cozy artwork featured

Creating a Cozy Mystery Cover Part 2

I need cozy artwork, images that suggest a cozy mystery experience for my novel The Task of Auntie Dido. In my previous posts, I talked about researching cozy mystery covers, and my process for creating the Kindle cover. This time I'm talking about the process I followed to select and use artwork for the cover.

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Cozy Artwork, DIY vs. Buy?

I want to have my own artwork on the covers of my books. The trouble is, that has held me back from sharing my work. I think many indie authors will choose to have someone else design their covers, working with the designer to come up with a professional and effective cover. That is the smart way to go!

There's a good argument for focusing on writing, and working with other people on things like covers. Trying to do it all myself has slowed my progress and has contributed to making it hard for people to find my books. I know this. I also know that I enjoy learning about design, art, typography and all the rest. That said, I've decided that I need to compromise if I'm going to get my books. I'll put the covers together, but will use artwork created by other artists (for now). I still want to create original artwork but that is the piece that has held things up.

Finding Artwork

I turned to Dreamstime.com for cozy artwork. They offer a number of credit or subscription plans that can be used to download artwork. The subscriptions generally offer a better deal and allow you to download the images at whatever resolution you desire. Dreamstime also uses a royalty-free license that works well for e-books and print books.

In my previous post, I talked about my plan to use silhouetted figures on the cover. Since I decided to purchase rather than create the figures, I started my search looking for vector silhouettes of an old woman and a cat.

There are  a lot of results. It is worth the time to explore, check out related or similar images, and consider what will work for the cover.

cozy artwork

Choosing Cozy Artwork

I ended up selecting two sets of vectors, one for each. Since these are sets, it meant that I had different poses to experiment with and can use others with other stories. After adding the figures, I still felt like the cover needed something more. I ended up downloading a third image of a Victorian house, which I added behind the orange overlay and applied effects to give it some texture.

Final Touches

I like this new cover much better than the one that I created for the first edition of the book several years ago. It will be interesting to see if readers respond to the cover. I think it fits well with the elements that I noted when looking at other cozy covers. I have a few things to do with the interior files but I hope to have it finished and available by the end of the week.

Next up? Designing Science Fiction Covers. I have plans for a new edition of Dark Matters and for a brand new release, Stowaway to Eternity.

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alternate e-book cover

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C. Auguste Dupin expects simple things out of his day. A sunny spot beside the fountain to nap. His tuna delivered at precisely the right time by librarian Penny Copper. He didn’t expect someone to stuff bodies in the book returns and disrupt his entire day!

The only thing left to do? Apply his considerable intellect to the task of identifying the killer while guiding Penny to the answer.

Covers design

Creating a Cozy Mystery Cover

I already covered researching a cozy mystery cover and gave the example of changes I made to The Murders in the Reed Moore Library. Now I'll go through the steps I follow to create a brand new cover for my C. Auguste Dupin novel, The Task of Auntie Dido.

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Illustrating a Book Cover

I'm using Adobe Illustrator CC for this project, but this isn't going to turn into an Illustrator tutorial. You could use any program that allows you to use text and images together and export the result to a suitable image format for your ebook.

I'll also start out focusing on the Amazon Kindle guidelines and compare those to guidelines on other sites.

Image Size

For Kindle, the recommended image size is 2,560 x 1,600 pixels. I'll use those dimensions and save it as a preset in Illustrator for future projects. This ensures that I get the dimensions right for my project. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offers extensive help for details on each stage of the project.

KDP ebook Cover preset

Fonts

I want to use the same fonts that I used for the first story. I'll open that file and copy over the text to my new project. That way I have everything the same for the new project, lending to a consistent sort of branding for the new title.

So here's the interesting thing: I hadn't made sure that the cover image for the previous ebook was the recommended image size! When I copied and pasted the text it was much too small! That meant spending more time adjusting the typography to get the sizes right. With the CC library I can save elements, which is another way to move artwork, colors, or other items between projects.

Colors

I used black, white, and red in the last cover. I'd like to keep some of those, but I want to try out other colors for some of the elements in the book. A cozy mystery cover tends to feature bright colors. I have some ideas for colors to try out.

In my Illustrator document I have the text on one layer and a background layer with a filled rectangle set to black. I've locked both and created a layer in between that I will use for the illustration. I'm going to start with another filled rectangle to test out colors.

I considered different possible colors and ended up with an orange color that I like. I add a gradient effect so the color becomes lighter near the top of the book.

Cozy Mystery Cover Gradient

Iconic Illustration

With the previous title, I used a simple silhouette of a cat in front of a book to capture key elements of the story. For this title I want to do something similar, except I think that I want silhouettes of an older woman and a cat on the cover. The quickest way to do that would be to purchase the artwork. In this case, I'd like to take a stab at it myself and see what I can come up with on my own.

Cover Designs

How to Research Cover Designs For a Cozy Mystery

Effective cover designs entice us to pick up books. Good cover designs tell us what kind of experience we can expect from the book—before we even read any text on the cover. I talked about the importance of cover design in my post on releasing books fast. I want to relaunch my cozy mystery The Task of Auntie Dido, and in this post I'm going to walk through my research process.

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Searching Amazon

I plan to do my research quickly, which means I'm going to go straight to the largest bookstore. I'm going to pop over to smile.amazon.com (I have it set to support the Freedom to Read Foundation), choose “Books” in the search drop-down, and search for cozy mysteries.

Amazon book search

Search Results

The first thing I do? Scroll down the page and take in the overall sense of the designs and identify the key sections that I want to focus on.

Categories

I want to dig deeper into the category section as I research covers and check out sub-categories that might fit my book better than the general search results.

My series features a cat, C. Auguste Dupin and his librarian, Penny Copper. They first appeared in The Murders in the Reed Moore Library (available as a free download).

eBook CoverDownload FREE book

While I research covers for my novel, I'm also thinking about this cover and whether or not it works effectively.

Sponsored listings

Cozy Mystery search results

The first results showing are sponsored listings. It's interesting to look at these from a marketing perspective.

Goodreads popular titles

The popular titles from Goodreads is interesting as they give a perspective on what readers expect to see in a ‘cozy mystery' title.

Results list

Finally we get to the results list. On my first pass I'm looking at the covers. I want a broad perspective so I'm not focusing on details at this point. I want to take in the look and feel of books in this category. A few books catch my eye, but I'm not stopping to focus on any particular book. I don't want to copy a design!

The next page starts with a couple more sponsored titles, then back to the results again.

Initial Thoughts

After scanning several pages, it's clear that many of the titles share certain things in their cover designs.

  • Illustrated covers. Many (not all) of the covers feature an illustration ranging from cartoony and vector-art illustrations to pastoral paintings.
  • Cats feature on the covers of many of the titles (as do books and libraries!)
  • Fonts tend to be serif fonts or decorative fonts with a few sans serif fonts showing up.
  • Titles are usually large, using multiple words and different font sizes or treatments.
    • Many titles feature puns, word play, references to death or mystery.
  • Author names tend to be smaller and use a less decorative font.
  • Most covers feature bright colors