cover design

Hubris Towers Cover Reveal! (+ Design Notes)

The time has finally come! I’ve been holding back on this for so long and I’m terribly excited to finally get to reveal the new cover for my upcoming comedy series, Hubris Towers!

Before I forget, sign up here to get a note when Hubris Towers comes out.

This is one of the funniest things I’ve written in a long time. One of our test readers almost hurt himself from laughing too hard for too long. I’m desperately trying not to spill the beans and just share all the funniest parts prematurely. But I do want to give you a better idea of what it’s about. Here’s my best attempt to date. See also Bill’s take.

Hubris Towers

I’m really proud of the cover. I designed and created it myself and, in classic bootstrapping style, did it all for free with images licensed for commercial reuse with modification and free image editing software. (GIMP 2, if you’re curious.)

To be fair, I got sucked in and let my perfectionist/fiddly side take over, so I probably spent 12-ish hours on it in total, which is not really optimal as a major side-goal with this project is to see how much we can streamline and minimize the production process. But I had the bulk of the work done in about half that, and the rest was optional fun messing around. And I’ve got it set up in a way that will let me create the next 7 covers in about 5-10 minutes each (literally), so if we think of it as laying infrastructure that’s still not too bad in the balance.

The progress bar at the bottom is something we decided to try out just for fun. It shows how far into the 8-episode season you are. I’m nervous some people will find it confusing, but Bill and I decided that it fits with our ideals as authors who are willing to try new things and play with convention.

Overall we were going for a timeless, fairly iconic, stylized look but one that still communicates that the story is set in the modern day. I drew inspiration from a type of cover layout that’s common in comedies and mysteries from a while back, and still used (albeit usually with a rather updated look and feel). Clean fonts, maybe an extra design element or two, but primarily a name, an object/image, and a title.

Image result for agatha christie books

Silhouettes reinforce the iconic look, while a cartoony or unreal element helps signal that it’s a comedy.

The hand with serving tray hints at the subject matter—the main character Jimmy Acorn trying to get a job as a concierge at a new luxury condo complex—and the modern skyscraper reinforces that while also helping set the scene in the modern day. The bold splash of color is eye-catching, including a bright thick border that will work well in thumbnails. (I’ve got an alternate version with a single pinstripe border and gray edge that I think will look stunning on larger, paper covers.)

I can’t wait to share this with you guys! Sign up for our HT-specific mailing list to get notified about a secret deal that will disappear before we publicly announce the release.

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Stylish Games for Font Geeks and Budding Designers

Self-publishing has vastly sharpened my focus on typography, layout, and other elements of visual design. Designing your own book covers is, by all accounts, a don’t-try-this-at-home endeavor. With sober self-evaluation and much fear and trembling, I’ve started designing my own anyway. Method of Action was (and continues to be) a huge help in evaluating and honing my design skills.

Test and refine your eye for color, kerning skills, font design, and more with these quick yet surprisingly absorbing games. If you’re anything like as geeky as me, you’ll have a great time.

Method.ac

The Big (Tiny) Amazon Self-Publishing Experiment Begins! (+ Cover Reveal!)

I just learned an important and slightly disappointing lesson about putting a book up for Amazon pre-order. Logical in retrospect, though. But I should back up.

I’m finishing up a couple novels and plan to self-publish them when the time comes. I’m looking forward to sharing the process of completing them, getting them ready, publishing them, and getting the word out. Thing is, they’re both major projects—150k and projected 120k words—and I’d kind of like to have a little experience with the basics of self-publishing so that I can put them up without wasting time on errors or inefficiencies, especially when it’s a time sink that would scale up with the length of the novel.

Recently I remembered a fairy tale I wrote a few years ago. It’s early work but it’s actually quite beautiful and the ending still brought me to tears when I re-read it, and it’s a story that’s worth getting out there. Thus was born the Big (Tiny) Amazon Self-Publishing Experiment. The story is around 30 pages long and in mostly finished form.

I realized if I can put aside my perfectionistic tendencies I could put on a pre-made cover, convert it with minimal editing, and publish it on Amazon within weeks or less with very little effort.

Big if.

I ended up ordering a pre-made cover and, while the designer was incredibly friendly and responsive and did a beautiful job adjusting the background image for me, it turns out I have pretty strong views on matters of design (and I like getting my hands dirty and testing different options out), and the “make a suggestion, wait a day, make a suggestion, wait a day” cycle was killing me.

So—don’t try this at home—I basically took the second or third version he gave me, completely edited out the title in GIMP, and did my own typography for the main title. Here’s the result. I’m pretty excited.

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

And the disappointing lesson about pre-orders? I decided to put the book up for pre-order to give me a chance to make a few final edits and complete post-production while already having a legit Amazon product page I could direct people to.

The way this works is that you enter your book information and upload a cover and a content file (either draft or final—mine was a draft because the whole point is that I’m finishing it up while pre-orders are open).

Then you pick a future release date and Amazon generates a deadline by which you have to upload the final copy, about 10 days before the release date. This deadline is all very scary and official and bold and red, especially because before your final submit you have to confirm that if you don’t get your final version in before the deadline, you’ll lose access to pre-orders for a whole year.

That’s pretty serious stakes for what started out as essentially a lark.

I decided I needed a kick in the butt to short-circuit the perfectionism and ship the book. So I gave myself a nervous-makingly short deadline of about a week and carved it into stone. That’s when I learned that it doesn’t actually put up the product page until you submit the final draft anyway. So the whole pre-order thing is kind of moot. Either I get a few days to finish post-production or I get a few extra days with a legit Amazon pre-order page, not both.

Lesson learned. And really that’s what the experiment was for all along.

Have you guys done anything like this? Anything I should be aware of going into it?

Cheers!

—Ben