How to Self-Publish Your Novel Professionally – Step Two: The Cover

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Alright, so you need to find a cover for your novel. It’s all edited, but it needs an image. A strong image. A distinct image.

What you need is a book cover, and there are three ways to get one. First, let’s go the easy route. Let’s assume you have money.

Honestly, buying a cover is the easiest route. Here is where I would suggest to go for a reasonable price. (I don’t know how much covers can cost, but I know that that site makes pretty covers for a price I can almost afford.) You just need to talk to a professional and they’ll make something you love. If you don’t love it, don’t pay them for it. Just make sure that everything is reputable and don’t assume that because you’re paying for it means it’s going to be a great cover. Hey, if you give me $50 I’ll make you a cover. Does that mean you’ll want the cover I make? No.

The next one is also easier, but a lot less solid. This route is going to people and begging for a free cover. I’ve gotten a few decent covers from people at the NaNoWriMo forums who just wanted to design things for fun, but you have to make sure that everything checks out on those.

Finally, and what the biggest trouble is, we have making your own cover. Let me say right now that no matter what you do the cover-maker that CreateSpace uses is crap. Seriously. Do not use one of those covers. It screams “SELF-PUBLISHED”, and that’s not what you want people to think when they see your novel.

Here are the biggest tips I have for making your own cover:

  • Don’t just use an image off of Google. You need to know that you have the right to use that picture. You can either buy a stock image to use or find a free stock image. Obviously, the free one is free, but the ones you pay for will usually be better quality and have a bigger selection. It’s up to you which one you use. Remember, if you need more than one image, buying them can get expensive, and it’ll be worthless if you have no photo editing skills.
  • Use a LARGE image to start with. The bigger it is, the better it will look when compressed down for print. I used an image that appeared alright on screen, even though I knew the resolution wasn’t that high. When printed, the image itself looked alright, but the text looked a little blurry. I couldn’t fix the text because I couldn’t make the image bigger to increase the text resolution. I ended up needing to find a different image and redoing my cover completely.
  • Go simple. Unless you’re a graphic designer, simplicity is key. Seriously. Don’t overdo yourself. It will look terrible.
  • Get opinions on your cover. If most people like it, that’s good. If one person says “Oh, it’s obviously not done by a professional” because they already know that you made it yourself, ignore them. People always assume that self-published works are bad. Take a book and slap “Penguin” on the side and you’ve got yourself a book twice as good as the exact same thing with “CreateSpace” listed as the publisher.
  • Practice makes perfect. If your editing skills aren’t that great, remake book covers for books you already know. Try to recreate them with your own skills and free images. Once you learn the techniques that get the image you like, you’ll be ready to work on your own cover.

I was going to outline step-by-step how I made my own cover, but I figured that I would make a YouTube video instead. At least one of you better find it useful, because I may have downloaded a Trojan trying to get a program to capture my screen.

The quality is shit, but it gets the basics across. It’s 14 minutes long though. So there’s that. (There is a reason I picked blogging over vlogging.) If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I used the photo-editing program GIMP because that’s what someone recommended and it’s free. Photoshop would be unquestionably better, but I’m being as cheap as possible. I basically just made my cover with the steps in the video. Here is what my book cover looks like:

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If you missed it, part one is here. Part three will be interior formatting.

 

How NOT to self-publish

I’ve been preparing to self-publish for a while now, and at this point I’m looking to see what others like me are doing to publish their books. Nothing good, from what I’ve seen so far. While I know that there are some good self-published books out there, the ones I’m going to talk about probably aren’t them. I admit that I’ll be harping on appearance more than anything, but that has a lot to do with if your book sells or not.

Without further ado, let us start with the first thing not to do:

1. Don’t make yourself invisible. If you want to be an author, you have to be an author. You need an author page. You need a way for fans to contact you if they have questions or praise. You can’t be a name that means NOTHING.

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None of the first page results show an Ava Langley that may be her. This is what should make you consider adopting a penname. Do you want to be confused with the girl on twitter who posts things like, “You’re a fucking dick go die in a hole.”?

But let’s put author in front of her name, shall we?

Well, here’s a blog, but is this the author? Oh, I guess it is.

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No mention of being an author, and I missed the “my available books” at first. Clicking this doesn’t make it look like this is an author’s blog. You need it to be clear for people to connect to your as an author. I’ll admit that my pen name doesn’t show up on Google yet, but I have barely made any posts and my book isn’t available for sale yet. However, if someone found my blog, they wouldn’t be confused.

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Okay, well I realize that I spelled my name wrong, but whatever. I’ll fix that. MOVING ON.

2.  Don’t let your book covers look like shit. Please, please don’t. Even if you have to spend money on it or use Createspace’s cover maker or make the simplest cover ever, don’t do it. I can pick out the self-published authors by the shitty covers.

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If you click on them their publishers are all listed as “Createspace”.  Visually, the middle one isn’t too bad, but you still can’t see the words on the cover.

Then you have one that could be good, but has been way overdone. It’s not hard to pick out bad covers.

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There’s just too much going on and the fonts aren’t easily readable. It’s a hot mess. If you notice, I highlighted an additional part. It claims to be a top selling fantasy novel…

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6 reviews do not a top seller make. Sure, she may have gone to the top seller’s list once her book went down to free, but that doesn’t make it a “Top Seller” because nothing was SOLD.

3. Don’t try to market your book as something that it’s not. If you say it’s a bestseller but is clearly not, people will notice. People will not be amused.

4. Don’t let the inside of your book look as bad as the outside. The interior has to be professionally done like you would see in a real book. If you don’t know how to use Word to achieve these affects, Google it. Don’t be lazy.

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As you can see, that looks terrible. You open your book and have your copyright notice with the same page as the title and then the beginning of the story. Not only that, but the opening isn’t strong. When you know people are going to be basing the opening of your book on this bit that they see, why wouldn’t you read over it and catch something like this? (I’m talking about all the highlighted ands. Way too many in that short span.) Opening with wild action isn’t enough. It still has to be good writing that people want to read.

Normal books have these kinds of pages before the read novel starts:

.1 .2 .3 .4

Obviously a lot of us won’t have a page for reviews, but you should have a copyright page, and one with just the title, and one listing previous publications (if applicable). That’s just how books are set up.

5. Price your book reasonably. You’re not writing a masterpiece. Even if you are, no one knows it yet. You have to price your book at a price that people will be willing to buy it at.

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Looking at the cover I can already tell that it’s not been done professionally. There is a picture of an eye AND THE EYE HAS RED EYE. I don’t know how some people can overlook these details.  But seriously, $18 for a paperback? This better be an AMAZING novel.

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No. This is a teenager just learning how to write. When I was in 5th grade this is how I wrote. You just have to be realistic when deciding to self-publish. Is your work any good? I still don’t know if my work is good enough for publishing, I’m just going to release it and hope that people like it. However, I’m not writing for a profit. I’m writing because I love to write and I want to share my writing with the world.

In conclusion, make stuff look good. Once that’s over, things have to be good. Really, you should start with the content and end with the surface features. You want your book to look like a published book as much as it can. It should also read like one. You shouldn’t self-publish because you think you’re never going to be published by a real publisher, but because of literally any of the other reasons for self-publishing.