A huge controversy is raging surrounding AI art tools that allow you to generate artwork with text prompts. Many cover designers are strongly against it, but we believe in consumers’ right to choose the best and easiest option for them to make great book covers.
We here at Creativindie covers do not use AI art, though if we do so in the future, they will be clearly labelled and explained – there are some copyright limitations to Midjourney and similar tools that authors need to be aware of.
Book covers are about more than just sourcing reliable copyright-free stock photos. The text and typography is also hugely important. So far, most AI art would need heavy photoshopping; and I understand that both cover designers and authors want to make sure they don’t get in any legal water over ill-defined AI art usage terms – which is why many cover designers are outright rejecting Midjourney as a tool.
I’m excited about Amazon’s new platform for serialized fiction Vella (if you haven’t heard of it yet, here’s a post where I break down the details: “What is Kindle Vella?”). To celebrate I’m giving away 33 POC covers to promote diversity in publishing. You can see all the free covers on theyashelf.com.
Just upload a short sample/first chapter and win the cover of your choice. I may do more events like this in the future, so make sure to follow my main site or join the guerrilla publishing group on Facebook. I’ll also be making some tutorials on making quick Vella covers on YouTube.
This is a real quick post on getting more book reviews, biggest it’s one of the biggest obstacles to publishing success – especially since Amazon has started deleting hundreds of reviews from friends or family. It’s tempting to give up and throw in the towel, but you NEED at least 10 reviews before you even think about sales or marketing, even if Amazon has a duty to protect its consumers by removing biased reviews.
SO: How to get book reviews?
First, you need to build a list of potential reviewers. These should be people who actually like your genre or subjects, who regularly buy and review similar books on Amazon. This is important, because if you send your book to a bunch of people who don’t read your genre, it’ll screw up your also-boughts and hurt long term visibility.
Look at the top 20 books in your genre, go through the reviews and see if they have a website or email to contact them. Do this with multiple categories. Make a list of the top 10 most similar books, which have lots of reviews and are selling well. Then Google those titles + “review” and go through the first 5 pages of Google to see who’s reviewed them. You can also find reviewers on Goodreads.
What you want to do is offer a free review copy to as many potential readers as possible. I give out several hundred ARC copies of each new release. I don’t expect or demand readers review (you can’t actually trade a free book “in exchange” for a review – reviews with that language will get deleted). All you can do is let lots of readers read for free, try and build a relationship with them, maybe check in once or twice. This is a little dangerous because you’re cold-calling, but if you write a short, polite email and a link to a free book, few people will be annoyed (some will be grateful!)
What you don’t want to do is, ask friends or family if they’ll review, then send them a paperback copy, then nag them into posting (even though they didn’t read it, didn’t like it or don’t know what to say about it). I prefer building a big list with book giveaways and Facebook ads, and offering them a free copy. Now that I have a platform, I keep my ARC copies limited to the real fans in my private FB group, which increases the free books to reviews ratio (before I would give out 500 copies for 25 reviews… now I can give out 50 for the same number).
50% review rate is actually really high. You’ll be frustrated if you get angry because only 6 out of 10 reviewers posted a review after they said they’d take a look. Sometimes not reviewing is an easy way to say “I didn’t like it.” Don’t pressure them too much.
One last thing: you can gift, or use giveaways, or a free book campaign to give copies of your book straight to reviewers so they show up under verified reviews, which may be important going forward. Otherwise, I usually use BookFunnel, but those won’t show as verified and might get deleted.
Many writers get stuck in the “idea” phase – they have too many stories to chase and constantly jot down scenes and characters, but have trouble writing a WHOLE book. I had that problem too, which is why I changed my goal: instead of trying to finish a novel, I tried to write a strong beginning and reach the halfway point.
I did that 5 times, until I was comfortable with it, then went back and finished the second half for those books.
My point is that learning to write the first half of a novel is not the same as learning to write the second half. Writing a WHOLE book at once can be intimidating because there are so many pieces to get wrong, it’s easy to get stuck or frustrated, and there are also gaps or broken bits that need fixing.
Writing a book is kind of like building a bridge. First you need a rough sketch, then temporary scaffolding, then the foundations, then the internal architecture… only after all that do you being laying down the permanent, external stuff and removing the temporary stuff.
I love this quote from Neil Gaiman, answering the absurd question “real quick, how to plot a book?”
In a recent video I made about Guerrilla Publishing, I accidentally said something like “just write the best book in the world” – which is misleading, because of how I define “best”. Most writers focus on the words and sentences, the quality of the writing. That’s a bad idea for two reasons:
The rough draft is always bad. You have to allow yourself to write badly and get the story down first.
Most readers don’t care about the writing – they focus on story or content.
To have a successful book that readers love (which, I think, is the only kind of book worth writing), you need to do it deliberately (it can be done accidentally as well, but that path leads most authors to frustration). Almost all commercial books follow standard tropes and genre expectations and universal story architecture. If you want to write a GOOD book, you need to learn the rules and know your audience. A lot of authors resist this, which is why most authors fail (or work far harder than they need to, and spend more than they earn on publishing).
Publishing a book is all about book design. All you really need to publish is a formatted book that’s professionally laid out for print, with smart font choices that match your genre or subject. Then you can convert your manuscript in ebook formats (epub and mobi) – I even have a free ebook conversion tool.
