{Procrastination Post} The Making of a Book Cover

It’s been a long time since I was in design business–nothing fan­cy, most­ly mag­a­zine ads, book­lets, some­times fur­ni­ture stick­ers, and indus­tri­al design for the tool stores. (I’m hap­py those days are over, tho.) I’m not real­ly back in busi­ness, but I design my own cov­ers. You can see them on my books page and on the ded­i­cat­ed Falaha’s books site. Only four so far.

I’m still writ­ing that sec­ond book and I need­ed a break from things.

So this week I have been design­ing a cov­er for a writer friend. We often dis­cuss *hor­ri­ble* book cov­ers that appear here and there from time to time. Lousy Book Cov­ers knows it all. If you are into romances, you should stalk the Bad Romances tum­blr space for the cof­fee chuck­le. Most of the cov­ers are both hilar­i­ous and sad at the same time, because launch­ing a book with poor cov­er is a bad idea. And not because some­one some­where will laugh at it–that’s the least awful thing you should be wor­ry­ing about.

Any­way, I’m not sure I want to go into cov­er design busi­ness as into busi­ness. There are many things that play against it–my health is the major scor­er. Dead­line is a non-exis­tent word for my body–it shat­ters too often and pain is my fre­quent com­pan­ion.

How did I get to illus­trate a book cov­er for some­one else?

It all start­ed with a blog post about the cov­er for her new nov­el, Her Demon­ic Majesty (still in edits), which is sci-fi/fantasy sto­ry.

In short, this was her orig­i­nal cov­er.
Her Demonic Majesty Cover (Old)

It’s not that bad. It’s OK, if you do some­thing about that spread-too-wide-too-far title and throw out words like “a new nov­el”. Seri­ous­ly, why put things like “A nov­el” on a book cov­er? Can’t peo­ple fig­ure that out from the word count? How­ev­er, from a thumb­nail point of view, which the read­er sees first in a store like Smash­words, it’s a good cover–it’s bright and the title is read­able. It would only be awful in print.

I usu­al­ly work in Adobe Illus­tra­tor and some­times in Pho­to­shop. The new cov­er for Her Demon­ic Majesty was drawn in Illus­tra­tor.

I asked for a book descrip­tion, since I haven’t read the sto­ry draft. My friend kind­ly gave me a sub­mis­sion package–the file with a syn­op­sis and details about character’s appear­ance and the world she oper­ates in. That’s a good start.

Over the next few days we were talk­ing out the details of the cover–that’s right, we com­mu­ni­cat­ed a lot.

I did a rough draft of a char­ac­ter, which looked like this:


Then I fin­ished sketch­ing the upper half of her body, and as I went on, I had a basic idea for a background–a city–and lat­er I made a scaled cov­er draft to see how every­thing would be placed, includ­ing the title and the author’s name. At this stage I also played with the back­ground tone a bit, going for the dark one even­tu­al­ly.


Lat­er I added some more ele­ments for the main pic­ture.


Then I fin­ished the char­ac­ter details.


Done with that, all was left is to add the back­ground city and find a suit­able font.


At this stage the cov­er was pret­ty much fin­ished. So I showed it to my friend and went to bed. How­ev­er, I knew well that the job wasn’t over yet.

In the morn­ing, when I opened the file, I clear­ly saw that the cov­er has no life, no con­cept, and no punch. It was, well, dead and it sucked.

Giv­ing it anoth­er thought, I recol­ored the art­work and the title need­ed a bit of work too. This is what the end result looks like:


So which one do you like?


Jeno Marz
JENO MARZ is a science fiction writer from Latvia, Northern Europe, with background in electronics engineering and computer science. She is the author of two serial novels, Falaha’s Journey: A Spacegirl’s Account in Three Movements and Falaha’s Journey into Pleasure. Marz is current at work on a new SF trilogy. All her fiction is aimed at an adult audience.


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