A Writer’s Life: Cover Me 4: Electric Thermador

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

Man, been awhile since I did one of these?  Yeah, I got all tied up in that Personal Agile stuff, and overdid it.  So back to a more diverse blogging diet.

I wanted to do a final roundup of my experiment to make 30 book covers to practice my skills.  Last time I noted I actually got a request to do a “pro” book cover and did so.

So first up, here’s where I am:

  1. I did do over 30 covers.  Not all of them were worth posting, others I’m saving as I may actually write these books.
  2. I did slip the last month or so as I had so much else to do.  I probably need to keep practicing.
  3. I did prepare some mockups for future covers.
  4. I did get another request, and plan to keep pursuing those.

So overall, goal reached.  I had over 30 covers done, learned a lot, and feel I’m a much better artist.  But I can’t let this slip – it’s clear I have to keep practicing, which means making covers for myself, making mockups, helping others, and of course doing my own practice covers.  I do plan to keep doing smaller books and other ones where I can do my own covers, so it’s a skill worth keeping up.

Am I a professional?  No.  I can make professional-level work with time, but it takes a lot of effort – that pro-level cover I did for a co-worker took a prototype, a draft, and a final edit for a simple cover.  All-in-all it was probably 6-8 hours work.

Was it worth it?  Oh heck yes.  If you plan to publish a lot, especially if you’re doing a lot of works or doing smaller works (like ebooks only) it’s probably worth trying.  It may work for you if you take the time and have the skills – otherwise, though, seriously, hand someone the money.

Now a few lessons on covers from this roundup:

  1. Fonts.  Seriously you want a range of fonts, and want to know the usage rights.  Yes, there’s google fonts and what’s on your computer, but if you’re real serious, you may need to purchase a few.
  2. Style.  It’s imperative to look at other books that fit the kind of cover you’re making to learn trends – current and past.  Some things change that you need to keep up on – and some are constants you can’t miss.
  3. There’s really few truly simple book covers.  When you look close at many simple covers, there’s tiny bits of precision, from a font choice to a mild outline to a subtle shading in a text divider.  These subtleties are invisible unless they’re missing – then you notice something is dull.
  4. Photo usage rights are a tad complicated, so you want to read up on them.  If you’re using a picture of a live model, the rights can get real complicated; the basic rule is you can’t make suggestions about that model in your cover.  Ever wonder why many books have someone from behind, or the side, or below the neck?  It’s easier.
  5. Practice is really necessary to get good book covers.  It’s it’s own skillset, and even if you are an artist or designer, you might not be as good as you think if you never did a cover before.
  6. An amazing amount of book covers kinda suck.  If you can make or get a good cover it’s worth it.
  7. Finally, this was a great project.  I recommend trying it yourself!

There you go.  Thanks for being with me during this journey – and I’m sure there’s more practice covers to come!

– Steve