Cover Design Ideas and Development Process:
"The Cover Design of A Time of Chaos" by Benny Chi:
I designed the covers of all of my ebooks. To be honest, I do not have a strong sense of design; nor am I any good at using Photoshop. I do my own cover designs because it is cheaper. In Taiwan, ebooks are yet to become popular. Worse, the kind of genre literature I enjoy writing is not favored by the readers. If you want the truth, the sum of the proceeds from the sales of all my ebooks is not even enough to pay for a properly designed book cover. Therefore I cannot afford to hire professional cover design artists; otherwise, I will go bankrupt.
Prior to A Time of Chaos, I designed the cover of another novel. That one was relatively easy because, as an urban crime novel, all it required was the photograph of a street scene and that of my own back. I put the two together and did a few touch-ups and, viola, the cover was done. However, as a historical / martial arts novel, A Time of Chaos cannot have a photograph of contemporary urban Taipei as background. Neither can I find any architecture, clothing and daily item in modern Taipei that suits the fashion of China's Ming Dynasty in. the 1620s.
My ideal cover design for a martial arts novel should be like a painting of ink and wash. As long as it has a Chinese style, it does not matter if the painting is of mountains and rivers, people, or even weapons. It is therefore a pity that I was never a good student in Chinese calligraphy, not to mention Chinese painting. For me, to do a Chinese painting is even more difficult than flying to the moon.
So I went back to designing, although I know nothing about it. I did not even know where to find appropriate -- and cheap -- images to use. Most importantly, I can never use copyrighted materials, because copyright is the lifeline of all artists, including authors like me. Hence I decided to use my own photographs, but which one of them would be good enough for the cover design of a martial arts novel set in China's Ming Dynasty?
The answer is... a photograph of the cherry blossoms in Mt Yangming, a famous scenic spot in suburban Taipei.
Once touched up, such a photo looked like a scene of a Chinese ink-and-wash painting. It looked even more like the cover design of a martial arts novel after the three Chinese characters were added as the book's title. So this is how the cover design of A Time of Chaos was done in such difficult conditions. I am glad to know so many people like it, although I am sure any traditional editor or publisher would have rejected it as something "plain, ordinary and without a proper theme". Still, for authors, a cover design is successful as long as it can convey what they want.
Whether such a cover design would be attractive in the eyes of the others is another question.