When I started doing self-publishing, I had a decision to make. You need to spend some money. But I could spend money on editing or on book covers. Just not both. Many self-publishing gurus call both non-negotiables. You have to do both. Well, that’s advice. Reality suggests you may not have the budget. So I went with editing and decided to do my own covers.
Yeah, it’s not as easy as you’d think. When I got the bright idea to serialize The First One’s Free (now Before Amargosa and soon to be broken up into The Magic Root and The Marilynists), I came up with a series of covers I thought were pretty cool. I thought they were pretty cool. They actually looked like crap. I didn’t know how to manage text, and I was in love with my compositing skills too much. But I got over that nonsense.
I soon learned to keep it simple stupid. The Children of Amargosa started with a public domain photo of a mountain in early evening. I learned to drop-shadow or put a glow around text to make it standout. I needed to convey Lansdorp being destroyed and Lizzy and JT running away. Stock atomic explosion and silhouettes a generous artist allowed me to make from her work for credit. Simpler. But not simple. I soon learned to use a single stock image for most covers. Normally, it works, but for Broken Skies, I had downloaded a starship pic that was part of a series five other novels (Go lookup The Lost Colony on Amazon) used. I refer to it now as “Battleship Generica.”
Nonetheless, simpler is better. It’s fewer downloads. Were I more of an artist, I’d create a ship of my own. I was told it takes a month to 3-D render a ship, and that’s if you know what you’re doing. You have to spend time checking out the images. You have to manage your text well. And you have to remember that someone’s probably going to judge your book by that cover. This weekend, I need to create covers for The Magic Root and The Marilynists. I may resuse some of the original imagery from the serialization of The First One’s Free/Before Amargosa. But not exactly. Those books didn’t sell well, so why would I want to recycle bad marketing? I already made a cover for No Marigolds in the Promised Land. It’s my first attempt at 3-D rendering text. Not great, but it did result in this retro look, like a 1970’s cheap paperback. I kinda like it. Single image, text standing out.
Like anything else, it takes practice.