A few months back (in October 2020) I put up a blog post that talked a little about book covers. Called ‘Be Honest… We DO Judge a Book By It’s Cover!‘ it discussed why I’d gone down the Indie publishing route (to keep creative control!) and how important I felt a distinctive cover was. 

And then we had a little cover reveal!  YAY!

For this week’s blog, I thought I’d dive a little more into the process behind how I got to my book cover, and my concept for the covers moving forward. (which will include a sneak peak of something exciting!)

Where it all began…

One of my pet peeves in life, is the badly created photoship book cover.

There. I said it.

Being able to use a program like Photoshop is a skill, and not many people can use it properly. In a former life I used to work graphic design for an IT company. This is NOT as fancy as it sounds. Basically, I had to pull together presentations, newsletters etc for the corporate entity, including a fair amount of photoshopping (company logos etc).

This was a lifetime ago.

It was a simpler time back then. Not as sophisicated as it is now, but I wasn’t too bad in the old graphics packages. Mostly it was me creating logos for my little basketball league, or doing images for charity.  Here are a few examples for you to chuckle over…

My team, the Bourneville Dragons…
My league logo…

Or, there was a time WAY back in the day, when we got a Video camera, and started to make our own films and TV shows. Which included props such as these…

Fake FBI badges…
and the less convincing Miami PD badge.

Yes, that is me back in the 90’s. Anyway, the point is… I used to be okay with using Photoshop.

The problem I have with photoshop covers, is that unless you’re really REALLY good at them (and I know some people who are!) they can look terrible.

I mean…TERRIBLE.

I’m not going to pick on any here, but if you go down the rabbit hole and do a little googling, you’ll find sites like this one… Lousy Book Covers. Follow the link and go check it out. Come back when you’ve had a good chuckle.

Are you back? Excellent, let us carry on then…

My point is, that unless you really know what you’re doing, the covers are not going to match what’s in your minds-eye. Even though I know my way around photoshop and coreldraw etc, I knew that I didn’t know these applications well enough to make anything that looked professional.

And I REALLY didn’t want my book to look slapdash.

What’s more, my covers concept all started with a piece of art that I adored. You’ll have seen it on my website a number of times by now (and if you haven’t, then why aren’t you reading ALL my content! *shakes head disappointingly*)

Anyway, it’s this piece by Tyler Wilson.

Fordith and Knightingale by Tyler Wilson

I detailed in my other blog post, how I felt about this art. How it informed me about what I wanted to do moving forwards.

But here’s the plan for the uninitiated…

  1. Each book cover would feature a character from the book series. The front cover would detail them in their normal form – so to speak – while the back cover would present them in their alternate form.
  2. As there are 7 books, I decided I wanted a subtle rainbow theme, as there are 7 colours in the rainbow too…
  3. …and while that was simply just an original concept for the colours, the rainbow type colour scheme actually subtly promotes the fact that while the books aren’t specifically LGBTQ+, they are kind of LGTBQ+ friendly (I hope!). Characters representing some of these identities crop up fairly frequently in the book, because that’s just who these people are. They’re representative of everyone.

That’s probably a topic for another time, though. 

The first book was ALWAYS going to feature my main atogonist Gayle Knightley. She is the ‘Songbird’ around which the saga revolves. If you did read my other blog post, you’ll have seen my badly designed (and hastily constructed) concept art…

My original thought was to have the back cover as like a ‘negative’ of the front, but showing the characters true colours. For example, on the Gayle cover for ‘Hunters’ it would show Gayle looking quietly pensive on the front, while the negative would be stern and powered up (she can manipulate fire!)

This was the concept I sent to Marlena Mozgawa (my simply fantastic artist on these covers!).

Here was what she sent back…

As you can see… her interpretation of my concept was a huge improvement on what I was thinking. And this was just the initial sketch!

