Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Insanity of My First Book Cover


Covers are the biggest tool to getting your books sold. But as an eager first-time author, I was unaware of just how important a good cover can be. I explained, early in 2008, that if you want a good cover, pay someone to design the cover. Don't do-it-yourself unless absolutely necessary. Believe me, I know the pain of what a so-so cover can doYou may have written a story that is spectacular, original even.

But all the originality in the world will not save you from a horrible cover design.

I recently read a blogpost from Failure Ahoy! which inspired the post I'm writing now. I feel ya, Edward Robertson.

Let me show you the first cover I ever had the displeasure of making.

Here it is, folks. Yikes, there's a lot wrong with this cover. So let's go through it and I'll show you how I got totally blindsided with what I was doing.

  1. Here's where I messed up. The way I had envisioned the cover was similar to a comic book or graphic novel. The only problem is, the series I wanted to create had only a few stories that were connected in some small way. They did a write-up in the local newspaper about me and how I planned to pen a twenty book series. Ambitious? Sure. Smart about it? No. I thought I should label each book in the corner  like it was a new issue every time.
  2. The D.F. in the bubble stood for the series name which I called Deranged Flashes. Doesn't make much sense does it? I thought it did. So I wanted each one to be labeled this way.
  3. So if I have D.F. in the corner, why would I spell out Deranged Flashes Series in the other corner? Also, if you look in the background you'll see black tiles with white grouting. Originally I wanted black bricks but couldn't find the image online and just settled with tiles.
  4. In staying true to the comic book feel, the title is in a yellow banner. So already we have too many colors colliding together: Black, white, yellow, green, red. Even though the font of the title is the one I wanted, I have to admit, it is too big. I also put the label A NOVEL underneath it. Y'know, in case you didn't get it the first time round.
  5. The main picture takes up about half of the entire cover and boy is it ever complicated. The man in the photo was my friend from grade school. I caught up with him in college, marveled at how much he looked exactly like my main character and asked if he could pose for the cover. So one day when he wasn't too busy I asked him to stand "menacingly" in a hallway that looked similar to a hospital corridor. I put the picture into simple photo editor, added a negative effect with a over-exposed print effect and then turned it blue. I thought each cover would look unique with a different cover scheme. The next book would've been brown with the third book being bright yellow. I don't know what I was thinking but obviously this whole setup does not work.
  6. Lastly, my name, sectioned off in a border of white and in the same font which, looking back on it now, makes me cringe. I read somewhere that if you put your name in red it is more likely to be noticed and easy to remember. Well, how can that be when there are so many other things distracting you?

I messed up. I messed up royally. But that didn't stop me publishing this with iUniverse. The book was public for 3 months and sold 15 copies before I wised up and decided to pull it from production. Even so, the book is still available at amazon.

I tried messaging amazon to have it taken down but that went no where. Every so often I see the book for sale for 400 bucks. On eBay I saw someone was trying to sell it for 10,000 bucks. Granted, it was an early draft, not my best, and had a crappy cover. So why that much money? Well, as I said before, I only sold 15 copies, so I guess in some circles that makes the book rare. But to me it will always be a costly mistake.

When the opportunity to re-publish to kindle arose, I didn't want to be too hasty. So I put up a collection of short stories to start with. Then I began the task of re-thinking the cover. Since I colossally complicated the last one with too much over-thinking, I wanted to go simple with the new one. I wanted something creepy and yet mysterious. Something that looked like a movie poster. So, as I was reading this one book by N. Frank Daniels' (Futureproof), and I noticed how visually appealing the cover was and did some research into royalty free images. I must have looked at a hundred pics until I settled for the one I have now.

But I'm glad that I did. Not only does the cover show the world you are about to get into but it also has shades of blue, which was the color that continually drove the style of the story.

So do yourselves a favor if you haven't already: admit to yourself that sooner or later you have to spend money on a cover for your book. 

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