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Cover up

I thought I'd write today about one of the most important aspects of a book, the cover. Since I'm not a graphic designer, I can only speak to what I like and what I've learned as I got my first novel ready for print.

Author's note - Now there's a guy in a Facebook group I recently joined who despises self-publishers and has made it his goal to attack everyone who thinks of publishing their books. I have a feeling he has no idea how difficult it is putting together a really good book that looks professional. He thinks all self-publishers are just slapping stuff together and sending it out to die on the internet...some are but many are trying to put out quality work.

The Shadow Within final cover

As I neared the end of my final edit (which of course wasn't the final edit but that's another story), I needed to get a cover ready. I needed something that captured the feel of the novel and let people know what type of book they were getting at a glance. I also had a limited budget as most self-publishers do. So looking at everything I decided I would do the cover myself. One positive with self-publishing is there is a large online community that loves to help. I found some sites that offered artwork for a reasonable price and then I simply had to design the cover I wanted...piece of cake.

For the most part, this picture had everything I wanted; girl - check, ax - check, forest - not really but at least she's outside. Although all I needed to add was a title and my name to complete the cover, I knew I wanted to add eyes to get the proper final image. When I started there was a charge for the picture but it was minuscule. So I mocked up a cover and downloaded it to check it out.

However, as I dug deeper into cover design, and the science of covers I started to have doubts. The main issue was this was fine for a Kindle cover, but a paperback would require spine and back cover art. I had no idea how to produce that in a way it matched the front. I dug deeper, hoping that it was common to have a Kindle cover and a paperback cover. It is not...I was told in no uncertain terms not to do that. So I started to play around with some programs and worked up a few different cover ideas.

As you can see, I was beginning to figure out how to combine images but not smoothly. The only one I was able to combine with any sense of design was the first cover, the girl and the eyes(and only because they had a program on their site to manipulate their images). It was around this time I stumbled onto Derek Murphy and his videos on self-publishing. He helped me with how-to design the interior of the book and while he had how to videos on designing covers, I quickly decided that I needed some professional help.

So there are a few different ways to get a cover for self-published works. The first places I checked involved pre-made covers. Designers make hundreds of covers, covering different genres, and once you select one the designer removes it so no one else will ever have the same cover art. You then tell them what to put for the title, author, and anything else you might want on the cover. They range from $50-100, but they are for Kindle only and if you need the rest you have to pay more.

Of course, I would remiss if I didn't include a line about the high-end cover makers. I found quite a few places that charged anywhere from $300 for just a Kindle cover to $999 for a few covers and some marketing extras. Since this was outside my price range I usually just left without investigating.

I ended up on Fiverr. I searched through their cover designers and found a few I liked. They, of course, will post past covers on their page. I emailed a few and picked one who had the best package. She had 3 levels for services and each offered more selections of photos and revisions to use toward the cover. I chose the one which gave me unlimited art and most importantly unlimited revisions. It also included both Kindle and Paperback. So after making my selection of art, I sent her some covers I liked and gave her an idea of the book. After a day she sent me back some choices...

So first off, pretty cool right? I mean she took the images I found and made 3 covers I liked. Now when you design the interior of a print book, many suggest using the same font for the chapter headers as the cover font. So I looked into the fonts she selected and found out two needed to be purchased and the other was not allowed for commercial production without permission - something the owner made clear wasn't going to happen. So I had to send new fonts to her for selection and I removed cover 3 from the running. I like it more today than I did when I started but I still think I made the correct choice in removing it. I also decided I liked the girl from cover 1 more than any of the other ones I selected. She happily reworked it and sent me the following...

So after this, I was leaning towards the blueish covers. Not sure why but I liked them. However after a day or so all the feedback was negative on the blueish covers so I asked her to redo cover one with the new fonts. Author's note - When you send open-ended requests that don't specify what you want exactly you might get something else. This is what happened here since between requesting cover art I had sent the text for the back of the paperback cover and included a new font. She did exactly what I asked and sent me this...

I realized my mistake and had her design one more cover. This artwork but with the font on blue three. Resulting in this...

So now I had the final cover and needed to decide on the font. I was torn because I liked both fonts but the second font felt more like horror than the first font. Now up to this point, I had sent a message that started with "Sorry to do this" after every single message when I had said we were done. Author's note - I am the same guy who spent over an hour selecting his first G.I. Joe as a child in the PX while my mother shopped for groceries in the commissary. So it's safe to say I have a history of being slow to make up my mind.

This font issue was really bugging me. Everyone I showed it to but 1 person voted for the cleaner font, version 1. When I showed it to my teenage son he acted like I was insane for thinking about using #2, so I thought okay I guess it's #1. I sent off the email to the designer happy to have the decision made so I could move on to the next step in self-publishing.

Now time for funny story indecision time. I was speaking about the covers with my mother an hour after sending in the final okay. She was one of the few who had read an early version of the book. She said she didn't like version #2 because it reminded her of the Friday the 13th movies. I almost swerved into oncoming traffic in disbelief. The font I didn't select made her think of an 80's horror franchise that is super popular and mirrors my book in some ways.

"You've read the book," I said trying to keep my cool (I was talking with my mother), "Friday the 13th is a pretty good comp."

Her response, "Is it? I've never seen the movies, just the posters." So while I fought the urge to scream into the phone, I finished the conversation with my mom and went grocery shopping, deciding to just leave it alone.

Although who knows, if I sent another "Sorry to do this" email to the designer and switched fonts maybe Sean Cunningham would have called looking to make the movie version of The Shadow Within.

There's always a chance for a second print...

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