Write as weird as you want.

Sometimes, our ideas carry us away. That’s why we do this, right?

But other times, we let doubt get in the way.

When writing fantasy and science fiction, we question whether or not we can expect people to believe something, whether it’s realistic. All these strange and fantastical things in our heads just seem too big, too different.

But it’s fantasy. It’s science fiction.

Anything can be realistic if you make the world support it.

And honestly, there are some truly weird things in our world that people don’t question, or maybe barely question. (Vulture bees making honey from meat. People keeping the baby teeth of their children.)

Anything can be realistic for a fictional world if you shape the world to make it work. The history of these fictional worlds can support any tradition. The evolution of these worlds can produce any species we want.

The believability of an idea isn’t the problem.

The real problem is deeper.

We question ourselves and our ability to pull these things off.

We’re making up entire worlds, entire people, entire timelines. We’re doing things that are truly amazing.

A planet with rivers that flow up into the air may as well happen. Maybe it’s a hollow planet, and those rivers are inside it? Maybe there’s a gravitational anomaly caused by a malfunction in a lab? Who knows? You just have to put in the time and the effort to explain it. And then stand by it.

What we’re doing is meant to be fun, but that doesn’t always mean it’ll be easy.

And sometimes, we’re the ones making it harder for ourselves. We doubt our ideas at every turn, cutting ourselves off at the knees.

Stop worrying about whether it’s realistic to have an animal the size of a whale fly through the sky. In our world, no. But in your world? In the world you’re building?

Go for it.

Give it some sort of mechanical support or engine. Enhance it with magic.

Make it work.

That thing you have in your head that you’re doubting might be the thing that a reader loves the most about your book.

Just build the supports for it into the framework of the world and have a little faith in yourself.


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Writing Strengths and Weaknesses: The Art of Double-Edged Swords

Sometimes, we build our characters up in our heads. We get so enamored with them, with all their beauty and powers, that maybe they get a little overpowered.

Which might make for a too-easy victory.

I tend to do the opposite, falling for their weaknesses, the things that make them human and relatable, and breaking them down maybe a little too much.

But luckily, this little trick cuts both ways.

A character’s strength can also be their weakness, and vice versa.

It all comes down to the situation, how they perceive themselves, and their ability to harness (or combat) aspects of their personality.

Personalities and psyches are strange, complicated things, and life is no simple matter. A person with a generous spirit may give too much and wear themselves out. A person who tends toward extreme caution may save the life of a friend by warning them of dangers otherwise unthought of by a normal person.

So, if you’re struggling to flesh out your character, take the big defining features of their personality, and look at those things in different lights. Twist them up and drop them into new circumstances.

In case it sounds like I’m talking in circles (because making strengths into weaknesses and weaknesses into strengths can kinda become a circle), here are a couple examples.

In A Heart of Salt & Silver, I played with this a lot. So much so that it made it into the title. Salt and silver are the things that can kill demons/demi-demons (Ness) and silver kills werewolves (Nolan) thus, a heart made of those things is just saying that they’re their own worst enemies. Which… they definitely are.

Nolan is a werewolf, a veteran of several wars, and an former slave. Now, he goes out of his way to help others, to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

Sounds like a pretty solid strength, right?

What could go wrong?

Maybe running out in the middle of a meal with the woman you love to go galivanting into gods know what sort of conflict isn’t the best thing, but it fits with that “strength,” that hero complex. She’ll understand, right?

Unless she has virtually no self-worth to begin with and that desertion ritual happens over and over… and over… and over.

It becomes a weakness pretty quickly in that light, breaking a relationship into pieces.

As for Ness and her complete lack of self-worth… She sees herself as less than human. She’s half demon, so she’s not quite human, but she isn’t less than anything. She’s actually insanely powerful. But she thinks herself some beast that doesn’t deserve to exist.

She doesn’t think anyone could ever want her around or ever find value for her.

Pretty obvious weakness, right?

It certainly is in most circumstances, and it definitely played a role in splitting up her relationship with Nolan.

But it means that she considers her actions from perspectives other than her own, considering what others want or need and tempering the violent emotions that can so easily overthrow the fragile self-control of demons and demi-demons.

