About Me

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I love being a mom and a wife. I've married to a man I would do anything for, and we have three beautiful children. I see so much of myself in both of them that it sometimes brings me to tears (happy ones).

I also love writing. Romance to be specific. I love the happily ever after that I believe everyone deserves. My stories aren't 'stop and smell the roses' type romances. While I believe everyone deserves happiness and true love, I know that sometimes you have to walk a hard road to find it. Those are the types of stories I like to write. The happily ever after that wasn't found, but earned. I work to earn mine on a daily basis and so do my characters. 

I am also working on a children's picture book series. Inspired (of course) by my kiddos. :)

On the non-writing front, I play acoustic guitar, sing, read like I get paid for it, ride horses, hike, paint rocks, and support a rather obsessive addiction to Pinterest.

I love to cook, which combined with my pinning addiction, leads to many experiments foisted on my unsuspecting husband and kids, mostly with good results. But sometimes, the dogs gets what the family refuses to eat. And they never complain. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Creating a Cover for Your Book - What NOT to do - Thursdays with the Author

Update: the Coverscroll website is no longer running. But if you go to google search and type in bad book covers, you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. ;)

The cover for one of my books

I always check out my new Twitter followers and one of my newer ones this week was a website that will let you promote your book for free (donations accepted) which I think is a great resource for writers. 

As I was browsing their website I saw perfect examples of what self-publishing and indie press authors should absolutely NOT DO when it comes to designing a cover for their books. 

There are some good covers that I found, which I will feature further down in this post (with the author's permission). Of the good ones, seen below, I read the blurbs after the cover caught my eye. And I will most likely purchase all of them because I like how they sound. But the first thing that caught my attention (as a reader) were the covers.

Some of these good covers were done with publishing and/or design companies. If you have the money and/or means to go this route, please do. They know what they're doing. But if you don't, the list of do's and (mostly) don'ts found below can help you make a great cover on your own.

I won't post individual pictures of the 'what not to do's' at the risk of being sued by someone so you'll have to check the website out for yourself. It'll be pretty easy to understand what I'm referring to. Take a look and see what you think: http://coverscroll.com/

Here's a few tips I have for designing a cover. They are mostly (well practically all of them are) what NOT to do:

1) Do NOT use a friend or family member as your model just because you needed someone to pose for a picture. Having an obese woman in lingerie trying desperately to look sexy and failing badly while holding a giant carving knife between her bare legs is a BAD IDEA. This is NOT the cover you want to have unless you main character is a overweight serial killer that has some strange sexual fantasies, then the cover might fit but it still won't get anyone to read your book. 

2) Do NOT use a crappy, pixelated picture that looks like it was taken by your five year old child on a toy camera. Pictures should be clear with a high DPI (most sites recommend 300DPI). That means a very high resolution shot if you didn't know.

3) Do NOT take a picture you found off a Google search engine and slap it on your book then paste some really crazy looking graphic on top of it with your book's title and your name squeezed in the only free space. Just don't. Also see #12.

4) Do NOT use a hand-drawn image/picture as your cover. The ONLY exceptions to this would be if you are an amazing artist (professional schooling is a big plus here) or your book is a children's book. I will be so distracted wondering what the heck you even drew on your cover that I won't even read your blurb or check out your reviews. Books ARE firstly judged by their covers so don't make the mistake of putting a elementary school quality artwork on your cover. Books are secondly judged by their blurbs. Your cover will get them to read your blurb so make sure it is good too!

5) Do NOT put small/confusing fonts,  subtitles, or small blurbs on the front cover. This goes for cover images as well. Most people will be looking at a thumbnail image of your book's cover. If it doesn't look good or can't be seen in a thumbnail, you need to change it.

