A Writer’s Life: Cover Me II: Electric Boogaloo

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

Sorry for all the delays in actually posting on writing.  been a weird few weeks.  So I want to talk about Book Covers again – with an interesting exercise.

I was thinking about my future writing plans.

First, the covers for the new Way With Worlds books were OK, but I realized I didn’t have the skills/intuition to have made them jazzier.  In fact, I wasn’t sure they needed to be jazzier, and realized I lacked artistic insights.

Secondly, I’ve considered revising and updating some past books, and that would mean covers.  For some I didn’t want to go purchase new art, especially for more niche works.

Third, my “Big Books” usually have paid art.  But what of smaller books, or less “eventful” books?  Sure I could buy a cover, but I had some skills, so why couldn’t I make better covers?

Thus, I set myself a project – to build 30 covers in gimp (because I am cheap) before the end of the year if not earlier.  This way I’d at least have the skills to make a decent book cover, and more than enough skills for books that might not need something jazzier.

I did this by:

  1. Using the free photos at pixabay.com when I need them.
  2. Looking at various book covers and seeing what I could learn from them about what made them “work” – from classic sci-fi to cheese romance.
  3. Finding new gimp techniques and trying them out.
  4. Trying to duplicate different genres and feels.

You can see the results at my tumblr, and I think I’ve definitely gotten better.  In fact, the improvement rate has been pretty remarkable.

This is a great technique to improve anything – build a project with no “critical deliverable” but a goal and try it out.  It could be used for more than just covers – it could be for writing, cooking, and so on.  Take what you want to learn and make a fun project out of it.

However for you indie artists, this may be worth trying yourself.  All you need is the gimp and some photos.  If you build enough skills, then you’re just some time and maybe a royalty-free (or self-taken) photo away from a book cover.


– Steve