Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

My #worldcon75 experience

Here’s the long overdue report from my day at the WorldCon 75, my first ever time attending. The event was held on August 9-13 in my home country, Finland, so it was a once in a life-time chance to experience it with a minimum trouble. I originally thought to attend the entire five days, but life intervened in the form of work, and so I could only attend on Saturday. I tried to make the most of it by planning a full day.

I arrived at the conference centre about fifteen minutes after the doors opened at nine in the morning, and the queue was already at least fifty metres long. It caused me a few palpitations until I figured it was the line for people who hadn’t purchased their day passes in advance. I had, so I just walked past, trying not to look gleeful. Half an hour later I felt bad for all those people when it was announced that the day was sold out, which left most of them outside. The queue for pre-purchased passes was three persons long, the shortest line for me the entire day. I…

Reading recap: August

August was my worst reading month so far and I only managed to finish two books. I have no excuses other than that I was busy working. I did start two more books, but I didn’t manage to finish them in August. And even though I read eight books in July, I’m now two books behind the schedule in my reading challenge of fifty-five books. I’ll have to step up. As has been my habit throughout the year, one book was from my reading list and the other wasn’t.
First book was Ride the Storm by Karen Chance, the long-awaited next chapter in her Cassandra Palmer urban fantasy series of time-travelling Pythia and her entourage of vampires, demons and mages. One vampire and one mage in particular. As always, it was a wild romp through space and time – at times a bit too wild. The first part of the book was constant tumbling from crisis to battle and back with no breathers or plot development in between, as if the author was afraid that the reader will get bored if something earth-shattering isn’t co…

Working with the editor: a case study

Editing has been on my mind lately, as I’ve been preparing Tracy Hayes, P.I. with the Eye for publishing. As a happy coincidence, Delilah S. Dawson had a lengthytweet chain about the topic too, prompted by her annoyance with aspiring authors unwilling to make changes that editors suggest to their books. Her response, in short, was that no author escapes the changes, so you’d better get used to them from the start. Her notes are useful to read in full.

She was speaking from the point of view of a traditionally published author who has more than one set of editors making suggestions and demands, all of which strive to make the book as good as possible. She doesn’t claim it’s easy to let other people to have their say, but that it’s necessary.
Listening to one’s editor is even more crucial for self-publishing authors, as we lack the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. If you’re lucky, you find one who understands your writing, and who isn’t afraid to tell you how you can improve it. If …