The 15 Minute Book Cover That Sells

Tressa Sanders @ Travel Star Magazine

A last minute decision to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany taught me a very good lesson about book covers. I learned it's possible to create great book covers in less than 15 minutes! I had 30 book covers to create in a week to take as promotional materials to the book fair. I was not only doing my own book covers but also the book covers for blue ocean press and Aoishima Research Institute. I will walk you through how I created some of the covers in fifteen minutes or less and how well received they were at the fair.

First things first; when being a creative person, you must rid yourself of the social conditioning that may hinder your creativity. It is a delicate balance. On one hand you want to use the experience of others to avoid the same pitfalls and mistakes but at the same time allow yourself to go beyond what others are comfortable doing. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that little social conditioning voice in my head that says "you can't do that" or "that can't be combined with that". I've had to consistently ignore those messages until they no longer pop into my head. You have to get to that point too if you aren't there already. Your creative projects will go much faster when you start trusting yourself and your own ability to create fabulous artwork.

With that having been said, lets take a look at the following book covers I created in fifteen minutes or less (there are several more but for the sake of time, I will go over these three). Also these are only the front covers. I use size templates provided by my book manufacturer (and you should too). For example, if you are having a book printed by an off-set printer or digital printing company, you want to use the book cover templates they provide that are based on standard industry book sizes. If you are creating an eBook, you want to use the book cover templates provided by the publishing platform (like Amazon or CreateSpace). They help make creating full covers faster. So, the back cover includes the subject genre, publishing company info, and barcode. I don't usually get too fancy on back covers (or I use a basic version of the front cover design so the back cover text can be placed over it).

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This title, published by blue ocean press, took about fifteen minutes to create. It is a fairly simple cover, yet very effective. Funny things is, I acquired a series of royalty-free photos that were processed like the photo used for this book cover. When I bought the series, I did not like the photos at all. I didn't like the over processed look. However, I knew this image was perfect for this cover. When it was complete, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. I find it challenging to create book covers with predominately white backgrounds but I think this image worked very well because it's over processed.

I like using images that cover most if not all of the cover and because this title deals with Japanese Kanji Radicals, I opted to use a photo of a Japanese man instead of using just text or Japanese characters which would also have been a good alternative. I moved the image to various different spots to see what looked best. I don't like the hard edge created where a photo ends and the background begins. So, I will usually mask it with something like the orange stripe in the center.

All colors used on this cover were matched to the image. I don't always do this (sometimes I use complimentary colors instead) but for this particular cover, it was necessary. I felt the title should be in the middle and it fit perfectly under the photo of the man. The most challenging part was deciding what to do with the subtitle. I offset it to make sure it used as much of the front cover as possible. I put the author's name next to the man to create yet another interesting element to draw attention to the cover. I didn't put the author's name in the space where the subtitles are because when I did, it looked like "too much" text in that area.

When you notice things that just don't "look" right, go with your instinct. If it isn't sitting well with you, change it! That's very important. Make your changes and move on. It's when you start debating with yourself about if you should put something here or there, that your projects start to take a long time to complete.

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This cover took about 8-10 minutes and is one of my favorites. The book is about Micronesia, so a royalty-free image of a nice island beach was perfect. However, there is nothing interesting about yet another pretty picture of an island on a book cover. I wanted to add to the book cover without covering up any of the image and I love using transfer modes in Photoshop. I think transfer modes are the best thing since Cuban sandwiches. I learned a while ago that strips of color are very useful when creating any graphics design work. I added some strips of color (all on different layers). I left the top and bottom strips black where the titles would go and used an overlay transfer mode for the two middle strips. Then I could easily add the author's names in-between the two strips.

I also like that blue ocean press uses all lower case letters for their company name. This works well on book covers. Unfortunately, this is also where those little social conditioning voices pop up saying you can't use all lower case letters or you shouldn't , etc. But you can and it works well when used at the right time.

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The Last Chamorro on Guam is another favorite cover of mine that took less than fifteen minutes to create. I chose to make this book cover simple because the author wanted to be listed as anonymous. I thought "what would be a great looking cover for a book written by an author that doesn't wish to be known "? I came up with this all white cover that would look a bit academic and personal. The word "Chamorro" has a texture applied to is using "Layer Options" in Photoshop. The biggest challenge for me when creating any book cover is how to arrange the text. It's quite an art.

We watched with delight as person after person slowed down or stopped to look at our books and book covers. I have to admit we had the most colorful and eye catching booth in our area because of our covers. Several people stopped just to say how amazed they were at our book covers and countless fair-goers wanted to know more about the books because the covers caught their attention. Book covers sell... still. 


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