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When doing design the wrong way is the right way

When doing design the wrong way is the right way

This week, I finished and published my fan fiction novella, “USS Montgomery: First Command.” I wrote a post about it in which I alluded to the intent to write a corollary about how the final version of the cover art came to be.

I hadn’t actually planned to create a cover for either of my fanfiction stories. The Star Trek universe is vigorously protected against copyright infringement. I can’t officially publish them on Amazon so I didn’t feel that it was worth the effort to create cover art for them. However, once they got accepted on to a Star Trek fan fiction site, I decided that I would do them anyway.

At first, I tried to follow the rules of good covers; use the same color for your fonts. Use one font for everything. Keep the cover simple. This was the result:

It’s okay, but far from awe-inspiring. It looks like something that an author would do for themselves. The impression you get is “amateur hour.”

Which, of course, it was.

Benedict felt it was underwhelming, especially for what was actually a pretty darned good story (if I may say so myself, which I may). The last thing it needed was a crappy cover. “No second chance to make a first impression,” as the saying goes.

He started searching for Star Trek novel covers. The first thing he noticed was that there was a lot of information on the covers and that the words were all different sizes and fonts:

One obvious thing I missed off my cover was that it was actually Star Trek! I used the font from The Original Series, but it just wasn’t explicitly stated.

Lastly, my hierarchy of information was backward. My name as at the top, front and center, while the title of the book was at the bottom. While my being named is important, it isn’t the most important thing about the book.

So a few iterations later, we came out with this:

Note that the hierarchy of information has been shifted around and that there is more color. Also, I was blanking out the image so that it wouldn’t impinge on the text. I was trying to make the text clear and unobstructed. Unfortunately, that also makes it boring and very regular.

Take another look at the “official” covers. The title and author feels a part of the cover, not separated from it. By just allowing the image to fade under the title, it draws it into the cover. We also allowed the image to fill the whole thing. It makes it feel bigger, grander.

The bolder colors make it feel more like a good old fashioned science fiction story. That was the intent when I wrote the story (which is the essence of Star Trek to me), now you can see it in the cover art. It’s reminiscent of the stories I read when I was young.

I couldn’t believe the difference between the first and final versions of the cover art. The first version screamed “amateur”, the finished cover felt like something you might see on the bookshelf of an old second-hand book store.

If you want to get in front of your audience, then the cover art is going to be the thing that will encourage them to pick up your book or the one next to it. The cover is the first thing they see of your book, and if not done right, it might just be the last as well.

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