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Free and low-cost resources for the DIY Book Cover Designer
DIY Book cover design can be a rewarding adventure for some, and a growing number of free and low-cost design tools can make it budget-friendly, too.
Canva is my favorite design program — intuitively-designed and ADHD-friendly (from my experience, anyway). But it can’t do everything. Some of the book covers I’ve seen on Amazon take my breath away, and I’ve saved images of them to a folder on my desktop — just so I can study them and learn to imitate the details that make them so captivating.
I’ve watched videos on how to create book covers using Word, Gimp, and Photoshop, but I keep coming back to Canva. I’m currently paying for Canva For Work — the amped-up version, which lets me upload my own fonts to add to Canva’s selection. So, when I’ve found a font I just have to have for a book cover, I can upload it and start playing. Plus, it keeps track of the colors I use most often.
But while I’ve found ways and websites that enable me to add special effects to my fonts and images, not all of these design tricks are free. But some are — and most are affordable, even for those of us pinching pennies (by necessity). It doesn’t mean you can buy whatever you want whenever you want, but if you get on the right email lists, you can snag special deals with crazy-steep discounts on everything from fonts to decorative overlays (my latest toy) to special effects.
I owe Derek Murphy the credit for finding this website. Once I started playing with it, I had to subscribe (only $8 for a whole year and full access to their tools), and I added some sparkle to my own book covers.
And, yes, I use the same background photo for two of my covers, because Dream Killer’s main character (Livian Zélie Alder) is the author of The Empathalog, which is her debut novel — the main character of which starts appearing in her dreams. Then, one by one, critics of her novel start dying of mysterious suicides …
And, no, that has nothing to do with real one- or two-star reviewers, but pissing off an author (and, in the case of Dream Killer, a novel’s main character) can be dangerous — at least within the realms of fiction.
But this post is about making your book covers captivating and giving them an edge over the competition, and Glitterboo.com is a fun and easy way to do this — at least for social media shares.
If you’re just looking for ways to add extra flare to your covers — the kind that will make it more eye-catching (in a good way) on Amazon and other online bookstores — check out the following sites:
I’m on Deeezy’s email list, so I get emails when they have special deals on fonts, overlays, and other design downloads that can be used to improve book covers and take them from “okay” to “Wow!” I just bought a huge package of decorative overlays — and this is my third attempt at downloading the huge .zip file.
Actually, if I find a font I love on Creative Market, I’ll check Deeezy.com to see if they have one of its variants available for free. I wanted the Majestic font (by Cruzine, who also makes the Meravin font set), so I looked it up on Deeezy.com and found they had the “Inline Grunge” version of Majestic for free, so I went ahead, plugged in my email address, and clicked on the “Unlock Now” button. And a download link appeared in my inbox. I went ahead and clicked on the TTF file and installed it (so I can use it in Word, too — which is installed on my laptop) and then uploaded it to my Canva “Your Brand” page (on Canva For Work), so I could play with it.
Check out Deezy.com and see if you can’t find a font that makes you think, “That looks like it might be just the thing for my novel’s title — or, at least, it’s worth the time to see if it’s an improvement over what I already have.”DI
This is another website that can help you add special effects to your book cover text, though you’re limited to the fonts they have available on the website. I used this site to create the title for The Lazarus Door, since I can’t (yet) do these special text effects in Canva, and my title needed something to help it stand out against the background.
Rocking the DIY approach to Book Cover Design
DIY book cover design is not for the lazy or for those who just want to throw something together so they can get their book published as soon as possible — unless they’re not keen on selling the book to anyone with eyes (or taste). If you’re going to design your own cover, take the time to learn enough to make a decent cover — one that doesn’t scream “I did this myself — without even trying to make it look like something that can compete with the bestselling books in my genre.” If you want to rock the DIY approach to self-publishing, you need to know what the professionals know.
Look at some of the bestselling books on Amazon — by genre — and save some of your favorite book cover images to a folder on your computer. Then, when you’ve created a JPG image of your book cover, save it to the same folder and see how it compares to the others. This only works if the other book cover images are for novels in the same genre or in one of the genres related to your novel (if you’re writing a novel that could fit in multiple categories).
My first novel, for example, can fit in “Christian fantasy” “Christian suspense” and “Women’s fiction.” It also has paranormal or supernatural elements, but it’s more suspense than fantasy, so I’d design the novel’s cover with that in mind. I’ve read (and enjoyed) enough fantasy novels to know that my novel — while it has some elements of fantasy — doesn’t really fit the genre. And I don’t want to attract readers who will only be disappointed and leave negative reviews.
Showing off your new covers with PlaceIt.net
I love this website so much. I found a link to it in an article shared by Jeff Bullas on Twitter (Thank you, Jeff!), and I’ve been using it ever since to create shareable mock-ups of my book covers.
Here are some of my favorites:
A few words about Facebook book cover polls
Before I post a few book cover designs on Facebook for feedback — and I’m amazed at how many times I’ve done this — I still catch myself thinking something along the lines of “Well, this might help.”
Honestly … it rarely does. I usually come away from those thinking, “Great, so … about half of them like #1 and about half of them like #2 … and a few others like neither one or both.
What made me think this would help (again)?
Sometimes, it’s more about letting people know what I’m up to and proving that I actually did accomplish something that day.
Sometimes it’s a way to show off, because I’m proud of what I’ve made and I’m fishing for compliments. I’m not above that (apparently).
From now on, though, I’ll probably just post the cover I’m planning to use, once I’ve gotten to the point where I’m happy with what I’ve got — or happy enough to ship it and see what happens.
How about you? Have you found Facebook polls helpful when deciding what to do — or not to do — for your book cover designs?
I’ll admit that if I were using 99Designs, I’d want to reach as many people as possible who would be interested in reading the kind of book I’ve written, so they could vote on the cover that appeals to them the most. And I can reach some of those readers on Facebook.
But when it comes to my own book cover designs, I think I’d rather stay behind the curtain until I’ve got a working cover ready to ship. Then I can reveal the final (for now) cover — just to let people know what I’m up to and what’s up next.
It’s not the only way to do things, and I’m still far from an expert (on anything). But I think this will be my policy from now on.
Now, it’s your turn. What do you find helps you the most when you’re designing covers for your own books — or having someone else design one? I look forward to reading your comments, and you can always connect with me on Facebook or Twitter, too. Take care, and have a great week!
*This post does not contain any affiliate links, but the next one might.