Next you’ll need a Kindle ebook cover (about 1600 x 2700 pixels, which equals 6″x9″ @300dpi).
If you don’t have photoshop, you can get a cheap cover on Fiverr (which aren’t great) or use my free book cover design templates to make your own.
That’s enough to set up on KDP for the Kindle version – you could also use Draft2Digital to distribute your ebook (though I prefer Kindle Unlimited’s Select program). Print books are more complicated, because you need to calculate the spine width based on page count, and get the trim right, and it has to be precise or Amazon will reject the files (Createspace is more forgiving if you skip the automatic previewer. KDP print is picky).
After designing over a thousand book covers (and earning about a quarter of a million bucks from my design business) I decided I’d rather write full-time than design covers for a living. But, since I’m deeply committed to helping indie authors and pretty established in the publishing community, I’ve devoted thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours into building DIY book cover tools, templates and resources – so authors can design their own covers without making critical mistakes.
This is obviously a work in progress, because cover design is complicated, but the templates have been downloaded by nearly 100,000 authors, and my YouTube videos have over a million views. Here are some things to get you started.
I spent lots of time looking through premade covers. I find way more than I can ever buy (in my last shopping trip I added over $20,000 in covers to my cart). But I want to share these great deals with other authors, and also keep them altogether in one place in case I’m trying to find them again, so I decided to link to my favorites here.
Please note, many of these are not good enough as is – they have potential or great art, but in many cases (not all) the text would need to be redone to really make the cover as epic as the art suggests.
They won’t work on Kindle or iBooks (though I’m going to test them anyway, maybe I can find a workaround). But they WILL work on Wattpad, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media sites. So whenever you post a promotional picture of your book cover, you could awesomefy it (that’s not a word but it needs to be = make awesome).
Now I just need to learn how to make those animated covers look amazing on a static 3D product shot… I’ll learn that next. The danger is, of course, once I give away all these secrets, everybody is going to do it, so on top of all the author-spam you usually see on Twitter or Facebook, now the images will be moving. It’ll be like Myspace all over again (obnoxious, hard to look at).
So what I should do is keep these secrets to myself, so they only show up on my covers and I have a marketing advantage. But.. I’m not going to. These covers were easy to make, and the tools are cheap. Be extremely cautious, don’t overdo it, but for shits and giggles, here’s a tutorial on designing your own animated covers.
If you like this tutorial and animate your book cover, share your cover on Twitter and tag me: @creativindie so I can see it.
How to make your own animated book covers
Firstly, add some sparkle. I used this site, paid to remove the watermark. It only has a few features, but it plays off the natural light/dark contrast of your book cover, and you can select the areas for some amazing effects.
Here’s a video tutorial.
Secondly, I found DP Animation Maker, a bit more expensive at $37.77, but it can add great effects, especially for light, water and movement.
Thirdly, I wanted to find a way to morph images, so, for example, a face can blink, or smile. To do that I’d need two or three pictures and merge them together.
I can do that with http://gifmaker.me. First I have to make the different versions of the cover, then I add the photos and turn them into a gif. I thought this might work especially well to add a “splash” effect with a big quote, review, or description – a little bit of extra sales copy space on your cover image.
How to save/share your animated book covers
The gifs you make can be pretty big; you can try to use Gifmaker’s resizer to make them smaller. If you upload them to Giphy.com the file size doesn’t really matter – Giphy is great for posting on Facebook (if you use a Giphy link it will preview the animated gif, but if you upload the gif straight to Facebook, it won’t play).
However, on Twitter I’d rather just upload the picture directly – Twitter DOES show the animation. A Giphy link works too but it clicks to Giphy, which I don’t like. You can embed the pictures on your website as well, and pin them to Pinterest (where animation works).
Have fun! Remember to tag me if you make your own animated covers so I can see.
Want more tips, book cover design templates and some free books?
I have more free stuff – templates, an email series on cover design, and my books on writing and book marketing.
A lot of young designers (or old designers!) reach out and ask me how they can become a book cover designer or get started in this business.
If you want to start book cover design… watch all the videos on www.diybookcovers.com first; then make 50 sample mockups and put them in a portfolio; then contact a bunch of authors with platforms and offer to remake their covers for free in exchange for a link and testimonial.
If you have great samples, and your price is reasonable – between $100 and $1000, depending on your experience, quality and expertise – you’ll get orders.
How many orders depends on traffic and conversion. So you need to find more ways to convince people to trust and buy from you, and then you need to find ways to build traffic.
I started with nothing and had to work at it for a few years. I priced really low. I did a lot of free work (I still do!). Now I’m focused more on building great content.
If you want to start quickly; run a contest every month for a free cover design and use it to build links, shares and traffic, as well as an email list (of people you know need covers).
This is an old post! The makeovers were fun but the opportunity is over.
I’m presenting on book covers again at this year’s 46th Annual Willamette Writer’s Conference, but this year I’d like to focus on more case studies. So if you’re attending and aren’t confident about your book cover, send it to me and I can give you feedback and design strategy – I’ll also be picking out a handful of covers to redo (free makeovers!) and workshop during the event, which means you may get a $629 book cover for free.