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Thread: Bookcovers.com / Archer Ellison, Inc.

  1. #1
    Lonna
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    Bookcovers.com / Archer Ellison, Inc.

    Has anyone utilized the service of Archer Ellison Bookcovers.com? If so, would you give your opinion on their creative design? Thank you! P.S. Nice board! I am in Montana and very few motivated people to seek answers from. Everyone on this board is very willing to give help. I commend you all for your participation! More questions to come!
    Lonna

  2. #2
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: bookcovers.com

    It's extremely difficult to judge them without knowing something about what they charge. To quote Ingvar Kamprad, a design without a price tag is meaningless. They're not top-of-the-line commercial designers, but they look professional enough, and the work I'm seeing on their site is superior to most of the covers I see from PODs and vanity presses.

    I'm made a little nervous by their statement that "Because of the competitive nature of our most famous client's projects, only a very small sample of designs appears on this website." There are few things more public than the cover of a book, unless they're doing proprietary designs for privately printed and distributed books. It's possible. It just sounds a little odd to me. I could be wrong.

    Onward.

    Various observations:

    The examples on their front page are better than the ones on their portfolio page. That's not unreasonable.

    At least one person on their staff is good with PhotoShop.

    If you use them, don't let them be your only proofreaders.

    Their type is decent, if uninspired. Same goes for their layouts. They've got a few clunky-looking examples there, most of which have their subheads and other subordinate copy set in too large a type size. However, those may reflect the client's input -- either because the client wanted it that way, or because the client gave them excessively sparse cover copy to work with.

    The Joe Vitale cover design is butt-ugly, but I'll bet it was Vitale's idea. It doesn't look anything like the rest of the firm's work.

    I'd say the most striking thing I'm seeing is that they're doing their best to work around some very small budgets. The only two cover images that look like they were created specifically for the book they're on are the flaming box thingy on Destroy Your Debt, and the author portrait on the cover of Career Coaching. Everything else is stock art -- adaptable, generic images that are sold by the gigabyte.

    Bookcovers.com have done what they can with the available material. Look at the Salinas rodeo book. They've isolated the image of the horse and rider, and digitally smushed the original background of that photo into an abstract color field that focuses all the attention on the one dramatic image. That's getting a lot of whoosh out of one photo.

    There are two titles on the portfolio page I find admirable, and two I halfway admire. The first half is Stop Setting Goals, which IMO needs to lose the orange stripe at the top. Kill that, and it's an unexceptionable piece of modernist graphic design that wouldn't look bad next to a Lucky Strikes box.

    The other halfer is Fusion Branding, a cover that's got next to nothing going for it. There's no interesting cover image, the palette is limited, and there's very little text to play with beyond the title and the author's name. But it's nice, balanced type (okay, the FU in FUSION could have been kerned a little tighter), well arranged on the page. These guys have been handed some pretty perfunctory lemons, and they've made a decent glass of lemonade out of them.

    A Career Devotional isn't as resource-poor as Fusion Branding, but there's little enough to work with there: the title, two lines of sales copy, the author's name, and a stock art photo of the sun breaking through some clouds. Again, it's nice, clean type, sensitively arranged on the page. They've positioned the art so that the bright horizontal bar of sunlight both emphasizes the sales copy and makes it easier to read. And do you see how they've framed the whole thing with a little border in which the background image has been made slightly lighter? That's a very nice touch. Pulls the whole thing together.

    The other cover I give full points is Running on Plenty at Work, which looks so completely commercial and professional that my eyes keep sliding off it. It takes some effort for me to register it as "design" rather than "book" -- which of course is what's supposed to happen. The title type is worth a mention. I like that near-zero leading. I also like the way they've lifted the little blue car out of the clip art, reduced it in size, and made it part of the title type design. It has a jaunty look, and it keeps them from having to stretch out "Running on" to in ways that would be unattractive, hard to read, or disruptive of the overall design.

    So, what do I think? I still think it depends on their prices. I'm getting a "cheap and ingenious" vibe. If their prices are low enough, these guys are a find. Which is a significant datum, because there are designers out there you wouldn't want to take at any price. On the other hand, if their prices are unreasonably high, their work isn't so unique that you couldn't get comparable service elsewhere.

