Guest Post: Author David Eccles – Shout This Book Cover Design Secret: You Don’t Need Photoshop!

I’m honored to have friend David Eccles, author of Darke Times and Other Stories, guest posting on the blog today. Getting into the indie author scene has given me a chance to network with some amazing people, and David is certainly one of them. From Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, David has an eclectic reading and writing mind. I’m thoroughly enjoying his new book and am happy with the topic he is discussing today, as it is an important one for all self-published authors. Enjoy!


Before I begin my article in earnest, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Allen for inviting me to guest on his blog, and for providing us indie authors with much needed and much valued information and guidance.

I know that Allen has plans to feature his cover artist, Jennifer Jordon in future articles, because a beautiful cover can and almost certainly does affect a reader’s decision to purchase an author’s book. One would be wise to read Jen’s articles which will give us all an insight into how a true professional goes about the task of creating a pictorial masterpiece from our literary efforts.

In most cases, it would indeed be wise to shell out money and have a cover artist produce your cover for you, but what if funds are tight, you’re a stubborn so-and-so like me (I’m also broke, by the way) and you feel that you have the necessary skills to produce a decent cover yourself? There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a go at designing your own!

Ah, but Photoshop is expensive, I hear you say. No problem! You don’t need it!

It’s true that while Adobe Photoshop is probably the most well-known and the most widely used piece of software when it comes to image manipulation, there is no point in parting with hundreds of dollars of your hard-earned money if you can achieve equally good professional-looking results using non-proprietary software that is open source, cross-platform, and free!

I’m a huge lover and frequent user of the Gnu/Linux platform, and I dual-boot my computers with both Microsoft Windows and Ubuntu Linux so that I can make the most of what software is available.

For image manipulation, my software of choice is the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), because it’s cross-platform and freely distributable, it’s packed with features and can do nearly all that Adobe Photoshop can do. Screenshots here. Using a plug-in called PSPI increases its functionality and enables the GIMP to use lots of Photoshop plug-ins too!

It is way beyond the scope of this blog to go into any sort of detail as to what one can achieve with GIMP, but there are multitudes of forums and tutorials on how to use it, there is a comprehensive separate installable user manual, and there is a very active community who are always working to improve and develop the program further. The learning curve is quite steep, but after only one afternoon of playing around with it I managed to produce some surprisingly good results, including the cover of my own book! It’s not perfect by any means, but it was good enough to pass the manual review at Smashwords and be accepted into their Premium Catalog!

I blogged about GIMP on my own website in an article called Digital Painting on a Budget, also mentioning free 3D rendering software Blender, and followed it up with a sequel, Digital Painting on a Budget, Part 2, where I introduce another free program designed for creating vector graphics, Inkscape, and a low-cost alternative to Wacom graphics tablets from a company called Monoprice.

This short article is meant merely as a primer to give the reader a little information about freely available alternative software that in the long run will save any author who wishes to go it alone and design his/her own book cover a lot of money. Please keep your eyes open for a detailed in-depth look at cover design in future articles by Jennifer Jordon on Allen’s site.

Click the cover image or the text link to be taken to the Amazon website where you will be able to purchase my book, Darke Times and Other Stories, a collection of fourteen pieces of flash fiction and short stories in genres ranging from general fiction to science fiction, bizarro fantasy, horror, horror erotica and full-blown (if you excuse the pun) erotica.

Darke Times and Other Stories is also available on Smashwords, Kobobooks and at all of the usual places that Smashwords distributes books. I’ve been fortunate enough that since my book’s launch date eleven days ago on the fourteenth of July, every review has been a five-star review, including glowing reviews from horror author John F.D. Taff and YA author M.C. O’Neill, and I’ve been guest blogger on John’s website, with more guest appearances to come elsewhere on the web in the very near future. It’s a great time to be an indie author! Thank you for your support. You can be sure that I’ll give you mine!

  Eccles DarkeTimes


Your Book Cover Matters!

I have been doing a great amount of research about self-publishing. I mean, I have literally sat in front of the computer looking up what works and what does not for hours on end. I have come across many helpful blog posts and I try to let an author know when what they have written is helpful to me. Here are some of the main things I have come across that seem to be constant.

Write, write, write – Get your story out and a first draft finished

Edit – No matter how good you think you are, get your work edited

Cut – Don’t be afraid to let go of entire chapters or more if they don’t work

Market – Self-published authors are entrepreneurs first, authors second (darn)

Book Cover – Spend time working on the cover

I know there is so much more, but that is just off the top of my head. Today, I want to tell you about a conversation I had with a good artist friend of mine about my book cover (does not exist yet). My friend has never worked on book covers (that I know of) and does not have any first hand knowledge of self-publishing, but man, she had some great advice.

First – You, as the author, have to know what you want. If you don’t, then you are asking for trouble when working on a cover. You have to ensure that the cover conveys what is inside, but more importantly, that it has a personal meaning for you. You have to be attached to what the cover means. If you’re not emotional over it, ditch it.

Second – Make sure the artist is actually interested in the project. If you simply seek out any artist to design your cover, they likely will just treat it as just another commissioned work and not put forth all of their effort. Sure, you’ll get something, but it probably won’t be as good as it could have been,

Third – If the artist is not giving you advice and input, as well as seeking yours, back away. Think of it as a partnership, not a cold business deal. You put time and effort into writing your book, so make sure you have someone designing a cover that realizes that.

Fourth – THE COVER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING! No matter how eloquent and thought out your book is, if nobody picks it up or clicks on it, you aint got nothin! (Southern side)

I have spent hours in the local book stores and just as many online scanning book covers. I take note of what makes me reach my hand up. As a reader, choosing a book is a step-by-step process. The cover grabs you, you pick it up, you read the description, you put it back down or buy it. The decision to buy a book or not is usually made, for me, in less than fifteen seconds. The most important part of that is the cover because that’s what made me pick it up.

I’m chugging along with my first book, but I am scared to death of not having a great cover. I know exactly what I want. Now I just have to find someone that can become attached to it as much as I am. The cover I want is simple but attention grabbing. I made sure that I didn’t see anything else like it and that it meant something to me. You have to be comfortable with your cover artist so that they can translate what you want purely and naturally. If you’re not, then good luck.

Anyone that has any experience with this, PLEASE comment below.