E-book cover issues, continued

I complained in an earlier post how Ray Bradbury’s e-books were, in my opinion, badly treated as far as covers went.

I’m a fan of Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series. His latest book (Skin Game) just came out, so I picked up a new Dresden book in Kindle format for the first time. At the same time, there was an Amazon deal for the first seven Kindle books for $1.99 each, and what the heck, I snapped those up too.

Just for fun, before checking out the new book I started re-reading the series from the beginning, purchasing the remainder of the books as I went (not $1.99 each, unfortunately).

As with Bradbury’s books, most of the Kindle books had no cover at the beginning at all, just the title text and author. This was disappointing, as the Dresden series has some really nice covers on their hardbacks.

Oddly, three of the books did have actual illustrated covers. Blood Rites and Cold Days had the hardcover illustrations. Summer Knight had an illustration (not the standard hardcover one), but it was about the size of a postage stamp on my screen. This is a common Kindle graphic formatting error, but with a cover illustration it’s one you almost have to work at to screw up during the Kindle publishing process.

Come on, publishers! Your e-book designs reflect on your authors as much as the hardcovers in the store windows.

(For an example of a publisher that seems to have really worked hard on their e-books, check out the Harry Potter series, which you can only buy directly at the Pottermore website.)

 Dresden_Cold_Days

“Get the Scoop on Fair Image Usage”

I found this article very informative.

Check it out if you put a lot of images on your blog, or particularly if you use stock or “found” pictures to construct book covers or illustrations for self-published books.

Check out the rest of the Writers Helping Writers website, too.

Bradbury Kindle books: wonderful text and hack covers.

Steven Paul Leiva, a friend and colleague of Bradbury’s, comments here.

More “back of the bus” treatment of e-book backlists, I guess.

Particularly annoying to me was the scrapping of the Charles Addams cover for “From the Dust Returned.” Fortunately, there’s a nice hard copy on my shelf with the full front-to-back illustration.

Here’s the hard copy cover:

Charles Addams cover for print version of

And here’s the Kindle version:

Kindle cover for

Bleh.

As a Kindle user who would love to see many of my old shelf favorites on my Kindle as well, I wish I could say this was rare, but too many publishers (big companies, too) just hack out their backlist, assuming they bother at all. I’m not talking about obscure authors, either.

I wish I had a nickel for every e-book I have that was obviously shoved through a scanner/OCR process and put together quickly, apparently with no final proofreading. OCR typos are quite easy to spot.

This isn’t the worst example I’ve seen of a cheesy “make do” cover, either.

This half-assed approach is annoying–but at least understandable–for two or three dollar e-books created by amateurs (legally) from old authors in the public domain (Kipling and such.) I’m not sure what the excuse is for an author in print whose rights are still held by major companies.

I’ll take what I can get, and I understand that the backlist isn’t a major profit driver, but geeze.

 

Some of the people I wish had done my book cover instead of me.

Michael Whelan:

Dragonsbane by Michael Whelan

________________________________

Mark Ferrari:

Last Light on Atlantis by Mark Ferrari

________________________________

The people at Platinum:

null

________________________________

The book cover I did, a Photoshop illustration designed for a hardcover wrap-around dust jacket with end flaps. The artwork was done with an ancient version of Accurender and an even older version of AutoCAD.

Castle Falcon Cover, dust jacket by Tom Alan Brosz

(All illustrations copyright of their respective artists)

Kindle Direct Publishing launches beta of cover creation tool

Article at “The Digital Reader.”

One of the hardest parts of self-publishing is generating a good cover, either for paper books or digital ones. Places like Createspace and Lulu, among others, already have “cover wizards.”

You can certainly get a workable cover out of these “wizards,” but in my opinion it’s worth the effort to learn how to generate the artwork yourself, or at least hire it done. For one thing, there may be rights issues involved in reusing a cover created by a particular format’s “wizard” for another format. For another, you’re never going to get as much originality from a “wizard” as you can from real artwork.

Artwork for paper books, using the “one piece cover” art method, is hard to lay out. A one-piece cover is what you get by basically flattening the book out, or in the case of a book with a dust jacket, by removing the dust jacket and flattening it out. It’s easy to see that lining up the spine, end papers, and everything else can be tricky. Even changing the number of pages can affect this kind of cover design as the spine area gets larger or smaller.

Cover artwork for Kindle (or other e-books) is much simpler. It’s just a single JPG picture with art and title text. Last time I checked, preferred sizing for Kindle covers was 1563 pixels on the short side and 2500 pixels on the long side.

If you’re planning to do a lot of this kind of thing, it may be worth it to invest the time and money in learning Photoshop, InDesign, or other professional publication software. Adobe’s “Creative Suite” isn’t cheap, but it could be a good investment.

“Lousy Book Covers”

A large collection of self-published book covers.

I’ve been scrolling through this off and on today, steeling myself for my own cover to pop up on the next page…

I’d feel better about “amateur” than I do about “lousy.”  It’s been pointed out that it’s not easy for self-published authors to come up with decent covers if they don’t have either the experience or the money to pay for experience, so keep that in mind.  It’s still a fun website, though.

(Thanks for the link to Aaron Williams at Nodwick.com, who seems to have access to an entirely different and cooler internet than I do.)

Cover issues

I’m thinking of putting my oldest book, Castle Falcon, up on Kindle to see what happens.

I’ve figured out the formatting.  With Adobe InDesign (almost a must for any self-publishing effort), there’s a Kindle plug-in that deals with most of the .mobi problems.  I already have a working test version on my own Kindle.

I’ll need a Kindle cover illustration, though.  A Kindle cover is basically the signature of your book on Amazon, so it has to stick out.  My original CG cover for my Lulu gift books is interesting, but a bit cryptic (draft artwork shown without text):

Cover 1

The stained glass is in the story. The little orange creatures are in the story too, but since I invented them the average person wouldn’t have any idea what they are. I tuned them up to look more “buglike.” In my first Lulu cover they looked more like weird jellybeans.

So based on this illustration, what genre is this?  Horror?  SF?  A documentary on exterminators? This is a cover where you really need to look at the description to figure out what’s going on, and while that was okay for a Lulu gift book, it’s not so good for something you’re actually tossing out there to the public.

I had an idea to add something that immediately says “fantasy.” This is a more recent draft:

Cover 2

Bingo.  Now it’s a fantasy.  A bit of a plot spoiler, but I think it will grab the eye better.  My wife (also my prime beta reader) likes it.