This is the cover of my upcoming novel from Goldport Press. The novel is regency fantasy (alternate world.) The background painting is by John Atkinson Grimshaw, a painter who infuses his paintings with an eerie light. The dragon and the man in the foreground (originally a photograph) are both from dreamstime. Both man and dragon were run through Filter Forge’s oil-painting filter, then tweaked to fit in with the colors, etc.
Now, this is a cover that will work for today’s Amazon KDP and frankly, all online sites, and also for Create Space printing. (Yes, I need to tweak that tag line, and there’s too much white showing around the space under his arm, but that’s blendable.)
However, the standards weren’t always so high, and the covers I (and others) put up when KDP was young are borderline offensive to the eye now. Which probably explains why so few of my old stories that are up there sell.
So, we’ll take one — The Blood of Dreams — because I’ve never liked it, and also because I happened to see it the other day and find it offensive.
The Blood of Dreams is a vampire short story set in post-Soviet Russia. It was published in The Secret History of Vampires, where the conceit was you had to use and historic figure. (I was invited to contribute and had to come up with something.) The rights have reverted to me. So I put it out, I think over a year ago. And this is what the cover looks like:
Is this the most horrible cover I have out there? Not even close. And that’s me, and my covers were never the MOST horrible ones out there. (They were pretty close, though.) However, seriously, no one could mistake that for a professional cover, either. Let me count the ways:
It’s two photoshopped together (not convincingly) photos. The lettering work is Times New Roman, I think. It’s not even centered. And it doesn’t in any way signal genre.
In fact, if you considered this as a traditionally published book, you’d expect it to be “my experiences escaping the East in the eighties” or something.
So, let’s give this much abused story a new look, shall we?
So, first I go to Morguefile and let my fingers do the walking (if I can find something in morgue file I don’t need to pay for it. So I’d like to at least get the background in morgue file.) My first search term is Russia. I’m looking for something (like that background) identifiable as “Russian.”
This is the photo I decided on:
It’s by fmfm166 at morguefile.
While I’m running it by Filter Forge, I’m going to look for a photo of a woman. Last resort, I’ll go to Dreamstime.com but the problem is that this limits how much I can show you. (I.e. picture of a woman pre-manipulation is right out, and in fact, I shouldn’t show you anything but the finished cover. It’s a license thing.) Look, the story involves a woman and vampires, and Moscow and Lenin and Stalin. I could, I grant you, use a drawing of Lenin or Stalin, but a woman on the cover will sell better.
If I go to dreamstime I won’t be able to put the raw picture here, because dreamstime is a specific license, though. I will put the transformed picture of the background, and then the full cover. But meanwhile let me look other places.
Success. Wikimedia commons has a photo of a painting by Ferdinand Keller which, since he died in 1922 is fair game. It’s a highly dystopic looking painting, so perfect. (It is by the way, photographed by Hampel Auctions.)
Since the image is an oil and in a certain style, it restricts what I can do with the background, too.