A Few Lessons Learned Regarding Book Cover Design

I signed off my last post by saying that my chosen ebook publishing services provider, eBook Partnership, had not yet acknowledged receipt of my manuscript and forms. To be fair, Diana Horner did just that on 16th February, the very next day, so that’s good. On 18th February, the first version of my cover design came through.

My heart did sink a little when I saw it. Let’s be clear, the eBook Partnership’s book cover design service is very reasonably priced compared to hiring your own designer directly. Their gallery also shows they have a good sense of effective cover design, and they know what makes a bad cover. But the draft cover design for Infernal Prey made it look a bit like a bodice-ripping paranormal historical romance, which it most certainly isn’t. It is important to note that the design was well composed, employed stock imagery with skill, and was of generally good quality. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realised the problem wasn’t the designer, it was me.

A dark fantasy set in a remote part of Central Europe during the late 19th Century: This is not an easy design brief. The cover design brief had given me the opportunity to guide the designer by providing descriptions of “poster scenes” and examples of cover designs I liked and those I didn’t. But I didn’t make enough use of them. I just made some coy comments about not really knowing what I wanted and being prepared to see what the designer turned in. This is stupid!!! No designer is going to actually read the manuscript, unless they are  a close friend or relative. The design brief is vital and it is the author’s responsibility to take as much advantage of it as possible.

My response to Diana was along the lines of “wow, it’s great… if we can just make a few changes…”. Wrong, wrong, WRONG!!! This is my goddamn book! And the eBook Partnership is not staffed by psychics! What’s more, for what they are charging, they aren’t going to to go back and forth on design tweaks forever; they have to make a margin after all. I realised if I couldn’t be bothered to make full use of the design brief, the least I could do was to say what I meant and what I wanted as clearly as I could. I followed up as quickly as I was able with “ummmm… eerrr… actually… the more I think about it… can we start again?” In couple more back-and-forth emails, Diana gently guided me to narrow down my ideas and I even found an image on Google to provide inspiration (not to be used, obviously).

Possibly it would have helped to put me in direct contact with their designer, but on the other hand I can see why Diana didn’t do that.

The truth is, not only was I not comprehensive and thoughtful in my brief, I was lazy. Of course I had ideas in my head for what the cover could look like, I was just too “shy” to share them. And I could have provided links to good and bad covers on Amazon, but I had a pile of other things to do and… I just didn’t. And that is my stupid fault. This novel has consumed huge chunks of my time and represents a massive investment of my creativity, energy and enthusiasm, yet I allow reticence and laziness to kick in on something as important as the cover design?

Well, that’s enough self-flagellation for now. Hopefully, no harm done (though I haven’t seen the next version of the design yet, so judgment must still be held in reserve). At least now I have given the eBook Partnership’s long-suffering designer something to work with. And no, before you ask, I will not post the first version of the cover on here!

About Mark Winter

Dark Fantasy novelist (INFERNAL PREY). Blogging on politics and current affairs (GibberLog), science and history (BlatherLog), sci-fi, fantasy & horror (WittlerLog), business, product development & start-ups (MutterLog). View all posts by Mark Winter

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