Deciding on a cover

I used to be a graphic designer, so when I decided to self-publish my novel Nyx, I thought I’d be able to design my own cover and save a few bucks. Unfortunately, my skills were rustier than I’d hoped, and the best I could do was this:

Nyx Old Cover

It’s not completely horrible, but to me it screamed CHEAP and SELF-PUBLISHED.

Realizing that when on amazon, I absolutely judge books by their cover, I decided to get the best cover I could. There are tons of designers and artists who offered a cover for a few hundred dollars, but none of them produced anything that I would pick up in a bookstore. Several were clearly excellent artists, but their covers looked like typical fantasy books: knights with swords, old wizards, busty elf maidens, etc. Great art, but not what I wanted for Nyx.

I finally found the Book Designers, who had impressive covers that, well, looked like real books. I gave them some examples of covers I liked:

grimms1 the_unbearable_lightness_of_being.large forgetting-things field_guide_to_the_north_american_bird.large curious-case-of-benjamin-button-and-other-jazz-age-stories brief-history-of-the-dead beautiful-book-covers-53

and asked them to stay away from more-typical fantasy covers, like this:

the_rising perfect_shadow images hammer fallow_blade big_sword 51aXR+Ew7kL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-52,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

I’m not saying these books have bad covers—it’s just not what I wanted.

They came up with a number of cool designs, including these:


(there was a wee misunderstanding about my initials, but they quickly fixed that)

We ended up with this:

Final cover

See the difference, compared to what I did? I’m a huge fan of what they’ve done, and the feedback from people has been overwhelmingly positive. (whew!)

Now, there’s no way for me to test whether the $1500 I spent on the cover was worth it. In fact, I’ve had a few people on reddit give me grief for spending so much, and for all I know, they’re right. But based on the research I did, I feel I got the value I wanted.

And after I spent two years writing and editing this thing, I decided it was absolutely worth the money to have it look as good as possible.

We’ll see if I still think so a couple years from now, but right now, I’m satisfied.

6 thoughts on “Deciding on a cover

  1. I like your cover. Yes, $1500 is a lot to spend, but the result is professional and polished. If you check my website, you’ll see what I got for $250. It’s OK, but I do think it looks a bit unprofessional or like a YA novel or something. It’s not the best thing ever, but I couldn’t afford more than $250 so I guess that’s just how it’ll have to be. If I can make some money off the book, I’ll pay more to get a nicer cover and re-release with the new work. Don’t let the redditors give you shit, you have to be happy with your own product!

      • Not yet… still aiming for the end of the month, but it might get pushed into May. Unfortunately, my website did *not* survive the DDOS… I ended up having to switch to a new hosting provider. Fortunately I was able to pull all my data down via FTP, since HTTP was the main service affected by the attack. On the plus side, I spent about $20 more than I did for one year of hosting with my old company and got three years of hosting with the new provider, so I (theoretically) don’t have to worry about web hosting until 2016.

  2. Publishing costs money. It’s just the way it is. And high quality is more expensive than low. In design as in editing—you get what you pay for.

    Your cover is fabulous, and truly $1500 is not an unreasonable wage for serious professionals to earn for doing fabulous work.

    I’m really pleased to learn of the Book Designers. I’ll be recommending them to my own clients.

  3. Dan! Thank you so much for turning me onto this post. I love the cover art process and seeing how they are designed/decided on. I love the first and third mockup they did for you! The final one is of course gorgeous as well. They did such a marvelous job.

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