Tips for making your own book cover (updated version)

So dear readers, as promised I’m going to talk to you about the dreaded book cover!

I know that most of my followers are writers, and often self-published as well, or considering that route. When you’re in that situation, the more information you can find, the better. So to that aim, here’s a short tutorial, chalk full of links and helpful hints. I’ll keep this short (it’s around 1200 words) because I know how little you want to wade through a word heavy slog of a tutorial : D

We can start with the question: Pay for it, or make it? There’s nothing wrong with paying someone else to make your book cover, if you can afford it. There’s also nothing wrong with accruing a hardcore useful-as-all-fuck skill. Pre-made book covers are expensive (if you don’t have extra money). Unless you’re some triple-bestseller writer, you don’t have money coming out of your ears. Your expenses will quickly overtake your income.

Alright, let’s begin. ❤

1. What program do I use?: I used Microsoft Word, something that most writers have on their computer. I will have to experiment with open office sometime, just to see. Don’t feel like you have to stick to one program either, do what works. Aside from MW the one program I see most recommended by self-published writers is GIMP https://www.gimp.org/ It’s useful, but also very, very complex. As a free download though, I highly suggest getting it and playing around.

2: So how do I start?: Let’s get the size right first! I’ve used a width of 11″ and a height of 16″, and that’s worked very well for me. Need to change this is Microsoft word? Go to ‘layout’, then ‘page setup’, then ‘paper’ (may vary in different versions). Alright, pretty blank little canvas, let’s tear it up.

3. Where do I get pictures?: Every book cover has a picture, and believe it or not, you have tons of resources when it comes to pictures. Let’s list the top options.

  1. My camera. Don’t be afraid to try to produce your own photos. Of course most people want models, so this option is not for most. However, if you have an idea in mind, pursue it, see if it works.
  2. Create your own artwork. I did this with my first book of poetry and don’t regret it. This requires art skills of course.
  3. Stock photos. These are free to use, sometimes with caveats, so read all documentation carefully. I’m only going to list the sites I’ve used personally, but there are a ton out there.

pexels is great, no attribution required. The downside is the spare selection, and most likely over-used photos. Just remember you can crop photos, or otherwise alter them to make them look new.

morguefile has a huge selection! All photos must be altered if used though (no sweat, that’s easy to do).

deviantart has a lot of user generated stock photos. Always, always check the posters rules though, since they vary widely. Most of these have a caveat about use in pornographic material or such (I’m not sure if this extends to erotica, which is of course not porn, but people get touchy).

scarlettcox.com has this awesome little blog post just for erotica writers (but also has a lot of other stock photo links). It goes into detail about things you need to be careful about as an erotica writer.

4. How do I make my font look all cool?: So the oft given advice is to not use Microsoft word fonts for your cover. What’s a writer to do? Here’s the site I used https://www.dafont.com/, which is user-generated. PRO-TIP: on the very right of the font it will say things like ‘free for personal use’, ‘donationware’, ‘demo’, or ‘100% free’. You want a font that’s marked 100% free. Unless you find something you like and want to support the maker (kudos to you). Free for personal use means you can’t use it on things like book covers (or you may have to contact the maker of the font for permission) FYI.

5. How will I know what a successful layout looks like?: Hit the bestseller list frequently, take notes. Ask yourself what appeals to you, what makes you want to hit that link like it’s hot. PRO-TIP: Borders are out. They look tacky (unless done well). Most smooth looking book covers have a background picture that seems to expand past the frame and out of sight, and if it merges with blocks of color it merges softly and unobtrusively.

6. Ok. I have all the parts, now how do I put them together?: Since this is a basic tutorial, I’m not going to go into lush detail (but this super useful blog does https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2013/10/20/book-cover-design-ms-word/). Instead I’ll list the top tools in Microsoft word.

