When it comes to book covers, I lean toward typographic and abstract designs. Something that hints at the contents instead of painting an illustration or using a photograph.
This is a contrast to the bulk of the books in my library which are the opposite and why Sand and Blood has the cover that it does. That and I know that my severe style for covers doesn't appear to be that popular.
For Journals of Fedran, I'm going with a typographic cover based on newspapers. While I wanted to do the entire thing like a newspaper, I don't think reading a four thousand word story in nine point font in four columns would be that appealing. Not to mention that ebooks can't be formatted that way, so it would be a moot point. A cover, on the other hand, can give the impression of being a newspaper and still get that “feel” that I'm going for.
The Issue Cover
The first thing I worked on was the issue cover. I used a program called XeLaTeX which is a programming language for typesetting books and documents. It can also do some pretty impressive things when it comes to laying out PDFs in general.
Even though most of the examples of newspapers from the 1800s didn't have teasers on the front page, I started with lead-ins for the pieces, but that didn't work. Eventually, I ended up on the first couple of paragraphs of each story. It ends up being an impromptu table of contents.
I'm planning on putting some images on the page, mainly a little advertising, to help with thumbnail recognition, but that's going to be a later step.
About half way through making the cover, I switched from hand-writing LaTeX to writing a program to pull in the paragraphs and sections. Written in Perl, this scans the source file for the project, pulls out the ones that are significant (based on metadata in the YAML markdown), and then inserts them into place. The advantage of this is that I don't have to update the cover manually when I edit the pieces. Just type
make and the covers will be refreshed.
Overall, I think it looks pretty good for what I'm aiming for.
One of the things I'm toying with is allowing individual downloads of the stories. If I do that, then I need a distinctive cover for each one without getting an illustrator. Since I have the issue format, I took bits and pieces of that and created something more specific.
With the story, the lead-in worked out pretty well. I seem to have consolidated down to eight lines of text, all proclaiming the contents. Overall, when lined up, I think they look pretty cool.
I did keep the header and footer in there (though the author can change). That way, all of the issue zeros will be tied together.
Like the issue, this is based on a Perl program for generating. That keeps it up to date if I have to make changes in the first X paragraphs at the bottom, but also lets me update them in a single shot. Most of the leading data is just YAML at the beginning.
--- Author: D. Moonfire cover: leading: - A barbarian child - Burning with rage! - A helpless brother - on the brink of death! - Abandoned in the desert - And left to die! - See the barbaric rituals - Of a foreign land! Title: Raging Alone ---
Putting it in the metadata allows me to change the lead-in text, remove the capitals, or other minor changes. It also keeps the data for the story in a single file instead of spreading it to a control program.
There are pair of series pieces in here (Raging Alone and Second-Hand Dresses). These will eventually have their own ebooks and downloads, with a cover that doesn't reference a single issue but will probably still have the same lead-in and title as the others.
Like when I was about to release Sand and Blood, I'm considering Creative Commons for this. It is a scary idea, but part of me has been asking to make something CC-licensed for years. I already get so much from the Commons and I want to contribute something back.
The other reason is Cory Doctrow's discussion about his book, Little Brother:
Giving away ebooks gives me artistic, moral and commercial satisfaction. The commercial question is the one that comes up most often: how can you give away free ebooks and still make money?
For me – for pretty much every writer – the big problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity (thanks to Tim O'Reilly for this great aphorism). Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy. [..]
Those two paragraphs has been hanging around me since he spoke at ICON a few years ago. And I think Journals might be a good fit for that. At least for a few issues.
Cory sells print versions of the book even though he gives away the ebook. I'm thinking about doing the same, make a print version and throw up a donation link, but otherwise just let the stories go wild and see what happens.
That led into the effort to make individual covers for the stories.