As you may have noticed, I’ve been seriously considering venturing forth into the realm of self publishing an eBook. This is in part spurred on by the novels I have sitting in my electronic drawer, novels which almost made it to the top (two were requested in full by top NYC agents before being declined).

Now, the wisdom of the day declares that for an eBook to have any luck it must have several qualities and attributes, and one of the most crucial is a professional looking cover. Ah, the cover! In traditional publishing, the cover is the ultimate lottery, beyond the control of either author and agent, delivered from up on high by the art department. It can be awful, it can be brilliant, but either way the author has no say and has to come to make peace with what fortune has sent them.

Now, in ePubbing, you can design your own cover and endless change and modify it until you are content, even after it’s been published. This can be a real burden if you have no Photoshop skills, or a delightful challenge if you are moderately talented. I discovered that professional cover designers charge anywhere from $200+, so decided to give the process a shot.

A couple of things have to be taken into account before designing a cover for sale online. The first is that your cover will be scaled to different sizes, and has to be as attractive when shrunk to a thumbnail as when it is blown up full size. That means it will lose much of the detail that might make a large cover more appealing, and so you have to keep in mind how a miniature version will appear. In fact, the thumbnail might be the most important version of your cover, because that is how people will see it first when browsing.

Second, a quick glance at which eBooks are selling best on Amazon seem to indicate that the more successful covers are striking, boldly colored, and feature almost abstract designs. Here is a collection of five of them, in no particular order:

Take a quick look. A few things stand out. Each as a predominant color. Each is actually quite simple, and yet features a striking design. Whether its the lurid turquoise sky of the first, the miasmic combination of yellow and jade in the second, the stark white and striking figure of the center cover, the focus on the gaunt, gothic font of the next or the the abstract design of the last, none of them feature complex tableau’s or people. Sure, there are bunches that do, but these caught my eye, and thus to me these were the most successful.

When designing your cover therefor you have to aim for a few things: stark, striking simplicity, powerful colors and catching combinations, a design that functions well at various levels of magnification, and finally something that reflects the content of your novel. Just by looking at those five novels above you should be able to divine something of the style, feel and atmosphere of the tale, and that should call to the correct audience.

Finally, you should be sure that you can publish the images and content of your cover. Make sure you’re not just borrowing or lifting an image off of Google Image search. Either find something of common license on Flickr, or use a photograph that you took yourself.

SO. My own cover. I’m going to reveal the step-by-step process I went through in designing it in the spirit fo transparency that fuels my First Million Words challenge. I decided that for my novel I wanted something that reflected the feel and content. I wanted something that implied danger, demons, blood, fire, action. I wanted something that held the allure of the demonic and the dark side but which also threatened. Something beautiful and alien. Easy, right?

Luckily for me, I took the following photograph in New Zealand:

Perfect, right?! Well, not yet. I copied it into Photoshop, and began to play with it. First, I went into the Replace Color feature and really darkened the shadows:

Ah, much better. Already more dark and threatening. Then I went ahead and Replaced Color once more, this time changing the light greens for red. Red of demons, red of blood, red of fire!

Now we’re talking! Suddenly we’re no longer looking at an innocuous green cacti, but rather a swirling and mesmerizing pattern of blades, of demon scales, of hellish knives or weapons. Abstract, and perfectly fitting the bill.

From there, I cropped it to the right size of a book cover, added my title and name, and this is the final result (following suggestions made by Dan below in the comments):

(Here’s the quick write up, which will need much editing before it goes live on Amazon)

The Grind Show tells the tale of a solitary demon hunter out in the American Southwest who has the misfortune of becoming contaminated by the very fiends he seeks to destroy. With unhallowed power beginning to bloom within his heart, he’s unwillingly drawn into the war between demon and man as both sides seek to subvert him to their cause. Even as he strives to fight for his new friends, the contamination within him begins to corrupt and destroy his sense of self, leaving his ultimate fate very much in the balance…

Here’s the thumbnail version:

What do you guys think? Does my cover fit the bill? Does it possess sufficient professional caliber to fight for a spot amongst the others? I’m very new to this, so any and all feedback is most, most welcome!