1. Insert. VERY important. Try it first. Insert a picture, then make sure to go to ‘format picture’ and find the ‘wrap text’ button. Choose ‘behind text’. Other wise you won’t be able to move the picture around the way you want. The other type of insert you’ll be doing frequently is ‘insert shape’. This is awesome for placing text on the page. Go ahead and insert a rectangle, right click and add text. Once you’ve done that, just go to ‘format’ and find your ‘shape fill’ and ‘shape outline’, and select ‘no fill’ and ‘no outline’. That way it will just be text in front of your photo, or other colored blocks. PRO-TIP: If you want to tweak the opacity (how see through the photo is) you simply insert a shape, then go to ‘shape fill’ and select ‘picture’. In my version of word you have to open ‘more options’ so you get a side bar, go to the fill section (under the little paint bucket) and you should find the ‘transparency’ bar there.

2:Remove background. If you want to get all fancy and ‘photo shop’ go to the ‘format’ section of your picture and look for ‘remove background’. Once you click that it will show you the picture with a bunch of blocks of pink color (that’s what will be removed), with a little tweaking you may be able to pare the picture down to what you like.

3.Send backward and bring forward. This is handy if you put a picture in on top of an existing design. You can also find this in ‘format’

4. selection pane. This will save you a shitload of time. Go to ‘home’ and then ‘select’ (just like when you plan on copying all the text) ‘selection pane’ should be there. Once it pops up as a side board it will show you all the different objects on your page, which allows you to easily select the one you want to work on even if you can no longer see it.

7.How do I turn this damn thing into a JPG?: Go to ‘save as’ save the file as a PDF. Then go to https://pdf2jpg.net/ or a similar site.

8. Anything else?: Take your time and play around, get comfortable. Once you’ve got something you like, find a critique group, or get feedback from a reliable (and honest) friend. Whatever you do, make sure you start making your book cover long before you plan on publishing.

A few other useful links:

http://www.creativindie.com/resources/ (tons of useful stuff here)

https://blog.snappa.com/free-stock-photos/ (a huge list of stock photo sites to check out)

 

Have questions, comments? Other useful advice? Did I screw something up? Tell me below! : D

Meno<3

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Art For My First Book (Or: Making Your Own Cover Art For Hard knocks)

cover-art

So dear readers, here’s my tentative cover, for better or worse. What do you think? I wanted to start with something simple and easy, since this is my first book, I think this came out very well. I’ll explain how I did it below, but first, let me explain the cover and the book behind it (feel free to skip to the cover design part).

The Sons and Daughters of Perdition: Furthermore referred to as SDP, because I’m too lazy to type it over and over again (hey, I’m sick, give me a break!). SDP is my first book of poetry (which I plan on releasing at the start of 2017). I’m dedicating it to all of you who have had the courage to go your own way religiously, despite resistance from your friends and family (or fear of resistance).

That is in fact what this book is about, daring to go ones own way. I chose the title ‘sons and daughters of perdition’ not because I’m from a Mormon family, but because I thought it wonderfully summed up the feeling of those who have left their birth-faith. I’m actually from one of those rag-tag sprouts of Christianity, a bit of a homeless wanderer. Most of the smaller branches of Christianity, as you may know, are practically interchangeable (and there are so many to interchange), as long as you aren’t a hair-splitting kind of person.

I hope that you, my dear readers, will find this book comforting. When I broke from my birth-religion I was in the dark, not knowing that other people had the same experience as I did, and that they’d come out the other side alright, better than before in fact. If I can help even one person understand that it isn’t the end of the world, and that they’ll find a way out of this perpetual darkness that organized religion had cast them into, then my job is done.

I chose the iris (if you can tell that it is indeed an iris in the picture) because it’s symbolic of a bridge between heaven and earth. I personally believe that we can be our own bridge between heaven and earth and we need not rely on others to achieve balance and a life worth living.

 

How I made the cover:

Being a complete novice when it comes to self-publishing, I did my own cover art, not having read the vociferous and myriad warnings that a writer cannot do their own cover art and should always use stock photos or hire an artist (so feel free to tell me how terrible my cover looks). I knew I could use stock photos, but I couldn’t imagine one that would feel right, stock photos are too smooth and manufactured, they don’t really catch the spirit of my book. The drawing took me about two and a half hours (ouch, my shoulder! Why Can’t I learn to use an easel!). It is done with pencil (for the sketch) and watercolor pencils (hence the slightly less detailed feeling), the symbols were done with a Chinese calligraphy set. The background is also watercolor pencil, although I haven’t added water to it.