6) TEXT: I have a few points on this topic. 
A) Make sure all the words and letters can be CLEARLY seen and EASILY read. Images and backgrounds should not be cutting into lettering or obscuring them from vision. 
B) FONT: One example I can give is: the word 'Aunt' looks like the word 'Cunt' in certain fonts. Seriously. (For those of you outside the US, here the word cunt is a very derogatory word, usually directed towards women. Not the word you want in your title or in thanking your Aunt on the dedication page.) 
I saw a few titles with the letter 'D' in a font that appeared to be dripping blood. It made the 'D' look like a 'P'. This makes the word Deed look like Peed and Doubt look like Pout. It would look bad if your title read 'Without a Pout'. DOUBLE CHECK to make sure your font isn't causing these type of issues. This also ties in with #5. Some fonts cannot be read as thumbnails. Check your fonts. 
C) DO NOT use the shadow effect on your title. A lot of the books on this site had the words being mirrored underneath. This is distracting and looks amateurish. 

7) Titles. Please don't have your title be fifteen words long. JUST DON'T. Also, titles should also have something to do with your book. Foreshadowing or theme. But not so literal as the reader wants to do a face palm. Example: Your book is about a serial killer who dresses up as Santa and murders Christmas shoppers. DO NOT call your book Serial Killer Santa. Killer Christmas is cliche (also: will probably cause an eye roll or face palm) and it's STILL better than Serial Killer Santa.

8) Unless you are writing a children's book or certain types of non-fiction, or an ACTUAL comic book, your cover should NOT look like a cartoon.

9) If there are multiple authors, it might be best not to name every single one of them on the cover of your book. Try: 'A collaboration' or something like that and list the authors/contributors in detail inside the book.

10) If you're going to have half naked, mostly naked, scantily clad, suggestive, provocative, etc. person(s)on your cover, make sure you do the following: 

A) The scene actually has something to do with your book. A tropical paradise complete with ocean waves and palm trees with bathing suit clad hotties rolling in the sand should not be on your cover if the book takes place in Minnesota... in the winter.
B) The people are at least somewhat attractive. Let's be honest here. We know men and women, in real life, are not perfect. Most of us don't even care what our significant other looks like (well maybe we care a little). But we read to escape reality and that escape isn't a man with a beer belly who's too lazy to shave or a woman with more chins than fingers. We want to see six pack abs and a hint of a five o'clock shadow on a sculpted face, or legs (preferably shaved) that go for miles and perfect boobs. Reading is fantasy so it's okay for us to indulge in our unrealistic and stereotypical fantasies.
C) The pose is somewhat attractive and age appropriate. A reader isn't going to want to read your 'steamy erotica' if they're too busy laughing at a ridiculous cover.  Example: A grandma-aged woman with her legs spread out and the title of your book barely covering the part of her body we really don't want to see. A reader is also not going to want to read about someones 'biggest hustle' yet the person on the cover doesn't look old enough to even know what a hustle is.
D) This ties in to #1 and #2. The picture needs to be good quality. The models need to be professional.
E) Just because it's a romance novel doesn't mean you have to have two half-naked people making out or tearing each other's clothes off on the cover. Don't get me wrong, that doesn't stop me from reading romance novels but cover after cover of horny couples gets a little old. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't put two hotties getting it on for your cover, just don't go overboard with it and try not to let it look too cliche.

11) Check the color! Especially with the cookie-cutter templates some self-publishing companies give you to choose from. If the background is pale/white, all that may show up on your cover may be the title and image. Make sure the color is dark/different enough to see the entire cover regardless of the background color of a website or make sure you have a thin border around your cover to distinguish it's lighter background from the web site's color.

12) For those of you completely new to publishing/self publishing, the biggest thing you need to know is that you absolutely have to have permission to use someone else's image. This may seem like a no-brainer but some people don't realize this fact. Just because you found a great image on a Google search doesn't mean there's no copyright. Most images on the Internet are copyrighted. Using a copyrighted image without permission from the original owner is ILLEGALSometimes getting permission is as simple as asking the owner of the image to use it. Sometimes it's impossible to even find the owner. Sometimes the owner wants compensation (aka $) or credit in your book. If you can't get permission, DON'T USE IT. You don't want to risk getting sued. Even in this blog, I found the author's to all the books listed below and asked for permission to use their images and names before posting.

