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.





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?


Adding paperback to a Kindle ebook

Did you know that in addition to digital publishing, Amazon also provides a print-on-demand service called Createspace? I’d heard good things about adding a paperback version because it integrates with Kindle. This means the product page for my (tense, mysterious) new book Ten Steps to Fray (now repackaged as Tempus Abbey) shows two products – one for the ebook and one for the paperback.


This gives the (correct) impression that the book is available in more formats, which helps with the sense of professionalism your page gives off. It can be of genuine use too – One of my friends who doesn’t own a Kindle wanted the paperback version, and with just a click that wasn’t a problem!

embedded-product-types-2The other thing this allows you to do is show to comparative prices next to one another.

The 99p is the UK price for my Kindle version, the £4.55 the price for the paperback version, so when the customer looks at the sales page they see they are saving a whopping 78% by going with the Kindle version. Everyone likes a saving.

Anyway, the other wonderful thing a printed copy allows you to do is hold the actual book in your hand (as shown above!). To a new author that’s a pretty great feeling. The copy is sitting above my desk now.

So, what do you think of printed books? Worth the time to set up?

The numbers behind a rookie Kindle debut

It’s been a week since my first indie ebook, Ten Steps to Fray, went live on Amazon (Whoo!) and the results have been very enlightening. I went with a free listing for the full five days and paid a couple of websites to list it too, so the results were a mixture of paid and free sales. Here are said results:

embedded - paid 1st week sales.jpg

That’s paid sales. Pretty depressing in a way. I spent months working on this thing, so it’s clearly a bestseller-in-waiting, right? It’s going to go into the 1000’s of sales right off the bat, right? Right…?

As you can see, I’ve shifted a grand total of six copies. Priced at 99p, cents, etc. that works out at £1.45 so far in royalties. Great. But that’s not the whole story. As mentioned above, I paid two websites to display the book on their homepages for a couple of days.

There are plenty of places that do this sort of thing (I used Digital Book Today and It’s Write Now). Most have a couple of options. Either you already have enough good reviews (20+ at 4*+, for example) to convince them you’re acceptable to the book-buying public. Else you gotta fork out. I’m not proud, so I forked out.

Cost? $10 for one, $15 for the other. Call it just under twenty of our lately devalued Sterling.

Maths fans, where are you? Never mind. I’m actually on -£18.25 net, but hey, this is an investment in the future, in the household name that will be Sammy Woodford in ten years’ time!

So, did my investment have any effect?

embedded - free 1st week sales.jpg


Two things are now apparent to me. Firstly, as expected, the initial spike was not matched in the second, third, fourth and fifth days of the free promotion (but, importantly, they didn’t fall off completely on day two – five even outperformed four slightly!), and secondly, I missed a trick:

My book currently contains no call to action. This free blog (my “website”) features no landing page. I have no follow-up things for sale. I have no mailing list. So these 160 people who now have a copy of Ten Steps to Fray knocking around might well just disappear into the ether and never become repeat customers.

This is all fine. I’m starting out. Next time though…