The number one rule of self publishing is don’t make your own covers. So of course I tried to make the cover for Detroit 2020. Several times.
I also had to touch the stove to find out it was hot. I’m one of those.
Our original vision for a cover was something as beautiful as ManBorg. I mean, just look at this thing. It’s three-beers-deep fine art. The second you look at it you can tell it doesn’t take itself seriously in the best kind of way. Plus that quote, “Enjoyably ridiculous” is the sort of thing I’d love a swanky joint like Variety to say about Detroit 2020.
Here’s the thing though, there are really cool artists out there that will make this sort of thing but even if we could have found one to do this much work for our beer-money budget we’d have been absurdly taking advantage of them.
Someday, Manborg. Someday.
As a result my first shitty photoshop attempt at a cover has the same floating villain head. Gosh, there’s still a bit of me that really likes this cover. It’s flawed. Hoo boy, it’s amateurish, but in a way that gives it some punk rock charm.
The city skyline and the floating head don’t mesh at all. One looks like a postcard. The other looks like a voodoo robot cartoon.
Moving on to attempt number 2, which in someways I think is my best effort. There is just something about this one that really looks like a shitty scifi movie. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it looks absolutely terrible and homemade.
But, like, that sky, man. That rubble. It looks like a episode of classic Doctor Who.
I also really like that radiation symbol for one of the zeros, which was Ben’s clever idea.
In the end, though, it wasn’t what we were looking for, which led to us going back and forth, forth and back, until Ben had some sort of flux capacitor like epiphone which led to a conversation like this:
Ben: You know how everything was better 40 years ago?
Me: You mean besides Rock n Roll and human interaction?
Ben: Check out this old cover for The Shining
We both agreed that it was unlike anything we had seen lately, and we’d been looking at book covers for months and months. Most of them on the Kindle store just have stock photo shirtless dudes holding guns. Most are black, or blue and orange. None are yellow. None are that bleak. We figured we were on to something.
Which led to my attempt number 3.
It actually looks somewhat close to the finished product.
We could tell at this point that we had our cover, we just didn’t quite have it. There was something ineffable, intangible that wasn’t right about it.
We figured it might be the font, so I downloaded some 2,000 fonts. For about three days I drank a lot and looked through fonts. I would find one and say, “That’s the one,” only to find out that it only had letters and no numbers. I drank some more.
Me: I can’t do this.
Ben: You can do this.
Me: No really, I can’t do this.
Ben: Okay, let’s get some help.
That’s when Ben called his buddy Kevin Noonan.
It’s crazy to me how small, but significant the differences are. The skyline looks better. the buildings look sharper. I love the effect of the radiation symbol over the title. It’s still ineffable, but dear god, is it noticeable. Don’t make your own covers, kids. Just don’t. Let the pros do it.
I’m pretty happy with our cover now. It turned out great. And honestly, I’m okay with the fumbled journey of trying to make it myself as well. I had to touch the hot stove. I just had to know.