I started writing this post assuming I could fit all I have to say on this subject into one reasonably sized article. It quickly became apparent how foolish that assumption was so I went back and added ‘Part 1’ to the title. There’ll definitely be a Part 2 along soon, probably followed at some point by a Part 3. After that, who knows?
But let’s focus on this part. It’s essentially the background to my recent decision to change all my book covers and I’m going to start with a well-known saying:
Never judge a book by its cover.
We’ve all heard the expression, though I’d bet my last penny we all do it. At the very least, it’s usually the cover that first draws our attention. Do you ever pick up a book while browsing in a bookshop (or click a link online) that your gaze would otherwise have slid past if it wasn’t for the cover? Occasionally a title or author’s name will attract me, but more often than not it’s the cover that first catches my eye.
It’s obvious that, from an author’s point-of-view, covers are pretty important—at least to authors who want to sell lots of books. When I parted company with my small-press publisher in March 2018 and decided to take the opportunity to become fully self-sufficient at publishing my own work, I knew that designing covers would be one of the quickest new skills I’d need to acquire and would involve one of the steepest learning curves.
Indeed. The only thing that’s proved to be tougher is learning how to produce my own audiobooks—I’ve blogged extensively about the challenges I faced there and I won’t repeat them now. (If you want to read about them, type ‘audiobooks’ into the site’s search bar; there are nine posts in total. Mind, they’re not for the faint of heart, especially the later posts, concerning themselves as they do with the basics of audio editing.)
After parting company with my publisher, I acquired a photograph-editing program called Affinity and learned how to use it. (By ‘learned how to use it’ I mean that after hour upon hour of trial and error, and painstakingly poring over instructional videos with the mouse cursor hovering over the pause button, I picked up sufficient of the basics to enable me to design simple covers, but have barely scratched the surface of Affinity’s capabilities.)
I had published a few books myself while still signed up to the publisher. (I wasn’t doing anything wrong—I had no contract with the publisher for the books I self-published.) The covers I used for these were either off-the-shelf designs with my name and the book’s title added (e.g. That Elusive Something), or kindly designed by my brother (e.g. the three Elevator ebooks), or cobbled together by me in a handy website called Canva (e.g. Ghosts of Christmas Past—Canva is a great site for designing ebook covers, though wasn’t as good then for the greater resolution required for paperback covers; I don’t know what it’s like these days).
Five books reverted back to me from the small press: Pond Life, the Earth Haven trilogy and The Village of Lost Souls. Apart from one (Pond Life, for which I used Canva), I designed new covers myself—both ebook and, even more of a challenge, paperback—using Affinity. I knew they weren’t great, but they were the best I could do at that time.
Aside from some minor tweaks, my covers have pretty much remained the same since. Even though it’s always been at the back of my mind that they needed improving, there was always something more pressing to be done, such as writing the next tale or producing the next audiobook. Changing just-about-adequate covers for new ones unlikely to be such a huge improvement as to justify the time spent wasn’t high on my list of priorities.
So why change them now? That’ll be the subject of Part 2.