As I’m currently getting seriously into self-publishing, I thought I’d talk covers for a bit. Basically, they’re tricky…
I’m lucky enough to have had an education in architecture, so I’m reasonably handy with graphic design. Of course, if you spend a moment on any online advice for new authors they’ll invariably say if you’re anything less than full-on pro don’t even think about doing your own cover. Well, I’m obstinate and had the time, so I went ahead anyway.
Before my first effort, there was another book. Which will now be the next book. (Writing and publishing not necessarily in the same order – another thing I’ve learned). It was called Freya, until I realised how played out Freya is as a fantasy heroine name. Current working title is Fray the Sky, but it’s changed quite a lot and will probably change again.
Here are my efforts. Please don’t laugh too hard.
Attempt 1: 1/10
I’ve awarded myself half a point here because the grey-brown and blue do sort of work together, even if they hardly stand out.
Plus another half point for putting a fancy shadow effect on the text. When everything else has gone wrong, just throw in a bit of shadowing.
Attempt 2: 2/10
There are some elements of this that work. The blue over red is just hideous, but the tree-and-hand motif (the banner of a country within the story) is strong and there’s also the weird eye/roundel thing going on in the background. That’s actually got little scenes painted all the way around it, so it’s a phenomenal amount of work considering the miserable effect overall.
That’s the mark of a true novice – maximum effort, zero result!
Attempt 3: 7/10
Admission time: I actually rather like this one.
But it’s more the sort of thing I’d stick on my wall rather than the front of a book. It’s a fun picture, but there are a couple of problems.
Firstly, it’s got nothing to do with content of the story.
Secondly, the text would need reformatting. (Although that’s a small problem really).
Attempt 4: 5/10
This one actually is up on my wall. If you’re not familiar with printing, dark blues and purples are about the hardest thing you can ask a printer to turn out, so this image is one that’s very difficult to get looking good on paper. Most printers will make half of it pretty much black, although for screen display it’s okay.
Trouble is, it’s just too fiddly and dark an image. Book covers are advertisements – they need to hit hard and fast, and with this one there’s almost no place for the title and author either!
Attempt 5: 6/10
So, want bold, do ya? How about this!
Well, it’s one option, I guess… I admit I do rather like it, but I wonder if it really reflects the content of the book. You might almost think it was for some kind of horror story.
Maybe changing the red to blue…?
Attempt 6: 2/10
Better than the first one. Barely.
Bland colours, badly drawn, dull idea, wrong genre, no relation to book content… No. No. No.
Attempt 7: 4/10
Going back to the bold, flat graphics thing. Took me ages to draw those wings, and while I quite like the result, it looks more suitable for a political satire than any fantasy novel I’m likely to pick up soon. Totally wrong, tonally.
Back to the drawing board.
Attempt 8: 4/10
Extreme perspective is difficult folks. I’m not a graphic artist. I tried, I failed. I accept that.
Also, grainy low contrast pictures don’t grab the attention, you can barely tell what this image is meant to be of it’s so badly drawn, and the text doesn’t stand out enough.
Attempt 9: -7/10
I don’t even know what to say.
Why did I do this? At what point did this seem like a clever idea? It’s bold and illegible, shouty and meaningless, busy and overcrowded…
Attempt 10: 6/10 (10/10 for wackiness; 2/10 for effect)
Well, it’s different, I’ll give myself that. Illegible, admittedly, but different.
There are some rather lovely things going on with texture and surface here, but a book cover is first and foremost a functional piece of art, so this won’t wash.
Attempt 11: 8/10
Could be a nine, I reckon, but the text isn’t quite right yet. Need to get the framing sorted a bit better.
This one’s actually the culmination of quite a lot of work – and not just the above. It started as a pencil drawing straight onto my bedroom wall, seven feet tall. The outline took two weeks to complete, and then I started painting it. Then we moved house.
It became a piece of graphic art from photos, for obvious reasons, and was completed in full colour using hand rendered photo textures, then that digital painting was turned into the cover you see here. Whew!