The cover is important. The old saying goes never judge a book by the cover, because that is what people actually do. Remember the last time you walked through a bookstore and saw something you liked? Most likely it was the cover that grabbed your attention.
From the beginning I chose to go with a tradebook size of 6 x 9 which seemed to be popular. I let this guide on how big to make the cover. For paper publishing 300 dpi is recommended, so my front cover image was 1800 x 2700. The image is saved in png format which is less lossy than a jpg. Don’t ask me to explain, but I certainly don’t want to lose anything.
The next step was deciding what the front cover should look like. The most popular thing to do is go with a stock image that can be licensed. For a book cover design this can be relatively inexpensive. I chose to go with iStockphoto. The one thing I wanted to do was have something that feels askew. I finally decided on a birthday cake with a bloody knife lying next to it. Typically a knife is used to cut a cake, but the blood instantly says this is not right. And the cake also had a certain eerie quality.
My daughter, a graphic designer, helped me with the cover. Some mundane sounding things needed to be done, such as removing background from the images. Originally the cake sat on a table cloth with a pattern, but looking at the book cover that is all gone. Also, the lighting had to be adjusted to make the candles look like they were illuminating the knife. Some things could not be fixed. The knife looks like it is floating. I believe this has something to do with perspective. No matter how my daughter maneuvered the images, the knife stayed afloat.
The original title of the book was THE BIRTHDAY CURSE, but I wanted to brand the series so that all the books could be identified as belonging together. The new title became PENELOPE AND THE BIRTHDAY CURSE. My daughter originally picked a font that had an edgy feel as she put it. Unfortunately it was not common, so I eventually went with one called Fluffy Slacks BTN. (Who thinks up these names?)
I also worked on some of the initial graphics and used a program called GIMP. I recommend it, although there is a learning curve here.
For the e-book version, the original image was shrunk down to 600 x 900. That seemed to work well with Smashwords and Kindle format.
Things I recommend. Make sure that the title and author name are fairly visible. Remember on the actual e-book these will be little icons. I think the cover for my first book is a bit too dark and may not be the eye catcher I had hoped for. Also, the bloody knife says horror, while the book is more mystery-thriller. For now it is what it is.
Cost at this point for the front cover was $39.50 which covered the credits from iStockphoto to license the images and had some credits left over for another cover.
Next time I will explain how the wrap around cover came about for the paperback version.