Hacks for Hacks WU Admin note: Enjoy a little humor this Saturday morning.

Whoever said “Don’t judge of book by its cover” probably had a lousy cover designed by some art-school reject he’d never met. How could anyone else know enough about your book to make a cover that does your book justice. You don’t need to shell out big bucks to a graphic designer. I’m’a serve up some hot tips that those fat-cat graphic designers DON’T want you to know about.

Tools of the Trade

If you’re on a budget and don’t know anybody who can pirate you a copy of Photoshop, Microsoft Paint is a perfectly fine program for illustration. Otherwise they wouldn’t install it on every computer.

They say a bad carpenter always blames his tools. The solution to this is to buy tools so good, you can’t screw things up. Instead of having to shell out $700 bucks for a version of Photoshop or Illustrator that will be obsolete in a year-and-a-half, you can now get Adobe’s powerful suite of graphics programs for a mere $50 every month, for the rest of your life (which is totally worth it, since you’ll probably write four, maybe even five books before you die, right?). If you’re on a budget and don’t know anybody who can pirate you a copy of Photoshop, Microsoft Paint is a perfectly fine program for illustration. Otherwise they wouldn’t install it on every computer.

You’ll need some serious processing power to keep up with the advancing graphics technology. Whatever size monitor you have, you’ll need at least one size bigger. Or get a bunch of them, like this guy. This is a good excuse to buy that fancy Alienware laptop you’ve had your eye on. Those things could probably handle a shuttle launch–not to mention some sweet games. You might want a nice headset, and possibly a joystick, too. Wait, what were we talking about?

Effects are In Effect

Now that you’ve got some software, put that high-end computer of yours to work by adding some photo effects. Lens flares are always a good decision, even when your protagonist is indoors. Don’t forget the posterize button, which won’t make your cover look like a poster, but does…well, I don’t really know what you call it, but you should probably do it anyway.

Taking Stock

Can’t draw? Who needs God-given talent and years of practice when you have a whole internet’s worth of random photos at your disposal? Stock photography and clip art are the Dragon Punch and Hurricane Kick in every aspiring designer’s repertoire of moves. You can find stock photos that will evoke pretty much any dramatic situation in your book–and may spark some ideas for how to make your book even better.

Don’t shy away from clip art, either. Sure, everyone’s seen it a thousand times before, but audiences respond to what’s familiar. Remember getting misty-eyed during Don Draper’s nostalgia-laden Kodak Carousel pitch on Mad Men? You can get basically the same effect by using that stick-figure question-mark guy from those unending PowerPoint presentations at work. Clip art has “art” in the title, and they wouldn’t be allowed to call it that if it wasn’t gallery-quality, wine-and-cheese-type stuff.

Show Your Stuff

Did my advice lead you to create the Great American Novel Cover? Of course it did! Show off your creation in the comments section so the entire internet can judge your book by its cover.

About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.