Here's an example: For my next book, which is being released in a few weeks, I found an AMAZING shot of an Irish castle. After scouring the Internet for the original owner of the image, I found him (in Greece, no less) and asked what I'd need to do to obtain permission to use his photo on the cover of my book. A lot of international emailing later and the deal was made. In exchange for using his photo (for my book cover and marketing for said book ONLY) I needed to give him credit on the back cover of my book for the photo, send him a copy of the cover for pre-approval before publishing, and send him 2 copies of the book after publishing. I got lucky finding a very polite and generous owner to negotiate with. I did go a little overboard and asked for a signed 'contract' just to cover my butt in the future, and he graciously complied. 

Another example: My cover of Dark Mountains is just a background image of mountains. I had found this picture that I absolutely loved, of a marine kissing his girlfriend's forehead. It was a sweet and beautiful B&W image and completely fit the theme of my story. There was no skin or suggestive situations, only a soldier in uniform saying goodbye with a innocent kiss. (Not saying my novel didn't have sex in it but it follows the main character's love story from childhood best friends and the sweetness fits the overall theme better. Also I have a thing against every romance cover having half naked-people on it. See #10. But I digress.) 

I emailed the blogger where I found the picture and asked if she could direct me to the original owner. She emailed me back saying that she had obtained permission to use the photo on her blog but could not find her info on the picture's owner (the cynic in me was screaming B.S.). But regardless, I couldn't find the original owner and couldn't get permission so the picture that I absolutely loved couldn't be used. I still haven't found an image that I love like that one, which is why Dark Mountains still has a somewhat plain image as the cover. I'd rather have a great, non-distracting background image than a picture that doesn't fit my book.

When it comes to finding owners and gaining permission, it won't always be that easy and sometimes it won't even be that hard. But if you want the image on your cover, you have to do what it takes to get permission.

Some images and artwork are so old that they don't have a copyright. Check your country's copyright law before using any images that are 100+ years old.

13)  If you can, if you have the right program and expertise, DO design your own cover from scratch. Cookie cutter templates from sites like CreateSpace, SmashWords, Kindle Direct, etc. are just that. Cookie Cutter. Regardless of how many choices they offer you, someone else will have the same looking image or template. Even with the 2 million + titles (and that is just in the Kindle store) someone will use the same template, colors, etc. 

If you can create your own cover from scratch you have much more freedom with color, fonts, layout, etc. But it's also harder. You have to know exactly how big your book is, page count, size, bleed, spine width, etc. There's even a math equation to figure out exact dimensions. It's all very confusing. But if you take your time and learn as much as you can BEFORE trying it, it isn't as scary as it first appears. I personally use Microsoft Publisher but there are MANY other programs you can choose from.

14) DO get opinions from as many people as you can before publishing with your cover. Friends and family are great, but be honest with yourself, they may not be up front in their opinions because they are family or a friend. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Community boards on the self publishing sites: All of these are good places to get opinions on your covers. Now keep in mind, just like with your actual book, you won't please everybody. But if the majority likes it, then they're probably right. If the majority hates it, don't get too upset. Use it as a chance to learn. Ask for honest critiques and advice, and take it when given. 

The great thing about being an author is that it isn't a cut-throat business. Authors aren't out to sabotage each other. At least not in the self-publishing realm. We help each other. We learn from each other. Remember that fact when someone tells you your drawing is pretty bad and you shouldn't use it. Don't get pissed. Try looking at it like it isn't yours and you may find they were right.

15) Series: If your book is part of a series put the order somewhere on your cover. This rule isn't always best, especially if it distracts from your cover or the series has a long name etc. Some of the authors below chose to leave the series number off their covers. Keep in mind, if it's not listed on your cover that your book is part of a series, make sure you have it listed in your book's description. From personal experience I can tell you that reading a book and finding out half way through it that it's the second, third or whatever, in a series is very aggravating.

So those are some of my do's and (mostly) don'ts for creating a cover for your book. I am, by no means, an expert. Just another author who has learned some lessons the hard way and would like to help you avoid doing the same. :)

Here's some of my picks (from the above mentioned website) of well-made covers and why I like them. The Author's Name, Book Title and Covers all have links to the author's various websites. Please click on them and check out these authors and their books!

