Book Cover Design Resources and Tips for Sci-Fi/Fantsay Authors

Starfire Dragons Book Cover

For the self-publishing author, book cover designing can be tricky. It’s not as simple as finding art online and using it. You have to make sure it’s the right size and you have to pay for use of the image. Nor is it as simple as having a friend drawn and/or design your cover. You have to make sure you leave room for the book title and other factors. The first part of this post gives ideas on where to find book cover designers or buy art already made and for sale. The second part of this post gives you important tips in creating or selecting a design. This entire post is specific to sci-fi and fantasy authors.

Where to find art for your book cover design:

  • Freelance artists – Find a book cover designer on sites like reedsy.com, fiverr.com, and other freelance sites. Keep in mind that though the cost might seem like a bargain, you get what you pay for. Every once in a while, though, you can get both a good price and a great cover.
  • Public domain art – My sci-fi book cover is made partially from public domain images from NASA. You can also find public domain art on Wikimedia Commons, the Library of Congress, and National Archives.
  • Stockphotos – All my fantasy novels used art from a stock photo site. My favorites are Bigstockphoto.com, 123rf.com, shutterstock.com, istockphoto.com. Be sure to read the usage rights on these. Some do not allow for use on book covers. Or if they do allow book cover use, they charge a lot more. Count on spending at least $50 for the image. The average I paid was $100.
  • Online art galleries – Deviantart is my favorite source for finding sci-fi and fantasy artists. If you see art you like, you might be able to buy it outright. Or if you see a style you like, you might be able to commission the artist. Not all artists are book cover designers so you will have to be specific in what size you need and the placement of your title and other text.
  • Contact an art school – Contact the art school’s illustration and design department to see if they are interested in a project. Offer to support the school in some way as a form of payment.
  • Ask a friend – This is what I ended up doing for my first sci-fi novel. If you don’t know an artist, ask your writer friends who they used for their art.

Dragonbone Chair ebook cover The Dragon and the Lion by Dawn Ross

Tips for making a good book cover design:

  • The image for your book cover design should be large and at least 300 dpi. This will be especially helpful if you plan on printing physical books rather than e-books. This will also be helpful for if you need to crop or re-size the image for other uses. I understand a lot of publishers want the image in .pdf format, but I’ve had no trouble using the .jpg format. You should have no trouble saving it in both formats.
  • The book cover image should have thumbnail appeal. The image can’t be so busy that viewers on a computer screen can’t tell what’s on the cover. I like how the ebook version of Tad Williams’ book The Dragonbone Chair is just a simple sword.
  • The image should be relevant without being cheesy. Again, I reference the cover for The Dragonbone Chair. Its simple design isn’t just easy to see in a thumbnail, it also indicates the book is a fantasy.
  • When combining two different images, make sure they work cohesively together and not cut-and-paste. My cover on The Dragon and the Lion is made from two separate images that I edited so that the color scheme matched and they look like they belong together.
  • Stick to classic fonts. You can be a little creative if you like, but don’t overdo it. And make sure that if you do get a little creative with your font that it is relevant to your book.
  • There should be room in the art for text placement. If you’re cover is of a warrior or something, make sure the book title can be seen without having to cover the warrior’s face or other important elements of the cover.
  • Don’t forget the back cover. If you have art for the back cover, make sure it is simply a continuation of the front cover and doesn’t introduce new elements or styles. Or you can simply use a solid color for the back cover.

That’s all I have for now. Where do you get your book cover art? Do you have any tips for making a good book cover design?

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