We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we do. If it looks bad, nobody will give it a chance. If the cover doesn’t say anything about the story, it leaves the potential reader confused. I have tried to have a professional designer create a cover for one of my novels. It didn’t work. I wasn’t happy with the results. Granted, it was a low budget job, but the problem was that they didn’t understand the project like I did. Perfectly understandable, as I wrote the thing. I’m sure big name authors have larger budgets, the designers probably read the manuscripts and have physical meetings with the author and publisher, but that isn’t realistic when you’re self-publishing.
So, I create my own.
When I designed the original cover for Under the Black Sand, I used stills from the short film that inspired the novel. I suppose it was part loyalty and part convience. I loved the actors, they did a great job and I wanted them to be… immortalised? On the cover? And they were the characters. I imagined them as I wrote the story. Also, the typeface is the same as the one I used in the film.
At the beginning of November, I put the finishing touches to Mont Noir and finalised the cover. As I was working on that, I opened the Blood and Rain design next to it. They do partially follow the same characters and I wanted them to have a visual connection. Since I was busy anyway, I opened the Black Sand cover. It didn’t work for me. I guess too much time has passed, the short film is decades in the past and I felt the cover didn’t do the story justice. Obviously, no slight on the actors, they are still awesome, but the story had grown beyond the short film. (If this thing ever gets filmed, they will still be my first choice.)
That’s when I got a designer to create a new one. As I mentioned, it didn’t work. I tried it myself. Grabbed a photo I’d shot in the Icelandic highlands last summer and worked with that. It received positive feedback, so I decided to republish the book.
The Under the Black Sand cover shows a desolate road in Iceland. You see a car and something that appears to be a ghost. The cover depicts a core scene in the book, shows where it all goes wrong. It is just one scene, but it reverberates throughout the story. The old cover crammed at least three scenes in and it was cluttered. This is more clean and hopefully does the story more justice.
As I was writing Blood and Rain, I experimented with different designs. It was always going to be red and black, the anarchist colours. Oh, I actually started with a 1950s style 5 cent paperback design, but it’s a 1930s story and I think most books back then were some kind of canvas designs. Back to red and black. I had a full body female silhouette with a gun, but it was too James Bond. Settled on a face. The diagonal line is the anarchist flag. The typeface from the 1950s design survived, as I used a kind of Film Noir type. The pattern coming out of her eye represents that even if she isn’t the protagonist, everything that happens radiates from her.
Mont Noir is just around the corner. It follows some of the same characters. Anarchism has been abandoned by most of them, at least in their daily life, so the red colour is gone. Instead, we have the blue of the Dutch skies and water. You see the plane and the danger. Interestingly, the typeface I chose for Blood and Rain is more pronounced here, as the title of the book uses it.
Lastly, and this is kind of a bonus feature, I published a book of poetry and odd bits in 2018. I had seven copies printed and have given away two of them. I will never have more printed and may or may not give more away. Some of the poetry are song lyrics I wrote while playing with the guitar. I never recorded any of them and they are forgotten, but the words remain. Silent songs, a book that nobody will read. A very personal work. Book of Silence. The cover represents this, as it is me, in relative darkness, facing away.
Designing covers is something I love doing. As I’m working on a story, they are a great distraction when I don’t feel like writing but want to be close to the project. If I had a large budget, I would probably get someone more skilled to design them, but I would always be very involved.