story, science, technology and creativity

Self publishing: How to design a cover in 5 easy steps

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Tamatori being pursued bya dragon by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Tamatori being pursued bya dragon by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

If you’re self-publishing, you’re going to need a cover. And let’s face it, people judge a book by its cover.

When I decided to self-publish Takeshita Demons 4, I looked into asking Siku, the awesome artist behind the brilliant covers of the first three Takeshita Demons books, to do the fourth.

This would have been the best, but more expensive path. However, I knew I wasn’t going to make loads of cash from this project, so I needed to keep costs down. This meant making my own cover, which has actually been REALLY FUN!.

Lower costs means I can afford to give the book away, which means more people can read it.

And let’s face it. That’s the best I can hope for after the journey MerMonster has been on.

So, in four easy steps, this is how I recommend you design a fast-and-freaky cover for your project:

1) Start with artwork that’s in the public domain.

For me, this was easy. Since I write about Japanese mythology, there’s a lot of incredible artwork from 100+ years ago that I could adopt.

Even better, since MerMonster draws on ocean mythology from the Dragon King, Ryūjin, and his underwater kingdom, Utagawa Kuniyoshi‘s image of brave Princess Tamatori escaping from the dragon was perfect.

2) Download the awesome-and-free Paint.NET

I used to play with Photoshop, but then I found Paint.NET. Download it, do stuff with it. It’s the best. For me, it’s everything Photoshop can do but free. And free is nice.

3) Clean your image 

Your book cover is going to be shrunk to the size of a wizened plum when people see it on-screen. Take your magic wand and eraser and strip back your image. Take away anything that doesn’t scream at you: THIS BOOK ROCKS. 

For me, this mean several thousand iterations of the same thing, getting simpler and simpler each time. First I removed text. Then I removed some waves. Then I removed the princess (sorry princess). Then fish started to go. Octopus disappeared. I cleaned and cleaned.

4) Work out where your words will go (or not)

Somewhere on your cover, you’re going to need to put your name and your book’s name. Or not. In fact, if you’re only publishing as an e-book, you don’t even need this info. Think about it: most times people see your book, there’s going to be descriptive text next to it, and if there’s not, it’s only a click away. So, rather than cram words onto your thumbnail image, maybe go for something so intriguing that people can’t help but engage.

I didn’t do this. I had a great font from the first three books, so I just recycled this.

Takeshita Demons 4


5) Mess around.

Play around with effects, change colours, brighten teeth, enhance eyes, move text, change backgrounds…Just play. I spent a few hours messing about and was happy I did.

And that’s it. Hit SAVE. And smile.

For me, this whole exercise is a game.

I have nothing to lose, and readers to gain, so all I’m aiming for is to encourage you to open my book and have a look. I’m confident that once that happens, you’ll be hooked.  Or that’s the plan 🙂


Like this post? You might also like:

How to write a synopsis: Four big secrets and an example

Self publishing: How to design a cover in 5 easy steps

How to keep your New Year Resolution: Papier mache daruma dolls

Takeshita Demons: help us choose the cover art

8 cool myths about dogs, and why the inugami dog-god didn’t make it

Do you love monsters? Searching for games, activities or cool Japan-related teaching resourcesgames, activities or cool Japan-related teaching resources? If your answer is YES, you should check out the resources section of my website. Have fun!




Cover art for Takeshita Demons: Monster Matsuri – what do you think?

Woo hoo! This week I can give you a sneak peek at the cover art for Takeshita Demons: Monster Matsuri

The sneakiest peek goes to the My Favourite Books blog, who feature an interview with me this week and showcase the new cover as part of it…

…but…for those of you who haven’t yet seen…

HERE IT IS! And I love it!!! (Especially the colours…but you’ll figure out why when you read the book :-))
What do you think?

Takeshita Demons: Monster Matsuri cover


Which would you choose? A sneak peak at cover art for Takeshita Demons 3

Only two more sleeps till The Filth Licker comes out in the UK! YAY!

Already the wheels are turning on book 3 in the Takeshita Demons series: it’s called Monster Matsuri, which means Monster Festival (or Monster Party).

With thanks to the artistic genius of Siku…

We’re stoked to have manga artist extraordinaire Siku on board for the Takeshita Demons books. Siku’s manga-style artwork appears in 2000 AD, Judge Dredd magazine, the Manga Bible and more. The Takeshita Demons books feature his artwork throughout: full-page black-and-white manga-style drawings of all the action (woo hoo!)

And now the sneak-peak rough cover art!

I am always getting great feedback about Siku’s cover art for Takeshita Demons and The Filth Licker, and now I’m thrilled to share a couple of sneak peaks at how the cover for Monster Matsuri might look…

On the left is a more detailed look at the background, with Miku, Cait and Alex facing the throne.

On the right the background has been sketched faster, to give an idea of how it might look with the characters facing the reader.

What do you think?

Siku's cover-draft-Monster-MatsuriSiku's cover-draft-option2-Monster-Matsuri


Takeshita Demons: help us choose the cover art

In fab news, art director Jane Donald is now working on the cover art for Takeshita Demons. She’s discussed some ideas with Siku, a renowned graphic artist who’s worked for Sega Europe, Usborne, Marvel Comics and more. He’s also worked on The Manga Bible and Judge Dredd. This guy can really draw!

The roughs we’ve had back are all ace, featuring Miku, Cait and some very spooky yokai from the book, but now for the tough bit: which one do we choose?


I love them all, but that doesn’t help. I guess we need to think about:

  • how they’ll look in colour,
  • how they’ll look when shrunk down on Amazon pages or in book catalogues,
  • how well they represent the book and its style and story,
  • how well they appeal to boys, to girls,
  • how well they appeal to parents and librarians (who may well be forking out the cash)
  • gut feeling
  • other stuff  (what other stuff? what else should we be thinking about?)

Which cover idea do you prefer? What do you like about it?