Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Business of Writing: The Basics of DIY Book Covers by @Liza0Connor

Einband (vorne) von:
"Biblia graeca - Novum Iesu Christi Testamentum",
Graece. Basel, N. Brylinger, 1553
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Today on The Maze I am proud to introduce the first of a three-part series on DIY book covers by my virtual and prolific author-friend Liza O'Connor.

In Liza's words...

When I was asked to write a blog on DIY Covers, I wondered what on earth I’d write about. I am not a design artist. I’m just an impoverished author who loves to write and knows a fabulous cover is needed to get a reader’s attention.

I initially published through publishing firms, and honestly, I never ‘loved’ any cover I got.

When I first went indie I hired someone to make my covers. But upon discovering how fast I could publish books when I was in control, I realized I couldn’t afford to lay out a $100-$150 for each cover. So I decided to buy stock pics on the cheap, learn Photoshop, and make my own.

Adobe Photoshop is not self-intuitive nor easy to learn and has a serious issue they refuse to fix presently. If I were to choose now, I’d probably check out the free and cheaper apps to see if they would work for me first. But I’ve already invested the time to learn photoshop, so for the present that’s what I use.

I recommend you shop around for your stock photos as well, and buy from whichever service is the cheapest and has pics that you could use. When on sale, in prior years I’ve been able to buy all my photos for the year for less than 50 cents a pic. If you are only doing a couple of books, and you’ve found the perfect pics then you might chose to buy them full price, but check the various sites first. It’s possible the model has sold even better or similar pics to other sites who are having sales or just offers them for less.

[NOTE: A great list of stock photography (& video) sites may be found on this blog post about DIY book trailers ~ kih.]

My first cover:

Ghost Lover was my first attempt to create a book cover, and it came together with ease.

Once I got the cover created, I put it up on my Facebook site and asked for opinions. Then, I tweaked a few things based on their comments and called it done.

Now convinced making covers was easy, I moved to the next book and discovered some covers defy you every step of the way.

Here’s some basic advice on covers (and please note, I don’t always obey this advice, because all rules need to be broken on occasion). In fact, every gorgeous cover I’ve coveted has broken several rules. Check them out at my Pinterest site: Fabulous Covers.

  • Clutter is not generally a good thing. If you’ve stuffed every event in the book on your cover, it will probably look like a terrible mess. Believe me, I’ve tried. One of my books has over twenty puppies being rescued so I tried to put twenty puppies on the cover. Terrible idea! Then I reduced it to 7 and it still looks ridiculous. Yet, I’m so fixated on saving those puppies I won’t bite the bullet and remove them!
  • If you are writing a series, you should stay with the same font, font size & if possible, layout for the books. You want them appear as a unique group. Amazon does not display your books in any useful order on your author page (at least they don’t on mine) so giving each series a unique style, color, overlay, or similar pictures will help the reader find the other books of the series.
  • The first book of the series needs a great cover. The covers following can catch the readers’ attention, sending them back to the book 1, but book one’s cover must be eye catching, because if your readers don’t read it, it is highly unlikely they’ll read the remainder of the series. I have been known to create ten versions of book one covers before getting one I’m happy with.
  • If you write single books, then just make the best cover you can that’s relevant to your book. RELEVANCE being the key word.
  • WARNING: I read a blog recently that talked about ‘the ten images that sell books’. I can’t remember them all, but they included a puppy or dog, Adirondack chairs and a beach umbrella, women walking arm in arm, bare-chested men, illustrated characters, and some other weird things I’ve blanked from my mind, hopefully forever.

Unless you normally pick out your covers first and THEN write your story, the blog’s advice is only useful when you have happened to write a story that would genuinely require such a cover. If you put a beach umbrella on war story, you are probably going to have some gravely disappointed readers. So my advice is to create the cover that a) truly represents your book and b) is enticing to look at.

Thus ends the first of three blogs on Do It Yourself book covers.

Liza O’Connor writes in several genres including Late Victorian, Regency, Contemporary Romance, Humorous Disaster Romance (which should be a genre), Sci-Fi and Sci-Fi Romance. Liza currently has eighteen novels, fifteen of which have covers designed by her.

Her first cover she made was Ghost Lover, a humorous contemporary with two brothers, an ancestral ghost, and a ghost cat all in love with the same American woman. How many ways can that go wrong? Even more than you’d think.

Please take time to find the cat on the cover. Liza loves the ghost cat. His name is Mr. Finch.

Next week on The Maze: 
Liza unveils the Dreaded Font Rules for DIY book covers!


All this month, you are invited to...
— Follow Kim on Twitter
— Follow Kim on Pinterest
— Subscribe to Kim's YouTube channel
— Leave a comment on any page of The Maze, especially if you have done the Twitter, Pinterest, and/or YouTube follow
...and each action this month is good for one chance to win an e-book copy of King Arthur's Sister in Washington's Court. Please enter often, and good luck!


  1. You are more creative and daring than I am. I wish I could create my own covers but I don't see the covers as I want them... *sigh*

    1. Well here's my issue with your claim. We are both authors, which by default means we are creative. And I believe you are called Daringzoey by some which nixes your lack of daringness.

    2. Boy, Liza, there's never a dull moment when you visit my blog!


    3. If that's a polite way of saying I don't behave well, I agree.

  2. I wish I could make my own covers and save myself a mint, but I'm too chicken to try!

    1. Well secretly try. Start by locating photos in your genre you love. Study them. Why do you love them. Then with your own photos try and make something as nice.

  3. Hey, it never hurts to try!
    You will either discover a limitation... or a talent. :)


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