the ebook cover

At the considerable risk of tautology, an ebook cover image must be bold, strong, dramatic and catch the eye.

I once read a book about raising a puppy. A sentence that stayed with me when everything else had been forgotten was ‘OTT is puppy normal.’ In other words, if you want a puppy to come to you, wave your arms, clap your hands and when he arrives, lay praise on with a trowel (as Disraeli said of Queen Victoria).

And as it is with puppies, so it is with childrens’ book covers. Or so I think now. Read on to discover why.

When I last did an ebook* (a few years ago now) and needed a good cover, I used PeoplePerHour to find a graphic designer. PeoplePerHour allows you to post details of a job you want doing, and from all over the world artists etc send you quotes. Obviously, the ‘jobs’ must be web-doable, to coin a phrase; if you want someone to clear your gutters or escort you to a do don’t look there.

So I thought of using PeoplePerHour, but then I was pointed in the direction of Fiverr so – for now – I’m giving that a go.

The trouble is although ‘Abigail’ has a strong story with notable characters and many exciting incidents, trying to picture a striking image for the cover I find difficult. Ideally I’d like to find an artist whose work and style are sympathetic for the characters and the story. Then they’d read Abigail and come up with the basic concept. But I don’t have the luxury of that, as the longer a process takes, the more it’ll cost. So what I’ve done is select an artist from Fiverr and sent him (I think it’s a him) a couple of ideas. If he then comes back and asks to read the whole thing, that’s fine.

I’ll update this later, and if it works out fine post a link right here.

(3 hours later)

Well, I’ve had some lunch and walked the dog and when I got back there was a reply waiting for me. He said my ideas were a bit confusing. So – as you might find this instructive – I’ve bunged them into a post: here’s the link: First cover spec

So I had another think and picked an episode from the book and sent it too him: Second cover spec

(Two days later)

Nothing from him, so I think he’s probably fed up with the whole thing. Oh well. Onwards! Upwards! I haven’t been getting very far with finding a cartoonised mugshot either.

I’ve now spent an hour or so trawling through Fiverr, looking for another cover artist who’s style I think will suit. So many people, you could spend all day. So I’ve posted up my job: ‘create a dramatic cover for my ebook, from an incident in the book. For kids, 9 – 12. No cute or cartoony styles please‘ I’ll see what comes back. I might go and do the same with PeoplePerHour, but I suspect lots of the artists on Fiverr are also on PeoplePerHour anyway.

(2 days later)

A couple of responses. I thought there’d be more. Oh well, one of them looks a really good fit , so I’ve asked her to go ahead and sent a link.

(A day later)

Well, would you believe, I’ve now had a shedload of people asking to do my cover. Including the artist I originally asked and gave first option to, as it were. A lesson learnt: my guess is Fiverr update job requests with some sort of overnight batch process. Primitive in IT terms, but generally safe and reliable. The first two probably squeezed in just before an update; the rest had to wait for the next run before they appeared. Lesson learnt: give things on Fiverr a beat.

But I’m perfectly happy with my original choice.

(A week or so later)

She’s running late. It was all more complex than she thought, so she asked someone else for help and – at the last moment – this other person has said it wasn’t what he was expecting, so she’s had to ask some other people.

It would be nice if they’d actually read the spec in the first place, instead of jumping in. I suspect that’s symptomatic of there being more artists than work: everyone is busy chasing, and possibly not spending time on the detail.

(A day later)

cover sketch1


Oh dear oh dear oh dear …. a preliminary sketch has come in, and it’s completely wrong. Nice artwork, a clever drawing (Talented people? the world is stuffed with them!) but worked from the first spec, rather than the second, although (and this I’ve checked twice) I specifically specified the second specification.


It’s been a while since I last ran a project, and had forgotten some golden rules:

  • keep it simple
  • pay attention to detail
  • make sure others are paying attention to detail

(Yeah, OK, I just made them up)

And, as with my other interactions with artists and designers and all those other people who might get involved, I’m not going to say who they are or show their work unless I can be positive.

And on that basis, I really really hope this whole cover business can be successfully finished.

So I’ve written back pointing this out, and sent a PDF copy of the second spec so we’ll see what happens

(A few hours later)

She’s just got back to me, with a single line: ‘Ok….. let me get this across.’ It’d be great if it meant she could just sit down and do it!

(A day or two later, or three, maybe four .. time has become fluid)

cover sketch2



She sent me this preliminary sketch from one of her people. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Again. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Still worked from the first spec, not the second. I don’t know, what can you do? People don’t pay attention, and we of limited funds don’t have much leverage. If I were a well known writer, with a track record and the money in the bank to prove it, they’d get it right. But I’m not

I was so depressed I just said cancel the job and keep the dosh.


But the search for the cover continues. So now I’ve posted a job on People Per Hour (or, as it likes to be known, PPH)

Immediate response from someone who hasn’t any artwork in her portfolio, just some word docs that are meant to show how brilliant she is at writing and proof reading. Incredible.

And then another one asking if the job was still open. Remember this is less than an hour after posting.

And then some more sensible ones. One chap actually sent a few examples of covers from Amazon, asking in this was the style I wanted. I said yes, and he’s going to put in a proposal.

I then noticed the book on Amazon hadn’t been illustrated by him but by someone else, so I’ve sent this someone else the spec and asked for an estimate. I think he’s pretty well known though, so I expect he’ll be way outside my budget.

We’ll see. the saga continues …..

(A couple of days later)

OK, nothing back from the maybe slightly famous artist who I know can create covers in the style I want, so I’ve gone back to the guy who pointed me in his direction in the first place and have accepted his proposal.

Well, his second proposal, if truth be known. His first was for £80, which I thought was too low. After PPH have taken their cut it don’t leave much. And low pay tends to lead to slapdash work. Another example of you get what you pay for. So I got him to boost it to £100. Not that £100 is excessive for this, far from it. But my resources are limited and it does show willing.

And then we tried a Google hangouts Skype type conversation, but that didn’t work well at all. Fuzzy image, vocals like a muffled dalek, a time lapse you could eat cake in. In the end we just did it with live chat.

Turns out he’s not actually an illustrator: he designs and gets others to do the actual artwork. That’s fine by me, I told him. He then began a series of questions about what I wanted on the cover, so I asked him if he had actually read the spec….

The crux of his reply was ‘sort of.’

……. I don’t know. I think I’m getting immune. This lack of attention to detail now seems normal, and just seems to be par for the course.

No, that’s wrong. I am – as I think Hillary Clinton said – misremembering. Several proposers had obviously read the spec and quite a few had also read other posts in this blog. None of their portfolios however showed the sort of artistic style I was after, and some just disregarded the (second) spec and proposed designs based on my brief plot outline in this blog.

But for now I’m going to run with this guy. I told him I’d try and get an image for him that roughly is how I see Abigail. Spent an hour or so Googling around. D’you know how many somewhat dodgy sites you can find if you type in ‘stout girls in combat fatigues?’ The answer is a lot.

But none of them seemed right. So in the end I suggested a composite: click here

… Jane Fonda? Liza Minnelli? Bruce Willis? Endomorphs? Well, why not? It’ll be most interesting to see what comes back!

(A few days later again)

At last we seem to be getting somewhere. The saga continues here!

* The ebook was terrible, and sank without trace. The cover was OK, though.

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