Creating Great Cover Art That Is Usable for CreateSpace, SmashWords and other POD services. Part 1
Cover Art is more important to small authors than actual content. While this statement is rather brash, it is also true because first time readers don’t KNOW your content. New readers of your material must make a purchasing decision based entirely on the COVER ART.
For example, my soon to be released novel, “The Cruel Dragon King Of Scotland” is a young adult dragon fantasy. However, it is very popular right now to have kindly, wise dragons of the large flying type. My dragon is hominid, narcissistic, non-flying and evil. Therion is more like a vain cobra with speech and a phobic, jealous, hatred of humanity. I needed to set the reader’s expectations in the cover art. So my odyssey for proper cover art started with the genre plus the content. Therefore, my dragon book needed to reflect the Celtic fantasy with the clarification that my dragon was NOT safe and kindly.
Furthermore, there are a few means of optimizing your cover art for usage across multiple POD (publish on demand) services. PODs are the services that best meet the needs of budding novelists. I will share some tips such as best DPI and minimum dimension size in PART 2 of Creating Great Cover Art.
For now, I want you to think about the style of your book. Your style must reflect the typical style of your genre.
My cover art for “The Cruel Dragon” reflects a fantasy theme. It has a sword with Ogham script inviting the reader to consider the magic in the book. The script itself is the ancient Celtic spelling of ‘dragon’. The fire, the darkness, the eyes. All of this says ‘dragon fantasy book’.
What if I would have taken a comic sans font? Well, the entire message of the cover art would have been lost in the mixed message. The selection of ‘Gaelic fonts’ establishes the context of the contents, while a Comic Sans font would have indicated a satire, comedy or something else rather ambiguous.
If I selected a simple courier font the novel would appear to be more documentary, or even, simply amateur.
Lastly, the cover art needs a polished appearance. Here is an example of my 'almost done' cover art. If you look closely you will notice the edges are rough and pixelated. Also, the fire is missing the fangs, as I drew them last. Everything is 'almost' done.
If you compare the above with my final design there are several small improvements that are very critical in a professional design.
First, I blended the edges of all the layers in a more refined and polished manner. I distressed the sword and script so it looked used in combat and more realistic. I drew the fangs in the fire to further clarify the dragon’s cruel and nasty nature. Lastly, I put some specular highlights on the sword edge and dragon’s eyes.
Finally, I added some color filters to harmonize all the layers and bring out deeper shadows. This makes the image much more compelling and mysterious.
These design choices are also important for you to consider. Don’t cheat yourself in cover art because when you do then your sales will be zero. Really. Sales will be zero if you cheat on cover art.