Which makes it a twisted kind of strength.

The way she copes with that weakness makes her a better person to be around.

So, when writing your characters, don’t forget that their defining traits can be used for and against them, depending on the situation.


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How to Survive (And Succeed in) Camp NaNoWriMo

It’s almost here. Do you have a goal set? Are you intimidated by the whole thing?

If so, you’re definitely not alone.

Goals have this way of either putting us on edge or spurring us into action. Or both.

But there are some ways to make it easier on yourself to meet your goal.

Realistic goals

The most important thing you can do to save your sanity is to make realistic goals, otherwise you’ll just intimidate yourself and shoot yourself in the foot before you even get started.

Think back and figure up what your average is for writing. Then, total that up for the month, and add a realistic amount if you want to push yourself. If you want to push yourself to maintain your average on a daily basis, come up with the total and set that as your goal.

Find your down time

Every household has a natural lull. For some, it’s right after kids go to bed. For some, it’s early in the morning before anyone else gets up for the day.

Figure out when that lull is and use it to your advantage. Set that time aside as your writing time.

Prioritize

Treat this like a priority. This may mean giving up an hour of tv a day. It may mean spending less time on social media.

But if you make your writing a priority, it gets easier to keep up with.

Do one or two small, high impact chores first

Sometimes, getting something stereotypically considered “productive” out of the way first helps assuage the guilt and anxiety of taking the time for yourself. (Guilt and anxiety that you should probably work on tackling, because you don’t need to feel guilty about taking time to pursue your passions, but that’s a topic for another day.)

So, choose a quick, high impact chore, and do it first. Load the dishwasher, clean the counter in the bathroom. Something quick that makes a much larger difference in terms of mental state than we typically give it credit for.

Breathe

This is meant to be a fun endeavor. If you fall behind, try not to sweat it because at the end of the day, you’re still making progress with something you’re enjoying.

Join a group

There are many writing groups out there who do special chats, threads, or posts geared toward helping writers survive the NaNo process and spur people on to meet their goals.

My favorites are World Indie Warriors (Website, Facebook Members Group, Facebook Page, Instagram) and The Writer Community (Instagram, Website).

Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary process. Having writer friends to vent to or celebrate with can make all the difference.


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How to Write Guns in Your Books

Sometimes, the bad guy just needs a hole put through them, care of: a bullet. It’s an unavoidable reality in some genres. (Post-apocalyptic/apocalytpic, dystopian, suspense, crime thrillers, etc.)

But if you haven’t been around them, guns can seem like a whole other world.

And they kinda are.

But I have a few tips/things to consider to help you write guns into your books without eliciting eye rolls and groans from people who know about guns.

So let’s start simply.

And also with the disclaimer that this should be used for writing purposes. Not for actual violence in the real world.

You don’t need to get uber specific.

Unless you’re writing military fiction, most readers aren’t going to give a shit what the exact model and history of the gun is. Unless it’s relative to the story, you probably don’t need to talk about the Winchester house and the ghosts it’s meant to confuse. You don’t need the serial number or the production history, either.

In most instances, you can supply the caliber and type of gun and be just fine. (9mm pistol, for example)

If your character is comfortable with guns, setting aside the amount of research you need to do, they’ll probably refer to them by caliber. If they have a couple guns in that caliber, they’ll likely refer to them by brand.

So, “The Beretta,” or “The .45.”

Mobility

Everyone knows the scene in the movies where the quirky character has to disarm themselves and pulls one weapon after another out of pockets and holsters and boots.

But if you’re not going for comedy, if you want any realism at all, you need to consider how mobile your character needs to be.

If they’re going to be stationary, set up within a guard post or something, go ahead and give them an armory if you want.

But.

Carrying a shotgun, a rifle, two pistols, two revolvers, a machete, and a couple other knives is not only overkill, but it’s massively impractical and the weight will add up.

Good luck moving without banging weapons together.

Good luck switching between those weapons quickly.

And good fucking luck reloading (since all your pockets are going to be covered up by guns).

