Thursday, 21 October 2010

Killer Cover?

Do covers sell books? I'd be lying if I said I've never picked up a book simply because the cover caught my eye. Beautiful and intriguing images tend to do that for me. Whether the blurb on the back and the first page then hold my attention after I've picked it up is the next factor in deciding if I take it to the till and actually pay for it or replace it with a regretful sigh.

I'm not an expert on marketing, but it seemed to me that you need something to catch a potential reader's attention in the first place. Although I tend to go by recommendations from friends or review sites on-line, I'll still wander round my local book shop (given the chance!) and pick something up for the sake of the cover. So when I started considering the possibility of self-publishing, a major goal in my mind was a killer cover. Or, at the very least, an eye-catching image for the cover.

A friend recommended dreamstime to me, and I had a lot of fun looking around on there. If you're interested, there are also free images available although most aren't expensive depending on the size - I use a lot on the blog and occasionally as inspiration for my writing. I found my 'killer' image. It wasn't a true depiction of my main character, not the way I saw him in my mind, but there were elements of the image that were just perfect - the colour, the expression of innocence and a kind of yearning. I bought the rights to use the image 50,000 times in print, with the option for more (yeah, ok, 50,000 copies sold may be wishful thinking, but there's always book marks, postcards etc to consider - I can dream!) I had a blog, website and a Facebook page that I could use it on too.

The same friend directed me to lulu. It's a printing company where you can upload, edit and publish your own book, from as little as one copy for your personal satisfaction(and believe me, there are a bucket-load of good vibes at holding one in your hand!) to self-publishing on a grand scale. I'm not recommending it as such - go take a look for yourself if you're interested. I don't know how they rate against similar companies, but they're the one I've used and am currently sticking with. You can even get an ISBN from them, and having tried to get one of those for myself, I know it isn't the easiest thing in the world to acquire!

But I had one problem with lulu. I wasn't overly thrilled by the way my book covers turned out, and I'd tried a few variations as and when my book has been revised. So when a friend posted a link for some new software that reckons you can produce a professional cover for yourself in an hour, I jumped at the chance. The trial version is viable for 5 days but you can't save a PDF version - this means you can't just use it to create your one perfect cover that you need now and use it(yeah, that's what I had planned - d'oh!) But I thought I'd share my opinion of the trial with you, in case you're looking to design that perfect book cover.

The first image is the current version I have on lulu. I'm sorry it hasn't come out any bigger - I don't know how to adjust it (warning - techno-idiot on the loose!). The image is pixellated despite being a high-resolution one. The title and author's name can't be superimposed over the image - you have to have it on a blank border above the image. I've only gotten away with it on mine because the black hair of the image merges into the black border above. I also can't get the text as large as I would like it, especially on the spine, and I tend to get a lot of error messages when I'm trying to refine the cover - lulu cover design and I do not have a good working relationship!

The second image is my attempt with the trial software, and even as I've started this post I've realised that I've left off key elements like a back of book blurb and the lettering on the spine! I had a bit of trouble downloading; simply because I'm not especially computer literate, not because of the software itself. The start up is a little daunting but (big tip!) click 'help' and download the guide - it's written very clearly and takes you through it all. You need to have an idea of your book size - this is where having used lulu gave me an advantage and a copy of my own book to hand! Uploading your book on lulu is free so you can use that to get an idea of your final book size.

I can't say that I found this especially easy to use, but I did only spend 90 minutes playing with it - sadly the real world requires my attention! I found it annoying that, in order to see the full cover, I couldn't have the tool box up on the screen at the same time and had to keep swapping from one to the other. I wanted my text to overlay the image which I managed to do eventually, but more by luck than judgement - I'm still not sure how that part of it works. The text and fonts are limited to those already set on your computer. When you create a new element, like a text box for example, these appear incredibly small and up in the far left hand corner of your cover. This meant that at first I couldn't even find the damn things! Moving, resizing and placing each element is also difficult - for some reason, only one corner of the box out of the four can be used to adjust the size of the text box, which then requires you to change its position to expand it again! Even with a high resolution image, my chosen picture was still pixillated so I used another for the experiment, but even on that one the quality still looks a little poor. Not having the full version, I can't print off a PDF to see it 'proper' size, something I can do on lulu.

However, on the plus side..... I loved the fact that I was able to wrap the whole image around the book and superimpose the text on it, both things I can't do on lulu. The guide helpfully has a list of useful websites for images, free fonts and their own cover design services. I think a bit more time spent familiarizing myself with all the controls and settings would mean I could produce a better quality book cover than I currently have available. I'd probably have to pester my more technically-minded friends for help though!

Whether that justifies the price of the software, I can't tell you. I would strongly recommend downloading the trial version for yourself and giving it a go. You can find it here.

And please let me know how it goes. I'm going to play with it some more and try to put a better version of my 'new' cover on the blog at the end of the trial. But I'd love to see yours!


  1. Great post Pippa! Thanx for letting us in to your journey through the software. This was especially interesting after having seen your post on FB.

  2. How cool! The guy that created my Zombie Killer picture for Becky also does book cover art. He's not cheap but it is unique art and he is amazing at what he does. There's something special about someone else creating an image from nothing based upon your own dreams.

  3. Thank you both for the comments. I would love to be able to commission something of my own, but as you say, that kind of thing doesn't come cheap and I just can't afford it. But who knows what the future may hold...

  4. The future holds great things Pip. :-)


I always love to hear your thoughts.