One of those friends was Patrick Samphire, who was one of my Clarion West classmates and one of my favorite short story authors. He is also a designer and has a business building websites. As a short story author, he's got a lot of inventory that he can sell online. Kindle and Nook are great venues to make your short story backlist available. It used to be that once you sold a short story, it often disappeared. Maybe if it did well, or if you did well, you could sell reprints, but often it just disappeared into oblivion once the magazine or anthology it was featured in goes out of print.
While it's easy enough to publish a short story electronically, it'll need a cover, and a good cover will cost a few hundred dollars. Rarely does a short story have that kind of earning potential short term, so those of us who publish our short stories must often design our own covers. Here was my first attempt, with my story, Polar Shift:
I spent the whole evening photoshopping those auroras over a NASA photo of Ganymede. I was a little daring with the font - but to cut to the chase here, it looks amateurish. Some might not admit it to my face (Mom) but I know it looks like something I just did myself at home. After doing this cover, I was not eager to upload more short stories, and I wished I earned enough money to hire Tiger Bright Studios to do the rest. (And no, Jenn, that is not a ploy to get you to offer me a deal, because you make little enough money from me as it is!)
But then I got the chance to talk about cover design with Patrick, who is about to launch his own cover design business, and he gave me one piece of advice that I'll never forget. He said, "The trick to cover design is staring at images until you find the perfect one, then keep the title font simple, and people will think you're amazing." I don't know if I'd go that far. His covers are amazing. Mine, after his advice, while not amazing, are much, much better. Here's what I did with the cover for Polar Shift:
Moreover, I had a ton of fun designing it because I got to look through hundreds and hundreds of stock images until I found the exact one I wanted. I had so much fun that I decided to design the cover for my next short story, which will be out later this week or early next (depending on how much free time I can get in the evenings to convert it.) This story, called Root, is about a girl who must battle with an evil demon who turns all computer-kind against her. Yes, she's based on me, and computers lose her files, screw up her exams, and make her life pure torture. The little Root demon looks like a fox, so here's what I did for that cover:
So much fun to do! Now I'm not dreading cover design. I'm no genius at it, but I'm at least producing better than I thought I could.
Anyway, I went indie to see what kinds of skills I could pick up, and cover design is a rather surprising one. I recommend Patrick's blogpost on cover design for more detailed information, or if you're like me and a little lost by that, I echo his advice, just look at lots of pictures until you find one that speaks to you. The end result for me is covers that I like, at least.