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DIY Cover Design

By Adam Roberts | April 2, 2011
Categories: Book News

I'm wondering about putting out an ebook edition of an as-yet unpublished book. Not sure about it, to be frank; but I am at least wondering. And following this piece of good advice from [namedrop] Paul McAuley [/namedrop] ('one bit of advice - covers. Even a 70p short story needs a good cover. If you don't have any graphic design background get someone who has') I've been thinking about cover design. I wrote a novel called A Solid Gold Penny which hasn't yet been published; and in the absence of regular publishers badgering me to put it out themselves, I'm wondering if it might suit ePub -- either the whole thing, or else the first third, a self-contained novella-length piece about a seventeenth-century orphan who picks up the power of life or death after an alien encounter. Copyediting my own title, proofing it, putting it on amazon and so on are all ahead of me, and all more or less unappealing prospects: but Paul's point about covers is something else again. Probably I should pay someone who has graphic design experience to do a better job. What do we think of the above?
Update: another go, less funereally rendered, and taking on board Sensawunda's helpful pointers in the comments:

Update 2: still tinkering.

Update 3: picking up Paul R's ideas, and the comments thread in general.

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19 Comments to-date;

19 Responses to “DIY Cover Design”

  1. Sensawunda Says:
    April 2nd, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    I don't think you need to pay someone to design the cover, but I do think the above one needs some work. The penny, because it's on the solid background, looks like it was cut out of a different pic. It might be that it is supposed to look like that from being a struck coin, but still. The font is boring and far too symmetrical. I'd maybe put a painting of a 17th century city behind the penny, and make the font seem a bit older, but readable. I'd also make Adam Roberts larger. These are just little observations from what I see of the covers currently around me. Hope it helps!

  2. Adam Roberts Says:
    April 2nd, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    That does help, Sens. Thanks very much.

  3. Gareth Rees Says:
    April 2nd, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    The title and image call out for lettering resembling that on coins: relief capitals, with dots separating the words.

    You don't need "A Novel" if you don't want it — an e-book never has to sit on its own on a shelf: it always comes with supporting material (publisher's blurb, reader's review etc).

    Paying a good graphic designer makes a lot of sense. I find that even (supposedly) simple things like picking good colours can be surprisingly tough.

  4. Sensawunda Says:
    April 2nd, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    I like the updated cover much more. I think the lettering is a bit much. Maybe make it more opaque and a different color.?

  5. FieldsOfCarp Says:
    April 3rd, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Publish online (on an art site?) page 42* and ask aspiring artists to read it, then draw a cover for you - prise is getting published, right? Pick the one you like best. The aspiring artist gets a published cover - you get good art. Everybody wins... maybe :)

    *I mean what other numuber other than 42, right?

  6. Adam Roberts Says:
    April 3rd, 2011 at 7:03 am

    FieldOfCarp: it's an interesting idea, but I worry I'd feel I was exploiting the artist. If somebody does work for me I like to pay them.

  7. Paul Graham Raven Says:
    April 3rd, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Two cents (arf!) from the web-design peanut gallery: eschew profligate font use. Title all one font, author name all one font; suggest former be a sans-serif, the latter a serif, or vice versa (important thing is contrast between the two - but never jumble multiple fonts into one design item). Personally I quite like the bit-mangled scan-of-a-hand image, which has a nice contemporary feel; if it ties in any way to the story, I'd say that's a keeper.

  8. Adam Roberts Says:
    April 3rd, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Thanks Paul -- that is helpful. Can you add those those two cents to your usual bill?

  9. Alex L Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 3:29 am

    Judging by the last two updates, I think you'll do fine with designing your own cover.
    You should give us more of a synopsis of A Solid Gold Penny.

  10. Peter Hollo Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 9:51 am

    I tend to think that playing around with type is a bad idea. But equally, chosing the right font and font sizes is hard.
    This is why it's not a bad idea to hire a designer - there's a big difference between being able to tell a decent design and being able to create one.

    TBH, I think Paul's design left a fair bit to be desired too (but I bought it because it's Paul and I don't really care about the cover!)

    I do think the last one is really great except for the font. Something a little more standard in the font department might help.

  11. Martin McGrath Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I've designed a few book covers and the things I've learned are: 1. Less is more - the cover has to communicate a simple message quickly and clearly. 2. Simple images are better than complex images. And 3. Leave plenty of space for the name and title...

    Personally, I think you were closer with the first two attempts than the later ones - they get increasingly complex but don't really sell you the book. The first two pack a bigger initial punch (though the first one looks a bit like an academic book on coins and needs some serious work)

  12. Sensawunda Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Love the latest cover. Perfectly fits the summary of the work.

  13. Richard B Says:
    May 16th, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Never one to shy away from re-opening an old thread, I think the cover needs to be at odds with the story title, to create a bit of tension.

    Perhaps as this is a new publishing venture, it shouyld harken back to the 'old school' AR covers?

  14. Adam Roberts Says:
    June 22nd, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Richard -- I'm very sorry not to have responded to your excellent comment earlier (the 'you've got a comment on your website' email I usually get sent didn't arrive in my inbox). If it looks like I'm ignoring you, I apologise: I'm not! Your cover is a thing of splendor and wonder ...

  15. RichardB Says:
    July 4th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Well, thank you for your comment.

    You are of course very welcome to the image if you want to use it - and if you like it but want it modified, that can easily be done.

  16. Clarence Says:
    August 2nd, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    These are ok designs, BUT -

    "...about a seventeenth-century orphan who picks up the power of life or death after an alien encounter."

    None of these covers give any indication of this, and none of them would make me want to buy the book. I'd assume this book was about coin collecting in the past... a couple look like it might be aimed at early teens, the first looks like it is a 70s textbook on roman coins.

    Things like, "does this look nice?" or "how close does this look to professional?" "what fonts are best?" are besides the point when the main question is, "what do you want the cover to achieve?"
    You normally want a cover to attract readers, and to make the book appeal to the market you're writing for, and to suggest that it is a well-written, quality book.

    For this book, the cover needs to -
    a) look like a book that has aliens, magic, sci-fi elements to it,
    b) look professional enough so that people don't tar it with the "self-published" brush.

    The second point is usually achieved by doing a design that most people know they could not do themselves, and is usually why you'd hire a pro designer.

    I think it's hard to pull off sci-fi design yourself, because it tends to be quite subtle and intricate - best to look up books with similar topics you like the covers and get in touch with their cover designers, or get in touch with the designers of your regularly-published books and see if they'll whip you up something nice.

    Most designers will be happy to lower their regular fee to do a design for someone who is a well established author like yourself on a project like this.

  17. Adam Roberts Says:
    August 2nd, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks, Clarence: I do take the force of what you say. It's very helpful.

  18. Martin Says:
    November 25th, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I like update 2 ... they're both reminiscent of some of the earlier Bond novels' covers. Version 3 is losing it for me .. a bit washed out and the typeface looks more homespun.

  19. Adam Roberts Says:
    November 25th, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Thanks, Martin.