    Of course, if your publisher referred you to them, that changes everything. Let us know immediately if that's the case. Otherwise, do some shopping around. There are websites that cater to both the freelancer community and the people who hire freelancers. Find them. Check out the prices. Make your own decisions.

    I have five last bits of advice:

    First, they can't design your cover until they know how many pages there are in your book. They can do a preliminary design, but not a final one.

    Second, make sure they design an attractive spine. If your book gets into bookstores, it may get shelved face-out, but there's a good chance it's going to get shelved spine-out. That's a reality of life. Make every square centimeter of that little stripe of paper count.

    Third, browsing readers really want to know what kind of a book this is. Tell them. If you feel like you don't know how to do that, turn off your author mind and consult your reader mind. Also, go to a bookstore and look at how other books do it. You're allowed. Always remember to steal from the best.

    Fourth, if you're working with Bookcovers.com from a distance, do everything you can to get a high-resolution version to check. If you're looking at a low-res image, your brain will fill in the details as they should be, not as they necessarily are. If you don't have a lot of experience judging image quality, turn the cover upside down and look at it that way. You'll stop seeing it as art and words, and see the repro quality instead.

    Fifth, don't let yourself be taken for a ride -- there's no real ceiling on the amount you can pay for a cover -- but don't skimp in ways that affect the final result. Good covers can cost a bit, but the most expensive thing in publishing is a book that doesn't sell.

  3. #3
    Betty W01
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    Re: bookcovers.com

    Excellent input, HapiSofi! Thanks.

  4. #4
    Lonna
    Guest

    Reply

    Wow, Hapisofi! That is a lot of input and I appreciate your time therefore I will give you a little more information. There price is $375.00 front and $375.00 back. I did already contract with them and did receive a rough cover design. I have sent it to various people for review as I don't think I am the person that should be judging. I would love to forward it to you for opinion. Thank you again for the insight!

  5. #5
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: Reply

    Lonna, you're the one who should be doing the comparison shopping. What does that $700 include?

    I'll be happy to look at their design. Just e-mail it to Yog.

  6. #6
    Lonna
    Guest

    Bookcover

    I don't mind researching but I just don't know what a good bookcover is all about. My concern isn't in the cost it is in the design. I want a book that sells! What is yog?
    Thanks!
    Lonna

  7. #7
    James D Macdonald
    Guest

    Re: Bookcover

    I'm yog.

    yog (at) sff (dot) net

    I know Hapi's contact info and can relay.

  8. #8
    HapiSofi
    Guest

    Re: Bookcover

    Whoops, sorry. Yog Sysop is James D. Macdonald.

    One of the most expensive things you can say around designers and printers is that you don't care how much it costs. At minimum, you need to find out what your publishers and printers will require, and make sure your designers are going to deliver that. If the mechanical and the requirements don't match up, building that last five miles of connecting road can cost as much as all the rest put together.

    (By the way, the thing that's used to make the cover is called the mechanical. Fifteen years ago, it would have been a big piece of crisp white cardboard, with the a bunch of repro pasted on it with rubber cement or hot wax, and a photographic color transparency of the cover art in an envelope taped to the back. The front side would be overlaid with a big sheet of tracing paper on which the designer pencilled arcane instructions for the printer. Twenty-five or thirty years ago, it would have been even weirder.

    Nowadays it's much likelier to be a file on a CD, plus a full-size print-out that's used only to give everyone an idea of what it'll look like, and to give them a place to write in their corrections. Nevertheless, that file of the combined front cover, back cover, and spine is still properly called the mechanical.

    End of digression.)

    Where was I? Oh, yes. Anything lacking between what the designer delivers and the printer prints can be unreasonably expensive, and may not be up to the quality of the rest of the job. So check.

    Get everything spelled out. If it's $350 each for the front and back, your cover is still minus its spine -- and if it's a hardcover, its front and back cover flaps. If your printer requires that back, spine, and front be joined together as a continuous mechanical, you need to get that spelled out too. Printers are deeply fond of charging substantial sums for these little oversights, as a sort of opportunistic surcharge levied upon the unwary.

    Work out in advance how many chances you're going to get to make changes in the cover copy, and how much you'll pay for them.

