That little bit of something


My job involves a lot of visual representation. And I’m the first to say that I’m not that good at it.

I mean, I’m great at organizing data, analyzing and summarizing said data, but then visually representing it on a map? Well, I do alright, but there are folks about there with a design background that do much better.

Still, I try. Every now and then I hit the mark and I feel a little proud. And since I’m prone to grand delusions, I inevitably think that I can do things like design book covers.

When I should be writing, sometimes I procrastinate by making book covers for my stories. But I know they suck. (The book covers, not the stories…ummm…okay, the stories, too.)

Not too much, mind you, but they’re just not quite there. They just need that little bit of something that a true graphic designer can bring to a project. Regardless, I forge on.

I thought it would be fun to show you some of my failed attempts at designing book covers.

Devil’s Blood (unpublished, trunked novel)

Devil's Blood by N.E. White Book Cover Version 1
Devil’s Blood by N.E. White Book Cover Version 1

Gosh, I think I did this one about, what, three years ago? Maybe four.

It’s a tad on the busy side and I thought it would be cool to include a map. The story only had a tangential reference to maps, but darn it, I was gonna put a map on the cover.

Would you buy this book based on this cover? Ummmm, I think not.

Devil's Blood by N.E. White Book Cover Version 1
Devil’s Blood by N.E. White Book Cover Version 1

The font is okay, but not exactly period (story set in 15th century Spain). And it’s not the easiest to read at the thumbnail size. Rather than pick a proper font, I tried to set off the text with blocks of transparent white and then added some shadow to confuse it even more. Too many failed effects, methinks.

I do like the colors. The browns and reds are nice, but that has more to do with the color choices the original cartographer used than anything I did. If nothing else, it does capture the mood I was in at the time: international adventure!

Blood Moon (unpublished, revamped, trunked novel)

Blood Moon Book Cover Spread
Blood Moon Book Cover Spread

Then I went a completely different direction with this one (and I had some more grand delusions and thought I’d go print).

Blood_Moon_v3_sm_coverI think this is for the same story, but a completely revised version of it. I got rid of the map and thought simple simple simple, stupid.

I also wanted to feature the moon on the cover since much of the action in the story revolved around the phases of the moon. I must have seen someone else put the moon in the title so that’s what I did. But, at the thumbnail size, you can’t even see it. It just looks like a smudge or typo.

Plus, there’s something behind the text, isn’t there. What is it? Can you see it?

It’s meant to be tantalizing, but it just looks…bad.

Plus, it doesn’t exactly scream FANTASY or HISTORIC FANTASY, does it?


The Denouncer and La Murciélaga (unpublished, trunked-for-good novels)


The Denouncer v6At some point, the story got re-written again, and the following book covers show just how much better the story had gotten.

Second book for this series
Second book for this series

The covers hint at the time period and what truly matters in the story (to me). Basically, all I did was keep it simple, but tried to 1) add a visually interesting center piece and 2) any other elements included were there to highlight or set off that center piece.

The font is filler and was not intended as the final. At the time, I knew I needed something better, and I even found the perfect one (for $400!). I put off purchasing it and I’m glad I did since this planned trilogy got shoved back in the trunk to never see the light of day again. The story was just terrible. Suffice to say I learned a lot writing this story, but not enough.

What I do like about this cover are the colors. Again, the creams, browns and reds made me think of the place I was writing about.

The historic illustrations also invoke a sense of time as well as add a hint of scientific discovery (for the first) and the confines of cultural norms (for the second). I rather liked these covers and would have been happy to slap them on the stories if I had decided to move forward with self-publication.

Alas, I did not.

That little bit of something

So, how do you get that little extra pizzazz? That nebulous combination of white space, font, and graphics that just make a cover pop?

Well, short of getting a degree in graphic design, I don’t know. Luckily, I have an awesome friend who has that little bit of something the rest of us can only hope to have in our dreams. (Well, my dreams at least!)

Designed by Joe Bailey
Audio file cover designed by Joe Bailey

Is that awesome or what? I can’t believe how good it looks. It’s just…thunderous, no? I can’t help but think of the Star Trek, Star Wars, or Battlestar Galactica theme songs (though the story is nothing like any of those but you get the idea).

I know, you’re probably not impressed. But I am and I think I lot of other folks will be, too.

Just for comparisons, here’s the first cover design:

Designer to remain unnamed to protect the guilty
Designer to remain unnamed to protect the guilty

Mind you, there is nothing wrong with the original. Again, I would be proud to use this as the front piece of my story, but Joe’s little bit of something really is worth going to the professionals.

Until next time, don’t try it yourselves, writers.

Also, don’t forget to check out Devenio Concepts. What Joe does for visuals, they do for audio.

NOTE: From the moon, I know Earth (and the background view) would not look like either of these representations. These are artistic representations. Here’s what it really looks like:

Image courtesy of NASA

15 thoughts on “That little bit of something

  1. Your covers are quite good! I don’t know the first thing about designing book covers, so I used 99Designs which I mention in my most recent blog post. Suited my needs perfectly.

    1. Thanks, Carrie. I’ll have to check out your blog post and 99Designs. I’m sure there’s a great graphic designer behind that name. Joe and I have been writing buddies for years. I’m just now beginning to abuse that friendship. 😉

  2. i feel you so bad right now. i’m always procrastinating from writing by working on my website or making covers for my books… and i also feel like my covers are terrible, but i think they’re getting better (maybe kinda sorta)?

    but i do really like your blood moon and mucielaga covers. super cool. and that earthrise image is awesome, that actually got me to click on this post to read more

    1. I didn’t do either of the Earthrise covers (Joe Bailey did the top one and another very talent person did the bottom one), and I think both of them are great. I’m glad you liked the blood moon covers. I guess we notice all the flaws in the things we create. Thanks for checking out the post and commenting. 🙂

  3. I think all the covers are smashing. What are you worried about?
    Stop being so self-deprecating. Devil’s Blood and Murcielaga give off a historical/Treasure Island feel. I don’t know if this is what the stories are about but they look appealing enough to encourage a second look.( You’re going to tell me they are in fact about middle-age housewives having affairs or something, yes?) 😉

    1. It is fun. I don’t think I could have gotten through the three major revisions (and all the minor ones) if I hadn’t played around with their covers.

  4. I think many of us have procrastinated with DIY book covers. They’re somewhat motivating, at least for me, during the first week or so, but then it’s back to finding new distractions. I really enjoyed yours. You appear to have a natural eye for an overall look.

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