Thursday, March 21, 2013

Under the Covers: Kringe 1-3

My plan for my current novel-in-progress "Kringe," is to self-publish it. I've thought about it a lot, and I enjoy the freedom self-publishing gives me. I will not be talked out of it so if you were planning to comment about it, I apologize for the futility. It was not a decision I came to lightly.

Also, to maintain maximum freedom -- and because I am unemployed and cannot afford it otherwise -- I want to do everything involved in the process: writing, editing, copy-editing, cover art, interior layout, publishing, publicity; the whole shabang.

Now, I am pretty confident in my writing, editing, and copy-editing abilities, and I have formatted eBooks to what I consider a professional level in the past with little hassle. Publishing and publicity aren't too difficult and I have a few plans in place already. The big sticking point is the cover.

Many people say this, but it is doubly true for me: I have zero artistic ability, as far as visual art is concerned. I've tried drawing, clay sculpting, metal sculpting, origami, photography, videography, but I either don't have the talent or the patience to do it right.

So I'm starting early. Where most people begin this process when the work is completed, I'm already mocking covers up, even though I still have two months until Draft 1.0 of "Kringe" is completed. And because the Internet is awesome, I'm going to post the top three covers I made during the week to gather opinions on them. And I want them to be brutal. If it looks like a soggy diaper wrapped around a two-by-four, tell me so. If it looks like clip art made by your Aunt Nedra, tell me so. If it *looks* like the cover of a self-published book, please, for the love of your god, tell me so. No way am I letting a work I care deeply about out into the public with a sub-par wrapper. Would you buy a Milky Way if it came in torn cellophane?

I buy a ton of indie and self-published books, and I do it almost entirely based on how good the cover art and synopsis is. With how easy it is to publish through the Kindle store, anyone can (and has) publish a manuscript in minutes. The best way to do a first winnowing, in my opinion, is based on how professional the cover art is.

All of these covers were made in Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended, which I have owned for a long time but never really got into aside from some minor editing. I'm sure there are easier ways to achieve the effects I was going for. Oh, and the cover concepts are under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, which means you can use them however you want, as long as you mention where the original came from. I am a huge supporter of the Free Culture movement, and this is my little way of being part of it.

Without further ado:

"Kringe" Concept 1: Wrench

A large portion of the book takes place on a partially-terraformed Mars, which is why I went with a burnt orange type of background. The reason for the wrench is based in Kringe's desire to be an engineer. I cut the wrench out of a stock photo on stock.xchng, applied a Cutout filter to it, and then used Replace Color to change it to the nice Pepto pink color. The title font is Chunk Five and the author font is Trade Gothic, although any Gothic-type font would work. I want the contrast of colors, and thinner lines. Chunk Five is my favorite cover font, and it just happens to be free from the awesome open-source FontSquirrel.

"Kringe" Concept 2: Fist

Again, the orange for Mars. This time though, I went with a fist. Kringe's ultimate dream is to work on the giant fighting robots that compete in the Solar System's biggest arenas. Again, I cut the fist out from a stock.xnchg photo. This time, I went straight to Replace Color to tone down the fleshiness of it, and then Desaturated it a bit. I dropped the first partially over the title to give it a less "copy-and-pasted" look. Again, I used Chunk Five, but this time, I used it for both title and author.

"Kringe" Concept 3: Gear Sun

The book centers around teams of fighters, I'd like to make logos for each of the main teams. The clockwork sun logo is, of course, Kringe's. Again, a stock photo from stock.xchng provided the basic dear. I had to modify it quite a bit though. First, I softened the edges using Modify Select. Then I turned it red using Replace Color. It came out looking too flat though, so I used the Reticulation filter to give a rougher, almost cut-out-of-paper appearance. I couldn't find any decent stock geometric stars, so I made my own by creating an equilateral triangle and stringing them together. I used the Bucket to turn everything yellow before apply a second Reticulation filter. After positioning the star on the gear, it looked too clip art-like. So created borders. The star still looked wonky though, so I used the line tool to draw an octagon within it, to give it some definition. Chunk Five font. I think overall, it came out a little simplistic, but it gives me a good starting point.


Which -- if any -- do you like? Which are complete garbage? How would you suggest improving upon the designs?

Creative Commons License
This work by Adam Callaway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at


  1. I prefer one or three. The fist might gather attention while scrolling through covers, but there's something about it that just doesn't hold that attention. The fist appears kind of soft, slender, and weak. One and three have more pop to them and would both make great covers. I do think three is missing something minor, though I'm not sure exactly what. You have a great eye for covers.

  2. Thanks! Your comment will definitely help me when refining the covers. I have three more to post this week so stay tuned!