Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Daily Archives: July 15, 2011

Happy Friday! Today, I have a special treat for you. My pal, Maria Zannini is here to give us the low-down on creating great cover art. No matter what route to publishing you choose, I go out of my way to provide the best information to help you forge your own path to success.

Maria, take it away!


Perhaps the most formidable part of self-publishing is creating the right cover for your story. Where do you find art? How do you decide what art to use? When should you hire an artist? And if you hire someone, how do you know you’re getting your money’s worth?

I’ve been a graphic artist for more than thirty years, recently retired from my day job as an art director for a large communications company. I know good design. But more importantly I know how to create the emotional trigger that inspires and demands a second look—if only to quell natural human curiosity.

It would take a whole book to explain all the subtleties of good design, so instead I’m going to share some down and dirty tips to get you started. If you have any questions at the end of this post, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments.


• To find suitable art, Google ‘royalty-free art’. Here are a few of the most popular ones.






• As you browse, pull any art cuts that catch your eye. Don’t assume you’ll be able to return to that page later. Chances are, you’ll never find it again. (They’re tricksy that way.) Just save the ones you like and cull them later.

• Remember that unless you’re creating a book in a specialty size, you’ll want to focus on art that can be used inside a vertical format.

• Think in layers. There are 34 layers in the cover art for my book, The Devil To Pay. Skillful layering will create depth and movement.

• In the Western World, we read from left to right. This means your eyes will naturally settle on the left hand side of the page and travel right. You want to place something visually stimulating that will guide the viewer gently to the other side.

• Before you choose your art, think about your message. What’s the genre, theme, and mood of the novel? How do you want the reader to react when he sees the cover? (Remember, you’re creating an emotional trigger.) Once you have the parameters set in your brain, you will automatically scan and cull anything that doesn’t fit the criteria.

• Careful not to muddy your colors or use too detailed an image. When in doubt, reduce the image to a postage stamp to gauge the art’s readability.

Very Important: After you’ve created your cover, save the original in its layered file, then create a duplicate. Flatten the duplicate image and save at 72dpi, or use the function, ‘Save for Web’. When you upload to Amazon, Smashwords, or on a blog, you’ll want to use the lower-res version. Not only will it load faster, but you’ll prevent anyone from thieving your high-resolution image.


• Invest in a set of fonts (or two) that specifically say “Licensed for Commercial Use”. Stay legal.

• The general rule of thumb is to use no more than three different typefaces per cover. The title font should be legible even when reduced down to ten per cent of the original art.

• If you’re skilled in editing programs like Photoshop, add drop shadows and highlights to your title to make it pop off the page.


• If creating your cover art proves too daunting, spend the money on a good artist. Nothing says amateur like a poor cover.

• Find the best artists by asking the authors whose covers you admire. This way you’ll also get the inside scoop on the author’s personal experience with the artist.

• Always ask the artist about her turnaround time. An in-demand artist can be booked far in advance, so plan

• As you browse artists’ portfolios, pay attention to their range. Does it all look the same, or is there a uniqueness to each book? You want your cover to stand out, not look like it came out of a factory.

• Ask if the fee can be lowered if you provide the photos.

• Get everything in writing, and make sure you understand the contract.

• Don’t expect miracles. Short of creating an original painting for you, the artist can only work with the resources at hand. She might be able to alter the color of the model’s hair, but not a change of wardrobe.

That’s it for this session, kids! Do you have any questions for me?

I hope you’ll follow along with the rest of the Indie Roadshow as I share the things I learned on my road to self-publishing.

The Devil To Pay is available at Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99. It’s the first book of the series, Second Chances.

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad tequila. Shannon McKee finds herself at the end of her rope, and she bargains her soul in a fit of despair.

Shannon’s plea is answered immediately by two men who couldn’t be more different from one another. Yet they share a bond and an affection for the stubborn Miss McKee that even they don’t understand.

When Heaven and Hell demand their payment, Shannon has no choice but to submit. No matter who gets her soul, she’s not getting out of this alive.

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions. Occasionally, she writes novels.  Follow Maria on Facebook or my blog.


THANK YOU, Maria for your time and for sharing your expertise!!! I hope all of you have a fabulous weekend.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Happy writing!

Until next time….