An accidental book cover designer? Why, yes. Some would say I have a track record of accidentally doing things. I accidentally became an author because I was confined to barracks during a huge house renovation. Then, I accidentally became a props and costume designer – amazing what you can do when you need 40 costumes for a school play. I am also an accidental cat lady, baker, and accidental installer of vinyl planking–but none of those earn me money. So, when I accidentally became a book cover designer, it was on-brand.
Actually, way back when I was heading off to college, I would have loved to go into this career, the trouble is, it hadn’t been invented yet–least not in the format in which I now do it. I also wasn’t very artistic, or creative, and book covers generally weren’t something I even noticed had been designed.
When I started writing, I had no idea about the author industry, nor the skills I’d needed to get my books on a shelf for people to read. If I had, I probably would have quit before I started. Bizarrely, my first hurdle was not writing the book, it was how to make a pretty cover. Even back then, when I was just writing for Wattpad, cover design was pretty essential.
Because I had no idea where to get one, I made one…in Power Point.
It was truly awful. Beyond awful. So awful, I cannot possibly show it to you. My second attempt was a billion times better, but just a stock image with a title thrown on top. In my head, I had good ideas, but sadly no skills to execute them. The cover for my Vargr Clan fantasy series had me stumped so I called in reinforcements. My daughter put it together (She’s the one with the Art degree). It turned out great, and realizing her mistake, she decided to teach me a few Photoshop skills to avoid having to make more covers for me.
Photoshop was a challenge. I took two steps forward, and five back. A graphic designer would have turned in their grave at my work arounds, but despite the crazy way I butchered the craft, the end results weren’t too horrendous.
The Accidental Book Cover Designer
As writing production stepped up, so did my need for covers. I trolled the markets, studying the trends in my genre to get ideas and accidentally, stumbled into one pretty important aspect cover designing; genres had expectations, color schemes, and typesetting conventions. Then, I became obsessed with fonts, and developed an unhealthily large collection of them. Apparently, that is a prerequisite, too.
Somehow, my covers ended up pretty decent, and a couple of author friends who started out at the same time as me, asked if I could make them covers, too. We swapped skills, they beta read for me, or taught me how to set up a website–things like that, and in exchange I made them a cover.
Then one day, I accidentally became a cover designer when someone I didn’t know, asked how much I charged to make covers.
ME: What? People will pay me for this?
ME: “Huh, does $20 sound ok?”
What to Charge?
Of course, I had no idea what to charge, but I had fun doing the cover and they were very happy. After that, I had a brilliant idea. If I could sell a handful of covers a year, for say, $50 each, it would offset my editing costs!
So, I did. The accidental cover designer was born! And I finally learned how to price my covers properly.
After I discovered an awesome FB group where you could sell covers, I decided to get serious. I invest in some Photoshop courses. I was particularly jealous of designers in there who did amazing fantasy covers. They created magic, and worlds, and glorious painted hair. So, for the last year and a half, I’ve been doing a whole bunch of courses, and cried a whole bunch of frustrated tears.
I’m no longer an accidental cover designer. The business is now fully fledged. I even have a website! Last year, I made almost as much from designing than from selling my books–despite having the best book selling year I ever had!
Cover design may not have been what I went to school for, and it certainly wasn’t part of my teaching career. Maybe it was a midlife crisis, or latent superpower, but either way, I now call myself an author and cover designer.
I made this piece of artwork this week. I even learned how to make a time-lapse of the layers just so I could show the process to you. This piece won’t become a cover, it is part of my personal art, focusing on building worlds from scratch.
You can find examples and premade cover designs by me at Catspyjamasdesign.com
You can check out my books at https://www.amazon.com/Angela-Stevens/e/B00KHTERZI