Archive for 'covers'

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 by Bob Mayer
eBook Covers are Different than Print

This is a guest post from Jen Talty, the other half of Who Dares Wins Publishing and the one who does our covers.  We’ve had a huge learning curve on covers over the course of the past year and a half.

From Jen:

A good cover can make or break a book, especially for on-line buying. In a bookstore, most books are racked spine out, so author name sometimes means more. Readers can pick up your book, thumb through, get a feel for story and writing and then decide. On-line, readers see your cover. It has to say, “buy me, I’m a good book” to the reader. If it doesn’t, why would they take the time to possibly download a sample, or even look at product description? The changes in publishing have given the author many great opportunities and self-publishing is a viable option. However, self-publishing requires the author to make a few major decisions, and one of those decisions is cover.

You have a couple of options. You can do it yourself or your can hire a cover artist. There are many programs out there to choose from. There are many do it yourself programs, free programs, even programs that come with your computer that can create cover design. Even Word has the capability of designing a basic cover, but will the cover be good enough to invite the reader in?   The question you have to ask yourself is it worth your time and energy to do it “right”. Hiring someone to do your covers can run as low as $50.00 and as high as $600.00.

This is not an easy decision, especially when you factor in other costs that go into making an eBook available to the reader. We made the decision to invest in the proper tools to do it ourselves because we had the design background, and the technical ability. We purchased the complete InDesign package from Adobe ($1,299.00) partly for the ability to create covers for on-line purchasing, but also because it made it much easier to create the full-jacket cover for our print-on-demand books and for web design.

Even with the proper tools we made a few cover mistakes along the way.

Publishing Mistake #1: Always Judge a Book by its Cover.

This cover sucks. Actually, every single one of the original Atlantis Covers was a disaster except for Assault on Atlantis, which remained almost identical as the original. So why does it suck and why did it make sense to change?

First. It’s too dark. I don’t mean color scheme because you can have a black cover that isn’t bad, but this cover lacks contrast. The color scheme is too similar. The letters and background blend together. If you have a dark background, you want letters that stand out. If you have a light background, you want letters that will pop.

Second. Do you know what the object is in the background? I know Bob does. I’m not going to tell you. You all can guess. Though, if you read the book, you probably know. Point is, what does this cover mean to the reader? I say this cover almost says pass me by.

Third. Logo. Wow. What were we thinking? I know we thought we were being brilliant when we put our very first logo on all our covers for them to stick out like a sore thumb. For those observant readers, you will notice here at Write It Forward we now have a new header. That look will be added to the Who Dares Wins Publishing website. I’ll get into that change in another publishing lesson. The point here is that the logo adds absolutely nothing to the cover. As a matter of fact, it takes a way from the already bad cover, making it worse.

If you were in traditional publishing it would be too bad, suck it up, go promote it’s the only cover you’re going to get. If you had hired someone, you’re be paying them to redo it. If you did it yourself, you’d be redoing it.

So what is best? I recommended if you don’t have the knowledge of basic design and design programs (for example how layers work) then hire someone. It’s why I do the covers and Bob doesn’t.

Publishing Correction #1.

The content of the book has not changed. However, the cover changed drastically. Why is this a good cover?

First. It has contrast. The color of the letters, while still complement the background, are bold and pop of the page. The background is vibrant and alive. It’s inviting. It doesn’t look dark and drab and boring. Yet, it is a very simple cover. Simple is often better.

Second. The cover says something about the book. Actually, it says something about the entire series, which involves the Bermuda Triangle, the Devil’s Sea and other strange and eerie places. It invites the reader to take a look inside and see if they are interested in the content. This is critical regardless of whether you are in a store thumbing through all the books in this particular section, or browsing on line trying to find a good read. A good cover can make or break you. We found when we changed the cover, our sales improved.

Third. No distracting white rectangle that means nothing to the reader.

While editing this post, I realized this cover still has one minor flaw. Every thing is centered. We’ve learned that alignment is another aspect you need to consider when designing a cover. Is it time to change it? No.

Publishing Lesson #1.

There is a time when it’s best to leave well enough alone. For a long time the first cover was it. It wasn’t until I had finished with the 6th and final cover in this series that we realized we had a problem. Not all of the books were in print at that time. We knew that it would cost us to make the upgrade and the book had already earned out and beyond. Our business had grown and we had a different set of tools to work with, specifically InDesign by Adobe which allowed me to create covers that I didn’t have the capability before. After much discussion, we began the revamping process. It took at least 6 more tries before we got to this one. Change was necessary, and unlike traditional publishing when it comes to covers after book release, non-traditional publishing allows us to make this change. However, timing is important as well as not rushing things. We had to get it right, and this time we did.

