Designing a cover for The Obald.

The Obald is available for Kindle (and in paperback form from CreateSpace – although that’s an expensive option, because the CreateSpace costs balloon as page counts increase). By the way, it’s not that I’ve written two novels in a couple of months, but that I wrote this one four years ago and inexplicably forgot about it. Over the Easter holiday, I fired it up and polished it off. If it has a genre (and it’s hard to say that I can properly write genre – much as I’d love to), it’s slightly more science fictiony and espionagy than French Blood, which is a bit more murdery and mystery.

The cover of The Obald can be seen on the right:

The Obald 2014 cover
The Obald 2014 cover

I designed it relatively quickly, using Pixelmator, which is all I have now that I no longer work in an environment where Photoshop is freely available (I do have Photoshop at work, but I obviously do this kind of personal stuff at home). I was just messing around with ideas, trying to come up with something abstract and simple, and I hit upon the idea of cogs (as in ‘the works’ or clockwork, or time) and an eye (as in surveillance). It came together very serendipitously, and although I could have worked longer on it and tweaked it some more, I kind of like the way it turned out as an original concept, and decided to go with it. The original, by the way, was on a white background. As I do so often, I just inverted the image to get the final design. I usually find that the inverted version works better! (See left for original design.)

the obald try 3

It’s very hard to say something meaningful about a book with a cover, and in this case, I think it works. The book involves a bit of time travel, a bit of spying/surveillance, and a bit of dystopian lid-lifting. It’s also something of a romance, though of course men aren’t supposed to admit to writing romance.

It was originally written four years ago, at which time I also experimented with some cover designs. Here are some of the others I came up with.

The first is a stark white background with a London Underground-style original obald covernameplate and the words “a novel”. The author’s name was originally done, like the title, in Johnston Underground, but here it’s in the similar Gill Sans. I then developed this idea further into the eventual proof paperback copy I had printed at CreateSpace, which I did in Illustrator, with a more complex scribbly background, using some of the ornament glyphs from the Johnston Underground family.


I quite like it, still, but grew concerned I’d get hassled by London Transport for taking their corporate identity in vain. If you read the book (and why not, at £1.02?), you’ll get the Underground connection, but it’s less significant in the 2014 version of this novel than it was in the original 1983 version. In the end, I think my final design (the one at the top) works better.

But wait! There are still more designs that I tried and rejected.

obald_coverThe worst of them uses a photo with some terribly amateur perspective applied to the text, and a font called Sinzano, which I purchased, but decided not to use. At the time, I was trying for something simple and effective. This is simple, but not effective. I then tried to do something using the Scrivener software I used to write the book.


I still quite like this one (left). I like the idea of a cork board and various graphics which bear some relation to the plot.

Finally (!), there’s one more design which didn’t make the cut. This last one was me trying to do something “classic”. The font you need for this kind of thing is Univers, which I don’t currently have installed, so (because I didn’t keep a JPEG of the original), it has been re-rendered today using a different font. If you know your book design, you’ll know what I was trying to do with this.obald cover 2

I still quite like it. You’ll note that it evokes the idea of surveillance quite successfully, but says nothing else about the story. And anyway, it’s masquerading as non-fiction by ripping off the Pelican design.

So, I’m happy with the one I went with, but have a fondness for a couple of the others. I won’t ask you to vote on these, because the decision has already been made.

(If you do read the book, I’d appreciate a review posted to Amazon. I think books with reviews stand more of a chance.)


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