was a picture the main character, Jay, had taken, because he is an amateur photographer.

My second attempt was a little more involved.

The wilted flower is referred to twice in the book, and it’s meant to be symbolic. That perhaps Lydia, to whom it was given, should have looked at it, drooped and dead before it could blossom, as an omen that her relationship with Geo be allowed to go the way of the rosebud. It comes back into the story years later and she tells him, “This is what happened to the first one.”

I bought a miniature rose bush in a pot, at Kroger’s and snipped the bud, placed it in a glass of water and waited. A few days later, it was perfect. So I took pictures of it, pictures on a black background, pictures with a bright background, with and without flash. This is the one I chose:

I used my photo editing software to get rid of the background and fill with black. I use a package called Photo Studio 5.5, which came with my Canon camera, and it’s a subset of what PhotoShop offers, but is usually enough. You can buy PhotoShop but it’s a bit pricey and if you aren’t very serious about editing pictures, it might be overkill. A good alternative is to download a free copy of GIMP which is every bit as comprehensive as PhotoShop, and it’s free. There are tutorials available about how to do anything you want in GIMP. I wonder how they do it, the authors of GIMP, offer such a complex, professional-looking package for no cost. There will be a learning curve to it, and I haven’t mastered it yet either, but I plan to.

Now the picture looks like this:

I made the cover of the book black and put the picture on, made the text white and I liked the combination, of dark pink, black and white with green. I got a little more creative with the back cover this time, put a picture of the author there, a dark pink box, and inside that another light gray box, which made the dark pink now a border, with black text.

The first blog I read, The Dos and Don’ts of Cover Design, stressed three points, and I felt I had them all covered.

Letters that pop. I had that, white letters and a black background, and black letters against a pale background. Check.

Contrast. The dark pink against the black, and white lettering, I think that’s contrast. Check.

It should say something about the book. Not sure I can give a check here, although maybe it counts that there is a story about the wilted flower inside.

All in all, I’d say I didn’t do too badly here. On to the next article. Ten Tips for Effective Book Covers.

The title should be big and easy to read. Check, the title is big enough.

Don’t forget to review a thumbnail image of the cover. Check, it looks okay as a thumbnail.

Do not use any of the following fonts (anywhere!): Comic Sans or Papyrus. Check, used standard font.

No font explosions! (And avoid special styling.) Check, no explosions.

Do not use your own artwork, or your children’s artwork, on the cover. Does photography count? Probably not, check.

Do not use cheap clip art on your cover. Check, no clip art.

Do not stick an image inside a box on the cover. Check, no image inside a box.

Avoid gradients. Check, that’s where the color washes from dark to light.

Avoid garish color combinations. Check, I don’t think I did that.

Finally: Don’t design your own cover. No check! Uh oh.

And there was a Bonus tip: No sunrise photos, no sunset photos, no ocean photos, no fluffy clouds. Can’t check either, as there are three out of four here, on the cover of Whatever Happened to Lily?

I am not too sure how well I fared on the Ten Tips.

What do you think?

Realistic and Believable Characters

Characters evolve. They might start out with one characteristic, a flaw, a problem, something that will be important to the story. I had a vision of one of my main characters, let’s call him Leo.

Leo should be moody, depressed maybe so that his depression can be the cause of a breakup, or a problem. I didn’t want him to be depressed all the time, but wanted him to go through periods of it, so he could be un-depressed and normal sometimes. I didn’t want him to be bipolar, because I didn’t think I could research that enough to make it seem realistic, and anyway, I didn’t want him manic when he wasn’t down, I just wanted him to have a period of depression once in awhile. Basically a normal guy, but…

Okay, then, Leo gets depressed occasionally. I researched the types of depression, and it can happen, there are disorders like that. He needs another flaw, or quirky thing about him. He sometimes has difficulty talking about certain issues, certainly about his depressed periods, and other things, like, uh, sex. He just doesn’t feel comfortable discussing it. But he wants it, as much as anyone. Let’s throw in another issue. He believes very strongly in his Catholic values, that he would wait until marriage and that marriage is forever. He’s a bit of an unusual character. I’m starting to like him now. And since he’s not all that easy to understand, and he’s not a real straight-forward kind of guy, I’ll bet he could get involved in one huge misunderstanding.

Once he has a few things established about him, I start thinking about things he would do and things he wouldn’t do, things he’d say and things he wouldn’t say. He would think it wrong for, say, politicians to have affairs. If he thought it were funny, joked about it, that wouldn’t really ring true, because he’s just not made that way. And he’d get together with his friends in a bar, and swear a little, and drink beer, though not to excess. He would do these things though, because he’s a normal guy, with a few unordinary traits.

And after thinking about him for a few months, and tweaking him just a bit, until becoming satisfied that he is a believable character, I’m satisfied with him. He becomes a real person to me, it’s as if he lives in my head. So when I write scenes he takes part in, I know how he’ll react, what will make him unhappy, or disgusted, or feel good. And if I write something, and reread it, I might say to myself, “Leo would never say that.” It’s out.

I kind of miss Leo, now that he isn’t around in my head so much. I liked him.

It’s that Time Again…

I just did a review of a book on the Boomers and Books blog, where I am now a collaborator. It’s a humorous book, called According to Jane. Click to be redirected to the blog and my comments about this delightful read.

The blogging group is a bunch of authors who have attained a certain age, thus the title. It’s relatively new, so the look and feel may change from time to time. But it promises to be a good resource for all us baby boomers who like to read.

I find myself in that anxious time, during the “I just ordered your book” phase and the phase where any feedback is offered. So, yet again, my insecurities rear their ugly heads. I try to be objective, and reread my own book and think, does it suck? Is it any good? I still like it, but of course, I would like it, I wrote it. Certainly no one would write something they, themselves, didn’t like.

It’s true then, it’s not possible to be objective. I can’t read it, as if I’d never seen it before, and give myself an honest opinion. I’ll just have to wait. And assume that if I hear nothing, then that means, well, it sucks.

Stuff that has to be cut out of a novel

You might remember, in a previous post I talked about first books being autobiographical. I wrote a chapter in Second Stories, which closely mirrored a situation I encountered first hand. I don’t want to be too specific, since I don’t want to share a story all over the whole entire world wide web net thingy such that the person it was patterned after might be identified, but there was a death, and the story of Alice could have happened the way it did, but that part really is fictional.

The chapters about Alice were rejected by my editor, as not having anything to do with the actual novel. I realized he was right, I just liked them. I liked the story of Alice and how she evolved into widowhood, how she dealt with the death of her husband. I have two other chapters about her, and I’d like to share them with my readers so I’ve posted the first one on my website, and also here. Two more coming, about Alice’s adventures with her volunteer work in hospice and an assisted living facility. None of these chapters are in Second Stories.

And it’s a little autobiographical too, since I lost someone once, before I felt it was time to really lose her. And some of the feelings Alice experienced are my own, both because I have been through the loss of a loved one, and because I’ve had what could have been a near-death experience. We change how we view death, when it has been close enough that we confronted it eye-to-eye. It becomes less scary.

Click here to be redirected to Alice