This is not the first time I have featured Mac Wheeler here. The first time was for his visually lush blog featuring his photographs of his walk-abouts in Florida.
This time, however, I'm focusing on the release of his 24th book. That's right, 24th!
One Indie's Cover Process
I'm an Indie who has transitioned from using the services of designers to doing it all myself. Hey, there ain't much money in authorin', so I can't spend a ton on covers, and after penning 24 novels, my wallet would be flatter than it is already if I didn't start studying. So, if you're really cheap like me:
Stock: Expect to spend a lot of time scouring the ether for art and photos. Dependent upon the genre, not just the tone, theme of your writing, and the age of your reader. I think http://www.deviantart.com/ and canstockphoto.com open by themselves when I start my browser. There are actually shutter bugs out there that will allow you to use their photos for free. There are tons of sites…I've found connections on Flickr. The good news, if you write a genre that requires more dynamic covers like horror or SF…there are artists you can commission for about two hundred bucks. That's a deal.
Tool Set: If you don't have some graphics/art savvy to start with, this will be your biggest hurdle. Because of my technical background, I rely on Visio a lot. I've been doing photography for a while, so I've had an excuse to play with the photo tools out there. I prefer Corel's PaintShop Pro. I've tried Adobe's Elements. I find the X6 version of Corel's product the easiest to use. Getting to a point where these work for you takes loads of time.
Typography: This isn't as easy as you'd think. You'll need some studying…take a lot of time comparing fonts, sizes, bold, italic, serif, sans…all tied to the genre. (I'll refer you to CreativeIndie blog on the topic) Get familiar with http://www.dafont.com/. Typography is as hard as finding the right stock. It takes time to find what combinations work together, for the particular genre and mood. I have seen so many bad combinations I can't even tell you. (My earliest were probably the worst put on an e-book.)
Composition: Simply stated, it is all art. Not as much science as I wish to this element. Do you have an artistic eye? Position. Color schemes. White space. Color bleed. Making it work in thumbnail. I could blather on. My earliest attempts were so stinking campy…I can't even tell you. Find stock and art that fits as-is in the space. Most of the collages I've seen did not sell the piece. Keep the composition as clean as possible. The first glimpse a possible reader will have of your book will likely be as a thumbnail.
A real designer could expound upon these four elements and add a dozen more. I frankly don't recommend DIY. Being cheap like me is bad. You wouldn't want your house to burn down because of your poor wiring skills…so it ain't great to step in as your own cover designer. But if you're independently minded…expect to spend months putting together the skills to make it work.