ebook cover designs – Go On Write

6 May 2014 / Leave a Comment
I know from working at an art gallery that choosing the right image for a catalogue cover can make or break the sales of that publication. I was lucky to have discovered James of Go On Write earlier this year. I’ve now got six of his covers for my stories and am constantly getting comments from people about how great they are. He has a website http://www.goonwrite.com/ where he offers pre-made ebook covers using a range of fabulous stock images, both photographic and illustrative. I quite like choosing ‘off the shelf’, rather than commissioning, as I can visualise exactly what my cover is going to look like – there’s no surprises at the end.

Here’s a few of the covers he’s done for me:

James’s service is quick and his covers always get delivered with an email signoff saying ‘smiles and kindness’ … what’s not to love about that? And he’s also a rather talented short story writer … Here I ask him more about his work as a cover designer (and a little about him being a writer too) …

What makes a good cover design?
Good cover design for ebooks and print are two different things, but they have their route in the same area; all authors that come to me mostly lack the bravery to try something really engaging for a cover, they want visual clichés, so that's what I deliver; but the way that they overlap is that they have to grab one's attention. It's a little different with a site like Amazon because you only have a certain amount of real-estate to play with ... a tiny part of the screen, so although a lot of the pre-made covers I make are visual clichés I try and subvert this with clean clear typography and finding the right images. Searching stock sites for images takes a lot of my time. I'm thorough. As for some good ideas of what I consider to be good cover design, you can read my 14 Points for Good Cover design that I wrote a few years ago: http://humblenations.com/2012/04/12/14-tips-for-good-kindle-cover-design/.

How does being a writer interact with your work and how does your work interact with your writing?
I've probably designed close to 5,000 book covers over the last 2 years. There's about 4,200 pre-made covers I've designed and I'd say I've probably done about 600-800 commissions in that time.

I guess the advantage of being a writer myself means that when I make my pre-made covers I can come up with dummy titles that are passable and look interesting which adds to the marketability of my work. People can see their own titles on the covers rather than having to visualise it over the 'Book Title Here' 'Author Here' as you see on some pre-made cover sites. In fact, what makes me smile is when an author is so inspired they actually use the existing title and write a story around that. There was a nice article on a popular blog which did that very thing (http://thewritepractice.com/book-covers/). So I guess that gives me an advantage over some other sites. Authors think: yes this guy knows what he’s talking about. Having said that, a lot of the covers are really not my style of writing anyway. In fact 99% of it isn't because everyone seems to be genre writers who are self-publishing. Which really isn't my bag at all. I don't read genre so I don't write genre. I'm more into a less formulaic sense of literature. And I don't mind using that work. Good writing is good writing. Good story telling is good story telling. At the moment I'm enjoying the work of Etgar Keret, a fantastic Israeli writer with bags of imagination.

I guess the other thing with how my writing and my cover design interact is that at the moment the design is swallowing my time to actually do my own work. So ... I'm going to cut down on the design over the coming weeks and get some of my own work done. I went away for five weeks to Spain last September and wrote probably 100,000 words. Still haven't typed half of it up. But there's some great short stories in there. One about a drunken knife thrower. Another about ... well there's loads. I'm not going to list them. People will just have to wait for them to come out.

What are your best tips for commissioning a cover design? What should the author include in the brief?
I have a set of questions I usually ask when someone comes to me for a commission. They're pretty in-depth and could be quite daunting for an author, so I say: answer as many or as little as you want. But 85% of the time authors already have an image in their mind about what they specifically want on their cover. Whether it be right or wrong. It's usually the latter. But I always say: give the kids what they want. Customer is always right and all that. Which is why when I was doing commissions it was all about getting authors to go find the images from Shutter Stock and working from there. This worked because a lot of the time the image they have in their head doesn't really exist. If it doesn't exist then how can I make a cover from it. So that gets around that little problem.

If authors wanted me to use my own design chops and come up with a concept I'd do this too. Now I guess you'll see I'm talking in the past-tense here ... and that's because I've stopped doing commissions at the moment. It's taking too much of my time and I have my own projects that I want to work on, including my writing. So no more commissions from me. Just pre-made book covers. 

Will you ever run out of stock images to use?
The answer to this is yes and no. There are only so many images out there but on the stock site I use there is always new work going up from photographers and you can search on date, to see the newest work. For example I had rinsed the 'Erotic Women' and 'Erotic Couples' in the middle of last year and had left it till about 2-3 weeks ago to look again and there was a stack of new stuff up. Enough to get a stack of quality new ones. In fact, I guess photographers are no different to pre-made cover designers - they see what sells in their portfolio and make more of it. So I think that self-publishing and the sorts of covers that they need is actually driving these images to be made. So it has a nice knock-on effect that photographers are getting paid more money and in turn the models too. When you think of it in these terms it's quite fun. Like there is some connection with the fictional characters that authors create, and have an image on the cover on the book and the models that are playing these characters. Is it a form prostitution? Most definitely. But doesn't anyone prostitute their time? The only people that don't are the artists. People that are creating not for money but for the love of creation. Which in the end is what also makes a good writer.

Visit http://www.goonwrite.com/ to check out some of James’s great pre-made cover designs


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