From Rick:

A couple of weeks ago, one of my writer friends who has some graphic design experience made the following observation:

“With respect to designing covers, it seems at some point the basic elements of good graphic design ought to be mentioned. There is so much more to design than color and balance…. I know you aren’t trying to teach writers how to become graphic designers, but they should be aware of why a cover works or doesn’t work, which I think is what you’re trying to do.”

I agree. My friend was kind enough to provide several good links to graphic design articles, which I’ve included in a list farther down this post.

A couple of days ago, I ran across an article on cover design that surprised me with how it opened. Unlike most articles that insist authors cannot and should not design their own covers, this one actually acknowledged that some authors might well be able to do their own covers! Here’s what it said in part of its opening statement:

“You never have a second chance to make a first impression, as the saying goes, which is why many would suggest you hire a professional to design your book covers.

But some authors have the skill to DIY or want to learn about cover design by doing so they can work better with the designers they hire.”

However, the article then goes on to suggest a number of design sites authors can use to design covers with. On the surface that sounds pretty good, but here’s the problem. These sites for the most part use templates. While templates might work well for basic website designs, the use of templates for book covers risks loss of originality. If you’re not careful, the result is going to look like it was designed from a template.

The statement I quoted above that “some authors have the skill to DIY” does not to me suggest the use customized generic designs, which is precisely what templates offer. I’ve seen some cover designers offer inexpensive covers based on templates they’ve designed. They do this for customers who cannot afford their more expensive custom designs, but in those cases, you have a designer in there. And if that designer is good (and not all who use templates are), then he or she will add custom touches.

Here’s the link to that article in case you are interested, but I advise caution if you go this route and that you recognize the limitations. Remember that if you found the site, others authors have, and there’s a good chance someone else will use that template you chose. Do you want your cover to look similar to someone else’s?

SITES FOR MAKING BOOK COVERS

Further, using sites like this might give you a decent cover, but this is not how you learn cover design. You might end up with a good-looking cover, but you could end up with something substandard. There are simply too many different kinds of books out there to be able to boil even a fraction of them down to a handful of general templates.

For those who do want to learn proper design techniques, here are some good articles on graphic design. Some of these focus on website design and similar advertising, but the principles apply to book covers as well.

ELEMENTS OF GOOD DESIGN

GRAPHIC DESIGN BASICS

COLOR THEORY FOR DESIGNERS-PART 1

[You can access parts 2 and 3 of the last article from the first one)]

GUIDE TO COLOR DESIGN

GRAPHIC DESIGN MISTAKES

OVERUSED DESIGN ELEMENTS

COLOR GRADIENTS IN DESIGNS

TYPOGRAPHY IN DESIGN

Since there is a LOT of reading and study material in these articles, I’ll end here. Next week I will go through my recent design, and the techniques I used, for the cover of Dave Schulz’s novel Searching For Sound. The following week, I will have an author interview with Dave where he’ll tell you how he came to write the novel.

–Rick