Which brings me to…

Weight of ammo

That shit isn’t weightless. Bullets may be light, but they add up.

So, if you decide to have a character that carries ridiculous amounts of ammo, it will bog them down. Even more so if it’s loaded into a ton of magazines for easy reloading.

Given a reasonable magazine capacity of 10 (more if you get a banana clip or a drum for an assault rifle), those will add up, too.

And who has that many pockets?

Certainly not a female.

For the sake of some realism, here’s an article with ammo weights, easily found with a quick google search.

Certain gun for a certain job

So, let’s say you’re brand new to guns. Some things to consider:

Shotguns are typically better up close. Bird shot and buck shot are comprised of lots of little balls that spread out. The closer the target, the more of those little balls will hit.

Pistols are good up close (up to 25 yards), but headshots are not as easy as movies make them out to be, even less so if the target is moving. Center mass (torso) is much better and just as effective, unless your character is shooting zombies.

Revolvers are also a close range thing, but not as practical as pistols simply because they hold fewer rounds.

Rifles are good for long range, but you should get the scope sighted in. They can be pretty unwieldy in close quarters and have a big ass barrel that can be batted away or grabbed and controlled.

Automatic weapons are hard/next to impossible to come by legally. I don’t know of anywhere off the top of my head that allows civilians to have them, at least not in the United States.

Machine guns are incredibly heavy, not that carrying them is a great option. You can do it in Fallout, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. A submachine gun kinda solves that problem. In either case, they burn through ammo fast. (Obviously.)

Larger caliber bullets hit harder, but typically don’t go as far as fast and will tumble at a distance.

Smaller rounds travel faster, farther, and are typically more accurate. But they don’t have as much stopping power.

So consider the gun and ammo your character needs for the situation you’ve dropped them into.

Recoil

A light gun with a high caliber ammo is going to kick. A lot.

A gun with some weight to it will have less recoil.

A .22 rifle has virtually no recoil.

Higher gauge rifles can and will kick and split the skin on your face if you hold your face too close to the scope.

You need to consider your character’s proficiency with weapons and their upper body strength when choosing their weapon.

How common?

This isn’t so much of a problem if the character has ready access. But in a post-apocalyptic situation, you should probably stick to common rounds.

9mm, .22, LR, 12 gauge, .308, and .223 are the most common.

If you’re wanting to circumvent this by having your character fire reloaded bullets, note that some guns will not fire reloaded rounds. They’ll jam up every time.

Some are even machined to prevent the use of reloaded rounds, ostensibly for quality control and safety, but if you’re into conspiracy theories about capitalism and market manipulation, it could also be to make sure people have to keep buying ammo.

Now, go forth and write your books a little more accurately.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide. As I stated at the outset, firearms are their own world.

If you’re planning to write a character that knows a lot about them or uses them frequently, you should do some serious research.

But I hope this was a good jumping off point.


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Why I Don’t Fill My Books with Big Words

If you use a lot of big words, that means you’re smart, right? And clearly, it means your writing is better, right?

Not necessarily.

Some people prefer five dollar words, but personally, I like to keep my words small. Or at least, common.

There are many reasons, and today, I’ll be going over a few of them.

Big words aren’t necessary.

It is completely possible to get a point across without replacing a ton of words with synonyms that add syllables or seeking out obscure words that no one uses. Common language is more than capable of conveying meaning and depth.

Flow and Immersion

If a reader has to stop over and again to Google a word, that means they’re setting the book down and breaking immersion. And who wants that?

Readers want to be sucked in, and writers want their readers to be sucked in.

So what’s the point in using a bunch of obscure words that will break the illusion we’re trying so hard to build?

What are we trying to prove?

I don’t need to prove my intelligence, and you don’t either. Intelligence stands on its own. People are intuitive and can usually tell whether someone is smart. Throwing in a bunch of massive synonyms doesn’t make you look smarter.

Synonyms aren’t always the same.

Sometimes, a big fancy synonym means something slightly different than the word you actually mean. Sometimes, a synonym has a secondary meaning that is completely different than what you actually mean.

Changing that one word could change the whole sentence.

Why not just say what you mean?

