Pretty Hearses


I promised myself no regrets or rancour – just to move on and learn from my cover adventures. What I didn’t quite get starting out is that choosing a new cover is a bit like most things in life. Perfection is rare and it usually comes at a price.

“The Good Cemetery Guide” – e-Book cover designer added special font to improve thumbnail legibility

The e-Book cover design for The Good Cemetery Guide, was severely constrained by budgetary considerations. The best piece of advice I can offer with hindsight is to take a more measured approach to the selection of the cover designer. I couldn’t afford the professional cover designer I wanted so I swung over to the other extreme and went for the first cover designer recommended on a fellow writer’s blog, figuring the cover looked professional and the service was cheap. There are all kinds of caveats to this impetuous approach. 1) Does the cover designer have (any) e-Book cover experience?

“All The Pretty Hearses” – vivid and original

2) Have you checked the e-Book covers they have done and do they make your heart miss a beat? 3) Do the e-Book covers work as thumbnails? In other words is the title and your author’s name clearly legible, as well as the background image? If not, move on to another cover designer. 4) Have you checked the e-Book distributor you want to use (as well as others you don’t plan to use) for a list of recommended cover designers? The cover designers on these lists are usually VERY experienced at doing e-Book covers (what you are looking for, remember?) which means they work quickly and effectively to your brief and hence offer their services at a reasonable rate.

“Heaven in a Hearse” – sexy and attractive

5) Do you have a clear brief/idea of what you want? Make no mistake, if you don’t it’s probably going to be a long protracted process. 6) Is there a particular image/photo you want on the cover? For example, in the case of The Good Cemetery Guide I’d had the idea of a hearse for ages. If so, do your research beforehand, get the necessary permission to use it (in my case involved negotiations), and make sure you have the picture ready to go. The alternative is that the cover designer sources the picture and you take the knock of their higher fees, the fee for usage of the source image, and the additional time impact on your cover design project. 7) Can’t make up your mind as to which cover direction to go?  Know any book clubs you can approach? Why not do a mini survey amongst readers to see what they think? Don’t expect one cover to stand out as the clear winner.

“Inherent Vice” – Pynchon found the Cadillac photo

In my case it was almost a tie between three different covers. In the end I went with a favourite, the hearse cover, (that put me in good company with other pretty hearses as you can see from these examples) but we eventually used another design layout and concept because the hearse photo owner didn’t want the beautiful Cadillac hearse to look scratched or as if it suffered from a fungal infestation … Understandable. 8) Are you going to self-publish a Print on Demand (POD) version some day? Prepare the back cover as well in this case because that way you’ll have it ready and looking exactly like your e-Book cover. 9) And you thought that figuring out the formatting requirements for your e-Book was tough? Wait until you try to figure out the cover requirements. E-Book distributor instructions are frequently confusing and not detailed enough for authors who aren’t familiar with graphics packages. Enrol yourself on community forums and don’t be shy. But remember, if you’ve appointed an e-Book experienced cover designer familiar with YOUR distributor (Amazon Kindle & Smashwords in my case) then they prepare the covers for you with exactly the right pixel dimensions etc. 10) What image design software do you use? I have Corel Paint Shop Pro. My designer had Adobe Photoshop. Guess what? Source files created on the one piece of software can’t necessarily be edited by the other. Quite a revelation to the average uninitiated control freak writer. 11) Have you given any thought to what files you want at the end of the project, how many cover designs are included, how many changes/modifications are allowed in the standard fee, and whether all designs belong to you, or only the one you eventually select?  A simple written agreement can be very useful to clarify expectations up front. Remember, cheap is as cheap does…

“The View from a Hearse” – pinked-up version

E-BOOK COVER DESIGNER! Yes, I am yelling, because this will save you lots of time,money and heart-ache. Trust me on this one.

LESSON 2: If the thumbnail doesn’t work, the e-Book cover doesn’t work.

LESSON 3: Accept that it won’t be perfect this time round (if it isn’t) and aim to improve it in the future. There’s no shelf life on an e-Book! You can always improve it later.


RESEARCH: ONE BOOK MANY COVERS The World According to Garp Audiobook

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s