Crimson & Cream New Cover Reveal & DIY Tips

Below you'll find the 'new and improved' cover for Crimson & Cream, which I'll be (re)releasing tomorrow, July 1 on Amazon and Smashwords. I re-worked the cover based on input from readers of the 1st edition, as well as my wife and sister, who both have much more graphic design experience than I do.

The bloody sword and hand were carried over from the original cover, along with the font and general text layout. The hand and sword has a double meaning in the context of the story and the shield's coat of arms represents the Mirrored Peaks (of the Oxbow Mountain Range) flanking the Wizard's Tower in Dwim-Halloe's Citadel, with the Serpentine Pass snaking into the city from below.  I added a crescent moon, just because.  And if you think it slightly resembles a dragon, well, that's just a coincidence. Maybe.

And as a reward for reading through my self-indulgent intro, below I share some tips for making your own e-book cover, for the DIY-inclined among you. Not that I recommend it, mind you, but until you can afford a professional artist, it can be an indie author's best option.

My tips are contingent upon your ability (and mandatory required patience) to manipulate images in a software program (like Photoshop). You can find excellent image editing software for free online (but beware bloatware and malware), such as:
  • GIMP, which I have not used (yet), but appears to be the most popular free image design program on the internet.
  • Paint.Net, which I've not used either, but comes up right behind GIMP on most online lists.
  • Photo Pos Pro, which I do use and like (although I picked up some malware recently which may have been attributed to an upgrade of this program, but I don't know for certain).
If you're still reading, here are some of my e-book cover design tips (but there are loads of good tutorials and professional opinions just a Google search away).

1. Study other popular books in your genre and get an idea of what style of covers readers are conditioned to recognize as being indicative of the genre. It's no accident that specific graphical styles are popular with certain genres.

2. Select a font that is readable. With e-books, customers will often be looking at thumbnails. Design for this size. Not everyone will zoom in to read the fine print. CreativINDIE has a great example of genre-grouped fonts, if you're looking for some ideas.

3. Explore royalty-free imagery as a way to gap your artistic talent. I've linked some popular ones below (there are many more), but please, always read the licensing description, regardless of which website you find an image on:
4. Learn how to use layers. With your editing software, you can keep different parts of your cover on separate layers (one layer for the title, one for the imagery, etc.), which allows you to modify a layer without affecting the rest of your cover. You can see through transparent layer areas to the other layers, so you can view your entire cover at one time. It might sound a little complicated, but it's easier to use than it is to explain. And it will save you headaches galore.

5. Ask for feedback. Share your cover with beta readers and your social networks, and ask them to critique. People love to give opinions on art. You don't have to follow every bit of advice you receive, but often a fresh set of eyes can point out problems you've grown blind to.

6. Save files at every stage of your work, both backups and progress milestones. You may want to go back to a previous version, and the undo button only goes so far. I've learned this one the hard way, believe me.

Best of luck to you! And if you haven't heard, this is available tomorrow on Amazon and Smashwords (if you want a free copy to review, let me know and I'll hook you up):