Just a quick note about two recent discoveries of interest to book designers:
Best Listing of Stock Image Websites
Book designer Scarlett Rugers has put together what is probably the most comprehensive source of stock image websites on the web. Not only does she include price ranges, types of images, and breadth of selection, she also lists keywords so you can do a quick search on page (command-F in Safari, for instance). Plus Scarlett rates each site on a 1 to 5 scale. Fantastic resource! Thanks to Scarlett for her hard work on this.
The Best Commercial-Use Free Fonts
We just came across a site called FontSquirrel which appears to be kind of Shelfbuzz for typefaces. Here’s how they describe themselves:
Free fonts have met their match. We know how hard it is to find quality freeware that is licensed for commercial work. We’ve done the hard work, hand-selecting these typefaces and presenting them in an easy-to-use format.
As of this writing, FontSquirrel has over 750 typefaces (no, they are not “fonts”) that are licensed for commercial use. This is an important distinction. While there are thousands of free typefaces available online, many of them are not licensed for commercial use. Which means that if you use a typeface that isn’t free for commercial use (like Xtreem from dafont.com below), you must license the typeface in order to use it. All the typefaces at FontSquirrel are free for commercial use, so you can use them for book covers or other products that are offered for sale.
Here’s a quick tip in our Cover Design Mistakes series: don’t use unmodified royalty-free (stock) images. While we were sorting through hundreds of book covers to put together today’s list of Handpicked Free Kindle Books, we came across these two covers:
Actually, the issue is using an unmodified image in a cover design. It’s a mistake. Why? These days custom photography is beyond the budget of most designers—so most photography used on book covers is royalty-free, stock photography licensed from sites like iStockPhoto. And although iStockPhoto will give you 2909 results when you search for “knight,” the following image is on the top of the second page of search results (sorted by most popular).
This means that if you don’t modify the image via cropping, coloring, or other effects, your book cover could look exactly the same as the next author’s.
The Hunger Games series of books by Suzanne Collins (published by Scholastic Press) feature unique covers with a distinctive typeface and well-designed icons. But what if Ms. Collins decided to self publish instead? And what if she skipped the professional cover designer and decided to get busy with Photoshop?
Here’s what we think she might have come up with—complete with free stock photography (squished to fit), self-pub-fave typefaces, err— “fonts” (Papyrus and Bleeding Cowboys), bad kerning, and inexplicable spooky eyes.
Is this better than the original? Let us know.
Credits: Design by Trixie @ Shelfbuzz.com. Photos by vierdrie and mrsmas (stock.xchng).
To see good book cover design, visit or subscribe to shelfbuzz.com where we handpick the best free Kindle books every day based on their cover designs.
In today’s Handpicked Free Kindle Book post, we chose Michael West’s Poseidon’s Children as one of our selected books (based on a professional looking cover). It’s an arresting image and definitely stood out among the 300 or so covers we reviewed today.
But something about the cover seemed awfully familiar. It took us a few hours to figure it out, but here’s the “inspiration” for that cover:
Welcome to Book Cover Design Mistakes, a new series of posts on Shelfbuzz which help identify common mistakes of amateur book designers. In Part 5 of this series, we’ll shine the spotlight of shame on to covers with too many images. This is a simple mistake, yet a common one. The author/designer comes to the conclusion that if one image is good, multiple images must be better.
The next cover, Labyrinth, wants us to know the story has fighting, loving, and castles—so all of those elements are slapped on the cover.
Bottom Line: most professionally-designed book covers use a strong central image and don’t clutter the design with extraneous elements.