Gatekeeping

I don’t want readers to come away from my book wondering why other people liked it. I don’t want readers to think my work is too convoluted or self-important for anyone with less than a master’s degree to read.

I could throw in a bunch of psychological jargon, but what good would that do? It wouldn’t improve my fantasy novel.

I want people to understand the meaning of my books without getting a bachelor’s degree.

And shouldn’t you?

I’m not fancy.

As a whole, I am not a fancy person. I barely bother with makeup (eye liner, and that’s about it). I wear jeans and a t-shirt most days, especially on days that I work. On days off, it’s because it’s comfortable. On work days, it’s because I don’t want to have any nice clothes torn up at the factory.

Basically, I’m not fancy. So why paint some false picture of myself with a bunch of fancy words in my books?

I write emotion first, themes second.

Emotions are best described in bodily terms, in my opinion. Clenched fists or eyes sparkling with a smile. Hammering hearts or gritted teeth.

Getting too cerebral with the description can actually take away from the scene.

And since I write emotion first and themes second, getting that emotion across in a way that makes the reader feel it is important to me.

So, unless it’s the best word for the situation or the character, I leave the big words out of it.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

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A Busy Writer’s Guide to Time Management

For the vast majority of writers, day jobs are an unfortunate necessity. Many struggle to find the time to write. I’ve done a post about the necessity of actually making time for our books before (read it here), so today, I’m coming at you with tips to help you fit writing in.

1. Make it a priority.

If you take your writing seriously, those closest to you are more likely to respect your writing time. Of course, that doesn’t always mean boundless support. Sometimes, it just means they don’t put your writing down as a silly hobby.

But if you treat your writing as if it doesn’t matter, so will they.

2. Pay attention to your day-to-day schedule.

By that, I mean that you should look at what your days usually consist of and see where you have a few minutes to yourself. That’s your window.

The middle of the night works best for me. I typically write somewhere between midnight and five in the morning. That isn’t ideal for most, but with the schedule my day job keeps (I work in a factory, so my hours aren’t exactly typical), that’s what works best for me.

3. Remember that even just a few minutes at a time can make a difference.

You don’t have to carve out hours and hours of time. For most, that isn’t always a possibility. Even just five or ten minutes here, twenty minutes there will add up to a whole book as long as you stick with it.

4. Carry a notebook or get a notepad app on your phone.

You never know when inspiration might strike, or when you might find yourself with unexpected down time (waiting room at the dentist, getting an oil change, etc.). That’s a perfect opportunity to write.

5. Cut back on TV, gaming, or scrolling through social media.

Everyone’s least favorite tip, I know. But it helps. Instead of binging a new show for hours on end or getting sucked into TikTok, write. Plain and simple.

If you really want a show on, turn the TV on to a show you’ve seen before but still love. That way, you know you won’t miss anything, but still have background noise and something to clear your head if you get stuck with your writing.

6. When you sit down to write, actually write.

Don’t sit at your computer playing on Facebook or checking emails. Set aside time for that when you aren’t supposed to be writing. If you just can’t resist, put your computer in airplane mode and set your phone in a different room.

Now, shouldn’t you be working on your book?

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

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12 Hard Truths for New Writers

We all have our own idea of what a writer’s life is like. Whether it’s teapots and typewriters or coffee shops and laptops, rich and glamorous or starving artist, there are these images we have built up in our mind.

Regardless of what your preconceived notion of a writer’s life may be, there are a few universal truths.

So, if you want the wool pulled off your eyes, if you want to know the reality (rather than the expectation), here are a few hard truths that are better swallowed sooner rather than later.

Writing the book is often the easy part.
When you’re writing, you don’t have to worry about getting it perfect, and that alleviates some of the pressure that comes with later stages. (Yep, there are a lot of later stages.)

Writing isn’t always easy, though.
It isn’t all rainbows and magical typing sprees where your fingers magically compose thousands and thousands of words in a single session. It takes work, time, and dedication to go the distance.

No one is going to write your book for you.
At least, not unless you pay them. Ghost writers exist, but they do charge for their time and creative abilities. (As they should.)

