Book covers are incredibly important for catching the eye of someone looking to buy a book. People do judge a book by its cover, simply because there are so many covers and so many books. A boring cover could mean your book gets ignored in favour of one that's more eye-catching.
So there's a lot involved in designing one. A lot of consultation, a lot of feedback, countless versions and corrections until everyone involved is thoroughly sick of the process. You can hire a graphic artist. You could design the cover yourself. Ultimately, you have to be very clear in what you want and how it should look, because if you're not…the results could leave you in tears, as happened to me with the cover of Ocean's Gift.
So, when it came to Ocean's Infiltrator, I was determined to do things differently. I teamed up with a kind friend who gave me the idea for what is now the cover for Ocean's Gift. Together, we brainstormed ideas for what to feature on the cover. I stalked penguins with my camera and she leafed through the photos I already had. The first concept looked a bit like the cover on the right. A freighter, a penguin, a couple of dolphin tails, Pulu Maria and a nervous brown eye.
While we both knew this wasn't the final cover design, I was thrilled to see an idea I could work with. I set to work – with my photos and my version of Corel Paintshop Pro. No, I don't use Adobe Photoshop. Another photographer recommended Corel to me as much easier to use and far cheaper, too.
Based on the concept, I focussed on the front cover, as I knew I'd release the ebook well before the paperback. I fished through stock and my own photos, looking for the best I had to take the concept and make it real. The eye needed to be knowing and not nervous; the island had to be more striking and the fonts needed to match those on the cover of Ocean's Gift. My first attempt was a little dark, but it gave me something to work with. It had one quirky advantage, too – instead of Pulu Maria, it used Pulu Beras, an island where local legends say a mermaid lives.
The font was right, but it was too hard to read on the deep water background, plus it sat too low on the cover. I delved into my photos again, looking for shallower water and a more striking island. I was very lucky – while the best angle of Pulu Beras was from the deep water while I was on the ferry, I had a lovely shot across the shallow water from Direction Island, looking toward Pulu Beras. I didn't set up the shot intentionally – actually, I'd been chasing a manta ray, trying and failing to photograph it. It flapped its fins above the water before vanishing between shots to be a dim shadow beneath the surface.
I had water, an island, dolphin…whoops, MERMAID tails and a warmer, more knowing eye. I moved the text and decided it was complete. Ocean's Infiltrator went on sale in May 2013 with the resulting cover.
I wasn't entirely satisfied, but I was working on writing Necessary Evil of Nathan Miller whilst simultaneously trying to publish Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer. I decided to set it aside while I was learning to work with my software as I designed the much simpler covers for the two books in the Nightmares Trilogy.
Fast forward three months and countless hours learning just what Paintshop is capable of – things I didn't think I was capable of doing with photos. First stage was a new mock-up using the ebook cover – with the freighter on the back cover. It looked exactly as professional as you might expect – like sticking two pictures side by side on the same sheet of paper. It definitely wasn't anywhere near a proper paperback cover – and it was missing my penguin. Sadly, I decided the penguin had to go.
For most of September, I just worked on positioning all of the elements and making them blend well. One morning I took a look at the whole design and took a dislike to the sky, so I changed it. More cloud, more character…and still taken from the beach on Direction Island.
The final version is a far cry from the original concept, though I'm pleased with how it turned out. It took six original, disparate photos and I blended them together to form a coherent cover.
A year ago, I couldn't have fathomed that I could create something like this – nor would I have believed I'd be mad enough to try. Mermaids drive a girl to do some strange things.
Oh…but it also makes a handy background for my countdown banner…for guess how many days until this is available in paperback?