Some thoughts on paid editing and cover design

Be realistic about what you spend on editing and cover design. Especially if you don’t have a lot of money to burn on these sorts of things and you’re new to writing.

Sure, it might take you a lot longer to edit if you’re doing it yourself, and you probably won’t get the benefit of a second perspective, but in the process you can come away with some wisdom that will help you in the future, even if you decide to work with an editor.

As far as cover design goes, yes a professional artist would make a better book cover, but we’re living in an age where more and more people have had exposure to some kind of painting program. Here are some points to consider if you would like to make your own:

  1. The cover has to look good (lettering should be clear) when zoomed right down. This means there needs to be some contrast between the background and the lettering, and the background should not rely too heavily on fine details.
  2. Know the resolution you need for the finished cover.
  3. Keep the different elements on separate layers. This makes it easier to try different things and make changes.
  4. Truetype lettering is easy to create, but is almost immediately recognisable. It’s a good starting point but turning the text into paths allows you to manipulate the form of those letters to whatever you would like. You can also create a selection from a path, allowing you to affect only certain parts of the image.
  5. Use guides or rulers to help with layout. There’s nothing worse than spending hours on a design and then realising that things are noticeably off-centre or too close to the edge of the cover.
  6. Use Save As instead of Save when you want to go in a different direction with the cover but have the option to revert to your previous work. If you have multiple candidate images for the cover that you want to assess, export them all and slideshow through them.
  7. Just like with writing or editing, expect the process to take a few iterations before you’re happy with it. 🙂

I’m not writing this to disparage the efforts of editors and cover designers. I’m sure that they do good work. However, if you don’t have a lot of money to start with, paying for an editor and a cover is one hell of a gamble.

If you’re looking for a cheaper way to improve your book, buy something nice at the shops, or travel somewhere nice to treat yourself. Even just taking a walk can help you come up with game-changing ideas.