Probably the most frequently heard advice in self-publishing circles is that you need a great cover. Something that stands out from the crowd. People are, after all, visual creatures. The first thing anyone will notice is your cover. In that sense, it should be eye-catching as well as communicate tone and some sort of substance. That’s why, for ANH NGUYEN AND THE DISCORDIAN, I worked with Damonza to create the cover seen above.
As a reminder, this is the cover my wife and I created last year when I put a few chapters on Wattpad:
It’s honestly not an awful cover. It’s visually interesting and communicates a bit of the substance of the novella. However, the tone is all wrong. The title and cover design would make one think this is some sort of thriller, not a satire with elements of magical realism.
When I reached out to Damonza I had to fill out a questionnaire about my book. To even get started they needed the following:
- Description of the book
- Key elements of the book that might be a part of the cover. For this I wrote, “Discordianism and Buffalo, NY, are major aspects of the story. I prefer symbolism and a minimalist design and would like to avoid using models on the cover. Key elements include: Five Fingered Hand of Eris; Buffalo, NY; Hodge Podge; smoke illuminated against neon light
- Links or examples of other covers I like. I sent three alternate covers for Haruki Murakami’s AFTER DARK, which was a big influence on my novella.
- Blurb for the back cover.
- Paperback trim size.
- Final formatted page count. I didn’t have this available right away, and actually screwed it up when I did get it.
- Paper color.
- How I’d be printing the paperback.
This is a lot of information to know if you haven’t done this before. I wasn’t familiar with trim sizes, had no formatted page count, and hadn’t written a strong blurb. So I had to get to work before even submitting the application.
I was able to figure most of it out except for the page count. This will come back later, but I hadn’t formatted the book and since I own a copy of Scrivener, wanted to do it myself. I told this to Damonza, and the designer that was assigned to my book (Robynne) said that it wasn’t necessary for the front cover, but they would need it for the paperback cover.
Within a week she got me two covers to choose from:
I liked both, but felt the one on the right better matched the tone and content of the book. So we set about revising it. I asked to pull back the focus on Buffalo as a whole, and to narrow in on the specific locations that Anh and Amy visit in the story. Then, I asked that the red from the first cover be incorporated into the second cover somehow. I also asked to see variants on colors and fonts, as I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for. Robynne was great throughout and provided me with plenty of options to choose from while we narrowed down the look.
As you can see, we went through quite a few variations on the idea until I was able to settle on the final cover. Once we got there, then it was time to do the back cover. Again, this was an iterative process, with my mostly asking for elements to be added until we got here:
Looks great, right? As far as I was concerned, we were done. But there was a problem–I had formatted the paperback version of the book wrong and so gave Robynne the wrong page count. Which meant that the cover was the wrong size. The error I made was compiling the book as an 8×11 document instead of the 5.25×8 paperback book I wanted. When I reformatted properly, I nearly doubled the page count.
Which meant Robynne had to resize the cover. But, because the book was now well over 100 pages, it meant we could do a spine. In all, things worked out, but it was a dumb mistake that led to extra work for all of us.
I’m ecstatic about the cover. I think it works perfectly for the story, is eye-catching, and does a great job selling the story. In all, I’d highly recommend Damonza if you decide to go the same route.