(This is the third of my series on indie covers. For the previous two, look at last week and the week before, on Wednesday.)
If I had a dime for every time a newby writer sends me a cover with either a picture of some trees, or a bridge or something or the generic Amazon cover with some words, while the novel is “science fiction” I’d have… an awful lot of dimes. Possibly enough to buy out Elon Musk, that’s how many dimes I’d have.
When I ping these misguided children (some of whom are older than I, I get told that “But that’s the art I could get by taking a picture. And there are some trees in my novel!)
Alternately I get told “I don’t want to be sued.”
Oh, mind you, I don’t particularly want to be sued, either. But there is art you can get rights to, for not very much. (I haven’t done it in a while, since I’ve gone off the reservation with either free or my own renders then altered (Or a combination. As a note, if you render, DO try to get the updated models, not vicky 4, not unless you’re doing some amazing after-processing. No, seriously. There’s a difference. And it always needs post processing, otherwise you get … plastic dolls, by the positioning, even when the face avoids the uncanny valley. I’m getting better. Not perfect, but better.) Back when I bought ready-made art it went for about $10 a picture for my purposes. I don’t know now. I know you can buy bundles, and I do when I stumble on them (mostly for effects and brushes, TBH, but I don’t have the names handy. I’ll try to have them next time.
When I bought art, my favorite was dreamstime. But there are about a million others, give or take. I just liked them, because they had the best search abilities, or at least the one I’d honed until I could bring up precisely what I wanted on the right search string.
Speaking of words and art, just in the last week art bots have burst into my consciousness. I’m sure they’ve existed for a long time. I remember when everyone was turning their picture into a 17th century portrait. (I would have too, but for some reason the bot decided I was a guy. Sigh.)
Midjourneybot, available only on twitter does amazing “pulpy” art. I tried it somewhat, and will buy a subscription, after the novel is done (No, it’s not done. Shush. My muse is a sadist.) The style of art is not appropriate for science fiction, and probably not for fantasy, but I think I can do two things with it: Create the sort of impressionistic not too detailed backgrounds I want for my scifi covers, AND do historic mysteries. (Figuring out how to subscribe is the problem, just now, partly because my discord is WEIRD.)
Again, my acquaintance with these bots is very minimal, because I’ve been living in a hole with a novel that’s treating me very badly.
However, I’m familiar with websites that have free photos. The photo for this post, for instance, is from Pexels.
If you click on the notice, this is the notice:
Now I don’t often use pictures from Pexels for covers, particularly of science fiction, and particularly if they have people in them. Because you can’t be sure that the photographer got a model release, and though you’re unlikely to be sued, it could happen. More importantly, the cover is too photo-realistic for a cover.
So, suppose you run it through some filters, (I own filter forge professional, which can also be installed as an add on to photoshop (which I don’t have) and you get something like this:
However, mostly, if I need a cover in a hurry, I hit pixabay (you don’t even need to credit the artist, though it hurts you nothing.)
This is the results on the arcane search “science fiction cover.”
Area most of them really good covers? No. Which is why you should do your research and look at covers in the field. For one most stock sites are iffy on the concept of science fiction versus fantasy.
BUT this one would be better as a generic cover for space opera than a picture of some trees and a park bench.
As is this, if you remove that star wars thing from the front, which ain’t hard, since the fund is black
So, the second, with automatic photo fix, for a bit of clarity and the weird ship gone looks somewhat retro, frankly, like one of the GOOD SF covers of the 60s. Great for someone who writes a bit retro-future, maybe. And it’s FREE.
But it gets better. Suppose instead of being a complete dorkmeister, you go more specific in your search, and search for science fiction woman (and select illustrations)
Time travel isn’t as productive, and I’d prefer a human figure here, but eh, it wouldn’t hurt a book, either:
This one is a better time travel cover, but it was hiding under “magic” (and needs proportions fixed. This isn’t smashwords.)
Also under magic, I would not disdain having this as a cover of a medieval fantasy with dragons. I’d probably recenter it, use the dragons for the front cover, and move the rest around to the back for paperback print. Or you know, just turn it around.
And this one would be great for a medieval fantasy. Pexels is also great for urban fantasy background:
BUT all of these are free pictures, just laying around, waiting for you to use. You don’t need to have no picture, or a road side travel-log like picture.
So, go for it, and have fun. Go poke around. For that matter I know there are other free picture sites.
One caveat: always run free pictures by tineye or another reverse image search, because they allow people to upload without check, which is why if you search for medieval woman you get a picture of Anne Boleyn from the Tudors.
If you don’t watch a ton of tv, you might not realize it, so always search.
As always, I look for you guys to add other sites and things of interest in the comments.
Next Week: The great manipulator: Tips tricks, etc, on manipulating images.