Book covers: what do you see in them? A passing comment in a review of someone else’s book made me wonder (since I rather liked the ‘look’). And, happily, book covers are the theme of this month’s Insecure Writers Support Group.

This is my Insecure Writers Support Group post, in which we share our successes and failures as writers, our insecurities, in fact. Anyone can join in, just sign up at the IWSG Sign-up page, write a blog post on the first Wednesday of the month, and go back to that sign up page to link with everyone else–or a goodly sample. Our host is Alex J Cavanaugh, and cohosting this month are:

 Jacqui Murray, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Pat Garcia, and Gwen Gardner!

Insecure Writers Support Group badge

And if you do pop over the the IWSG Sign-up page, skip to the homepage/blog and read the great post by Janice Hardy on Empty Dialogue.

Book Covers: this month’s question

do you make your own covers or purchase them?

IWSG Feb 23

In the beginning….

The Princelings of the East was first published in late 2011. I had no idea what to do about covers. Well, I read all about the ways I could spend a lot of money getting something I wouldn’t like (!). As with most newbies, my story and its characters were very precious to me.

Fortunately, my niece was in her last year of art college, and was willing to try her hand at a commission. I had an idea. She came up with the covers for the first three. The ‘look’ of the series was established. The look of the original three covers is embarrassing, but when it came to making them into paperbacks, we revised all three plus the fourth. The original was excellent, but deemed inappropriate for the market at that time. Oh heck, let’s show you that one at the end!

10 Princelings book covers

So it was a commission for three that turned out to be for all ten (priced individually). I gave Dani more ideas early on, and reminded myself later to let her use her talent and experience. She now works entirely freelance on fantastic images and character designs. If you are at a UK ComicCon, ScifiCon, FantasyCon, or a Con on the south coast, look out for her stand, KanizoArt. But she rarely does book covers, unless you have a serious fantasy-type animal you want on the cover.

Did I produce something you can judge the books by? I think so. I’m very pleased with the final result. And some are outstanding on their own. Particularly Pirates (book 2)!

The Viridian System series

These I sort of designed myself, and sort of made myself, with help from good design friends (including Dani). I had already selected a picture from the NASA/JPL collection to use as a background on my series website, and naturally found a shade of green that pretty much matched the standard ‘viridian’ for it. With the help of Gimp (which has now evolved, and I don’t understand what into, so I’m staying with what I have), I put a basic cover together for the teaser volume of short stories (no longer on sale).

Having got a ‘look’ I wanted each cover to have some sort of device to distinguish it from its fellows. The perihelix itself was an idea I had which my friend Dawn (professional designer and editor) produced from swords I found on the internet. She made it ready for me to position on my cover. I took the same approach with the dragonfly on Corsair, the dragonfly being an alien who climbs aboard by mistake. Dani did this one for me. Then for the third, we now have a few thousand pictures of Saturn available to us, thanks to the Cassini probe. I found one I could crop, flip, recolour and distort to put on my cover. Thank you to a number of people, especially Rebecca, who gave me feedback on the results. As you can tell, my abilities with Gimp had improved!

And these definitely look like what they are: science fiction, but a little off-mainstream. They aren’t black or very dark blue. The font is slightly techie but doesn’t scream at you like that modern robotic font that is now soooo old! And the dragonfly definitely brings intrigue.

The Unexpected Twisty Tales and Messenger Misadventures

I wanted these to be relatively simple, and I knew what I wanted to have on the front of Messenger Misadventures – the cliffs on Mull with the guinea pigs in the foreground. So I made that part of the design on Gimp from my own photographs.

The short story volumes? I wanted to use certain photos for some of them, but was stumped for others. So I went off to with a broad idea: lighthouse for one, and clocks for the other. I was delighted to find what I wanted! I’d like to thank all the graphical artists who post things on free sites like pixabay for our use.

Then–since the titling is the thing that causes me most angst–I went into Kindle Cover Creator and tried out loads of their designs! I ended up with this one, and I hope it’s still there when I next want it. The drawback of Cover Creator is you have to hunt for the option to download your lovely cover. It doesn’t come very big when you do. It was okay for the paperbacks I did, but I seem to remember some problems with quality that don’t show in the finished article.

One of my fellow craft fair stall holders gave me some design feedback: he liked all the covers except for the short story ones. According to all the best design principles, I shouldn’t put my text on the angle like that. I agree. But I like it, for those, which are supposed to be a bit off-beat.

What next?

