Couple covers I've started making

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
6,483
Reaction score
3,461
Location
USA
Hey there.

For my short stories (NOT the novels) I'm trying to save pennies and avoid buying a cover. A lot of pre-made covers look fairly weak to me anyway, or else generic. And I sort of like the idea of doing this myself for a low-stakes story. I plan to offer these shorts free and put them into various newsletters and hope for read-through to the novels. They aren't intended to make money, and so spending money on a cover in order to make money on a different title (read through, if I'm lucky) feels like it would be throwing good money after bad. I don't want to do that.

So here are a couple covers I'm working on. I've been posting them around the web to get input. The first one people said "Does not say Science Fantasy" so I modified it with color and stuff, but I like the first version better. Then I also made a more sci-fantasy-esque cover, which might be a better direction to take, but it does not really convey anything about the story per se.

Cover 1 (for a coming-of-age story that takes place in a village on a colonized world):


Cover 1 made more science-fantasy-esque (Two suns, see? That means this isn't historical fiction! :) )


And here is a different approach:


Any thoughts? Preferences? I've got plenty of time to play with shading, coloring the fonts, changing the fonts. Plenty of time to play with any supplemental text on the cover. Stickers, etc. Whatever might help.

Drop shadows on the title? I dunno.
 
Last edited:

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
6,483
Reaction score
3,461
Location
USA
What concerns me about #3 is that I'm not sure how many thematically linked covers I can make with that approach. With #1 (and 2) I can swap out the silhouette for each story and find a new one to reflect the next story.

But it's good to get the votes. :) They are being tallied from all over the world wide web.

Maybe if I move the title up on #2 the suns will be more obvious.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Introversion

Unimportant

But you can call me Fran, if you prefer. Or birdie
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
10,993
Reaction score
8,111
Location
Aotearoa
Between #1 and #2, I think #2 is way way way prettier. That blue makes it sing.

Between #2 and #3, #3 but not #2 says spec fic to me. Those twin suns are perfect. I also like the ellipse at the bottom with Science Fantasy on #3 way better than the round one near the top of #2, as the latter looks similar too similar to 'awards' (I hope that makes sense? Where book covers have a gold circle with "Lambda Literary Award Winner" or "Hugo Winner" or whatevs).

However, between #2 and #3, I like the font for the book title in #2 a zillion times better than #3. It looks a lot more customised/professional and implies a more "life in a village" mood, whereas the font in #3 doesn't imply much.

Between #2 and #3, both pictures/images are good, but they invoke different story concepts for me. #2 is more "life in a snow covered village" and makes me think the story will be about family and gentle conflicts and personal relationships, with the genre leaning towards fantasy. #3 is more "jagged mountains and dangerous seas" and makes me think the story will be about wars and genocide and inter-group violent conflicts, with the genre leaning towards hard SF.

IMO, obv. :)

ETA: gosh, I didn't see the two suns in #2 either till someone above pointed it out! D'oh. I shall change my user name to Undeniably Unobservant Unimportant.
 

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
6,483
Reaction score
3,461
Location
USA
#3 is more "jagged mountains and dangerous seas" and makes me think the story will be about wars and genocide and inter-group violent conflicts, with the genre leaning towards hard SF.

LOL this raises serious problems. It is indeed about life in a village, falling in love, falling out of love, and a little danger on the side.

Oh, and oceanic leviathans make a brief appearance.

But the genocide is accurate. It's just very mild genocide, ha.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Introversion

Unimportant

But you can call me Fran, if you prefer. Or birdie
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
10,993
Reaction score
8,111
Location
Aotearoa
Could you take #2 and put the two suns, making them more obvious, where the gold Science Fantasy thing is? That combination might nail it.
 

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
6,483
Reaction score
3,461
Location
USA
Yeah, it definitely sounds like I need to make those much more eye-catching. I can also make the sky darker, to contrast with the suns better. And the suns can be bigger. It's all layers in corel paint.
 

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
6,483
Reaction score
3,461
Location
USA
For #3, I think I simply swapped the title/author name fonts on that one, compared to the previous mock-up (Candara and Bookman-something) but I agree the title looks odd.

One nice thing is that I can change the covers around, and FWIW I don't expect sales anyway... What I expect is that offering it as a deal or free can get a few 'readthrough' buyers. Those promo newsletters do specify genre, which helps.

And, from your all's comments, it occurs to me that I can even shift the blurb in each promo to accentuate 'cozy' in one promo and 'danger' the next time around.

I will definitely play with the composition of the second one and see how that feels. I like the idea about the oval sticker, and I like the idea of accentuating the suns.

It's not an overly dangerous story. Mine don't tend to be. I don't want to promise something it isn't. The tension is interpersonal and coming to grips with the hard realities of life. But, it is fantastic whenever there is consensus, so that's really valuable.

Thank you dears.
 
Last edited:

Helix

socially distancing
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 31, 2011
Messages
9,650
Reaction score
4,812
Location
Atherton Tablelands
Website
snailseyeview.medium.com
I like #2 and #3. My comments would be similar to all of the above. I'd add a couple of comments.

