If you’re the kind of person who likes doing everything yourself, then you’ve probably already turned down all of the art concepts that your publisher has sent you. They more than likely just weren’t quite what you’ve envisioned gracing the cover of your novel. Lucky for you, there are free programs and software tools at your disposal to help you create the perfect cover, and you don’t have to take a single computer course to learn how to use them.
The program I use is a free design software called G.I.M.P(www.gimp.org). This is basically free Photoshop, with a similar interface, usability, tools, brushes, etc. It’s easy to pick up, and there are many tutorials available to help you learn the basics to get started. My favorite instructionals came from Youtube, and a quick Google search will bring up hundreds of others. There are guides on how to make planets, houses, people, animals, etc. Nearly every sort of artistic scenario you can think of has a tutorial associated with it.
The learning curve for using G.I.M.P is relatively small, and within a week, if you keep a steady schedule of practicing and watching tutorials, you’ll be able to start working on your first cover. If you have an artistic background, you can shorten this time nearly in half. My suggestion, for beginners, is to start small. Create something similar to a tutorial you’ve watched, but not so similar that people liken your image to the original. Embellish it, and let that be your first picture. Then, using your new found knowledge of how to create a picture with G.I.M.P, work on your first original design.
Make sure you use a template that’s big enough to shrink if needed, but not so small that it shows up pixelated when you turn it into a cover. 1600 x 1200, and 1024 x 768 are great templates for a cover image. You can turn it into a poster to sell at Book Signings, use it on your website, create a desktop background, and more.
Sometimes a simple picture tells more about your story than a complex design ever could. Think about starting with a basic one-color background, and then use the text tool to make an extravagant book title. If the font you’re looking for didn’t come installed with the program, you can always Google search free font downloads, and find the one you want.
Be careful not to make a cover with too much going on. It will distract from your title, and sometimes turn people off from your book. Try and get as much feedback on your picture as you can before sending it to the publisher for review. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. A great website for showing your art and receiving feedback is Deviant Art (www.deviantart.com). You can create a profile and upload your photo’s instantly, and by commenting on other pictures on the site you can draw attention to your own.
Before I made my own cover, I contacted various artists and companies to see about having them create a cover for me. But what I found was that most will charge in between $200-$500 just for one picture. It was then that I realized I could make my own cover for FREE, I just needed a little patience. So I did my research, and the advice I’ve provided above is everything I followed while saving money and creating a photo that I felt was perfect for my book.
If you have the money, but don’t have the time to make your own photo, then check out 99 Designs (www.99designs.com). You can set the amount of money you’re willing to pay for a picture, and then designers will bid on your project and upload pictures for you to choose from. Whichever picture you like the best “wins” the contract, and just like that you’ve got a picture you enjoy, for the price you’ve set.