I have a dummy cover for the next book I have in first draft. The Cavies of Flexford Common is supposed to be related to Messenger Misadventures (guinea pig adventures.) So I’ve replicated that style just using Gimp. It gives me something to play with while I’m working on the book more! And helps me critique it. ‘yes, but not that, and maybe shade the grass towards the bottom…’ and then I get back to the plot.

Want to try Gimp?

Sorry, I don’t think you’ll find it. Check what other people are using. There are some really good free or cheap cover programmes out there now, but I don’t know their names.

Think about the ‘draw’ on your covers

And if you are making your own book covers, pay attention to the wisdom on the internet about things like font and style for various genres. I really ‘ought’ to make my books for younger readers more cartoon-like than photos. But… the guinea pigs are the draw! Real guinea pigs having imaginary adventures in real places. It may put some people off, but I reckon it draws more in, at least to talk.

I hope that helps anyone thinking of doing their own. Just remember that people ARE judging your book by the cover!

What do you see in my covers? Feel free to ask anything else you want to know in the comments. I’ll be back to you to see how you answered the question, if you’re in IWSG!

Book covers: see them my way #IWSG

20 thoughts on “Book covers: see them my way #IWSG

  • 1 February, 2023 at 7:16 am

    Just asying hi –

    Awed, informed, guided, and will talk about this post with the other two.

    Thanks, Esther

  • 1 February, 2023 at 12:41 pm

    I heard about GIMP on the Six Figure Authors podcast — they love making their own covers for certain books they publish. You can still get GIMP here:
    I’ve tried using the program, but I’m still learning 🙂 Have you tried Canva for your fonts and stuff after you’ve created the cover image you want? It’s free to use and most of their templates are free, too.

    Ronel visiting for IWSG day Strategies to Be a Successful Author

    • 1 February, 2023 at 6:46 pm

      Last autumn I looked at a gimp update and got sent to a new site! I’ll maybe look again, but it’s the same url. Canva was one of the names I was searching my brain for 😀

  • 1 February, 2023 at 1:03 pm

    You have a lot of experience with covers. Thanks for sharing what you know. I think I’d find someone to design my covers. I’m not talented enough to design my own covers.

    • 1 February, 2023 at 6:48 pm

      I think if you have an idea it’s worth running with it on one of the new programs. Otherwise, use the pros!

  • 1 February, 2023 at 2:39 pm

    I love your covers, esp The Princelings series. I’ve designed all my covers – at least the vision – and then have had artists help create them. I’ve primarily used 99 Designs, based in California.

    • 1 February, 2023 at 6:49 pm

      I love all your covers too, although Death by Pumpkin is hard to figure out from a thumbnail! Is there another Rhe brewing?

    • 1 February, 2023 at 6:51 pm

      Itt’s one of my ‘things’ – series must fit together. I get really irritated with series on my shelves that changed design halfway!

  • 1 February, 2023 at 3:59 pm

    Awesome, Jemima! You have some very interesting stories around your book covers.

    • 1 February, 2023 at 6:52 pm

      Is that a nice way of saying I never stop talking? Lol
      Thanks, Sonia!

  • 1 February, 2023 at 5:43 pm

    Great discussion of the covers, and I learned some stuff. I’m not sure which way I’m going for the next series—paid or DIY, though I know which way it *ought* to go. At the moment, I’m just worrying about making the stories work.

    • 1 February, 2023 at 6:55 pm

      You’ve just reminded me, I need to give you feedback… forgot to do it last night, and here we are, its night again! And a new month! Omg. My bad, as they say.

  • 1 February, 2023 at 5:46 pm

    Your covers all do an excellent job of easily showing a reader which ones are in which series.
    I love using Gimp and have made a few covers in it. Updates usually require a little poking around, but don’t be afraid of that. There’s usually something that is now easier.

    • 1 February, 2023 at 6:57 pm

      I’ll have another look. Maybe I hit a wrong button or something last time. Thanks, Patricia 😀

  • 2 February, 2023 at 2:43 am

    I like that I get to see your cover each time I open Kindle to read it. It gives me a moment to connect the image to the story. I’m a total sucker for sci fi covers with space!

  • 2 February, 2023 at 4:41 am

    I’m in awe at all you have accomplished, Jemima. Thanks for sharing our experiences!

  • 2 February, 2023 at 2:45 pm

    You have written a lot of books, Jemima! I love the connections between covers within a series.

  • 10 February, 2023 at 2:51 pm

    Fascinating–both your covers and your creativity!

  • 21 February, 2023 at 10:27 pm

    Wow that’s a lot of books! And I love the covers–they stand out even as thumbnails.

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