    Probably the easiest way to address the rest of the cover production issues is to get a set of specifications from your publisher and/or printer, and convey them to your designer. If everyone agrees, then the designers are responsible for making a cover that meets those specs, the printer or publisher has agreed to accept a cover that meets those specs, and the prices quoted by both the designer and the printer are the ones you're going to pay.

    That's the defensive view. Another way to look at it is that this will save your designer having to track down your printer via phone and ask them what they really want, because they can't make head or tail of the instructions you've given them. No criticism implied; it's specialized knowledge.

    Actually, before you do all that:

    Go to the biggest bookstore in your area. Look for two things: Books that are like your book, and books you like the look of. If the two are wildly out of synch, concentrate on books that are like your book. Why is that more important? Because book covers are, first, an advertisement for the book; and second, a set of mating signals that enable readers and books to find each other. A robin may enjoy singing the 1812 Overture more than those boring ol' spring mating calls, but if he sings the 1812 Overture, he's going to remain a bachelor. Same goes for covers. German bearded irises may be your very favorite flower in the whole wide world, but if you put them on the cover of a practical, humorous book about getting your office organized, everyone will think it's an inspirational title, and it'll miss its intended readership.

    Next, look at the copy on the front and back cover, the flaps (if it has them), and the first few interior pages. Some of it may look trivial, but it's extremely important stuff. The cover image is what gets you to look at the book, but the cover copy is what gets you to pick it up off the rack.

    Cover copy looks simple and easy to write. It's neither. Generating it is a skilled professional specialty that happens to produce text that looks simple. It's extremely unlikely that what you'll write will match the slickest trade house copy, so don't try. You don't want to shoot at that mark unless you're sure you're going to hit it. Instead, keep it clear, simple, and direct. All you're trying to do is tell the readers what kind of a book it is. A brief description of the plot is necessary if it's fiction, but the best plot in the world will sound stupid if you describe it at length. Give them the setup and the initial layer of plot complications -- briefly. Don't phrase it as a heavy-handed cliffhanger. In general, avoid figurative language, don't be coy, and don't tell the readers how it's going to make them feel.

    Rewrite it sixteen times. Read it out loud. Rewrite it some more.

    You may be tempted to commission another writer to do your cover copy for you. Think twice before you do that. Most writers think they can write cover copy. Almost none of them are right.

    That's enough for now.

  9. #9
    Empirical Storm Trooper MadScientistMatt's Avatar
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    Bookcovers.com

    Of course, if you're looking for a commercial publisher, you would not be expected to design your own covers anyway, nor should you pay for it. But this site may be of interest to people who want to self-publish.

  10. #10
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    Adding link: http://bookcovers.com/
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    I've never known any trouble that an hour's reading didn't assuage. -- Charles DeSecondat

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  11. #11

    Allen D'Angelo

    Bookcovers.com is part of Archer-Ellison.

    I had a complimentary consultation with its CEO, Allen D'Angelo this week. He started out by telling me, sight unseen, that I was an "outstanding communicator" and that my ten books were "undoubtedly very well written."

    However, he then proceeded to slide downhill, with "change your genre," then "ghost-write for others," before recommending I return to my "real passion" (his words, not mine), technical writing. Not content with that, he closed by telling me that most writers don't receive acclaim until they are dead.

    Talk about deflating. If this is his M.O., whatever dream you have, it will be swallowed up by his.

    Regarding covers, find out if they read your entire book first, as George Foster does. Regarding monies, see the BBB listing for Archer-Ellison, with the complaint entitled, "Failure to pay contractor for editing services received."

  12. #12
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Unhappy Beware of this company

    I signed up for the "publisher's valet" program which included a cover, layout, and e-book, and related services. The book was done okay but the e-book was full of errors which Archer-Ellison would not correct in spite of repeated promises to do so. It was never completed. In addition they will not give me my design files to which I am entitled by contract and for which I have paid in full. They are now not communicating with me. Without the design files, I have no book. There is no e-book. I am out a lifetime of work and thousands of dollars.

  13. #13
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brwneyes53 View Post
    Bookcovers.com is part of Archer-Ellison.