Chelsea Dorsette- Match Point

I love black and white images. This cover doesn't have too much going on, which is good. Hot guy, not too risque or cliche with the pose. Tennis racket ties in well with the book title. Title and Author name clearly visible and easy to read. I read the blurb for this book and the title and cover fits perfectly with the description. I don't read erotica but this cover and blurb has me thinking about changing my mind.
Chelsea's Blog

John Blumenthal - Three and a Half Virgins

Another well made cover. Simple in design with only a little bit of color but fits the book perfectly. Title and author easily seen and read. This author got it right while still using a pale/white background color. There's a thin edge around the cover, leading to a clear break-up between the cover and the background image on the web page it is on. Without this thin border, the white background image could have easily been lost and the 'pop' of the cover along with it. See #11This well designed and eye-catching cover led me to read the blurb and add this novel to my To Be Read list. 
www.threeandahalfvirgins.net Facebook

Elisabeth K. Corcoran - Unraveling 
(Publisher Abingdon, Cover design by Gearbox)

The Title and also the main image of this cover really caught my eye. What a clever concept! Everything is easily read, even in thumbnail. As a reminder, like I mentioned above (See #11), you have to be very careful when using light/white backgrounds so the edge of your cover isn't lost in translation. This author did a great job having a thin border around her cover. I don't normally read Christian fiction/non fiction and the subject matter doesn't really apply to me but the blurb and cover are so well-done that I will probably read it anyway. Maybe it will teach me what to avoid so my marriage doesn't 'unravel'. ;) (yes I just went there. lol)

Nora M. Garcia - The Lightbearers 
(Cover design by Iconisus)

I guessed that this book had an Egyptian theme and was right. Another author who got it right with a cover that fits the book. The background image is beautiful and doesn't distract from the central and eye catching main image or the title and author. This is another author who chose not to list that this book is part of a series on the cover. Adding more text to this cover would have ruined it. The author was very clear in the description that this book is part of a series. After reading the blurb, I am adding this series to my To Be Read list.
Facebook  Goodreads

John J Blenkush - Solstice Black Moon Rising

This book is great simply because of the lack of images. The black background makes the image, title and author's name very eye-catching. I assumed in the wrong direction on what the book might be about but after reading the blurb, the cover does fit the theme. Also, it's the third book in a series and after seeing this title and reading the blurb, I'm putting all three books on my To Be Read list.  For this particular novel, adding that it's book 3 on the cover would've taken away from it's gorgeous simplicity but the author is very clear that it's book 3 in the description. :)
www.jblenkush.com    Facebook    Twitter

Anthony Whitt - Hard Land To Rule

This cover really caught my eye. Normally I skim over anything that looks like a western since I don't really read westerns. Adding to my general avoidance are the usual cliche western covers with a half naked cowboy on them. This cover is anything but cliche. The image lends to the book's title. A bare landscape, scraggly tree, hot sun and a lone cowboy (refreshingly fully dressed) looking out over it. The title and author are clearly seen and easily read. This well-made cover led me to read the blurb which was also well-done enough for me to put this post-Civil War western on my To Be Read List, which is not an easy accomplishment, especially for a western. ;)

SL Lewis - The Guardian and the Rogue Shadow

I must say, I absolutely loved this cover. It's dark and mysterious. The lack of color brings your eye very quickly to the figure in the red cloak. The title and author name are easily read. I'd like to thank this author for not making his words have shadows underneath them. As seen in #6C, some authors think they HAVE to have shadowed words so they'll look cool and many wouldn't hesitate to shadow the word 'shadow' for obvious (but very wrong) reasons. This author is another that did not state this book was in a series on the cover but got it right. More words on this cover would've distracted from it's eye-catching appeal. The author clearly states it is book two in the the description. I liked the sound of this series so much that I added it to my To Be Read list.

Author's Amazon Page

So hopefully you've gotten the idea when creating the cover for your book. There are LOTS of mistakes you can make and hopefully this blog post will help you avoid them! :)

Special thanks to all the authors who gave me permission to use their great covers in this post! (could only link ones with Google+ profiles here)
+Chelsea Dorsette 
+S. L. Lewis 
+John Blenkush 
+Chelsea Dorsette