Visual is Everything

It’s been awhile. I’ll skip the excuses and get to the point.

Once upon a time there was film cameras…

Nah, wait. Okay, now we have smart phone cameras. And open source software. And smart phone apps.

Creating something – whether it be graphic, text or photo – for that book cover is paramount. Don’t think it can be done in 20 minutes. We are visual people and regardless of content, a cover to a book speaks more than what’s inside. Keep in mind I’m speaking from an indie perspective. Fifty Shades of Grey could have a cover with side walk stains and still attract readers.  Now, I’m still old school and think that it’s a worthwhile effort to put out a paper copy of your book. However, if you only have the gumption to go digital – still put out great effort for that cover.

Smart phone cameras can be a great starting tool. Apps can be the fast way to tweak a photo but for greater control and technicality, try uploading photos to an editing program on a computer. Don’t over look Open Source software. My favorite is GIMP but even the old Google Picasa can do some nice tweaks.

As for imagery, think about what you just wrote. Your effort. Time involved. Grasp a stray thread from that effort and explore the world around you. If a photo isn’t the direction you want to go – try painting, graphic design, illustration or just manipulating fonts.

I am a former wedding and landscape photographer. I used to lug a heavy Mamiya and Pentax 6×7 camera around with hard to load film. I had light meters and a wrist watch to decide time of day. Taking photos when the sun was high in the sky was a cardinal no-no. Smart phone cameras remove many obstacles. The only thing I don’t think they do well is low light photography.

These days anything is possible. You could stay home and snap pics of rotting fruit for your book cover. Steaming coffee. Wildfire smoke out the window. A fork you used to stab the last piece of pie. I mean – let’s get wild. Don’t limit yourself.  You can tamper down later.

Pixels are your friend and they are a unit of measurement that you will need to understand in order to have the right size of cover – whether it is for your publisher, Amazon, Smashwords or many other platforms. I would also learn a bit about layers if you really want to create something special. Most design and photo programs work in layers. Think of a cheesecake or Tiramisu. Each layer adds something because otherwise you’d have a pancake.

When all else fails – hire someone. If you don’t think you can afford it – look locally. Colleges. High schools. Craigslist.

You are aiming to link a potential audience to your writing work by attracting them visually. That can be hard. You have to play upon a fleeting moment. We are a ‘now’ society. We are highly judgmental and critical. Go on Amazon and look at best selling books. Unless they are by well known authors – would you want to read any of them based off cover image? Why or why not? Take notes.

That’s it for now. I will try and expand further in the future. Go out, look around, be observant to the world and details around you. See how it all relates to your writing and your book. Try and see it through other’s eyes. Let go of criticism.

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