DIY Book Cover: An Author's Experience

After exploring my options for book cover design, I decided to create my own book cover from scratch. There was a specific aesthetic that I wanted for my book series, one that I couldn't find in the premade covers that were available. I wanted my book covers to be memorable, to be cohesive, and to represent a symbol and the tone of each book.

I was inspired by the covers of two series in particular: Red Rising and the Twilight Saga. If you have read these series, the symbolism on each cover is perfectly clear. If you have not, the covers are still eye-catching and memorable. Given that my books straddle a couple genres including fantasy/adventure, I felt safe in choosing a symbol instead of a classic hero/heroine styled cover.

My husband was my brainstorming partner and critic during cover design and writing back cover copy for the books. I knew that I wanted to feature a weapon from each story on the cover, but I wasn't sure how to do it without it looking cheesy. It was his idea to make the weapons a window over a watercolor background (an idea that I have alternately loved and cursed him for because of the difficulty of such a design).

Through most of junior high and high school, I wanted to become a graphic artist. I played in Photoshop and other image editors in my free time and took a couple classes on the subject. But I went a different path and hadn't touched graphic software in over ten years, which is like dog years when it comes to technology. After comparing several graphic editing programs side by side, I landed on Affinity Designer. The things that sold me on it over other programs were its price point ($50 with NO subscription), its accessibility, and its capabilities. After using it for over six months to create three book covers, numerous promotional images, and an assortment of other projects, I could not be more pleased with this program. At the time of writing this, for the next 2 days, Affinity Designer, Photo and Publisher are 50% off. They work on mac, windows and ipad. I just bought Photo and can't wait to start playing with it.

Equipped with my graphic design software, I chose a particular weapon from each book and found a picture of that weapon, usually from sites specializing in reenactment weaponry. I then created a vector image of that weapon and tweaked it until it was my own. This was my favorite part of the process. I then printed a full page cutout of my vector image as the basis for my watercolor background.

Watercolor painting was another old hobby of mine that I dusted off and grew for the purpose of designing my book covers. It was incredibly rewarding, but incredibly challenging. Many YouTube videos and dozens of trial paintings later, I had a working design. This is what that process looked like on a draft and final overlay for Redemption's Embrace.

I then matched my background and vector image in Affinity Designer on a kindle ebook sized black background. When creating book one, I decided on the overall layout for that book and the subsequent covers. It was tedious to decide on a font, shadowing, layering, placement, etc., but once it was done, I had a template that I could modify with the next book title and back cover copy. All that materially changes between covers are the images and the inside title page where I reveal the full painted background. When deciding on the text and format, I referenced other popular books in my genres to get a feel for the industry standards. The rest was simply playing with the design until it was just right.

Here are the first three covers in the series and a bit about them:

Redemption's Pursuit: Book One

For my first cover, I featured Valor's sword as the symbolic weapon. With the watercolor background, I wanted to evoke feelings of Erianna's uncertainty about her future with the black silhouette of the Malesiirian castle, the overall tumultuous storm that is swelling on the Continent, and the faintest bit of hope in the green foreground. When Valor's sword is overlaid on the image, the blade becomes the blue storm, the black castle becomes the crossguard, and the hilt is mottled green.

Redemption's Call: Book Two

The watercolor for Redemption's Call actually came about as a color swatch for a small 1inch square intended to go on the spine. But the swatch was so vibrant and the image had such a personality that it became the background instead. The shield represents Prince Grandileer, the ruler of Malesiir. Black, Red and Gold are the color's of his kingdom. Painted like fire, the complexities of his character and the consuming nature of the enemy's plots are featured on the cover of book two.

I hope this in depth look at the inspiration for my book covers has been satisfying for my readers and encouraging for authors who wouldlike to DIY their book covers.s.

Redemption's Embrace: Book Three

With the play of the setting sun's light between the mountains, the shadows and highlights, and the vibrant, saturated colors, this background was the most challenging. I had a specific look I wanted to achieve on this ornate, gilded dagger that belongs to Erianna. It required many drafts and an upgrade in my painting media to properly blend and shade these colors. The painting represents the theme of change and new beginnings in this book. For a story that opens in such darkness for our heroine, it concludes with more light than the previous two books.

I hope this in depth look at the inspiration for my book covers has been satisfying for my readers and encouraging for authors who would also like to DIY their book covers.

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