Editing can be absolutely brutal.
You may end up scrapping scenes, chapters, or even entire characters. Getting feedback can be rather painful. But it’s necessary.

Editing can be immensely rewarding.
Figuring out the exact detail that fixes a plot hole can be a major high. Getting feedback can be unbelievably encouraging.

Traditional vs. indie is a big decision that should not be taken lightly.
Every author has different abilities and goals. As such, every author needs to consider their own strengths and weaknesses honestly when choosing their publishing route.
Just remember, you should never pay a publisher hundreds or thousands of dollars to publish your book. That’s a vanity press, and it’s a legal scam profiting off of authors who don’t know better. I made that mistake six and a half years ago. You don’t want to do it.

There are tons of resources to help you choose the right path for you.
From AuthorTube to the writing community on Instagram to writing groups on Facebook, there are millions of writers out there debating the same thing or actively pursuing one or the other.
Ask around. Most authors are more than willing to share what they know on the subject. Just keep in mind that your skill set is likely different from theirs. You should consider their experience in light of your skills and goals.

There will always be someone who doesn’t like your work.
Every person out there is different. Writing is in fact an artform, and thus, it’s subjective. The odds of everyone absolutely loving your book are… well… low. Really low. That doesn’t mean your book is bad or that you shouldn’t write it because…

There will always be someone who loves your work.
Since writing is such a subjective thing, there is an audience for every book. You just have to find it.

Marketing can be an absolute beast.
Between figuring out the best social media platform for you and your book and putting together compelling ads that convince people that they want to give you money and take a risk on your book by investing hours of their life into something they may or may not like, marketing is a beast that can be hard to tame.

There are a lot of classes tailored specifically for helping writers learn how to market their books.
Skillshare, Inkers Con, and a million writing coaches are out there waiting to show you the ropes. Just be sure to shop around to see what classes work for you and your budget.

There is no feeling quite like holding your book in your hands.
Holding a world that you’ve created, flipping through page after page that you’ve filled with characters and places that didn’t exist before is an absolute dream. It’s exhilarating.
And it makes all the difficult parts of being a writer 100% worth it.

So keep going.

Keep writing. Keep reading.

Later.

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How to Design a Book Cover: Part Three, Design Basics

Now that you have some basic knowledge of typography and some resources to pick and choose images from, lets talk about the art itself.

There are a lot of things that come into play when creating art, and the rules and practices change depending on the medium and the style you’re working within. There’s a reason it takes many people years of study to become proficient in any artform.

Today, we’re going to cover a few basics. But first, the most important thing to remember is that your cover needs to do a couple very specific things. It needs to get (good) attention, it needs to convey something about your book, and it needs to fit the genre of your book.

So, with those things in mind, here are some things to remember while selecting artwork:

Composition

A good composition will have a defined focal point. You don’t want your cover to have so much going on that it loses all focus. Then, you run the risk of confusing readers or just flat out scaring them away.

You can use leading lines to direct the viewer’s eyes to certain areas of the cover. These can be a sword or a sweep of hair or a lifted arm. You can use these leading lines to show the viewer around the cover or direct them to the focal point.

Odd numbers of items/people and ‘S’ curves are very appealing in compositions.

Color scheme

Do you need a color scheme? Yes.

Your cover should be cohesive. If you have clashing colors and no discernible reason for those colors to be there, you’ll only scare readers away.

Pick a few colors that work together and stick with them.

Eye-catching

The entire point of a cover is to draw readers in. Thus, it needs to catch their eye.

You don’t need a massive landscape shrunk to fit on the cover. You don’t have to have explosions and boobs.

You need something that is aesthetically pleasing, something that stands out.

Genre appropriate

And yet, your cover needs to fit in.

Every genre has trends. Sometimes it’s okay to break from trends, but they do happen for a reason. They show what readers expect from that genre and helps a reader easily identify what kind of book they’re looking at.

Study other books in your genre to get ideas of the current trends.

Relevancy

Your cover should tell potential readers something about your book specifically so they have an idea of what they’re getting into.

