Judging a book
From time to time I dabble in book cover design. I do this mostly for fellow indie authors, because I know how challenging it can be, as an indie, to give your book the best possible first impression in the market. One of the most well-known indie authors working today is Hugh Howey, author of Wool and the Molly Fyde series. Hugh asked if I'd be interested in designing a new cover for Half Way Home. I answered with artwork.
Hugh opted for the unusual second cover, which steered away from obvious science fiction imagery and instead captured the bleak and lonely sensation of being strangers in an unfamiliar place. I'm glad that he did; this was my favorite of the two as well.
Here's the final cover, nice and big:
Hopefully there will be more collaborations with Hugh in my future. Of all the covers I've designed to date, this is one of my favorites.
As an indie author myself, I don't have a lot of time to write books. I manage a very productive output because I carve out time each night, after my family has gone to sleep. I love to tell stories. Not telling stories would thoroughly rust me.
And like me, most indie authors -- Hugh excepted, though he is still adamantly and thoroughly indie -- work full-time jobs and write whenever they can. They don't have the marketing power of a publisher behind them, so all of the overhead costs associated with publishing a book fall squarely on their shoulders. It's hard to make an independent book stand out, especially when their competition has money to spare.
So I like to try to help a few indie authors out here and there. It's nice to be able to do something for someone else.
People judge books by their covers all the time. Indie authors, who are often not designers and often don't have a few hundred or a few thousand bucks to spend on a professional book cover, are usually at a disadvantage here. If an author doesn't know how to use Photoshop, or doesn't know the difference between Gotham or Times New Roman, creating a cover might seem a bit... discouraging.
So I like to help. I don't do it for everybody, because I simply don't have time. But they're fun, and when I'm not in the mood to write at the end of my day, designing a book cover can be a pleasant way to stay productive and creative and fresh. I've been a designer of one sort or another for fifteen years, and as I write stories myself, I like to think I'm not half-bad at creating an interesting cover that captures the essence of a book. I've designed all of my own, with the exception of the glorious space art found on The Settlers and The Colonists (those gorgeous scenes are the handiwork of Greg Martin).
Anyway, the thing with book covers is, when you do a decent job, word gets around. You design one or two covers... and then you've designed thirty, or fifty, or seventy.
Most of the covers that I do are for authors I've met since writing a bit of Wool fan fiction. Those authors and their books have staged a few runs on Amazon's various bestseller lists -- at one time or another, while they've been enjoying well-deserved authorial success, it's been quite nice to see twelve or thirteen of my covers dominating the top 20 lists.
The problem with book covers is that they're very addictive, and they scratch a design itch I don't often have the opportunity to scratch. They're much more fun than writing a book, which is a problem. I'll probably be doing fewer and fewer of them from here on, though I doubt I'll go cold turkey. They are, after all, such fun!