Okay, I’ll admit it. I started November off with the best of intentions. I wasn’t going to officially do NaNoWriMo. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to write. I needed to finish the next book in the Honor & Duty series. Then there was the next Eerie Side of the Tracks series to work on. And the next fantasy novel. Well, you get the idea. Lots to work on and not time to start a new project. However, I wanted to hold myself accountable and pledged to do the 50k words, just not on a single project. Then came the end of last week and Myrtle the Evil Muse infected me with a new story, one she demanded needed my attention NOW! For once, however, she let me off with only 5k words (mainly plot notes) and a cover mock-up.
Here’s the cover I came up with. As noted above, it is a mock-up only. So there will be changes made to the text, etc. The key here is it shut the evil muse up, for a little while at least.
The image comes from Adobe Stock. It is titled “Goddess woman and tiger and symbol Yin Yang in cosmic space” by jozefklopacka. I took the original image, snipped out the part I wanted and did some size manipulation. Now, for folks like Sarah or Cedar, this would have been a quick job. They are the artists among us. For me, who has avoided doing my own covers like the plague, this took a bit more time. But I like the result and it will be used in fairly short order, after some finessing.
Of course, my evil muse being, well, evil, she reminded me that I had a series of books that needed new covers. So, since I was already playing with art–guffaw–I might as well keep at it.
All right, I’ll admit it, I was avoiding writing because I needed to let a certain plot point near the end of the next Honor & Duty book percolate a bit. So, I spent much of yesterday doing, you guessed it, covers.
Each of these images comes from Adobe Stock. If I broke down the monthly fee for a subscription, we’re talking about my having spent approximately $5 per image. When you consider how much a lot of authors pay for covers, that’s nothing. The fonts are all open source or free to use. Yes, the font work and text placement needs work. These are mock-ups to see if I liked what I was doing. That means there will be changes before the books go live.
Here’s the thing. Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered a couple of things where book covers are concerned. First, it is important to review your covers every year or two. You need to see if they are still cuing genre and sub-genre properly. In other words, are they in line with what newer books are doing?
Second, and this is personal to me, I do better in the writing phase if I have a cover to remind me I have a goal in mind. That’s why there are covers for Risen from Ashes and Victory from Ashes. Risen is written–well, the rough draft is finished–but Victory has yet to be written. But the covers resonated with me because of what the book are (or will be).
One thing I hadn’t realized as I did the mock-ups was the trend I had going with the placement of the text. Until I got to Risen, the title alternates from top to bottom through the first four books of the series. (The fourth book isn’t shown because I didn’t need to redo its cover). Risen follows the trend of the alternating placement. I don’t know if the final versions will keep that going (it will mean changing the text on Victory)
Anyway, this is all a long-winded way of saying you don’t have to shy away from doing your own covers if you are pressed for time or money. There are a number of sites out there where you can find royalty free images you can manipulate–or use just as they are–for minimal outlay. Some sites, like Dreamstime, allow you to buy credits used to pay for images. This avoids the subscription model other sites like Adobe Stock use. I’ve used Dreamstime before and had no problem making sure they didn’t continue charging my credit card. Adobe Stock charged me once, a couple of years ago, after I canceled my subscription. I’ve rejoined there a couple of times since when I’ve needed to pull and image or two for image elements. Each time when I then cancelled my subscription, they’ve done so without any problems, often offering me a free month or two if I stayed with them.
The biggest problem with using stock images is making sure you aren’t using an image that a number of other authors have already used. That’s another reason why you want to make sure you keep an eye on covers in your genre or sub-genre. Also, keep a file showing not only what images you’ve downloaded and licensed but that have the licensing information included. I know more than one author who has had another author contact them, threatening to sue because they’d used the same cover image. In one instance, the author laughed them off, pointing out not only that they had licensed the image but had done so and published their book before the “offended” author had.
And that points out something else to remember when using sites like Dreamstime and Adobe Stock. You aren’t licensing for exclusive rights for the image. So you need to make sure you somehow make that image unique enough to stand out when someone else uses it as well. Because it will happen. That’s where adding additional elements to the cover–something I’m not good enough to do yet–or text and text placement come in handy.
For now, before the evil muse by the name of Myrtle decides I need to spend another day playing with covers, I’m going to leave it to you. Don’t be afraid of doing your own covers, or at least of pulling together mock-ups to show your cover artist. Just don’t get lost looking for art. It is as easy to fall down that rabbit hole as it is to fall down the research rabbit hole.