The edge of the b & w image in #2 seems a bit too sharp to me. Is there a way you could graduate the background to soften the hard edge? (I'm not quite sure what I'm trying to say!)

If you went for #3, you could change the colour between books, rather than changing to image.
 

Holly Green

bug-magnet
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Messages
312
Reaction score
342
Website
pinholesinthesky.blogspot.com
If you went for #3, you could change the colour between books, rather than changing to image.
I did this with some of my covers, just changing the colour of the sky. Using a sunset image with #3 might be harder to do with two suns, but would look pretty cool. There are so many different cloud formations and sky colours, so you can get a lot of mileage out it!
 

MaeZe

Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 6, 2016
Messages
10,757
Reaction score
3,003
Location
Ralph's side of the island.
I like the composition and color of #2, except the two suns are behind the title. I'd play with that a bit.

But I don't understand what the little A-frame that looks like a gingerbread house is. If it's a building with snow on the roof, the drippy little blobs look odd.

Number 3 is too generic, saying nothing about the place or the story except the two suns.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Woollybear

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
6,483
Reaction score
3,461
Location
USA
I'm not trying to be difficult. :)

From a license standpoint, I'm not sure I can use some of the layers that are currently included to create #3. I need to ask the guy (who used those layers to create the Aerovoyant cover). I made a mockup because my friend suggested I try it and it seems worth considering even if I need to find workarounds for the layers.

But also, the cover #3 doesn't say anything about the story. It says spec fic, but no clue as to what to expect within 'Seven Strengths.' And if it's the same foundational image for all the stories, well, I would just run into the same problem with all the stories.

In a sense, it's a blank cover. Sort of like Maeze is saying.

But I can try colors, assuming I'm free to use those layers commercially. That's a great suggestion. :) And I do like the general consensus. (Even if the black and white version is still my favorite.)
 
Last edited:

CathleenT

I write
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 6, 2014
Messages
5,097
Reaction score
1,979
Location
Northern California
My understanding is that it's way more important to indicate (sub)genre rather than story in cover art. It's counterintuitive because as an author, most of us want a scene or something particular from the actual story. But a reader, scanning covers, has no idea what your story is about. The cover's job is to get potential readers to click on the blurb or flip the book over to read it.

Then the blurb's job is to get the potential reader is to open the book. And it's the job of the opener to get the reader to buy.

At that point, even if you have an actual scene from the story on your cover, it's not likely the reader has reached it yet anyway.

IMO, 1 and 2 don't indicate genre at all. Okay, you've got your little medallion, but there's no reason I would slow down enough to even read it. I'm scanning. There's nothing there to slow me down that long.

Or to put it in writing terms, you're telling me when effective marketing requires a show.

This situation here, asking for feedback, is unfortunately not at all like that of your potential readers. Here, folks will actually slow down enough to consider your cover's elements. But that's not what's going to happen IRL. Your cover is going to get less than a second unless something about it catches my eye.

Also IMO, none of the fonts work. They're too generic.

I don't know what to tell you about cover art. It costs and that sucks. It turns out I can paint dragons and other magical creatures and those work out okay. But my same style applied to people slams the visual impression right into an MG niche (and I write for adults, although teens could read my work as well). So instead of paying $100 per cover to have DDD give me a professional font job (like for Dragon Hoard, Stolen Legacy, etc. in my sig) Snow White set me back $300 per cover. (My sig only shows one, but there's a part two as well.)

I haven't even come close to breaking even on covers. And Dragon Hoard is permafree, as is Stolen Legacy for those who join my newsletter.

You can explain here and people will nod and be understanding. But it's my experience that when you're trying to give your book away, no one cares about making it cash flow. They don't care if you have to eat mac 'n' cheese for a month to pay for it. That's the author's problem. If the cover doesn't appeal to readers of your subgenre, they won't bother to read the blurb, let alone the story.

I believe to get people to even consider your book, you need to have covers with the same quality level as these: https://99designs.com/blog/creative-inspiration/science-fiction-fantasy-book-covers/.

Again, it doesn't matter if the cover shows a story element, and in the case of the village house, it'd be better to skip it, IMO. And SP isn't trade, in that money doesn't always flow to the author. You have to spend the money first and hope you can get it back eventually, and eventually can be measured in years. The good money after bad thing doesn't seem to apply here. You have to spend it and then later find out if it's justified.

All JMO, of course. : )

ETA: I don't click on series that have nearly identical covers (for example, just changing the background color). It conveys the impression (to me) that these tales are nearly carbon copies, like a series that simply repackages the same plot over and over.
 
Last edited:

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
6,483
Reaction score
3,461
Location
USA
Thanks Cathleen--good thoughts.

I was actually at that link earlier today. :) I sent the cover of Enceledus to my artist (for the novel) as an example of a 'cover I like.' He shouldn't need it since he did the first book, but it won't hurt to have additional grist for the mill.

But a few of the covers at that link are so ugly. <shudder.> I'm surprised they were included in that round up. I won't mention the specific ones.

