Publishing Erotica Part 8 – Designing Your Cover
Covers are the single most important marketing tool you have. It is what people are going to see first when they’re browsing on Amazon or other retail sights. Your cover is what will first spark their interest. In erotica, that means having hot, sexy, sultry covers. Sex sells, and, after all, you’re writing sex, so use it.
But there is a caveat. Don’t make your covers too sexy or you’ll find yourself locked up in Amazon’s adult dungeon. And that will impact your sales. So you will want to avoid it. There are certain guidelines you need to follow.
- Lingerie, panties, bras, bikinis are all perfectly okay to have on your model, but beware for showing too much cleavage, especially underboob and side boob.
- Your model’s ass should be covered. The fact she’s wearing a thong or even a narrow bikini won’t matter. If too much butt-cheek is showing, it’ll get you filtered. If she’s not wearing a tight skirt, jeans, etc, don’t let her ass appear. Show her from the waist up.
- Beware mesh clothing. When you’re browsing stock photos, they’re small and it’s can be hard to realize that those panties she’s wearing are sheer and when it’s blown up, you can see it all (this happened to me and Amazon pulled my book and had me redo the cover).
- Model cannot be undressing their underwear. Unbuttoned shirts and blouses are fine, men’s bare chests A-ok, but a bra’s strap slipping off her shoulder or her fingers are just pushing down the waistline of her panties, you are looking at a filter.
- Couples can be kissing and embracing, just make sure their hands are away from each other’s naughty places.
- Hand bras (the woman is covering her tits with her hands) or other objects are hiding her nudity but it’s pretty clear she’s naked or topless, will also adult filter. Now, you can show a naked back so if the model’s turned away, and her ass isn’t showing, you should be fine.
Follow these guidelines and it, hopefully, won’t be your cover that gets you adult filtered. If you ever have a question about your stock photo, ask other erotica authors there opinion. Join an erotica author group on Facebook or Reddit. I’m a member of the Erotic Writers Collective. You’ll always find someone willing to answer your question in that group.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, where do you go to get stock photos. You have three options:
- Hirer your own models and either photograph them yourself or pay someone to do it.
- Scrounge image sights for Creative Commons License photos cleared for Commercial Use. Flickr is a great place for that (their search allows you to specify commercial use) and there are other websites and databases out there. Make sure you can use the photo and give it the proper attribution.
- Use a Stock Photo Site. I recommend Depositphoto.com since they allow their stock photos to be used for erotica (not all stock photo sites will). It’s probably best to cover the model’s eyes to make it harder to identify her. This way, people won’t know the model’s on your step-father/step-daughter breeding erotica.
- Hirer an artist to draw your cover. I do not recommend this one for erotica. Use real people over a drawn image.
Out of the three options, number 1 is the most expensive, with number 2 only costing you time (potentially lots of time as you struggle to find something sexy and usable on Amazon). Option 3 is what I use. Now buying a stock photo by itself is not cheap. You have to buy credits from the sites and usually if you want a decent size on the photo, you’re looking at ten dollars for the image (if not more). That will cut into your profit margin.
You can buy the lowest quality stock photo. Believe it or not scaling those photos up in GIMP and Photoshop will yield quality pictures that do not look terrible on a cover. They are not pixalated. Those softwares have algorithms to scale them properly. Then you’re only paying a few dollars. But this still isn’t the cheapest way per stock image.
Stock photo sites have subscription services that allow you to get a lot of stock photos. Depositphoto had a number of plans. You want the Daily Subscription plan. Currently [as of May 9, 2016], their cheapest plan is $99.00. That gives you 10 stock images a day for a 30 day period. That’s $0.33 an image. Now I know getting 300 stock images is a lot, but if you want to get in the game of making money at short form erotica, you will use those photos over the next two or so years. It’s an investment. For that same $99.00 if you bought your stock photos individually you could get probably 10 high quality photos or 50 low quality photos. With the subscription, you get those high quality photos and a lot of them.
If you do go this route, make sure you select your 10 photos everyday. THEY DO NOT CARRY OVER. Download every image you’ll think you’ll need for a cover. Sexy women in various outfits (cover your bases, schoolgirl, nurses, bikers, cowgirls, party dresses, etc) and hot men for gay or romance covers. If you think you’ll get into writing any shifter erotica, snag nature pics of wolves, bears, lions, and other animals. Need banners and logos for branding, see what they got. Spend time searching their site before committing to the subscription. Add pics to favorites, be organized. Going the subscription plan is an investment.
Now there is another way to get stock photos cheap. There is a sight called App Sumo. A few times a year they have a special offer to get 100 credits (1 credit gets you a high quality stock photo) from Depositphoto for $50. The great thing about credits is they don’t ever expire so you can use them as you need them and they still let you get the same quality photo as the subscription plan.
(On another note, App Sumo often has sales to get other software, including Scrinver, for cheap, so it’s worth it to be signed up for the newsletter. Further, I have no business relation with either Depositphoto or App Sumo).
I have used both the daily subscription from Depositphoto and the App Sumo deal.
Addendum: I have been informed by Jessie Ash since posting that Canva has $1 for a finished cover and there is something called 99designs.com. I can’t vouch for these services, but you can check them out and see if they work for you.
However you choose to get your cover photos or image, you need to put it together. You can go to fiverr.com and higher someone for $5 to make a cover for you. It will look polished and professional. I use a graphic artist I met on fiverr.com who now runs her own website, Silverheart Publishing, that does all my novella covers for me. But paying someone to make your cover cuts into your profit margin.
You can make your own covers yourself. In Part 2 – What You Need, I talked about software that can make your cover. There are websites that have simple cover designers or you can use GIMP for free or get Photoshop. Either way, you want to go on Youtube and watch tutorials. You want to learn about layers, you want to learn about how to manipulate text. You want to learn about how to outline your text and make drop shadows or blurs. You’ll want to know how to manipulate an image (scaling will be your friend). Learn about layer masking and layer modes, and how to recolor images. There’s a lot to learn to make good covers.
Next you want to find fonts. The ones on your computer are rubbish. They suck. Don’t use them. Goggle for good fonts to use for cover. I would recommend this article which has over 300 different font suggestions that are free to use and for a lot of genres. Find fonts you think look good. Experiment.
Once you have fonts, you want to make a template for your stories. Your image should be made at 1400×2100 or a multiplication of that size. But 1400×2100 makes it big enough to meet the image minimum size for every place you will publish and has a nice aspect ratio. Your template is important. You want to be able to change the title, series, and slap your new cover image without changing anything else. Templates are great. They make it faster to make a cover and provide a way to brand your work. That’s important. You want people to look at the cover and know it’s one of your covers. When you’re in the template stage, show it to other authors, get feedback.
I’ve talked about branding before and it’s important. On the covers I make myself, I have my author name and logo in the same spot on all my covers. My various series have different cover templates, but they all spring off the original. Branding is important. Your author name is the first piece of your branding, make sure it’s noticeable.
Look at what other authors, successful ones, use for their colors and fonts. Don’t copy them, but just pay attention. Reds, Purples, Pinks, Black, White are all great colors for erotica fonts and their shadows our outlines. When you make your covers, make sure it’s readable when its a small image.
Here are a few of my series to see the different templates I use:
As you can see, only the Battered Lamp Template doesn’t have my author name in quite the same spot. It’s one of my first templates. Both it and the Aphrodite Sisterhood templates use a different ration of 1400×1867, a ratio I used when I first started out. The Aphrodite Sisterhood Stories are the only things I still use with that aspect ratio.by