Then I loaded it up to my computer and asked myself ‘what in the heck do I do with it now?? How do I get text on it??’. Cue google. Since like most writers just starting out I have little to no money and no software, I had to search for a cheap easy way to design a cover. To my surprise I learned that you can use Microsoft word to make a cover (imagine that!). Me and Microsoft word have always been BF’s but now we’re BFF’s.

This is a pretty good starter tutorial for starters, courtesy of the creative penn. It helped a ton.

I soon realized though that this was something would take quite a while to master, mostly because there are so many useful settings in Microsoft word. So I kept trying and failing, until I discovered ‘templates’ on this neat site http://www.diybookformats.com  which also has a lot of video tutorials and the like. Only catch of course (as near as I can see, let me know if you know of any others) is that he wants you to sign up for the newsletter if you want to download the free templates (not the full package fyi, but quite enough). I’m always a little wary of free downloads, but so far so good.

I played with a few templates, then found the perfect one, switched in my picture and tweaked it. That was when I realized that my biggest flaw had been fonts, which was incidentally the one thing I struggled most with.

So to put it bluntly, making a book cover by yourself is not easy. If you are going to do it I suggest you start waaaayyyy ahead of time and learn everything you can about the program (or programs) you’re planning on using (please don’t be a procrastinator like me).

I wish all indie writers out there the best of luck! May we either be able to design kickass covers, or have enough money to get someone to design them for us!!!!

 

Cheers

Meno<3

 

Have you had any experiences designing your own covers? Have questions? Let me know below in the comments.

The Witch’s Herb Garden: Drying Herbs

The Witch’s Herb Garden: Drying Fresh Herbs

I’ve always wondered about drying herbs (or any plant for that matter), I mean how useful would that be! But it all seemed so…mysterious? Difficult?
I had already started an herb garden, just a small one, a little of this, a little of that (everyone loves mint right). All those nice herbs were just going to seed until I decided to give drying them a try. Here’s what I learned along the way.

What do I need to get started?: Very little. Of course you need the herb you would like to use (doesn’t really matter where you got it, maybe you asked a neighbor nicely…). Maybe a little something fresh to throw in your cooking, maybe a little something to use in a spell, your choice.
I use sowing thread to hang my herbs, you can buy a pack of it for super cheap at the local massive chain store of your choice. A little piece of cloth is also useful, just to wrap around the herbs to keep off dust, but this is optional really.
The last thing is something to store them in. You can use any glass jar or plastic container you’d like, just make sure it’s clean, dry and sealed. If you want to do powered herbs you can pick up a neat set of glass vials from the craft store for about ten dollars. I love these, they work so perfectly! The bonus is if you get the right set you can just keep them all tidy in the package.

Let’s get drying!: I suggest starting small, do a little test batch if you can, three or four leaves/sprigs of your chosen plant. I just recently dried some oregano for spaghetti, it came out splendid!
It’s usually suggested to harvest to leaves early in the morning after the dew has dried up, simply for fuller flavor, but if you’re drying something strong like sage or oregano this isn’t all that necessary. Try both ways if you like, or just one, maybe you’re not an early riser.
Pick the best leaves (but not all, unless you want to kill the plant), wash them, dry them a little. Shaking them dry should be sufficient but patting with a paper towel never hurts either.
Take them by the stem and tie them together. I like to double my thread over then tie the end to the stem so that you have a neat hanging loop all ready to go.
Here’s the hardest part, find somewhere to hang them!
For years I was under some strange impression that herbs were supposed to be hung in the sun, not true. The best place is somewhere shady and dry, the least humidity the better. Otherwise you might end up with a moldy rotten mess.
There are all kinds of clever ways you can hang them. One of my favorites is the idea of a simple board with hooks, maybe some cute words painted on it, but no need to get fancy (unless you want to). Just hang them anywhere you could hang anything else.
Now it’s time to wait. It won’t take any longer than a week. The thinner the herb the faster the dry. If in doubt, check them every few days.
Once they are dry it’s all up to you what you want to do with them, the world is your oyster! I like to crush mine to powder and store them for use in cooking, and maybe an odd spell here and there (the more time and care you put into a spell the better).

Have an herb garden? What are your favorite herbs to grow? How do you use them?

Blessed be!