All My Terrible Book Covers, Ranked

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.

cover concept 4.jpg

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.

 

 

 

 

cover concept 7.jpg

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!

 

 

 

mechanical apostles cover 3.jpg

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).

 

 

 

mechanical apostles cover.jpg

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!

 

 

cover concept 8.jpg

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…?

Maybe not.

 

 

cover concept 9.jpg

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.

 

 

 

 

 

cover concept 10.jpg

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.

 

 

 

 

cover concept 11.jpg

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.

Next!

 

 

 

cover concept 12.jpg

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…

 

 

 

 

 

cover concept 13.jpg

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.

 

 

 

 

cover concept 15.jpg

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!

 

What do you reckon then? Favourite? Or should I have paid someone?

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3 thoughts on “All My Terrible Book Covers, Ranked

  1. I’ve thought about posting my efforts at creating a cover, but I’m too lazy. What’s interesting here is that even though you have architectural training and aren’t too bad at drawing, none of that is much help when it comes to designing a book cover. I’ve seen way too many ads for cover artists who don’t know beans about book design and turn out messes. And they charge for them! My only “training” was a batch of art appreciation and art history courses way back in the age of dinosaurs. So I set myself to learn. And I did. It’s still a struggle to turn out a decent cover. My latest one, for an SF novel I hope to get out before the end of the year, makes me feel pretty goodf when I look at it, even after staying away from it long enough to be more objective. It’s worth the struggle.

    P.S. You almost always make your name too small. Don’t be so shy.

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    1. Worth the fight 😀 Incidentally, I didn’t put dates on these, but there’s technically about a five year period between the first and the most recent. Obviously I wasn’t designing covers non-stop that whole time, but it’s a testament to the difficulty of the art form. And cheers for the pointer on name size!

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