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So You’d Like to be a Cover Artist?
We’ve undergone some huge technological shifts the last decade, and the world of publishing is just one area that’s been turned on it’s head. For better or worse, there’s been an epic boom in self-publishing and small press releases. This is largerly due to the growing popularity of e-reader devices (Kindle, iPad, Nexus etc.) and distribution platforms such as Amazon… but what does this mean to the Digital Artist?
One Door Closes, Another Opens
These are turbulent times in the media landscape. A decade ago, many Photoshop practitioners could ply their trade, creating promotional materials and album covers for musicians alone. Tragically the industry took a massive hit, unable to adapt to the aggressive forward charge of technology. Many people simply stopped paying for music.
Whilst there are still opportunities to create work for ‘live’ events, bill posters, event flyers and the such – opportunities in the sector are far fewer than yesterday.
E-Books (and printed books) however are on an upward trajectory in terms of sales, largely due to the novelty of new technologies, competitive pricing and a huge choice of formats. More books, more covers, more work for the Digital Artist.
The Double Edged Sword
Whenever a sector is democratized in such a way, the flood-gates are kicked open, and the unwashed hordes rush in.
Take away the gate-keepers, and ‘real bad’ literature gets to share the platform; even though it’s littered with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and nonsensical plots. The same happened in the graphic design sector… whereby anyone with a cracked copy of Photoshop and a Fiverr account were now ‘Graphic Designers’, hawking their wares with reckless abandon.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and while the ease of access does cause an issue of massive saturation… learning to rise above the noise is paramount.
Art Isn’t Enough
I’ve seen many fellow Digital Artists take a crack at book cover design.
While most have a flair for creating compelling artwork, there are many working at the raw amateur level in Layout and Typography. It is instantly noticeable.
I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t a ‘natural’ in the field of type, I only managed to get there through grinding repetition.. Sixteen years of designing event flyers, and you’ll eventually pick a few things up!!
Type and Layout is arguably the biggest stumbling block for those entering the cover art game – and it’s a skillset that can make the difference between supplying competent authors / publishers, or being relegated to the weekend warrior crowd. Repetition is the most surefire way to improve, as with anything, so ensure you get those hours in.
Your Photoshop prowess is world class. You can arrange typographic and visual elements like a digital alchemist… now what?
The key to securing work in the book cover sphere is the same within any industry. Connect with your clients. This doesn’t mean force feeding everyone your special deals on Facebook timelines, Twitter and elsewhere. Repeatedly screeching out the following will annoy your prospective clients, not endear them to your story:
“Hay guys, new covers for sale on my site!! Check them out!! Tuesday Special!! Only $4!!”
It’s good to keep a steady flow of project updates, news and content flowing through your various channels however. It keeps you relevant in the mind of those that you are connected with; but ensure your output is quality, and most of all – consistent. In this age we are finely tuned to blank out commercial messages – you have to bring value with your content.
Approach all social engagements in a professional manner and carve out a ‘brand identity’. Identifying with a certain niche, whether it’s literary or visually, will help seperate you from the pack. A unique proposition will allow you to rise above the noise that we discussed previously.
Cover Art Unleashed
The boom in literature definitely made me a take a u-turn with my own creative services, and there’s a plenty of opportunities for Digital Artists / Photomanipulators who have the chops for the finer aspects of cover design. If you’d like to learn more, there’s now an exciting addition to our Photoshop training suite – ‘Cover Art Unleashed’.
Cover Art Unleashed is a brand new step-by-step video guide, that covers the raw fundamentals of designing book covers in Photoshop:
1. Introduction – Course Overview
2. Visual Research – Active Reference, Reverse-Engineering Layout
3. General Setup – File settings, Dimensions, Document Setup
4. Type 101 – Legibility, Typefaces, Positioning
5. Type Control – Kerning, Tracking, Leading, Basline Shift, Paragraphs
6. Type Processing – Type Effects, Processing
7. Layout & Templates – Rulers, Guides, Templates, Groups
8. Output – Compression, PDF, Optimizing for Web
9. 3D Mockups – Book Cover Mockups, Actions
10. Clients & Freelance – Fundamentals of Freelancing
Sound like your cup of tea? Be sure to check out the FULL COURSE.
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