Friday, August 28, 2009

Morgan Mandel's Basic Guide to Self-Publishing - Day Five - Setting Up Cover Art and Logo

The great thing about self-publishing is you get to choose your own book cover. The not-so-great thing about self-publishing is you get to choose your own book cover. It’s wonderful to get a choice. It’s scary to get a choice.

From blogging, I’d met many capable artists, and had seen the beautiful covers they’d created. I could have approached one of them to do a cover for Killer Career. I may even have done so, if not by chance. By a stroke of luck, I found just what I wanted online at Once I saw it, I knew that was the one – kind of like my wedding dress.

I had more decisions to make. I wanted the back of my book to be striking so it would get noticed. When I’d first spoken with a rep. from Lightning Source, I’d learned that color on the back cover would not cost any more than on the front, because actually they were considered part of the same thing. If you’ve ever seen a cover flat, you know what I mean. It’s all spread out – back to spine to front.

Anyway, to gain attention, I decided to show readers what my main characters might look like. I already had the woman’s image from the front of the cover, but what about the villain and the good guy? I rifled through the male shots at Istock and found one I really liked for the villain. The problem was he didn’t look like the bad guy described in my manuscript. For some reason his image still stuck in my mind and would not dislodge.

I searched for another photo to portray the villain, but none matched up. Somehow in my mind the villain’s features had changed from a guy with clipped, salt and pepper hair and gray eyes to a guy with hazel eyes, shoulder length chestnut hair pushed back, and sexy sideburns. I had no recourse but to carefully go back into my manuscript and make the changes.

For the good guy, he had to look sweet, have kind of messy dark hair which stuck out a bit. It took a while, but I finally found one that fit the description.

Next, I needed to figure out a logo for Choice One Publishing Co. I had to be careful not to pick one too similar to someone else’s or I could get into trouble. The possibility of that happening made me nervous. Then, a crazy, fun thought hit me. Why not try it? After all, I could do what I wanted. It was my book. Using photo editing software, I made a cameo close-up of my dog, Rascal’s face and resized it. The logo was unique. No one else could possibly have it. It symbolized the fact that Choice One Publishing Co. was mine down to the tiniest detail.

With my choices made, I loaded everything onto the template. It sounds easy for me to say it now, but it took me days to get everything on there just so. I had to stay inside the lines so words or appendages wouldn’t get chopped off, I had to add a background, and do all sorts of finagling to get everything according to specifications.

First, I inserted the words Fiction/Romantic Suspense, so booksellers, librarians and/or readers could readily know the book’s genre.

Next, I placed the blurbs I was fortunate to receive from Robert W. Walker and Austin S. Camacho. After that, I placed a thumbnail of each major character, next to which I added a comment from that character’s point of view.

I added the publishing house name, website and logo. Lastly, I inserted the barcode which I’d found on the template from Lightning Source.

With the back cover figured out, next came the spine. I had to pick out fonts, figure out the order of the title, author and publishing company, as well as where to place the logo. The lettering had to stay inside those dreaded lines.

With the spine in place, I could load the front cover. That’s when I made a horrible discovery. My heroine wore an engagement ring. It had to go. Although I don’t have the steadiest of hands for tiny editing, I managed to clone her skin over the area of the ring, so it would look as if the ring had never been there. I tried to fit the image onto the template, but it didn’t look right. As a last resort, I inserted a frame. That worked and the picture looked right. Also, the black tied in with the same color background of the spine and back cover.

Those are the basics of what I did. I mentioned some of my problems, but lots of trial and error went into producing the finished product. Without my Adobe Pro 9, Adobe Acrobat Elements an old version of Roxio photo editing software, and Word 2007, I couldn’t have done it. Of course, I could have skipped all that and gone with a cover artist, which many self-pubs do, but I had my mind set on that special cover art. Once I want something, if it’s within my power to get it, I will.

Was it worth the aggravation? Well, I’m planning on doing another book, this time with a photo of Rascal on the front cover. I guess that tells you something.

What about you? Would you consider tackling cover art yourself, or would you prefer to hire a cover artist? Or, maybe you’re a cover artist and would like to share something about what you do. Please join in.
Morgan Mandel

Bookmark and Share


  1. How long did this take you, Morgan? It would probably take me as long to do a cover as it took me to write the book. You, clearly, are calm under pressure.

