Friday, August 3, 2012

Judging A Book By It's Cover. The Evolution Of An eBook Cover

-Mark Barry
I always wanted to write a football hooligan novel. 

Most Americans would never have heard of the pastime which dominated male culture in Cities across Great Britain in the seventies and eighties, but the hobby was pretty widespread. 

I was actively involved in my younger days and had a resource to draw from.

In November and December last year I put together 60k novel on er, off-field activities at Notts County Football Club, in Nottingham, England - the oldest football league club in the world. 

Then, after getting the bug bigtime, and discovering a talent for fast writing, I started writing other books and before you know it, I had four, one planned and a publishing company. 
Trouble is, while I can write a storm, I am an idiot when it comes to Art.

 I have to say that I have no artistic talent whatsoever. 

CSE Grade 5 Art in 1980. 

My Art teacher, the glamourous but waspish Mrs Dowell, in the days when these things were allowed, humiliated me in front of 25 other children by laughing at my publicly displayed effort. 

And that was that with my aspirations to paint landscapes in Sherwood Forest.
UV "Kent Cover" Version One Feb 2012

So when it came to covers, I was worried. 

Then, I thought, how difficult can this BE in a world of technology! With all the packages available, you too can be Picasso, a Renoir, a David Bailey.

So in February this year, I travelled to Kent and started designing the five covers.

Using Open Office Draw, Google and a notepad and pen, I came up with the above for the football hooligan novel.  

At the time, I wanted a pseudonym for the book - hence, Simon Haddow. (Shadow - Mask - Geddit?) 

This is a photograph of some West Ham fans taunting Millwall supporters stretched a bit in a Cubist, Twilight Zone, dreamlike state

When I showed him the finished product on my now defunct website, a friend asked me where I got the photograph. 

I said Google. 

He then went into a ten minute rage about copyright (being a top photographer and graphic designer.)

I never gave it a second thought. I thought Google Images was a public access thing. 

It took me about a day for my friend Kelly and I to design the above, choose the colours, the fonts and all that - and ten seconds to delete it.

Version II didn;t take too long. As Trainer (Sneaker) Culture  was a key aspect of the football hooligan scene in the eighties, I decided - indeed, became fixated - upon the notion of using a sneaker on the front. It seemed to say everything to me. 

Ultra Violence "Diadora Plain" Version II March 2012

I took a photograph of one of my trainers, a Diadora Borg Elite with Gold Epaulettes, and messed about with it on Open Office. 

Notice that the font layout and texture is the same as Version 1. Just different colours.

A week later, I was on the treadmill in my local gym and my trainer came up to me and told me he'd seen all the new covers on the website. He asked me what I'd used to design them. I told him. Open Office. Great JPEG conversion reliability.

Well, he went quiet. 

A lovely young lad called Adam. Top notch gamer. Has a Solid State hard drive and that.  Knows Java. I like to think he's a good friend of mine and as I plodded along at 8k an hour, I realised he didn't like the covers but he was far too nice to tell me. 

Not just the Ultra Violence one. 

All of them.

Gulp. Launch date for the books coming up like a bullet train in open country and five new covers to design.

Version 3 below is my attempt at a Seventies "Reader's Digest" approach. A thematic branding in trendy black and white, with a stark bottle green afterflash. I like the symbolic flash of red.

All five look identical to this. I loved the big green number and I quite like the aesthetic combination of grey and green. I used Word. 

I spent an entire week doing this and I couldn't wait to put the five covers on the website.
UV "Fifty Shades of Grey" Version III April 2012

I did so.

Sales went through the floor. 

That's where Dawn Smith of Dark Dawn Creations got involved.

In my short time on the Amazon Forum, I met Dawn. 

Early June. None of my books were selling. My friend and close associate, Kelly, had feedback that my covers were unappealing. 

As I have never bought a book in my entire life (and I have a sneaky collection of around a thousand), based on its cover, I didn't think that a cover made a jot of difference.

Maybe when I was about to starve, I would see the error of my ways.

One night in early June, Dawn advertised on the forum as a cover designer saying she had slots available. 

It was just too good to be true. I e-mailed her straight away and she got straight back to me. I asked her to assess my covers and she said she would.


She didn't mince her words. I was chastened.

And with that, I was the last customer to get a deal.

Together, on Yahoo Messenger and Yahoo e-mail, Dawn and I worked on the five covers. 

Here's Version 4.
UV "County Road" Version IV June 2012

I took the photograph of Notts County's Meadow Lane stadium one afternoon in mid June. 
The guy in the hat is a Random from one of the Stock sites. 
I had never heard of Stock, but I had heard of multi thousand pound lawsuits by now and I won't make that mistake again. 
The bloody ball is Dawn's idea. 
All my books have my name in this format - based on Stephen King's First Edition hardback "Skeleton Crew", in solid block letters. Dawn came up with the colours for the title and I added the red graffiti idea. 

In all, it took us about eight nights/days - there are 8 hours between the UK and Arizona - to produce six covers (including one newly written book). 

Dawn suggested I drop the Green Wizard branding as it was fatally flawed after my abortive launch. I did so, with heavy heart, though only temporarily, and the brand has helped the marketing in other ways.

You can see them all in the photo folder of Green Wizard Publishing on Facebook or on Dawn's website.

Together, Dark Dawn Creations and Green Wizard Publishing are working on the paperback cover designs (UV is already out). I can honestly say that visiting the Amazon forum - a battleground if there ever was one - that afternoon was one of the most important (and lucky) decisions I've ever made. 

Thanks, Dawn!!

Mark Barry
Green Wizard

Find Mark at: 

Mark Barry has become a good friend in our months of planning and co-conspiring, and I look forward to seeing his dreams come to fruition. As the founder of Dark Dawn Creations I have helped many authors get the cover they desire cheaper than they could have imagined, and I have gained many friends. I will help any one, regardless of budget or genre. Stop by my website and drop me a line, I'm always here to help. 

Til next time, may your muse be at your side, and your writing the light that guides you. 


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