It’s the moment that every writer both looks forward to and dreads in equal measure; deciding upon and somehow either creating, commissioning or crossing-your fingers and hoping an inbuilt software template can create a good book cover.
Book covers are important because unless you are Stephen King (I’m 50% there as I have the right first name) then many readers will decide solely what book they will buy simply by the look of your book cover. Forget the good reviews on Amazon, if you don’t have a good cover, browsers either online or in store are likely to caryy on looking until they find something more eye-catching.
I have tried three different approaches with my book covers and ironically it was the one that I paid for that I have always been least happy with which is why in the summer I am going to rename and re-cover my first novel.
For my second book a friend and very talented photographer (Hello Ian) kindly helped design a graphic from a collection of my holiday photos which made for a great front cover and the conveyed the message which I wanted of a pile of holiday photos and the stories behind them.
For my third book, as it was only ever going to come out on Kindle and because I had found a very suitable free stock photo I used that and having now gained lots of experience on formatting and the look I wanted, the free template online software worked perfectly.
As well as being eye-catching your book cover has to in some way relate the theme of your book. It’s very tempting if your book takes places in various locations and even different times that you want to highlight as many of these on your front cover. However, it’s really important that you don’t do this. Pick a single theme and either design a cover around it or pay someone more artistic to do it for you remembering to pick a suitable font and spine colouring if you aren’t going to wrap-around a photo.
I’m at the stage where I have finished my WW1 brief history book. It took me about 6 weeks of writing and making sure my memories matched my research. I’ve got a number of maps and photos I’d like to include as well as some poems and it has taken some time to check the copyright of these and formatting them so they work ok in a Kindle and paperback format will no doubt be challenging.
Back to book covers though. Normally factual books choose to go with either paintings, drawings or photography which makes working on a book cover slightly different from fictional books. My choice of cover has to relate a dependable and serious book but one that is accessible to people who know little about WW1 and definitely don’t want to get bogged down in some huge and heavy history book.
Though I did consider a book cover featuring poppies, it didn’t seem quite right as that to me makes it feel like a biography or a distance between then and now. The other possibility included a combination of maps and flags but I thought that would be too off-putting to my potential readers.
What I want is some simple and eye-catching that sums up the war quickly and for that I decided to go with one or more photos. Though the war and my book covers everywhere from New Zealand to Mexico it is clear that what most people think of when it comes to WW1 is the Western Front. but there were two that almost immediately became my must-haves. Obviously there are countless thousands of black and white photos but two of them in particular immediately grabbed my imagination.
This photo is of a group of Australian photos walking on duck boards. Their reflections are shown in one of the large puddles or crater holes whilst their silhouettes stand out against the sky. If you look closely you can see observation balloons in the sky. Everything is grey and evocative of the misery that this war caused.
Many though not all photos from WW1 are now public domain whilst others have clauses as to what you can use them for. I sent a couple of emails to the Australian War Memorial and they very kindly allowed me to use this on the cover for my book.
The photo above is one that I have looked at on and off for the last few decades and as soon as I realised I would need a photo, this one came to mind. It is of soldiers of the Royal Irish Rifles at about 7.25am on the morning of 1st July 1916. It is taken just moments before the commencement of The Battle of The Somme, perhaps the bloodiest British battle of all time and one of the very worst in history.
The reason I like this photo is that is of a very famous event and its hard to imagine that just 10 minutes after this photo was taken it is likely that many of these men were dead. I went to the very spot where this photo was taken and it was a very moving moment.
According to Wikipedia, this photo is also Public Domain and it is mentioned elsewhere that it is public domain however on visiting the Imperial War Museum Website it states that it is licensed by Getty Images and to use it would cost me hundreds if not thousands of pounds. Not only is this confusing but I find it hugely wrong that you should have to pay such a huge amount of money for what is in many ways an educational book. I’m pretty certain that none of the men pictured in the photo would want to see may pay such hundreds or thousands of pounds.
I’ve read in places that public domain photos can be used free of charge whatever companies like Getty say if you are fine with using a lower resolution image as I am but I will have to look into it more unless one of my readers understands copyright law better than I do!
Both are great photos and ideally I would like to use one on the front cover and one on the back cover. If you have a favourite let me know below!