Monday, 16 January 2017

Cover design for self-publishers: series

I’ve been making my own book covers ever since I started publishing in 2012, partly because I can’t afford professionally designed covers and partly because I really enjoy making them. My first covers weren’t very good, but I’ve made an effort to learn and improve my skills. I’ve learned a lot about techniques, visual effects, colours and fonts. One thing I’ve learned is that individual covers are different to make than the covers of series. You have to take into consideration the cover visuals from the first book on to make the readers immediately see that the books belong together. Not always easy for amateur designers, however enthusiastic. So what to do?

1. Use of fonts

The simplest solution is to use the same fonts on every cover; author name with one kind of font, the title with another, and so on. Even if you’re not writing a series, you can opt to use the same font for your name in all your books as a sort of a calling card. If possible, you can also use the same layout for all the covers – place the texts in the same places on all covers – to create a continuous look.

2. Use of colours

Another good way to tie the covers together is to use one or two signature colours on each cover. That can include the fonts or there can be a visual element on each cover that repeats a certain colour. Most stock photo sites have an option to search for a colour, but if this doesn’t yield results, you can try your design skills by adding the colour yourself. The simplest way is to add a transparent colour layer over the stock photo. (You need software that uses layers for that. GIMP is free and fairly easy to use.) Or, you can use the same photo and change the colour layer for a new look – the opposite of a signature colour.

And of course, you can use the combination of colours and fonts to create a uniform look for your series.

Same photo with a different colour, and same fonts and layout.

3. Themes

It’s not always easy to find photos that look reasonably similar to create a uniform look. So choose a theme that repeats throughout the series. Maybe each book can have a photo of a bare-chested man, if you’re writing that kind of series. Those are easy enough to find, even if you haven’t planned the theme ahead. The simpler the theme, the easier it is to repeat cover after a cover. Add to that the fonts and/or signature colour, and you can have a uniform look for the covers.

With my Two-Natured London series, I decided that each book should have a moon and a man – with a shirt on. Since they don’t usually occur in the same photo, this has required quite a lot of work on both finding suitable backgrounds and men, and then fitting them together. I also have the same fonts and layout on each cover.

Covers for Two-Natured London series.

4. Photo series

Most stock photo sites have photo series with either the same model or a theme, or both. If you know you’re going to write a series, you can check these photo series already before you design the first cover. Downside is that it’s not as easy to find photos that exactly match your series, but you can occasionally get lucky.

An example of a photo series: same girl in different settings. Create your own look.

5. Planning ahead

The easiest way to have a uniform look for your series is to plan the covers ahead even before publishing the first book. Or if you’ve already published one or two books, you can redesign the covers to match the rest. Choose one or two elements that you repeat a book after a book and elements that change so that the reader knows with a glance that it’s a different book in the same series.

For my new series, Tracy Hayes, P.I., I wanted to repeat an idea I saw in a poster: a silhouette of a human and a city skyline on a single colour background. Since the books are set in Brooklyn, I naturally wanted a Brooklyn skyline, which took some searching to find. The silhouette of a woman was easier to find, but selecting the one that fit the genre the best took some time. From the start, I decided to change the background colour with each book, as well as the font colours to fit the background, though the fonts remain the same. The girl changes a little too. Each book also has one element that reflects the contents. The first one has a little dog, the second an outline of a body.

I only have two covers ready, but already I can tell that designing the rest is much easier than if I had to start from the scratch with each of them. What do you think?

Tracy Hayes, Apprentice P.I.

Tracy Hayes, P.I. and Proud

The first book, Tracy Hayes, Apprentice P.I. is already published and you can find it here. The second book, Tracy Hayes, P.I. and Proud, will come out in January 26th. Stay tuned.

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