Judging a book cover

You know how the saying goes, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” I’m sure no author wants their work judged on the cover alone, but when you’re self-published, the struggle is extra real.

The astute among you may already have noticed how my first novel, After Terra: Year 200, has worn a few different covers already in its relatively short life (almost three years now). A book having multiple covers is far from unheard of. I’ve seen many popular novels sport a number of covers, usually based on the edition, publisher, or if it’s a reprint, and often there seems to be no consistency to these, other than what the publisher thinks will help the book sell.

So, fine, okay, three covers in three years, and there is a strong chance of it becoming four covers in as much time. Why am I flip-flopping around so much with this blasted cover? Well, here’s a peek behind the scenes.

In my spectacularly impulsive and short-sighted thinking at the time, I not only hit the magic “publish” button on Year 200 with my middle name instead of surname, I also didn’t really have a great game plan with the cover. The first one was meant as a placeholder, and was a NASA Voyager probe shot of Neptune and Triton in crescent. Beautiful, but lacking in context and detail. The 2nd edition cover that replaced it, and the one that most anyone who has a paperback copy at this point can see in their hands, was an oil painting recreation of/tribute to that Voyager image. It was created by the amazing artist, Jordain Pauley, and this cover went along with an improved manuscript that fixed the majority of the formatting and other errors that (unfortunately) went out with the first, limited batch of copies. If you happen to have one of those copies and see an error, I do apologize for it.

As much as I liked that cover, and the original painting created for it, it still didn’t strike me as conveying to a new reader just what they were in for with the series. It screamed sci-fi, sure, but not in a way that alluded to what was on the pages inside. So, I ended up playing around with some ideas, and this led to the 3rd edition cover, the one that you can see on Amazon right now as of this post. The 3rd edition manuscript is at a cursory glance scarcely different, but does further hone the formatting for better reading on different screen sizes. At the time I decided a new cover was a good idea, I didn’t have the means to commission one as I did for In the Baron’s Shadow or Lunacy. I ended up finding a ready-made cover on a site that specializes in covers that are ready to go and only need a title and author name inserted. I was under the impression that while these covers were made beforehand, they were still wholly original. And that may very well be the case with many prerendered covers… I don’t want to throw shade on that whole practice, and in case I am wrong, I don’t want to throw any dirt on who made the current art you see for Year 200. However, I have reason to believe that the cover you see was not kept as an exclusive, that is, part of it has been sold/distributed for use as covers for other works. I don’t know if the original artist purposely did this, or if another entity or individual decided it would be okay to make money by cropping a piece of an existing work and passing it off as original. I really don’t know, so before anyone construes that as an attack, understand that I don’t know what’s happened behind the scenes in its entirety and I’m not about to accuse someone of plagiarism or theft. What I will say with surety is that I thought the cover I was granted use of for Year 200 was an original, exclusive piece, and this isn’t the case.

One of the works that is utilizing some of the same assets as my book’s current cover is Earth: Quarantined by D.L. Richardson, who already wrote a great post about our surprise discovery of having books with such similar covers, here: https://dlrichardsonwrites.blogspot.com/2018/12/when-books-have-similar-covers-and.html

Richardson was put into a similar situation as me, that is, being led to believe during the promotion of their work that their book’s cover was wholly original, and surprise, it wasn’t.

So, while the current cover does a better job of hinting at what the story contains, and gives off a little bit more of that cyberpunk feel, what I have in store next for Year 200 is a truly original cover that was created specifically for the work, not something already made and being sold/offered by someone who may be up to something dubious. Based on the prototype I have, it will be a beautiful cover that will fit in with the sequels like a happy family.

There you have it, a little peek behind the scenes. If you’re considering self-publishing a book, there are many great resources out there to help you make your work look great, far more than there were years ago. There are many awesome artists out there that can create some spectacular book covers and more. And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give any credence to sites that host readymade book covers. I do, however, implore you to research, and make sure you know who you’re working with, that, preferably, you’re dealing with the original artist, and that if you are handing over money, you are putting it in an artist’s pocket and not a reselling opportunist’s.

In other news, I realize that the blog has been slow on activity lately. After Terra 4 is largely to blame for this. I’m the first to admit that I’m a hell of a lot better at writing stories than I am updates available to the world at large; I’m working on it.

FIN

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