Book Cover Design Using iStockPhoto and BookCoverPro

This morning I designed a book cover using iStockPhoto and BookCoverPro. This is the third book cover I have done, and it was super easy. Yes, it is a very simple, basic book cover but I like simple and basic.

I took some photos of the Perigee Moon this past March, but I didn’t love any of them. I decided to search iStockPhoto.com to see if I could find something I liked better. This is a very good site to check out if you are in the market to purchase photos, illustrations, audio or video files. People submit their work to iStockPhoto and if the work is accepted it can be purchased by anyone with a need. The owner of the work gets a percentage of each sale.

The purchaser can use the item for any purpose and there is no danger of copyright infringement. So my rule is, for a cover, I either use my own work, or make sure I get it from some place that can’t complain if I use it.

I bought the big one (more pixels) because I didn’t want to scrimp on the cover. If it were a blog or something, then it’s not such a big deal, but in this case, more is better.

This is the photo I downloaded from iStockPhoto:

I mirror-imaged the photo and cropped it so the moon would appear to be closer to the edge of the cover.  This can be done with any photo editing software. I used PhotoStudio which is a subset of PhotoShop.

I use a simple package called BookCoverPro. This software is not free but won’t put you into bankruptcy either. It’s maybe $100 or so. As long as the market trends towards eBooks, I wonder about the necessity of having a book cover professionally designed. If I were a New York Times Best Selling Author maybe, but if that were true, someone else would be doing the design of the cover who would be a lot better than I could ever hope to be at it.

I want simple. Straightforward. Contrast and maybe a little mood setting. This is actually a picture of a normal full moon but who’s to know? I thought it portrayed a certain feeling. This is the moon Luke looks at, the night of his great epiphany.

I recommend BookCoverPro, but I didn’t find the Customer Service all that great. It is simple enough to learn, so you don’t need Customer Service anyway, but trust me, in this case, “Service” is only a name.

Here are the simple steps I did to create this cover, which will be used for the print version of Perigee Moon.

Select the size. My book will be 6 X 9 so the size is 12 X 9. Six inches for the front and six inches for the back. Then the spine is sized, and this can be done by specifying the number of pages. That’s good because it’s difficult to size for a spine, and with this package it is done for you.

I selected a background color, black, because my picture is dark and even though there isn’t background to speak of, there could be a sliver where the photo doesn’t cover and I don’t want it to be white.

I then added my moon photo and stretched it a little to fit over the entire cover.

I then added the text fields: the title, the author name on the front and on the spine.

On the back of the book is a photo of the author, and some other text with other novels I have written. In addition, there is the back blurb which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago which I have yet to perfect so that part is Under Construction.

Now that I have this book cover created, the package will allow me to create a .pdf file of it, which is what gets uploaded to CreateSpace along with the formatted pages of the novel. They print both the cover and the pages, and assemble the book.

It would be very cool if you would comment and tell me what you think of this cover. Even if you don’t like it, or have suggestions, I would love to hear them. It’s very easy to change. I designed this cover in about three hours. The greatest amount of time was spent picking out the photo to use.

I’m sure there is someone out there who is thinking, you designed the cover in three hours? I can believe that, because it sucks, it’s amateurish and ugly.

I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while though, so maybe that counts for something.

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?