Drafting the book cover of my current project: “Short Change”, was a very fun and challenging process. There was a lot that went into the development of the cover and it still isn’t completely finalized, but since I saved each iteration, I thought I’d put it up as a case study to show the processes that go into refining a cover.
Short Change is a diminutive psychic who has the ability to manipulate small units of currency. The first book takes place in France, so the original idea for the cover was to have a scene from France and some coins, like this one.
The French franc was the main currency of France up until 1999 and the coins looked amazing. However, the original idea was to have maybe a shot of a hand holding several foreign units of currency, possibly showing some jeans and a coat and having the background blurred.
That fell through on two points: The amount of foreign money I’d have to order to get it shipped to my bank needed to be at least $150.00…and they would only ship paper money.
Paying a hand model would be the least of my troubles, but that wasn’t going to stop me, so I began brainstorming on new ideas. I liked the comic book motif, but maybe there was something uniquely France in a comic book style.
I found a few good sketches of the type of French area that I pictured in the first book. I wanted to stay away from making a rendition of the scene. Rather, I wanted it to stay symbolic. From what I’ve been told in various sources, that was the way to go.
I gathered the coins from around the world, creative commons and free graphics, most of which from Wikimedia Commons. You should seriously go check it out.
The coins weren’t working. They were mucking up the picture and it didn’t look good. I had two choices: Take the background out or take the coins out. I really felt the background was strong, so I wanted to find a way to make at least one coin work with it.
I thought it would look cool to put the coin behind the building and make it appear like a celestial body. That actually seemed to work well and it took the focus off the awkwardness of the coin.
Secondly, the title ‘Short Change’, I decided to make it flow with the direction of the background, which worked okay for the most part. There was still something missing, though. The image didn’t pop out and it definitely didn’t give off the comic vibe.
One of the things I used to remedy this issue was to add a comic element into the mix. I went over the image with an overlay of color, the red and yellow, to be specific. That was the traditional comic color element. At the same time, I gave it a copper tint to hit both the element of currency that people are familiar with and the comic book motif. Because of this, a person can be looking at the coin on the cover and just as easily get the impression of a penny if they are from the U.S.
I also made a word bubble with an iconic catch phrase to the cover and I looked for a silhouette of a regular person or a super hero without a cape.
It was relatively easy to find both of those elements and place them inside the cover, but at this point, I knew there was too much noise. I needed to pull it back and take out anything unnecessary.
Finally, I took out the word bubble and reduced the noise on the lettering of the text and so far, this is the final version. Oh, I also added a copper outline to the silhouette of the character.
It’s a decent first draft at any rate, but there are still some things that I could change to make it better…I just don’t know what they are yet. I need to leave it alone for a while and get feedback from peers to get a good idea of what the cover needs.
I may need to start from scratch to make it better. If that is the case, I should decide whether the cover itself is good enough. The bright side with eBooks is that I can always change it later, but the first impression is always important.