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  • jonsparks3

Cover Stories (Part 1)

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

I've looked at lots of advice on self-publishing, and the universal refrain when it comes to cover design is ‘make your cover fit your genre’. Scroll down a list of SF books on Amazon, or peruse the Romance shelves in Waterstones, and you’ll see this clearly demonstrated.

The other advice that is almost as universal is ‘use a professional designer’. Obviously this can be an expensive option. I fully support the principle of paying properly for professional work; I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t, having made my living as a professional photographer and non-fiction writer for many years. In the course of which I‘ve worked with many professional designers, and developed great admiration for their skills.


And yet… When it came to deciding what to do about covers for Three Kinds of North and, by extension, the rest of The Shattered Moon series, I haven’t followed either of these precepts. You’ve probably noticed and you may well have wondered why. So let me take you through some of the thought process that led to the results you see below..


Obviously cost is a factor. To do self-publishing properly, some outlay is pretty well unavoidable. (I have in mind for a later post to say a bit about where I have invested and why.) There is a low-cost option which you might like to know about if you’re thinking of following in my footsteps; just Google ‘pre-made book covers’ to see more. Typically, the covers available through these sites are concepts that designers have created as one of a sheaf of options for a client who has chosen a different one. These ‘rejects’ aren’t bad designs, they just didn’t suit the client as well as one of the alternatives. You can acquire one for a fee usually in the range $69 to $89.


I looked at pages and pages of these designs, mostly for SF, and lots of them would work very well if I had written a regular space opera, but none of them even came close to a fit for Three Kinds of North. Well, of course; it’s hardly a regular space opera, or indeed any ‘normal’ kind of SF book. (For more on the genre problem, watch out for a later post.)

Not only did I rule out using a premade cover, this made me think it might face a drawn-out process trying to convey my vision to a designer. I am sure it would be possible with the right designer, but even finding that person might take some time. I’m not getting any younger and I had been talking about self-publishing long enough. I wanted to get cracking.

And so… well, I’ve been a professional photographer for many years, and I have enough faith in my own work to believe that I have some striking images in my Lightroom collection. I also have a fairly good skillset in Photoshop. I thought it was at least worth having a go myself.


For more about how I actually arrived at the cover design for Three Kinds of North (which of course sets the pattern for the rest of the series) see Part Two.

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