Wednesday, 21 November 2012

How to design an ebook cover - the evolution of Multicide

I don't claim to be an expert on this by any means but having recently designed a cover for my latest story that I'm very happy with I thought others might find my experiences useful.
The final cover owes a lot to a number of people but most of all probably Felix Scholz who provided the original image and Anne Billson who provided a number of useful suggestions.
Incidentally, and to show you what a complete amateur I am, the only software I use is good old PowerPoint.

The starting point for the cover was a photo Felix took of pasata spilled on a wall. As soon as I saw it I knew it would end up on a book cover at some point.

The first step was to crop it to book cover dimensions and add the title and my name. This was my first attempt at turning it into an actual cover.

That just looked far too "ebooky" so I tried playing around with the colours and design to make it stand out a bit more.

That was punchier but just too damn dreary so I played some more and ended up with these variations on the first two covers. These also added the definition of multicide to sell the book a little better.

Those two are both kind of okay. They look like the cover of a self-published ebook designed by someone with no real artistic talent. Early on in my career I would have been happy with them, What I've realised recently though is just how important book covers are. So I went back to the drawing board and started again.
First up was this effort.

Definitely more distinctive and professional feeling but it got away from the feel I was trying to get for the story. Multicide is a full on, slightly silly, very gory pulp horror story. So I decided I needed to add Felix's photo back in. What I discovered them (amateur alarm going off again) is that there are photo filters on PowerPoint...

I shared the cover with a few people and the feeling was that it was good but not perfect. I had my basic concept and design though,, what I needed to do next was refine it. What followed was a series of slight tweaks to layout and font style and size. I added shadows to some of the words to make them stand out more and played around with the colours. Basically I just kept fiddling with each part until the whole worked. Here is the evolution.

I was happy with it now....almost. There was still something missing, something that marked it out as an ebook and lacked the fun vibe that the vintage paperback covers I love have. I did a bit of Googling and looked at book jackets I liked and thought about things. 
Then on my ride home from work I realised what was missing. The thing that "real" books had that mine didn't. A publisher's logo. 
So I created one. The name for the brand came quickly, Bastian Books (my son's name is Sebastian), the idea for the logo followed quickly on. 2 Bs back to back shaped to look like a skull, fitting for the kind of nasty horror and crime I churn out. I set to work (again in PowerPoint) and after a bit of a trawl through the different fonts available came up with this.

The final step was to add it the cover. This required a slight layout change and gave me the chance to add in a nicely pulpy strapline at the top. Job done!

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