Everything I've read about the publication and marketing of eBooks over the last several months has suggested that one of the most important aspects of the whole process is having appropriate cover art. You want cover art that fits the genre/feel you intend for your book to have and you want to produce that cover art on a budget which fits your overall sales expectations for your book. There's obviously a quality factor, too, but that is both somewhat subjective and is dependent to a certain extent on the budget. Another important thing is for it to look good when seen in a thumbnail view.
Here's my cover for "Gravity's Pull":
So, first let's talk about how it fits the criteria I laid out above.
- Fits the genre/feel - Well, this is a hard SF story that involves asteroids as a primary plot component. So, I think that it meets that criteria at some basic level. Someone presumably wouldn't confuse this for a fantasy story or a literary story where the "pull" of gravity is metaphorical.
- On a budget which fits the overall sales expectations for your book - I had no specific expectations, per se. I have a goal -- I'd like to sell 100 copies by the end of 2012, which would net me $35. So, clearly, I wanted to not be putting much money (or, for that matter, time which I could be spending on writing) into the cover.
- Quality factor - It's hard to judge your own work. In my opinion, relative to the amount of time I put into this and for a first attempt at eBook cover design, I felt like this was decent. Now, that's all heavily-qualified, I admit. But I don't feel embarrassed by this cover and I don't believe that I should be. For the purposes of this particular title, that was sufficient for me.
- Look good in a thumbnail view - I feel like this may be the best strength of this cover. I've looked at it on multiple devices in multiple sizes and the text is legible.
OK, so now let's get down to the nuts and bolts of putting this cover together. I needed several things: A font, an image, and a tool to design the cover in.
Now that we have that out of the way... Back to the three things I needed.
- A font to use. - Not all fonts are free to use for commercial purposes. I went to the Open Font Library and looked for a font which I felt had a nice clean look and which was licensed under the SIL Open Font License. The font I chose was Pfennig. I downloaded the relevant files and installed them on my computer.
- A tool to design the cover with - I've used Gimp for quite a while to do photo editing. It's somewhat similar in terms of abilities to a tool like Photoshop but has the benefit of being free to use. There's a bit of a learning curve with it, especially if you haven't used similar tools in the past, but once you learn how to use it, it's a very powerful tool.
I ended up playing around with this for a while, trying to get things to look the way I wanted them. A lot of that was, again, sort of a learning-curve thing. My original cover design had a serifed font rather than Pfennig and I didn't like how the results looked in the preview in KDP. As it turns out, the preview in KDP seems to render text poorly compared to almost every other place I saw it. So, the lesson I took from that was that if it looks okay when you shrink it down to thumbnail size in your design tool then it should look fine for most purposes.
By far, the most important thing I want to say about all this is that if you decide to make your own cover please -- please -- make sure that you take the time to be comfortable that you understand the licenses for anything you use in the design such as fonts, images, etc. If you can use images you've taken yourself, all the better, since you own the rights to them completely.
I'm sure there's much more that could be discussed about this and I hope it's clear that I view what I did hear as making a passable low-budget cover.
Have any of you created your own eBook covers? Have you worked with someone else to design a cover? I'd be interested to hear what your experiences were like as well.