    Straight From Hel

  2. Wow, so you tackled the cover entirely on your own? Impressive.

    Do you have a link to the back cover anywhere? I didn't see it on your web page.

  3. I just had a look on your 'Choice One' website. If that photo of the guy half way down the page is your villain, I can understand why his image got stuck in your head!

  4. Helen, it took me weeks to get my cover right. I almost despaired on it. It seemed so simple, yet I didn't know how to work Adobe Acrobat Elements since I'd just gotten the program. I could do almost anything on my website software, but couldn't use that for the cover. Let's just say it was a learning curve. Lots of stuff thrown at me at once to figure out. I had to learn layers, placement, all kinds of crazy things, plus stay in the lines of the template. Then the picture didn't want to fit on the size cover I'd chosen. I sometimes felt like giving up, but being an author I have developed a stubborn streak.


  5. I'll have to see what I can do about showing everyone the back cover.

    I'm not sure if the Word version will take up too much memory for blogger.

    In the meantime, anyone who wants to see it is welcome to email me at and I'll send you an e-mail with the pdf version on it. Use BACK COVER for the subject line so I won't miss it in all the jumble of emails.

    I'm thinking of putting it up on the website also on a separate page. Lots of things to do yet, so little time.

    Morgan Mandel

  6. Sophie,
    Yes, that is my villain at, further down the page.

    If anyone wants to take a look, you'll see why I had to change my manuscript.

    Morgan Mandel

  7. Wow, you sure are a dynamo, Morgan. And it was so worth it.
    I was lucky with my cover. My husband and I were vacationing at Lake Louise, near Banff, Canada a few years ago and took the photo that is my cover. It totally represented my title and what the book is about. Don't know what I would have done if that hadn't worked out.
    Thanks for this series. Very insightful and helpful.

  8. That is awesome you used Rascal!!!!!!!!

    L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

  9. When you can use one of your own pictures like Karen did, it is a huge plus. No problems with paying for anything.

    I was lucky at least I have Rascal as my logo, since she is unique. Also, it's early promo for her book, maybe series, which I hope to get out after this whirlwind dies down.

    Morgan Mandel

  10. Morgan,

    Great series of blogs and congrats on getting your own cover done. Covers are the next important thing to editing your manuscript (well, after writing a slam bang book, that is! LOL).

    In addition to writing, I also do book covers for small presses and individual authors. I have the best price in the industry for a complete cover and am lightning fast.

    I didn't learn how to do covers on my own. I worked in a photography studio for fourteen years doing digital retouching but that wasn't where I learned the art of creating book covers. I watched and studied my partner (ex now), who taught me the ins and outs. You can check out some of my cover work at:

    Thank you again, Morgan. Your exploits in self-publishing are informative and witty as well. I look forward to more.

  11. I'm not nearly that artistically ept.

    I did my cover at Lulu with their cover tools. The only thing fancy I did was get the basic cover into a jpg file and add a graphic to the front. I was lucky enough to find a page from an old Arabic text portraying a Simurgh. Since my book is titled "Quest for the Simurgh" it was perfect.

    Otherwise, I went with simple. Author photo and blurb text on the back. I have a logo of sorts, but I only use it on my website and blog.

    Since I write fantasy, finding free photos of real people fitting the story is unlikely.

  12. I had no idea what to do about a cover. I was fortunate to find that photo that I really liked. Otherwise, I may have asked a cover artist to help me, one that would not charge royalties. As is, my profit margin is small and I'm depending on volume to make the difference.

    Whatever method you use is up to the individual self-publisher. The main thing is to find a cover you like and set it up so it looks appealing to readers.

    Morgan Mandel

  13. Sounds like a lot of effort, but it must feel nice to have just what you want and to know that you did it.

  14. I'm impressed that you took on the cover yourself. It's not something I would do. I'm a big fan of some of the great cover artists and appreciate the artistry and experience that goes into creating a cover. That skill is something I lack. I think a great book is a collaboration between author, artist and editor and I don't think I could do all three well. You obviously can, because your cover looks great.

