Summer School – Graphics for Writers – Guest A.K.R. Scott

Summer School Graphic 2019

Please join me in extending a warm welcome to A.K.R. Scott to the blog. A.K.R. Scott is an indie-published author of three full-length novels in her YA Fantasy series The Music Makers, with another one coming soon! Today she has agreed to come talk with us about graphics: where to find royalty-free images, how to create your own graphics even if you aren’t an artist, and some places you can go to find great book-cover designers!

Graphics for Writers
by: A. K. R. Scott

AmandaHeadshotWriters are artists, and our medium is words. We paint pictures, capture readers’ imaginations, and illicit powerful emotional responses by artfully rearranging 26 letters into infinite story possibilities.

But, if you’re an indie author, or considering a self-publishing business model, you must move beyond words and into the realm of visual art. Book covers, illustrations, social media graphics, bookmarks, swag, etc. These things are part of the indie author package, and, as the creative director of your self-publishing journey, it’s up to you to bring these visuals to life.

“But wait!” you say. “I’m a writer, not a graphic designer!”

Fear not. By the end of this post, you’ll have the resources you need to produce professional-level content, even if you can’t draw a straight line.

Where can I get photos?

Images abound on the internet, but be careful where you get them and how you use them. Finding a pic on Google is easy, but you may not be legally allowed to use it.

Websites that provide stock photos are a great option. You can buy photo packages through providers like Shutterstock or Getty Images. 

OR, you can find gorgeous free stock images on sites like Pixabay, Unsplash, and Pexels. All the photos on these sites are free to use for personal and commercial use with no attribution required to the photographer. Of course, attribution is always encouraged, because that’s just good manners. *grin*

No matter where you find your photos, always check the image licensing agreement carefully to ensure you’re within your legal rights to use the image the way you intend.

How can I come up with graphics that don’t make me cringe?

There are some powerful graphics programs out there, like Photoshop or Illustrator, that will allow you to make just about any kind of graphic you could imagine. But most of them have a bit of a learning curve and carry a high price tag.

That’s why I love Canva. Canva is an online graphic design tool that is readily available to everyone and so easy to use. They have a bank of free and $1 images and illustrations to choose from, or you can upload your own pictures. One of the best features about Canva is their wide variety of templates. Plug in your photos, select your color scheme, and you have a visually pleasing graphic that makes you look like a design pro. 

The free version of Canva will allow you to do just about anything you want. They also offer a paid version which comes with other helpful tools, like the ability to instantly resize projects and animate designs.

Where can I find a book cover designer?

People absolutely judge a book by its cover. So, finding a cover that’s both visually pleasing and targets your intended audience is crucial. Fortunately, it’s totally doable!

One great place to find a cover designer is in the front or back matter of a book whose cover appeals to you. Some authors, especially indie authors, will credit their cover designers either on the copyright page or in the acknowledgements of their books. This is how I found the cover designer for my YA fantasy series.

Another place to look is writer-centric Facebook groups. Some groups have members who are also cover designers – the Realm Makers Consortium comes to mind. And some, like Clean Indie Fantasy, have documents listing other author services, such as cover design, offered by group members.

If you’re looking for something off the shelf, or if you need a cover quickly, you can go for a premade book cover. With a premade cover, there are (usually) fewer customization options, but the price is (usually) on the lower end. There are tons of premade covers available online. Check out SelfPubBookCovers or The Book Cover Designer to get you started.

Where can I find an illustrator (for my book cover, children’s book, swag, etc.)?

Your main character looks vivid in your mind, but if you want him front and center on your custom bookmarks, you’ll need to transfer your mental picture to paper. 

Many people have had luck connecting with illustrators on Fiverr. Fiverr is full of people offering a wide variety of services starting at $5. If you’re looking for a caricature of your MC, you might find that for the starting price. But, if you want a full color illustration prepare to pay more.

Another place to search for illustrators is DeviantArt. You can lose days scrolling through the vast assortment of artists and art styles represented on this website. If you find one that speaks to you, check out the artist’s profile. Many of them take commission requests. 

What if I want to take my graphics to the next level?

Say you picked up a premade book cover, but you’re not a fan of the limited font choices available. Or maybe you’re comfortable with Illustrator, but your fantasy map needs a little more oomph. 

Check out Creative Market. There, you’ll find photos, web themes, fonts, graphics, even 3D fantasy characters and settings. Most of their products are for sale, although they offer a handful of free downloads every week. And as always, make sure you read and understand all licensing agreements.

Whether you’re a bootstrapping DIYer, or whether you plan to outsource everything, I hope you’ll find these resources useful. Coming up with visual elements for your book and author brand doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can be a lot of fun!


A. K. R. Scott, author of The Music Maker Series, writes clean YA fantasy with strong female characters, magical adventures, and a dash of romance. She spent her youth devouring books, and she honed her storytelling and character development performing live theater. When she’s not writing, you can find her making music, guzzling coffee, and fussing over her #bookstagram account. She lives in Texas with her husband, two daughters, one rascally dog, and an ever-expanding library.

Follow A.K.R. Scott around the interwebs:

And check out the first book in her YA Fantasy Series: Inharmonic, available on Amazon!

~ jenelle

3 Comments

Energyflux2012

Pixabay works wonders. Combine that with a program like GIMP or Photoshop and you can do some nice graphic design. I just finished my first two book covers, in fact.

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jenelle

I do like PIxabay. GIMP and Photoshop are both outside my skill-level, but thankfully my husband is quite capable with both of those AND super supportive of my author-stuff. (He made my Summer School graphic for me) :) I’m quite jealous of anyone who can auth AND art!! :)

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DJ Edwardson

Great post. Lots of links and helpful suggestions. Thank you!

I checked out your site, A. K. R. Scott and I love the map. Talk about taking it to the next level. That was amazing! I’d love to know how you came up with that.

All the best to you with your writing and thanks for the post!

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