Warning: By no means am I professional graphic artist or a teacher.
The first step to cover making for me is to figure out what the hell I want. In part, it's looking at what other books in my genre look like. If you're following along, I cannot stress enough, don't skip this step. It's not enough to make a cover. The point of the cover is to sell your book.
I repeat. Don't skip this step.
I'm sure someone's done the actual math, but I'd say you have less three seconds to tell someone what the book is about with your cover. (Don't believe me, go to your favorite place to buy books and see how fast you scroll through those covers until you stop. And take a minute to study the cover you stopped on.) I personally like to brand my series. In all honesty, I should do a complete overhaul of all my covers and brand all my books. But hindsight is 20/20 and right now my time is limited. That's neither here or there. Before my time runs out I want folks to be able to guess the genre. If I've done my job, I should be able to convey the heat level.
So, when I'm looking for what I want, I hit Amazon. They have an incredible search engine. I write contemporaries so I type in “contemporary romance.” I even cheat a little and go to the top 100 bestseller lists sometimes.
I like the look of this. It says erotic to me. So I have the option of picking just the hero or the heroine to be on the cover.
Again, I like this. I've seen something similar so I know it's likely a romance. I'm picking up these cues from the way the material is swirled. The font of the title. You likely won't see that font on Of Mice and Men.
To couple or not to couple?
Modern clothes on a couple in a heated embrace. Clean fonts that you can see in thumbnail. A script that's bigger than the rest of the words.
There's a couple with inanimate objects and vectors. Very bright colors so I'm guessing this is going to be a light and fun contemporary. With the above, there's a banner. I'm not a fan of them. Until I hit a snag and then all can be solved with a banner. The kind of snags I'm talking about has everything to do with font. I might set aside a whole post about font, because it can make or break your cover.
So even though I'm not a fan of banners, I'm keeping them in mind. Matter of fact, I'm totally in love with Farrah Rochon's Moments in Mapeville covers. She could, conceivable use every color of the rainbow and still you'd know it's a series because of the banners used, the inanimate objects, etc.
This is important and smart because font is a very important factor.
A gradient is definitely a good replacement for a banner. So I could put my name and the title at the bottom or top of a cover. Hell, if I'm feeling fancy, on the side.
Even though I like this cover, it's just too dark for what I write:
And speaking of landscapes.
A couple, just their feet:
Hands instead of feet.
Just by doing this I'm getting a better picture of what I want. I'd rather use a gradient than a banner. I don't want couples unless it's something like their hands or feet. If I do find some hands and feet, it'll be “sweet-ish” instead of “erotic-ish” because that's the tone of my story. I want a light color scheme. Because I've done this cover making before, I want to steer clear of scripts for the fonts, along with black and white stock photos.
The next part is likely going to be the most time consuming. I'm heading to stock photo sites. Blergh.