On Learning Book Cover Design

Part 3

Let’s talk about designing your book covers.
Sure. Book covers are a scary topic for self-publishing authors because it is HIGHLY recommended that you hire a professional to do your cover. For the first Body Rejuvenation Cleanse (BRCleanse) cover, I turned to a graphic artist Meghan Lyding. I had just seen a photo exhibit of Meg’s work at Montclair University. She had created a series of nude self-portraits, really lovely. We agreed to use one of the photos for the book cover, and add subtle colors to denote the chakras. I felt it indicated health and purity. It was a simple design that grabbed the eye immediately — nothing like a nude young body to get your attention.

For the third edition of the BRCleanse, I told Meghan I wanted a cornucopia of healthy fruits and veggies, juxtaposed above four images that spoke the opposite of good health. We purchased quality photos from iStock, and I had a professional photographer shoot me in the kitchen to use on the back of the book. I think it’s a compelling cover, and having Meg do it was a bonus. It was well worth the investment, plus I was able to use all the photos in my marketing campaigns.

Have you always used professional designers?
No, for Chair Vinyasa, I wanted to create the cover myself. Keep in mind that my master plan is to learn all the aspects of building and self-publishing books. I enjoy the whole process, the cover being the creme de la creme of any book design. When I began to layout Chair Vinyasa, I went through several possible cover ideas, as one should, before finding the photo, I felt stood out.

I had all the best yoga books on my book shelves and was using a few as my template for how the interior should look. However, a book’s cover is a tricky marketing tool, especially for non-fiction work. With the lithe bodies of young men and women posed on almost all the yoga book covers, I had to figure how to make mine stand out. I had already wasted time agonizing over what software program to use. I hadn’t learned Photoshop well enough, and a Google search pointed to In-Design by Adobe. A challenge I plan to learn at a future date.

One day I was reading a blogger who wrote that if you don’t have the fancy software to create your book cover use your word processing program. Hallelujah! That shifted everything. I turned to my trusty Apple program, Pages, and set to work.

So what was your thinking process?
The book is designed for broken and able bodies alike. I knew that many wounded warrior yogis loved the vinyasa flow practice. For whatever reason, injury, age, physical weakness, they no longer have the stability or strength to do many of the poses they love. The pose I used on the cover is Upward Facing Dog. It is a challenging asana, even for the strongest of bodies. Still, a chair opens the possibility for almost anyone to practice this pose. Once you see that, you wonder, what other poses are within reach.

Kate McGuinness looks fantastic on the cover. I envisioned a strong woman who would inspire teachers and students with hope for what was achievable. And yeah, I definitely think it stands out from the growing crowd of chair yoga books on Amazon.

Then you made the leap to fantasy covers?
Yes, I was still using my Pages word program! Maya Awakens was my first photo storybook. Most of the photos were shot with an iPhone 6 and edited using the apps Snapseed, and Distressed. I played around with the cover photo until I got the feel I wanted, then brought it into Pages adding shapes, colors, and fonts. It went through a few variations until I got it just right. I love the cover.

Guess it’s personal to me. I get to see my two sweet pups and good friend, Denise Kay, this time wrapped in a diaphanous sari, standing in the Genesis forest.

Maybe the books you write are to track the journey of your life?
You could say that, or you might notice they express my passions. Preserving the environment for future generations, organic foods, the whole mind-body experience at it’s best; and awakening the creative muse within us all. We are each the artist/writer of our life’s journey.

Which brings us to what happened next?
Right. So, all along, I’m learning how to edit photos on my iPhone, and one day an email arrives advertising a program called Sebastian Michaels’ Photoshop Artistry. I scrolled through all the details, testimonials, and prices, but it was like the moment in Jerry McGuire when she says, “You had me from hello.” I knew immediatly that this course was the doorway to where I wanted to go.

And was it?
Yeah, oh yeah, it was intense, comprehensive, personal communication with Sebastian from the get-go. The Facebook page just rocked with all levels of photographers showing their work in a safe and nurturing environment. I enrolled in June of 2017. The program provided video instruction and live feedback. There were downloads of textures, backgrounds, photos, models, so many I had no idea how I would ever use them all. Two years later, I am still downloading and using the bounty.

Photoshop Artistry graduated me to Sebastian Michaels’ AWAKE course, then to his KAIZEN course. In the winter of 2018, I felt ready to put my first book together and settled on a magazine-style format. A magazine because I can do a series of this style as photo books, and because it can be less expensive than a printed book. More on that later. I decided to go with the Blurb platform because I liked what they had to offer. Plus, they had templates I could use to layout the magazine as I saw fit.

I ended up doing many of the books pages in Photoshop then bringing them into the template, that’s how confident I had become working the KAIZEN course.

Finally, it was time to design the cover. I hung out at Barnes & Noble, looking at magazine design, layout, font sizes, cover images, colors, there is so much that goes into making a cover work. But then I began to notice the patterns I had missed before, the standard template the magazine industry uses. There’s the image, the header in large font, sometimes a famous font. There’s a subheader giving you more information, then text to tease you to look inside. I bought a few magazines whose style I liked. Excellant graphic design across the board and used them as my inspiration.

The cover?
Yes, yes, I am getting there. See, the cover had to wait until I knew what was going to happen on the inside. When that got fleshed out, and it became Lifting The Veil ~ Human Nature, I was ready to rock and roll on the cover.

That easy, eh?
No, it was brutal. I had no idea what I was doing. The other covers I had created were beginners’ luck. There was something I wanted to convey with the Human~Nature cover, but I had no starting point. I culled through photos I had taken of nature, found one of the stone house pond in early spring, flipped it sideways, and whoa, there was the beginning. I chose the female model from the AWAKE course images and began to play in Photoshop.

When I felt I had the cover image, I added a banner across the top with text. It looked awful.

So I reached out to a few women I know in graphic design. I’ve learned never to be afraid to ask for help. They made some great suggestions, sent me a few fonts, and encouraged me to keep going. I must have printed out a dozen different variations of that cover. Then, like magic, with a lot of hard work, it came together. I’ve had to tweak it a few times once I added the back section and the spine, but in the end, I had a cover that conveyed the feeling I wanted to share.

I don’t know if I was pleased with the results or that I had actually made it happen. The two years with Sebastian Michaels’ course of study had given me the tools to create that cover, and more than that, I had dared to come this far. Then I went back to work on the interior and found I needed to get my ego in check. There was so much I didn’t know, that I didn’t know.

NEXT: Building a book in Blurb