    I had a complimentary consultation with its CEO, Allen D'Angelo this week. He started out by telling me, sight unseen, that I was an "outstanding communicator" and that my ten books were "undoubtedly very well written."

    However, he then proceeded to slide downhill, with "change your genre," then "ghost-write for others," before recommending I return to my "real passion" (his words, not mine), technical writing. Not content with that, he closed by telling me that most writers don't receive acclaim until they are dead.
    That's all extremely bad advice. He's wrong on every count.

    Quote Originally Posted by raduffus View Post
    I signed up for the "publisher's valet" program which included a cover, layout, and e-book, and related services. The book was done okay but the e-book was full of errors which Archer-Ellison would not correct in spite of repeated promises to do so. It was never completed. In addition they will not give me my design files to which I am entitled by contract and for which I have paid in full. They are now not communicating with me.
    If that's all true, then that's disgraceful behaviour from them.

    Without the design files, I have no book. There is no e-book. I am out a lifetime of work and thousands of dollars.
    I can see how you've lost money here, but I don't see how you're "out a lifetime of work": if you self published it, then you didn't sign it over to them; and surely you've kept a backup copy or two of the book? You could use that to generate a new, correct version of the book and upload that to Amazon and Smashwords yourself.

    I recognise that this would mean doing some of the work yourself and, having spent money to get these "experts" to do it for you that can't be an easy pill to swallow: but it would mean a corrected version of the book was available.

  14. #14
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    A lifetime of work

    I have no InDesign files. I was intending to claim them once Archer-Ellison completed its contract. In order to re-create them I have to go back to the Word files and redo the proofing and layout. That will take more time and money than I have. I have a PDF but I'm told not much can be done with that.

  15. #15
    Left-Handed Writing Fairy folclor's Avatar
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    If I may... it really shouldn't cost you much of anything if you do the proofing and layout yourself. If you don't have a copy of InDesign you can download a 30 free trial and there are a lot of great tutorials on creating an epub from your document.

    You can bring in a PDF to many Adobe programs to edit, as well. I can't remember whether you'd be able to do that in InDesign, but it's worth a shot as the most effort it would take is attempting to open a file.

    I'm sorry you got charged so much money for crap service. I bet you can recover, though.

  16. #16
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    If you have a PDF of your book then you're not "out a lifetime of work". Did you sign the rights to your book over to this publisher? Because if you did, then you might have a problem.

    Assuming you didn't, you can turn a PDF file into a word-processing file without any bother: you just need the right software.

    If you wanted to self publish a print edition you would then have to have the book typeset; but most people who self publish focus mostly on digital editions, which requires formatting; but there are several free guides and applications which make this far less onerous than you'd think, and it's not very costly to pay someone to do this for you.

    If you are interested in self publishing, do read through some of the self publishing diary threads in our self publishing room, as they contain a lot of helpful information.

    If you'd prefer to pursue trade publication then all you'll need is a Word file of your book, a good query, and a list of agents you want to submit it to. I've had a bit of a look on Amazon and I can't find any books published under your name recently, so it's possible that this book won't appear to have been previously published; and even if it does, if it's not sold many copies it's likely that agents and publishers won't find its history a problem.

  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by raduffus View Post
    I have no InDesign files. I was intending to claim them once Archer-Ellison completed its contract. In order to re-create them I have to go back to the Word files and redo the proofing and layout. That will take more time and money than I have. I have a PDF but I'm told not much can be done with that.
    A lot can be done with a PDF. Sure you'll be redoing things, but if you need a Word doc, even online converters exist.

  18. #18
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thanks for all your advice. I guess I have more options than I thought. I do have the rights so how to recover is more of a mechanical issue than anything else. I don't know why they won't hand over the design files. They have nothing to gain and it just makes things worse for them.

  19. #19
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    Site underwent a makeover in '14, but as of Mar '16 there's only a page stating domain now owned by a William Perkins of Publishing Services, Inc.

    (Just for the record: going by Amazon, the last book by Archer-Ellison Publishing was pubbed in '12.)
    ICAO
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    Achievers strive for excellence. Perfectionists drive themselves to extinction. -- A Grapple A Day
    I've never known any trouble that an hour's reading didn't assuage. -- Charles DeSecondat

    II 2016: 2017:

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