If you have a dragon on your cover, they know to expect a dragon in the story. If you have a sword and some magical effects, they know to expect a sword and sorcery type book.

If your cover has a bloody knife on the beach, they know to expect a summer murder story.

Make sure your story gives a hint at what they’ll find within the pages. Just don’t beat yourself up trying to get the whole story onto the cover. Again, you don’t want the cover to become overwhelming or confusing.

Lighting

If you’re combining different images, you need to make sure the lighting is the same in each one. The images will have their own light sources within them, coming from their own directions.

You need to flip the various elements to align these light sources, otherwise you might end up with a character whose boobs are lit from one direction, the highlights on their wings are on the wrong side, and their shadow goes a completely different direction.

And that just doesn’t look right.

You may even have to adjust the lighting and shadows manually in photo editing software.

Aspect Ratio

Don’t squish an image to fit it onto your cover. It will be obvious. And it will look terrible.

Borders

Please, don’t.

The picture already has a natural border. It’s called the edge of the cover.

Use all the space you have available on that cover. It’s your first attempt to draw a reader in. It’s a major marketing tool.

Why waste it with a border?

Of course, as with any artform, rules and advice are more like guidelines. Professionals can break any rule if they have sufficient reason and do it in a way that comes across as very intentional. It just takes a lot of skill and work to get it to work.

So, one of the most important things to do when designing a cover is to get feedback. From authors. From readers. From artists. Seek feedback, and listen. Make changes as necessary.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter here to stay up to date on all my books and get sneak peeks at my own covers and character art. Come back next week for more writing related tips and tricks.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

How to Design a Book Cover: Part Two, Resources

For those of you tuning in for the first time, I want to reiterate. A professional graphic designer is almost always the best option for your book cover. But some budgets just don’t allow for it, and believe me, I understand that.

So, for those of you who either can’t afford a pro or just want to make your covers yourself and don’t care if it’s advised against, I want to share some tips to help you do it just a little bit better.

I also want to start by saying that I am not an expert. Just an author with a background in art who’s made some mistakes and learned from them.

Last week, we discussed typography, an incredibly important, often underestimated part of the cover, so don’t forget to check that out next. This week, we’re talking about that beauty that goes behind the words.

The artwork.

You need good artwork. High resolution images, no watermarks. (Please pay for the art if it isn’t free. Don’t steal it or crop the watermark out.)

Please do not draw something by hand and then scan it into your computer. Your hand drawn art may be beautiful, but it isn’t the best medium for a book cover.

Please don’t jump into Microsoft Paint and just draw random things.

If you don’t have extensive experience with graphic design, your best bet is to find professional artwork. There are plenty of sites with gorgeous artwork available for commercial use for little to no money, and today, I’m going to list a few resources.

Canva
Great for sourcing free and paid images and illustrations.
Free and paid versions available.
Get started here.

Pexels
Tons of free images, videos, and vectors.
Option to donate to the artist to help support them.
Get started here.

Pixabay
Tons of free images, videos, and vectors.
Option to donate to the artist to help support them.
Get started here.

Artbreeder
Great for making landscapes, portraits, people, and creatures.
Commercial use allowed because you’re the one “creating” the artwork.
Takes some playing around to learn how to properly use it.
Free and paid versions available.
Get started here.

Now, for those with a little more experience, there are renders. You can buy bits and pieces, characters, props, backgrounds, and creatures. They do have to be pieced together in photo editing software to form a full image, so it requires a bit of knowledge with graphic design to get the lighting and layering correct.

Here’s my two favorite render sites:

The Render Shop
Wide variety of renders for every genre with more available almost every day.
Diverse and inclusive characters.
Freebie Friday.
Special things available to members of their Facebook group.
Get started here.

Sleepy Fox Studios
Diverse and inclusive characters.
Get started here.

All of these are great sources for artwork. Some require work to put them together (namely the renders), but all have the potential to help you produce a good cover.

Go forth and explore. Take some time to get ideas and play around. I’ll be back next Monday with a blog about picking appropriate images for your story.

Don’t forget to check out last week’s blog here to learn about the text that goes on the cover.