I asked for a few changes. Gayle needed to have her eyes closed on the front. And it needed to be a little brighter red in colour. I also wanted Gayle to be ‘powered up’ on the back. I wanted the FIRE!!!! I also needed to see Gayle’s neck on the back cover as she has a distinctive scar on that side…

Take 2!

Getting there.

The colour was not more ‘red’, which was on the money. And Gayle looked in repose, which was better. But the back cover was a little too light, and powered up her powers looked more like electricity than fire.

Take 3!

Almost there, but the effect still isn’t quite right on the back…

I wasn’t sure about those eyes, I wanted them more normal. I sent her a passage from book 2 where **spoilers** we first see Gayle cut loose with her abilities. Think FIRE Marlena! Think FIRE!

Take 4!

Nailed it.  It’s got everything I want and I was ECSTATIC!
THIS was the cover that I put on the proof copies of the book.

What’s more it looks EVEN BETTER on the Hardback version of the book…

Marlena, however, wasn’t quite done yet. She wasn’t ‘quite’ happy with Gayle on the front cover and thus tweaked it a little…

Plus…it needed widening to accomodate for the extra flaps on the dust jacket for the hardback.

And so…we arrive at the FINAL version! I FUCKING LOVE IT!!!

During this whole process, we were also going through a similar situation with the cover to NT Anderson‘s book ‘Acts of Closure‘. Which is some ways was even more complicated because it was a door. Just a door. 

You wouldn’t BELIEVE the trouble we had with that door!

But through it all Marlena was a trooper and delivered above and beyond our expectations. So now, we have two books that look amazingly professional – in my opinion! Here’s the two of them next to each other…

NT Anderson had her book launch last week, and the book is great.  If you like a little erotic-romance in your life, go buy it now!  I totally recommend it! (Click on the picture above to be taken to the Amazon page!)

And just so you can see it, I’ve now had the cover re-done with the latest artwork, and here’s what it looks like (alongside Anna Mocikat’s apocalyptic story ‘Dark City’ book cover. It’s the sequel to ‘Shadow City’ – amazing book. Again, click on the piccie below and go buy it!!!)

Okay, now here’s a sneak peek of the initial sketch for book 2…just for you!

Of course, I was so pleased with her work, that I went back to Marlena for book 2 of my saga.
This cover features Lyssa Balthazaar, a Vampyrii. So, without further ado… let me reveal the initial sketch for the cover that she came up with for
‘The Ballad of the Songbird – Book 2’ – BLOOD TO EARTH

The ‘Blood to Earth‘ cover concept – by Marlena Mozgawa

Note that we’re moving into the more orange part of the spectrum (so imagine how these books will look next to each other on the shelf) and you can clearly see (even in this sketch) how Lyssa looks in control on the cover, and then full on VAMP on the back. 

I LOVE this cover and can’t wait to see it in the finished version. 

My Conclusion

I get it.  Doing your own cover in Photoshop is FREE and you don’t want to spend anymore money than you need to on getting your book into a punters hands.

But, getting a cover artist like Marlena doesn’t have to cost the Earth. Just like there’s a #WritingCommunity here on Twitter, there’s also a bucketload of artists. You can find a few of them on my Artist page here! Either way, go take a look around and find an artist who’s style strikes a chord with you and your vision.

Marlena’s cover art was one of the best investments I ever made. What’s more it’s her dream to be a self-supported artist who makes a living painting. So, while I’m benefitting from having a gorgeous book cover, she’s getting a steady stream of business from me (and Nikki!) to do our book covers. It’s a Win-Win!

Now, I’ll recommend Marlena Mozgawa to anyone that needs a cover artist.  As you’ve seen above, she can paint anything from an Vampire to a door. She has experience doing book covers AND she can provide a Commercial License service.

Hop over to her website to take a look at what she’s capable of… LINK HERE!

You’ve spent many an hour crafting your story to go on those pages. Do you really want to risk letting it down with a substandard cover?  Think about it.

Till next time…

Love and Books

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11 Comments

  1. Mitch

    Reply

    That is impressive! You have put a lot of thought and time into the cover. I’m glad you love it because we do judge the book by its cover.

