Cristy Burne

Blending STEM, literacy and creativity to enthuse, engage and empower

Self publishing: How to design a cover in 5 easy steps

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Tamatori being pursued bya dragon by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Tamatori being pursued bya dragon by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

If you’re self-publishing, you’re going to need a cover. And let’s face it, people judge a book by its cover.

When I decided to self-publish Takeshita Demons 4, I looked into asking Siku, the awesome artist behind the brilliant covers of the first three Takeshita Demons books, to do the fourth.

This would have been the best, but more expensive path. However, I knew I wasn’t going to make loads of cash from this project, so I needed to keep costs down. This meant making my own cover, which has actually been REALLY FUN!.

Lower costs means I can afford to give the book away, which means more people can read it.

And let’s face it. That’s the best I can hope for after the journey MerMonster has been on.

So, in four easy steps, this is how I recommend you design a fast-and-freaky cover for your project:

1) Start with artwork that’s in the public domain.

For me, this was easy. Since I write about Japanese mythology, there’s a lot of incredible artwork from 100+ years ago that I could adopt.

Even better, since MerMonster draws on ocean mythology from the Dragon King, Ryūjin, and his underwater kingdom, Utagawa Kuniyoshi‘s image of brave Princess Tamatori escaping from the dragon was perfect.

2) Download the awesome-and-free Paint.NET

I used to play with Photoshop, but then I found Paint.NET. Download it, do stuff with it. It’s the best. For me, it’s everything Photoshop can do but free. And free is nice.

3) Clean your image 

Your book cover is going to be shrunk to the size of a wizened plum when people see it on-screen. Take your magic wand and eraser and strip back your image. Take away anything that doesn’t scream at you: THIS BOOK ROCKS. 

For me, this mean several thousand iterations of the same thing, getting simpler and simpler each time. First I removed text. Then I removed some waves. Then I removed the princess (sorry princess). Then fish started to go. Octopus disappeared. I cleaned and cleaned.

4) Work out where your words will go (or not)

Somewhere on your cover, you’re going to need to put your name and your book’s name. Or not. In fact, if you’re only publishing as an e-book, you don’t even need this info. Think about it: most times people see your book, there’s going to be descriptive text next to it, and if there’s not, it’s only a click away. So, rather than cram words onto your thumbnail image, maybe go for something so intriguing that people can’t help but engage.

I didn’t do this. I had a great font from the first three books, so I just recycled this.

Takeshita Demons 4


5) Mess around.

Play around with effects, change colours, brighten teeth, enhance eyes, move text, change backgrounds…Just play. I spent a few hours messing about and was happy I did.

And that’s it. Hit SAVE. And smile.

For me, this whole exercise is a game.

I have nothing to lose, and readers to gain, so all I’m aiming for is to encourage you to open my book and have a look. I’m confident that once that happens, you’ll be hooked.  Or that’s the plan 🙂


Like this post? You might also like:

How to write a synopsis: Four big secrets and an example

Self publishing: How to design a cover in 5 easy steps

How to keep your New Year Resolution: Papier mache daruma dolls

Takeshita Demons: help us choose the cover art

8 cool myths about dogs, and why the inugami dog-god didn’t make it

Do you love monsters? Searching for games, activities or cool Japan-related teaching resourcesgames, activities or cool Japan-related teaching resources? If your answer is YES, you should check out the resources section of my website. Have fun!




Why I’m self-publishing: Takeshita Demons 4 has risen from the dead

Takeshita Demons 4


Takeshita Demons has a long history for me…

The books helped me get a start in publishing, introduced me to thousands of fabulous people, gave me the opportunity to present at local and international writing festivals, and encouraged me to keep writing.

From Takeshita Demons 1, 2 and 3…

Takeshita Demons 4 was never meant to happen.

After I won the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award, I pitched Takeshita Demons as a trilogy, and my new publisher, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, accepted.

Woo hoo! My journey into book publishing began.

“Any chance of a book 4?”

When Book 1 came out, great things happened, more than I could ever have expected.

Book 2 and Book 3 followed in successive years and my publishers wanted more: “Any chance of a book 4?”

Under the sea!

Well, after years of writing about Miku Takeshita and her pals, I was thrilled to join them on another adventure.

Japan, being an island, has a lot of awesome aquatic monsters, I decided my heroes would journey under the sea.

After researching and writing the book for a year, I sent it off, hoping my publishers loved it as much as I did… The response was quick and positive…They did love it! Hooray! All systems were go to see Takeshita Demons 4 out in shops.

Then, disaster!

Frances Lincoln were bought out by a larger printing house, and a few months later their entire middle grade and YA lines were cutMer-Monster was left without a home. (But I got to keep the advance…YAY!)

What to do?

Here I had a great manuscript just sitting on my computer. What to do? I figured the answer was to self-publish, as simply as possible, to make the story available, as cheaply as possible.

Tanoshinde kudasai: Please enjoy

Takeshita Demons 4 doesn’t have the great cover design of the first three books (the first three were done by Siku), and you can’t buy it in shops, but you can grab it for cheap-as-chips off or so you can read it on your computer, or phone, or download a free Kindle-reader app and read it on your laptop, or print it out, colour it in and call it a book. It’s up to you.

Happy reading!

I really hope you enjoy MerMonster. If even one fan gets a kick out of reading it, I’ll be happy. 🙂