Evolution of a Book Cover

In an effort to save some cash, and because I secretly wish I were a graphic designer, I designed the cover for my debut novel.

It was one area we self-publishers are strongly advised to “leave to the experts”, but I love – and look forward to – conjuring up snazzy designs for all of my upcoming books as well. To me, it’s part of the fun in creating a book. I look at it all as part of the creative process, just as important as the actual writing to me. I take it seriously, and I know what I like and don’t like when it comes to a design.

Take Canswer, my first novel. Here is my first attempt at a cover for it.


At the start of the year, myself and a friend went on a road trip. We ended up traveling over four and a half thousand kilometers in seven days! We saw some fantastic sights, and I was particularly taken with a group of sculptures at Lake Ballard. Here is a photo I took of one of them:

Lake Ballard

Lake Ballard

As you can see, this was the basis of that first cover. I liked the desert motif, and I liked the sense of isolation that hopefully the image conveyed. This is a prominent theme in the book and I think the cover translated this. But when I uploaded it to Amazon, it just didn’t look good as a thumbnail. I loved (and still love) the full size cover, but it just wasn’t working at such a small size.

So I tried another cover design. Same idea, just a different take on it:

canswer cover

I like almost everything about this one. I love the font, I like the sun warp effect, the shadow on the sculpture. But someone remarked that it looked like an alien and although the comment didn’t faze me to begin with, it was like a tick that burrowed its way into my skin and threatened to breed. I kept replaying the comment – which I’m kind of sure was innocently motivated – round and round in my head until I started to believe it. And again, even though the design is much more simple it didn’t work as a thumbnail.

So I went back to the drawing board, so to speak. The story behind Canswer is pretty straightforward. It isn’t a high concept piece. It’s a story about death. It’s pretty direct storytelling. I wanted the cover to convey that. So I did a simple red and white font on a black background. I drew inspiration from “Hank Moody’s” debut, God Hates Us All.



And voila! The new design is below:

canswer cover new

It is simple, but that’s what I love most about it. Plus, it looks great as a thumbnail.

Canswer is available from Amazon for 99c (US, equivalent elsewhere).