Also IMO, none of the fonts work. They're too generic.

I bet this explains one of the effects I've seen done with lots of books, and something I figured out how to mimic earlier today. Some titles use color effects (or other effects) within standard fonts. That gets around the generic feel. It's a similar thing when one or two of the letters are messed up (bullet holes, an image replacing a letter, etc.)

Thanks, you helped me connect a few things.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: CathleenT

Unimportant

But you can call me Fran, if you prefer. Or birdie
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
10,993
Reaction score
8,111
Location
Aotearoa
I admit that I know squat-all about cover art, and that I can't even draw a stick figure.

I do read a metric eff-tonne of fiction, all e-books. So I can give you one datum point, on how one reader uses cover art as a deciding factor.

I browse by going to Kobo and clicking on the genre of interest and then the category of interest, because that's how Kobo is set up. So I'll choose mystery and suspense, category female detectives. Or science fiction and fantasy, subgenre space opera. Then I'll filter by hatever my additional criteria are (best sellers; free; highest rated).

Then I scroll through. I look at the cover first. It has to look professional -- and I don't know how to describe that, but it's partly quality of artwork, partly font, I think. And it has to appeal in some way -- so there I think Cathleen T has nailed it that it needs to imply subgenre. Then I read the blurb, which needs to be non-repellent (again, it needs to read as written by a professional, not an amateur who doesn't know how to tell a story or understand the basic rules of English).

Then I click on the books of interest and peruse the blurb further.

Cover art was more important to me when I bought physical books, but it's less important to me for e books, I think.

tl;dr version: Where do you sell most of your books, Woolybear? That may be an important factor to consider -- how the browsing experience is set up by that vendor.

ETA:

As examples, my subconscious would say (and these are all IMO):

This book has a pro looking cover and a pro sounding blurb, and the cover seems to match what the blurb says the book is about.

This book has an amateur looking cover and an amateur sounding blurb, and the cover doesn't seem to match what the blurb says the book is about.
 
Last edited:

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
6,483
Reaction score
3,461
Location
USA
Kindle.

I truly expect these short stories to only 'move' copies when I run the free / cheap promotions on them. They're intended as magnets, and I won't buy facebook or AMS ads for them. I won't spend money on them, won't really talk about them, won't really invest financially in them except for the cost of running them in (SFF-specific) newsletters during their promotion periods. Basically, they are the ads ... for the novels.

They're short stories, after all.

I'll hope to recoup any outlay of cost into newsletters with readthrough to the novels. We'll see.

But with that approach ... I'm simply not going to buy a cover .. or a font. I can run a dozen newsletter listings for the cost of a cover. (and I think I need the listings.)

(I had actually intended to buy a premade cover, but then five hundred cover-views later decided that none of the premade covers available on any of those websites speak to me. It was a demoralizing realization.)

I'd rather play around and learn as I go. :) It's fun, you know? And we need to enjoy the ride. Plus, it'll be fun to try different covers (and blurbs) on different promotion periods. Data data data.
 
Last edited:

Unimportant

But you can call me Fran, if you prefer. Or birdie
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
10,993
Reaction score
8,111
Location
Aotearoa
I will add that if I read a free book and really enjoy it, the first thing I do is go back to Kobo and look up what else that author has available.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Woollybear

Woollybear

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 27, 2017
Messages
6,483
Reaction score
3,461
Location
USA
Oh--and I should add that if the cozy cover and cozy blurb saw 50 downloads with 100% readthrough, and the zazzy high-octane cover and the zazzy high-octane blurb got 500 downloads but only 5% readthrough, then the cozy approach is the winner.

It's not only about moving as many as possible... it's also about finding the readers that want the book.

But I am only an egg.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Unimportant

Nether

is wondering whether a childhood friend was real
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
2,872
Reaction score
3,197
Location
New England
Cover 1 made more science-fantasy-esque (Two suns, see? That means this isn't historical fiction! :) )

I'll mention that at a glance I didn't pick up on them being two suns, although I agree that two suns is usually a pretty clear sign that "Hey, this isn't Earth!"

Beyond that, I find the block at the bottom with the author name, etc, on cover #2 to be a little off-putting (I know it's the same block from #1, but given that #1 is B&W, it fits a little better).

However, I don't feel confident enough to weigh into this discussion (well, beyond those two points) because I haven't done any cover design myself nor have I adequately studied the subject.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Woollybear

Curlz

cutsie-pie
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 5, 2016
Messages
2,212
Reaction score
380
Location
here
As a reader, my impressions were as follows:
1st cover: "Probably boring and no plot. Pass."
2nd cover: "Wow, this looks very much like the books in the bestseller section of the local shop, let's see the blurb..."
3rd cover: "Hmmm, mixed impressions. The design is a mix of too many things, red flag! But it might be an interesting world, probably a decent read. But then again, I'm not sure if the book would manage to keep up with expectations." Enters the list of books I want to read at number 810471, one day I might get to it ...
 
  • Like
Reactions: Woollybear