August 08, 2012

DIY Cover Design

I'm very pleased to host Paul Carroll on today's stop of his blog tour. I thought I was a fast writer, but Paul is the fastest I've ever met, online or off!


Akin to gymnastics in the modern Olympics, how you present your book to the world has two styles to it: artistic, and rhythmic. Today, we’ll focus on the artistic, on what potential readers will see first, and with that we’ll look at cover design and blurb writing.

Let’s be clear: I’m not suggesting that everyone who wants to release a book like I did with Balor Reborn should design their own cover. For me, this was a matter of principle for the Writing Olympics. I had to do everything myself. In two instances, I got help. Someone else found me the image, which is royalty free and attribution free, and someone beta read the book to help pick up on mistakes. But when it came to actually designing the cover, this was my own work.

I began with a simple concept: the eye (Balor’s eye) in the middle, golden, and a black background. The writing on the cover for the title and my name is in an old Irish font that I had first encountered when I was back in secondary school. I found that font online, which allowed for me to move on to the rest of the cover.

In my writing warm up, someone suggested a cirku for Balor Reborn. That put the idea in my head that I should describe the book, in brief terms, around the eye. And so, with the different pieces in place, I had my cover. What did I learn from this?

1. Aim for simplicity.

If you’re doing this yourself, and you don’t have years of experience with art and/or design, don’t try to over-complicate the process for yourself. I went for a simple black cover with a single image that would stick out. It’s now in use on the two social networks I use the most: Facebook and Google+. To this end, I can recycle the image that I had. That’s important for marketing, being able to get the image around easily.

2. Get help.

I couldn’t afford a cover designer for two reasons. The first is obvious: money. I don’t have much. And while this book isn’t about me getting rich, it’s also not about needless spending on something I have the determination to try myself. The second thing against me was time. I simply didn’t have enough of it to specify to a designer what I wanted, and get it in time for the actual launch of the book. So, I had to pass up on that. If you decide to publish your own book, don’t be afraid to hire a cover designer. Save up the money you need, find someone affordable whose work you like, and set yourself free from the constraints of your own computer.

3. Get feedback.

I went to social media for feedback on my cover. It came down to a few things. Firstly, was black okay? I needed to know, before I did anything else, so I could try find a new colour if need be. Secondly, overall impressions. What I discovered was that people couldn’t read the text I had going around the eye, so I had to change the font. I also discovered that some people didn’t know what the image was, and that people liked the font. The latter was fantastic to hear. The former gave me something to focus on in the next step: the blurb.

Wring a blurb is easy. Writing a good blurb, not so much. It’ll be on display wherever your book is on sale. Online, it’ll be the product description. For a printed book, it’ll be on the back cover. You need to get it right. I knew I needed to explain two things in my blurb: what the image was, and that I wrote the book in a week. It then came down to making sure that Stephen and Fionn, my two main characters, weren’t too connected in the blurb. So I rewrote my blurb to cater for that, and pointed out in the end that Balor Reborn was based on the Irish myth of Balor of the Evil Eye.

In the end, I had something that worked to tell people what the book was about, without giving away the whole book. That’s vital for both the blurb and the front cover. You want to entice people, inform people, and be sure you don’t give the whole thing away in the process.

Paul Carroll is a writer from Dublin. He is studying to be a teacher of Religion and English at second level, while working in a bookshop at weekends. His 'free time' is divided among assignments, fiction, poetry, articles and blog posts, as well as college Drama and almost weekly trips to the local cinema.

He has been writing since the age of twelve, with a love of words going back further than he can remember. When he isn't reading or writing, he likes to make use of social media, bake, and talk to friends. Often, he'll watch a horror film alone in the dark for the sheer joy of it.

He can be found online at

About Balor Reborn

Old Ireland is returning, as an ancient evil arrives in Dublin. A single glance from his eye is all it takes to kill.

Stephen Fox is haunted by the memory of his wife, and suffers from guilt at abandoning his new-born son. The spirit of the tyrant Balor has come back to take his vengeance on the country. A hero must rise in the unwilling form of Fionn Murray, a university student with a mysterious past.. As a world of wonder unfolds around him, and with no one but his house mate Michael at his side, he’s left with the choice of running, or facing the evil that could consume the world.

Based on the old Irish myth of Balor of the Evil Eye, Balor Reborn is the first in a series that seeks to revive the magic of Ireland. It was written and published in one week.

It's available to buy on PDF, Epub and Mobi through

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