Covers: A Brief History of My Fails

I’ll admit, this is my 11th NaNoWriMo, and I’ve only had any sort of cover the past few years. And 30 Covers, 30 Days? Forget about it! I don’t feel at all comfortable in a graphic designer role, and making covers is way out of my comfort zone. But these days, you need good visuals to pull readers in. Especially if you want to self publish or even just market yourself.

Are you a cover pro, or is it something you’ve never thought of before? Perhaps seeing my progression from extreme suckage to less suckage will inspire you to make something awesome. Plus, I’ll link you to the tools that have helped me suck less each year! Read on to laugh.

thumbregan 2013 was the first year I had any kind of picture for my novel. As you can see, I really couldn’t be bothered to even put, like, words on my cover. I just threw a picture of my protagonist’s faceclaim, Tanit Phoenix, into the upload box. Yeah, I’m embarrassed. But I couldn’t be bothered to do a lot of things for that novel, including coming up with an original idea I hadn’t written 3 times before. (And given that this year I’m writing epistolary fiction about totally different characters during a different kind of apocalypse, well…. no comment.)

 

thumblandlineFor my 2014 novel, Landline, I apparently had a little more motivation. And it was a fun, different story idea for me! Phone sex operator gets saved by one of her callers, who’s actually a private investigator. I’m really not a romantic suspense kind of gal, but I had a lot of fun writing this. I also had a lot of fun making the cover, even though it’s not very good. I’m pretty sure I used PicMonkey, which I discovered a few months earlier while crying in my office at 9pm on a Saturday because my boss wanted a collage for social media RIGHT THEN. (I only worked there a few months, unsurprisingly.)

Anyway, PicMonkey looks like you can only use it a little bit before having to pay for it, but that’s not really true. I’ve used it hundreds of times to quickly edit things, even without any kind of account. I still use PicMonkey for quickly tinting images and putting text over them, but I’ve since moved on to something I like a lot more. What I don’t like is that PicMonkey wants me to go pro before using certain fonts of filters. Pro membership somewhere around $50 a year, and the software isn’t THAT good.

thumbgreeneyesI like last year’s novel cover a lot better, even though it’s really hard to see the text in the thumbnail. Like most covers, it looks a lot better full size. But last summer, I took a grad school course in “modern publishing,” and it turns out that self publishing is the way of the future. My professor had my classmates and I work together to make covers, and that’s how I discovered Canva. I also tried making a cover with the Amazon self-publishing site, CreateSpace, and it came out okay (but not okay enough I wanted to use it for NaNoWriMo). It’s really not a bad option. But Canva also saves automatically as a PDF, making it super useful if you want to use it for your CreateSpace book. I think Canva offers a lot more options, and the results look a lot more professional.

thumbvioletThis year’s cover was also designed with Canva. You can’t read it super well at thumbnail size, but it says, “VIOLET” and underneath that, “The apocalyptic correspondence of a teenage supergenius.” This is my favorite cover so far, and hopefully it looks halfway decent to others, as well. I ventured out a little more with Canva this time. The site has things you have to pay for, but I’ve never run into a situation where they asked me to pay for anything. I was nervous about the layouts with little dollar signs $ on them, but they let me download my cover without payment. It turns out that they only charge you a dollar or two for each picture you use from them. However, I recently found some really cool sites that have shiny free stock photos!

Pexels and Pixabay both offer some stunning stock photos, and they don’t care if you use or edit them for commercial projects. That means I can yank a photo from their site, put a cool color tint on it with PicMonkey, put it on my novel cover in Canva, and then upload it with my novel on CreateSpace… AND START SELLING MY BOOKS! No copyright issues, which there definitely would be if I tried to sell a book using any of my other covers.

There are some other neat tools for cover creation, but I haven’t used them yet. CoverCreator offers a free trial, but I can’t tell if you can actually download your stuff for free or if you can only play with it for free. Anyone have any experience with it? Alicia also mentioned that WattPad has some cover creation functionality, but I couldn’t figure it out. And of course, James is one of those frustratingly smart people who actually knows how to use Adobe Illustrator, SAI, Photoshop, CorelDraw, and inkscape. There are some other fantastic and FREE photo editing softwares out there, such as GIMP and Pixlr, so that’s good news if you’re naturally artistic. But I am definitely not, so I’ll keep using Canva (which, by the way, is sadly not paying me to make this post)!

What are you using to make your novel’s cover this year? How do the programs listed here stack up to your methods? Share your knowledge with us poor, non-arstistic writers!

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