The Pains Of Graphic Design

There’s a lot of topics that I will toot my own horn about. I believe that I am a great writer. I believe that I am a great videographer. I believe that I am a great photographer.

I am not a great graphic designer.

It is of no great error on my part. It is just from where my high school and college courses were heavy on writing, filmmaking, and photography, I was able to really hone those tasks with advanced techniques. However, the opportunity never arose for me to take a graphic design course. My knowledge of Photoshop involves photo editing and basic digital art painting. Whenever I have needed a well-done graphic, I have always just reached out to a friend and asked them to cook something up for me…which is weird, as I usually like retaining full control over my work.

When did I not do this? When creating the covers of my novels. Because I am an idiot.

There is nothing wrong with creating your own book covers…as long as you know what you are doing. And, truth be told, I didn’t.

I was so excited in April 2012, knowing that my first novel was mere weeks away from being published, that I hurriedly make a cover of my own. It wasn’t bad, but it looks more like a YouTube thumbnail (hey, I’m good at those!). I took a stock image, slapped some text on it, and submitted it to my publisher. My publisher then slapped a generic cover on the back, and that was that. It was…plain. And that’s the title that I Heard There’d Be CAKE has owned for nearly five years.

The cycle repeated itself this past spring. Wanting to meet my 4/20 deadline (insert stoner giggle here), I grabbed another stock image, slapped the same text on it, and submitted it once more…with mere hours to spare. Another YouTube cover novel. Not terrible. But not winning me any awards.

I have recently been gearing up to do book shows, and have been speaking to another local Louisville author by the name of Lydia Sherrer. One of the first things Lydia told me is that I should consider getting professional book covers made, seeing as they would sell better that way. She was actually afraid that she would offend me, but it made sense. I, personally, have felt that my covers are plain and “amateur” for years. Why haven’t I fixed them?

It turns out that professional book covers cost upward of $600.00. I have two books completed, with the third book in trilogy and my first non-fiction piece both due out in Spring 2017. With me in the process of looking for a new house, in desperate need of a new car, and aiming to get LASIK done soon…I simply do not have that kind of money. I cannot afford $1200 for both books right now, and another $1200 due soon. An hour of discouraged thoughts lead to motivation.

I have taught myself so much.

I know how to use these programs already.

Why not learn how to be a graphic designer????

I quickly pulled up many tutorials and self-help videos on how to make professional-quality book covers and spent days studying. I then set to work.

The process was frustrating. Long. Hard. Did you know that you can download free fonts and install them to your computer? How did I never know that? And in the end…

Oh my goodness, I am in love.

I finished the new cover for I Heard There’d Be CAKE last night, and I about cried. Okay, maybe I did cry a little bit. I never thought that I could design something this gorgeous. It looks like an actual book cover! It has a fully designed side and back cover, with an author bio and everything! And it wasn’t done by handing someone several hundred dollars. It was done with the desire to learn a new skill.

I plan to start on the cover for Lettuce Prey tonight, and then I will submit both new covers to my publisher. Hopefully, they can be updated by Christmas for the sale I have planned! I will post the final results once both covers are done, but I am incredibly happy with how the first has turned out.

Fellow authors and artists, feel free to weigh in! How did you learn your graphic design skills? What do you feel is the best way to learn? 🙂