Let’s start with the fact that book design is something that should be done by professionals. I know you all think it looks so easy, and the pros make it look like that, but it’s harder than you’d think to make a book whose cover doesn’t look like a six-year-old made it in Paint or whose typesetting looks like you just created in Word without thought to typesetting.
However, if you are trying to learn how to design your books, or have a blog you want to add images to, or want to try your hand at marketing materials there are a few things you should know.
Copyright Is King
Many people, including some unethical “designers”, seem to think that if the copyright of an image is not specified then it is copyright free, what is also sometimes known as “public domain”. In fact the opposite is true. Unless the copyright is specifically relinquished (through a number of ways which I won’t discuss here) the copyright belongs to the creator of the work.
Don’t just take images off Google or DeviantArt. You have to ask the artist if you can use their work before you can legally use it. The same goes for fonts, something most people don’t know. You can’t just use any old font.
A lot of people don’t think this step is important, but it’s critical. If you are taking other peoples’ work without asking permission and crediting them (if credit is required by the licensing) then you’re stealing their work. It would be the same as someone plagiarizing your writing. I know a lot of folks out there have this thought that if it’s on the internet then it’s free-for-use, but it’s not.
Fonts Are Important
For authors, cover choices create and affect perceptions of their brand. “Readers remember book covers,” Saarinen says. “They tend to remember them much more clearly than, say, an author’s website.” The right font can have a major impact on brand image, in Picky Girl’s opinion: “When you think of any brand you know and like, you’re also identifying them with a particular font (think McDonald’s, Disney). Similarly, the Harry Potter font is instantly distinguishable and an example of a font fitting its book well.”
Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking much about their font other than if it looks “cool”. Now, a good-looking font is important, but you need to make sure of a few things:
- The font must be easy to read.
Regardless of where the font is used (inside the book, on the cover, or on the marketing materials) you need to make sure it is easy to read. Many people just learning design want to use cursive-looking fonts for things like journal entries or letters, and I understand the impulse. Unfortunately, many people find those fonts hard to read.
- The font must fit the theme of your book.
Are you writing a romance? Then you probably don’t want the cover done in a grunge font. It’d just clash with what you’ve got going on inside.
- Don’t use the “special” fonts you find in Word.
Papyrus, Comic Sans, Vivaldi, Lucida Handwriting… Everyone has them, and they are not considered professional. They also make almost every graphic designer on the planet cringe. It’s a sure sign of a self-made cover that didn’t have a professional hand on it.
Hire A Professional
Outside the typographic part of the design, it’s critically important for authors to construct their books properly. There are conventions that are hundreds of years old in book design, and expectations readers bring to books that must be recognized and respected.
Book Design (interior design, typesetting, graphic design (if needed), and cover art) is not an easy task. The more images a book has, the more complex it becomes. Each of those particular tasks requires a different flavor of professional, too. Many writers make the mistake of thinking they can go it alone, and that is an unfortunately is not the case. Unless the author is trained in all of these different skills – and it’s a lot for anyone to do on their own – they will make mistakes.
The downside of hiring professionals is that we are expensive. The reason for that, of course, is how much time and money we have invested in learning these skills. You can, however, oftentimes find people willing to work at a discount because they are either new to the industry or just want to help an author out. Just beware of “too-good-to-be-true” offers because they almost always are. This expense is not necessary for authors who are looking at traditionally-publishing, by the way. The publisher pays for these services so the author doesn’t have to.
For Those Determined To Go It Alone (Or For Designers):
I have a list of resources here for you so you have a place to get started. The sites I have listed below all contain royalty-free images and fonts, though you need to double-check the licensing to be sure whether you need to attribute or not.
Sketch App Sources
Life Of Pix
New Old Stock
Travel Stock Photos