The Journal: Cover Design and Publishing

In today’s Journal

* Topic: Cover Design and Publishing
* Of Interest

Topic: Cover Design and Publishing

A writer emailed to ask about cover design. He’s starting from scratch. As I told him, it’s a massive question with several facets.

First, you’ll need cover art. Via Dean Wesley Smith, for fiction it’s better to use illustrations than actual photographs. (Perusing the covers of best-selling novels at Amazon or in other venues bears this out.) You can find and download either kind of image at any of several places.

My favorite paid sites are Deposit Photos, CanStock Photos, and BigStock Photos. (As always, your results might vary.) My favorite unpaid (free) site is Unsplash. But if you key “royalty-free illustrations” (or “…images” or “…photos”) into your search engine, you’ll soon be overwhelmed with choices for both paid and free sites.

I suggest you briefly explore the sites that feel right to you. Enter your search terms (genre, etc.) on the site and see what comes up. Prepare to spend hours browsing photos and illustrations. (Most sites have filters you can employ.)

Of course, there’s a great deal more to cover design than selecting a cover image: text color and size, placement and arrangement of the title and author name, and dozens of other details. Your cover gives the potential reader her first impression of your work. It’s that important.

I recommend Allyson Longueira’s (WMG Publishing) lecture on the fundamentals of cover design. It’s called “Designing Mystery, Cozy, and Thriller Covers.” If you write in a different genre, buy it anyway. It covers a lot of fundamentals that apply across the board.

Also, it’s only 8 videos, so it’s probably only $50. (I forget.) A great investment. The lecture is good enough that you might not even need the more expensive online workshop, Covers 101.

Beyond designing the actual cover, you need to write effective sales copy. To learn that and to have a reference book you can refer back to time after time (you’ll need to), I recommend Dean’s WMG Writer’s Guide, How to Write Fiction Sales Copy (see I recommend the paperback version so you can keep it close at hand on your desk.

But beyond the cover and the sales copy, there are a ton of other things you have to do to publish. For that I recommend my own The Essentials of Digital Publishing, which you can purchase for $9.99 at Smashwords (see or which I will send you free of charge if you email me. If you choose to buy it for some reason I recommend the PDF version so you can enlarge the illustrations.

So nobody thinks I’m jerking them around, The Essentials of Digital Publishing is slightly out of date. It doesn’t contain references to Draft2Digital, for example, whom I highly recommend as a distributor to everyone but Amazon. (Distribute to Amazon yourself.) And it probably DOES contain references to CreateSpace, a print-on-demand publisher that has been defunct for a few years.

But the information in the book is still valid. It covers everything from how to organize files most efficiently to all other things publishing.

After you’ve acquired and listened to or read the lecture and books above, and after you’ve done due diligence re finding your favorite source(s) for cover illustrations, please feel free to ask any questions you might still have.

Note: Even if you’re one who insists on going with a traditional publisher, knowing this stuff is essential to your future mental well-being. Many employees of traditional publishing, especially those who work on new authors’ debut novels, don’t have a clue what they’re doing. Just sayin’. More knowledge is always a good thing.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Your Favorite Word” at

See “5 Questions the Most Interesting People Will Always Ask in Conversations” at Story ideas.

See “Death Doulas Used to Be Rare….” at You ever heard of a death doula? More story ideas.

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.