Friday, May 3, 2013

Revising a Cover

Yesterday I talked about what makes a good cover and maybe while reading you may have checked out my Book List and said to yourself "hey, follow your own advice!" Well nothing is perfect, at least not on the first try, so for today I thought it would be good to take a cover that needs some work and go through improving it.

An Alien in the City is one of my more recent books. I really like the story and I think kids will like it, but something is wrong with it and I think it might be the cover. So let's look at what we have here:

So for starters I used an image from inside of the book for the cover illustration. Here it is:

Now for an image this is fine and I actually like it quiet a bit, but when I gave it the cover treatment I enlarged the image and brightened it, so it ended up emphasizing some of the less flattering parts of the illustration (mainly the male figure on the right.) I'm also not keen on the font selection. It says alien but it sort of gets lost in the detail of the background. So what can we do to fix this? What if we isolated the image with some color bars, like the way some of the old dime novel covers looked.

Look at that! Already we have more focus on the alien and the distraction in the background in gone. Also the scrunching of the space makes it feel claustrophobic and you get the sense that our hero is trapped in a pretty bad situation. I'm not totally sold on the color black though, seems too filmic, how about something dark but maybe more, I don't know, blue? (Tip: If you're using an image for your cover it helps to use colors that are already present in the image. This makes the design feel more cohesive. Use the eye dropper tool in Photoshop to find the colors that are in your image.)

Hmm, getting better, but this is supposed to be a children's book and this looks like the start of an academic "how to" manual. Let's brighten it up!

There we go! I pulled the color from the alien's eye. It makes his eyes sparkle and brightens up the whole cover. Maybe we have the color that we want, maybe we don't, but let's move on to putting text on the design and then see if we like it. For the font I'm going to stick with Cooper std. for the moment, it's kind of my signature font.

Oh my. Well At least the font is easy to read. . . sort of. I think the font works well for the name, but not  for the title. Maybe we should try that alien font again, it wasn't that bad after all, right? And maybe play with the colors a bit and see if we can't pull it all together better.

Ok, I like where this is going. The text feels natural now and removing the black outline really helped make the piece look more professional. I pulled the color from his eyes again, which is making it look cohesive. I just think that we need to do something with the spacing and arrangement of the title. (remember to use the rulers and guide lines in photoshop to help line up your text.) Maybe something stacked and off center...

What a difference! I let the Y in City break the marquee and hang into the image as a way to lead the eye down and around. I also added drop shadows to bring out the letter. It was just a touch, but those little touches really make a difference in the end product. I think this cover is just about done, but it's still missing something. Also there's one other issue. If you read the previous post you would know that the Amazon image compression software hates flat colors. So to avoid that, let's just add a bit of a gradient to the blue bars.

And voila! A little touch of color to brighten things up and make it shine!

I hope you enjoyed seeing my process and have a better understanding of cover design and self-critique. Covers are just another aspect of the hundreds of little decisions that make up being a self-published author. The great thing about doing it digitally though, is that you can come back and revise as much as you want. Don't be afraid to revisit your old material and bring new life to them. (You can even call them second editions!) 

Please feel free to tweet me any questions or comments you have. Tell me what you think of the cover and maybe even share some of your own. I'd love to see them!

All the best,
A.J. Cosmo

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