    Thanks for the recommendation of your friends book. I popped over and I love that cover too. The red door is very mysterious.

  2. Jim

    Reply

    People can tell when an author has put a lot of thought and work into their book. People are, I think, more apt to buy a book when it is clear that it has been a labor of love from the author. This post makes it obvious you are putting your all into this series. It should do well.

    And that is a great artist as well.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I have had a vision all along for what this book should look like. Every time I look at the proof copy in my hand I’m in awe of how Marlena took a concept I (badly) mocked up and ran with it to create something amazing. I will be forever grateful for the work she put in on the covers.
      I can’t wait till I finish the series. I think as a set they’re going to look absolutely stunning on the shelf.

    • Acro

      Reply

      I think you’re onto something, Jim. Strangely enough, I’ve seen a few ebooks on Amazon with identical covers. I shy away from those books because a book cover with minimal effort could also signal that the author dropped the ball with the story’s plot and character development.

      • Jon Ford

        Reply

        My ethos on all this has been to spend time on the whole package. To be as professional as I can be to make this book as close to something that has been traditionally published by one of the big publishing houses.
        I honestly think that if you put my book (or Nikki’s book, which I also had a hand in helping to bring to fruition) alongside a book from one of the trad publishers, you’d be hard pressed to tell ours is Indie.

        The Trad publishers do have the advantage of some bells and whistles we don’t. I’d have loved embossed logos on the cover for instance, or coloured edges on the pages. But as far as we can possibly go, I think we look the business.

        There are some books our there that I’d be embarrassed to put on my bookshelf they look so amateurish, but I really don’t think the ones we’re putting out on the Tepris Press label are amongst them.

  3. Lilith

    Reply

    It was a smart move to invest in a book cover Jon, especially after I saw on that link how lousy book covers can be. It’s an important note to make that the cover is one of the things that catches the attention of some readers. It’s unfortunate but I can see how months or even years of writing a book can easily be disregarded if the front cover ends up looking like a failure.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I know, right? Some covers are awful. LOL

      I don’t understand why, after ploughing so much work into writing a book, you don’t spend time getting the cover just right. They don’t have to be all fancy art like I have on Hunters, sometimes the cover style just needs to suit the book. My friend Kayla Hicks just put out her novella called ‘The Backup Superhero’ and her cover is simple, yet perfect for the book. It looks great.

      Personally I think it’s the photoshopped covers that stand out as generally bad unless you REALLY know what you’re doing. But, I also understand that some authors want to keep their overheads as low as possible and throwing together a photoshopped cover themselves costs them nothing, whereas I’ve spent money commissioning Marlena for the Songbird covers.

      Yet, it’s not crazy expensive to get an artist to do your cover work. Or it doesn’t have to be if you find the right artist.

      I’d go further and say that my collaboration with Marlena has in actual fact enhanced my work on the books. Her art has brought to life the images in my head. The cover for Hunters shows me what Gayle (and Allyson) looks like. Her book 2 cover is Lyssa, and now I can see her in my head.

      I love working with Marlena, she’s a joy. My books are all the better for it.

    • Shari

      Reply

      I could not agree more Lilith. I am one of those people that do judge a book by its cover. The artwork does pull me in. If I like the cover, I read the back of the book. If I like that, I buy it. There are some pretty cruddy covers out there.

      • Jon Ford

        Reply

        This is me too! 😀
        Especially if I’m in a physical bookstore. The cover art is the first thing that draws me to a book. Then there’s the blurb test.
        Essentially, if it’s a beautiful cover and has some sort of SciFi content then you’ve made a sale with me right then and there! LOL

        • Mitch

          Reply

          You have described me to a T. The book cover draws me in. I have put down many books because the artwork was “boring”. I don’t know why writers would put so little time into something that readers see first.

          • Jon Ford

            There are some awful covers out there. I’m a firm believer that you should give the externals of the book the same care and attention that you give the words inside.

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