If you like gritty stories with lots of character development, sign up for my newsletter here to get a free short story and stay up to date on all my books.

How to Design a Book Cover: Part One, Typography

We all know that a professional graphic designer is almost always the best option for your book cover. But some budgets just don’t allow for it, and believe me, I understand that.

So, for those of you who either can’t afford a pro or just want to make your covers yourself and don’t care if it’s advised against, I want to share some tips to help you do it just a little bit better.

Now, let me start by saying that I am not an expert. Just an author with a background in art who’s made some mistakes and learned from them.

So, I’ll be doing a two part blog series all about book cover design.

First and foremost, we need to talk about typography.

You might be wondering why I’m not starting with the images behind the text, because after all, it’s just text on the cover. The picture is all that really matters, right?

No. The words on the cover, their placement, the font, the size, the color, all of these things are incredibly important.

You cannot just slap some text on your cover and call it done. Bad typography can ruin a cover, even if you have a beautiful piece of art behind it. When you get it right, it can make a world of difference.

Since typography is so often underestimated, that’s where we’re starting. So, let’s dive in.

1. You don’t need a super fancy font.

I know, if you’re just starting out with graphic design, you might think you need all the curlicues and flourishes, or maybe a drippy font to look like blood if you write horror. But you don’t.

You need a legible font.

If people can’t read it, they probably aren’t going to zoom in and stare at it trying to figure out what it says.

Look at big name books. The fonts are simple so people can read them easily. There might be a little thing added here and there, but not many. The super ornate, cheesy fonts don’t get a lot of air time.

It’s hard to go wrong with a good sans or serif font. There are tons of fonts within either of those types. Just search for either “sans” or “serif” in the fonts of whatever program you’re using.

If you’re stumped (because there are a ton of these fonts), do a Google search to see what’s commonly used in your genre.

Some genres use a secondary font to make one word in the title pop, but for the most part, try to limit your fonts to one or two.

2. There is absolutely nothing wrong with black, white, or gray/silver text.

You don’t have to color match your text to your cover. Your main goal is to have that text be as readable as possible while still looking appropriate for the cover. The colors mentioned above are great for that.

And while we’re on this topic, avoid using one color for this and another color for that and a third color for something else and a fourth and a fifth…

Some genres use a bold color (or a cursive font, as mentioned above) to make one word in the title pop, but for the most part, try to limit your font colors to one, maybe two.

3. Center your text.

There are occasions where off-center text can help balance the composition of the art on the cover (a thing that we’ll get into when we talk about artwork), but the vast majority of the time, it should be centered.

4. Don’t be afraid to take up some real estate with your name and title.

Don’t squash all the words down, hiding them in a corner to show nothing but that art. Yes, the art is important, but that’s not what people are going to type into a search bar to find your book.

They’re not going to go tell their book lover friend, “Hey, you should read that book with the dragon on it.” And if they do, their friend is probably never going to be able to find your book.

The title and author name should be easy to read, and since the thumbnail of your book is the thing they’re most likely to see, that means the words need to be big enough to read even if the cover is shown at a small size.

Especially your author name.

If someone searches for your book title, awesome, they find your book. If they search for your name, they find ALL your books.

And for people who have read your work before, seeing your name might be all it takes to get them to buy another book.

But let me put it simply.

How do you expect to take up space in the market if you don’t even take up space on your own cover?

5. Big text means partially covering your artwork, and that’s okay.

People will still see that beautiful piece of art. The text isn’t likely to be big block letters that cover everything. And if it is, you can always play with transparencies to show the image through the text.

Just don’t do that with a really spindly font.

Now, with these tips in mind, review whatever cover you’ve created for your book. As with every art form, these are, of course, guidelines more so than rules. Every one of these things has its exception.

But they’re good guides to follow.

If you’re ever in doubt, get feedback from other authors, artists, and book lovers. And please, go into the feedback process expecting negative and positive feedback, ready to learn and improve and grow.

Come back next week for some tips about the artwork behind the typography.

Don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date on all my books, releases, and giveaways. I send my newsletter out every Monday with exclusive content and sneak peeks, and there’s a free short story ready for download on sign-up.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.