Out of all the things I’ve done since going self-pub, covers have been the toughest part. Why?

The Magic Root by TS HottleOld Magic RootWell, I’m not an artist. I’m learning. But it’s taken several iterations for my covers to get better. For starters, I tried like mad to get the potato image to work with The Magic Root and a couple earlier works that contained it. The potato was dark and against a dark background.

I needed something eye-catching. And I needed the text did stood out. Turns out a lot of paperbacks use gray text with either an outer glow or a drop shadow to make it stand out even when it’s the same color as the background. I found a con artist stock photo and an alien background. The original revamp had that same potato you see on the left, just partially erased and turned upside down. So critics focused in on the potato. Still too dark and looked like it was pasted in. That’s a pain in the ass, but I fiddled with the lighting, blurred the outline, and did a more finessed job erasing part of it to make it look like it’s in the man’s hand. Was that good enough?

Well, someone mentioned that potatoes are tubers, not roots. Never mind that they’re also called root vegetables, hence the name, “the magic root.” OK, the last one is a bit nitpicky, and so is my response, that’s that to be expected when you put something out for comments. I moved on to figure out lighting and typeface. I also got rid of Book Antigua as the title font, replacing it with one called, appropriately enough, Space Marine.

Old Marilynists coverThe Marilynists by TS HottleThen I came to The Marilynists, which had a hideous cover. Green sky and a blurry, ugly moon behind a Marilynesque leg and dress. Again, change the typeface, but make the sky something less eye-burning. And replace the moon with a faint version of Saturn. (Public domain is the cover artist’s friend.) So instead of a badly dubbed in moon and a nauseating sky, you get a not-quite-Earthlike blue sky and a faded ringed planet. The original reminds me of a skin I wrote for my C# class in college. I dubbed it Nausea because I used the brightest, most hideous colors I could find.

Battleship GenericaI need to come up with a cover concept for the Amargosa Trilogy. Not just The Children of Amargosa. It has to work for Second Wave and Storming Amargosa, too. But before that, I need to come up with a better cover model for Tishla. Tishla kicks ass, but the cover model looks like a soft porn actress. I really want to do a ship’s logo for Warped. My fiancee can draw one for me, a sort of call back to Battlestar Galactica. And then we need to talk about the cover for Broken Skies. It definitely needs a new cover image. See, I accidentally downloaded what has since become known in the scifi world as “Battleship Generica.” That’s right. I’ve seen this ship on at least a dozen books, two of them traditionally published, one by a major publishing house.


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