  15. Wow, Morgan, thanks for all the time it took you to 'tell about it.' That is a lot of detail that will prove invaluable to others. And I love Rascal as your logo! Great work!

    I think if I could find someone to hire me to do book covers (plus be patient while I learned how!) I'd be tempted to give up writing! I love that kinds of stuff!

  16. It is a good feeling to get exactly what you want for a cover and not be dependent on someone who might give you one you don't like.

    It's a lot of work self-publishing a book, but the little touches like making Rascal my logo take the edge off all the work.

    Of course, the big thrill is the actual book in my hands.

    Morgan Mandel

  17. Kudos for doing it yourself!

    I do my own but then I was an art minor and have been working with an image program for years. My first cover has a conte sketch of a girl I did back in my college years along with a photo I took and a computer drawing of a paintbrush. Easy enough. I wanted images of the characters for my 2nd and 3rd books and so drew them within the program using outlines of photos of people I had to make sure the proportions and stances were right. A few times, I've made my kids pose for me. ;-) My latest is 3 photos combined, two of mine and one from the fantastic Ines of

    Finding amateur artists to do cover art is another option if you can't afford the pros.

  18. I've always wanted to be an artist, LK, but that will never happen. I have to work with what I have. (g)

    Morgan Mandel

  19. I commend you for all the work you've done to self-publish.

    Frankly, I'm quite happy with the covers created by the artists at Mundania. They always ask me what I want and so far what they've come up with have pleased me.


  20. Morgan, I am impressed. I farmed out my cover to a pro, but what you've done is great.

    Bob Sanchez

  21. The secret is to be happy with what you've got. We can all do it different ways.

    Morgan Mandel

  22. Morgan,
    I'm impressed that you did the cover yourself. That's one thing I don't attempt. I have a great cover artist I recommend for my clients who self-publish. I'll edit the book, lay out the interior, and just about everything else but the cover. I'm not artistic.

    Congratulations on the talent and persistence to pull it off.

    Lillie Ammann
    A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye

  23. Sorry, I've arrived at this blog late. I'm in England and have just self-published a memoir called A Life Less Lost. It's selling very well over here but I've been trying to get it set up in the US and Australia where I have family and friends. In the end I chose Createspace, which seemed to offer what I needed from this distance. I'll be visiting the States and Australia and hope to promote the book. Createspace offered me discounts for bulk purchases. Even with a publisher acting as my mentor, Lightening Source were not easy to work with (I tried them first) and Lulu were more expensive.
    I've enjoyed reading your blog series. wish I'd seen it sooner! I never realised that writing the book would be the easy part. Like you, I think we have to almost produce a better product than the 'big guys' to get round the prejudice.

  24. Great series Morgan! Thanks for sharing the results of all the research you did. That will save others much time.

    Your cover looks great. You should be pleased that 1) you had a vision, and 2) you brought it to life.

    My problem with covers is that I'm so visually impaired that I usually don't even have an idea of what I want to see on the cover. I'm totally dependent on cover artists. Hacksaw was the first, and I initially like the artists concept. Mostly I liked that someone had a concept. However, the cover has proven to be an obstacle. People look at that cover and don't see 'mystery' genre.

    Mark's sci-fi is a different story. The cover for The Resqueth Revolution is fantastic. Now that we know a bit more about covers, the next Eva Baum novel will have a cover that screams 'this is a must-read mystery novel'. One can hope :-).

    I'm about a third of the way through Killer Career, Morgan. It's a great read.


  25. Morgan,

    Having just gone through the same process with my cover, I was holding my breath as I read your comments. I used the template for the spine and the back, but the cover was from a reworked photo I made in a nearby park. I darkened the photo slightly and added my own artwork. I was astonished when I received the proof from createspace. If you want to take a peek, a small picture of the cover can be viewed on my blog, the second article down. I am really enjoying your post on self publishing.

  26. Charlotte,
    I'm glad you like Killer Career so far. I hope you like the entire book!

    Yes, the cover can be a killer. It's not easy to figure one out and put it together. It's one of those important ingredients that can make or break a good novel.

    Without a good cover, many a book gets overlooked.

    Morgan Mandel


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...