Lately, we’ve started a new trend to make our cover distinguishable by brand.  We’re re-releasing Bob’s first series on Special Forces.  So we want the covers to look somewhat alike, yet really pop in thumbnail.  Here are the first ones:



We will shortly be re-publishing Bob’s classic Area 51 series and will use the same motif.

Thursday, October 1st, 2009 by Candace Havens
A Cover Story

Do you judge a book by it’s cover? I want to say I would never do that, but the truth is I do. My friend K. Hutson Price is a wonderful short story writer, and also an elementary school teacher. She does this thing where she holds up a book with a really cool cover and another with an old, boring beaten up one in front of the class. She asks the kids which one they want to read. They always pick the pretty one. She reads the first page of the pretty one and stops. Then she reads the first page of the second one, and she asks the question again about which book they want to read. They always pick the second book. It’s a much better story.

She does this as part of a bigger lesson about not judging people by the way the look. It’s brilliant and she’s able to put it into context for these kids. Before I became an author, I have to admit that I too judged books, not necessarily people, by their covers. I think most people do, though they probably wouldn’t admit it. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had some pretty cool covers so far. I wasn’t super crazy about my cartoon-like characters on my early books, but they grew on me. And they sold, so obviously it was a good thing I wasn’t the one picking the art.

I loved my last two Berkley covers for Dragons Prefer Blondes and the Demon King and I, even though for Dragons I had to change the character’s hair color. Alex had dark black hair in the first book, and as you can see on the right she now has blonde. That’s not the first time my editor had called to ask if I could change something in the book to fit the cover. In Like A Charm they asked me to add a dog character so they could have a dog on the cover. I’m not kidding. Of course I had to do it my way so there are two ghost dogs. But if you check out the cover, no dog. They decided to go another way. I tell people there is a dog on the cover, but it’s a ghost, so you can’t see it. :)

I absolutely adore my new cover for Harlequin, which is below. The characters are exactly as I imagined them in my head, as is the setting. It’s tropical and sexy, and that she is on top is significant. The hero is a burned CIA agent on the run, and I feel like they really captured that. And I’m going to share something a little crazy. I have ALWAYS wanted a cover with a half-naked man, and this one is so dead-on that I feel like it’s a dream come true. But I know that some people will see that and think, “Oh, it’s that kind of book.” And that’s where they will be wrong. This is a hardcore action adventure, it just happens to have a lot of sexy spy stuff in it. It’s for people, like me, who like a little romance with their adventure stories.

So I’m curious. Do you pick a book when you see a cool cover? If you’re like me, you might pick it up because of the cover, but you judge a book by those first few pages. My friends and I often make decisions based on the first two lines of a book.

What are some of your favorite covers? Have you ever been surprised when you saw the cover and then read the first page or so? And what do you think of my new cover? Take Me If You Dare is a Feb. 2010 release.



Monday, August 3rd, 2009 by Carrie Vaughn
Covers and Nuance

Novel covers have been a hot topic in the blogosphere for the last couple of weeks.  Most visibly, young adult author Justine Larbalestier talks about race, and how frustrating it is to have a white girl pictured on the cover of your novel that features a black protagonist.  This is a huge deal that authors grapple with all the time:  the cover has nothing to do with the book.  In the case of Larbalestier’s novel Liar, the cover exposes some even deeper issues about race, marketing departments and the assumptions they make.

On my own blog last week, I asked my readers to tell me how they feel about urban fantasy covers.  You know, those now-ubiquitous covers of sexy women in sexy clothing, usually with a big ol’ tattoo and a big weapon of some kind?  The proliferation of these covers is also discussed here, and in a nifty video primer by SciFiGuy.  My conclusion?  Love ’em or hate ’em, these covers definitely identify a certain kind of book, and readers ping to that.

I have first-hand experience with how these covers turn out the way they do.  My publisher made up advanced reader copies of my first book.  It had a slightly different cover than the final version.  The artist and art department made some changes based on feedback from booksellers and the sales department.  I now give you the before and after versions of the cover to Kitty and The Midnight Hour.

This was the cover on the ARC:


And this is the final cover, as it now appears on the novel:


You’re probably asking yourself, what’s the difference?  (Besides the colors on the final one being better, which has more to do with the quality of the jpg files I used.)  I call the second version the “20% more skank” version.  The changes?  They dropped the character’s waistband so that the tramp stamp tattoo shows and added laces up the back of her shirt to give it a corsety feel, instead of having it just be a tank top.

Sex sells.  I’ve run an experiment where I hold both covers up, and people always tell me they like the second one better.