And the award for best ebook cover goes to…

I’m not a designer, so it’s something I hire experts to do on my behalf. Almost all my book covers have been designed by Pete Bradbury at digit64. He’s done a sterling job, and it’s the kind of Photoshop wizardry that is way beyond my meagre talents. He handles the difficult, complex Photoshop work for me. I’ve had no design training, but I used to run a web company with a very talented designer and picked up some basic principles from him.

So it’s very strange to win an award for one of my own DIY ebook designs. Strange, and totally bloody brilliant!

I put together the cover of Meet Me in Montmartre myself for two reasons: it was only a short story release, not a novel, and it saved me a bit of money.

My limitations as a Photoshopper forced me to be simple, so much that I knew the book cover had to be comprised of a single photo + typography, no fancy montage of elements, because i simply don’t have the skills to handle that… and, perhaps by accident, my lack of skill forced me to keep it simple.

It was hard to come up with the right image to capture the story of a blind date in a Paris cafe (oh why hadn’t I spent my recent holiday there taking photos of lone women in bistros!), but in the end I decided to focus on a few simple props featured in the story: a coffee cup and the bundle of air mail letters tied with a red ribbon. I actually created a mocked up envelope in Photoshop, bearing the main character’s name and address, to go on the top of an original pile of old letters.

The photo was taken on my girlfriend’s dining room table, standing on a chair, and with nothing more than my iPhone and the Hipstamatic app to give it a warm, sentimental look. I took about 20 photos of it.

After that it was a matter of picking the right one and zooming in on the right detail, then adding the title (Rage Italic LET, a nice handritten font that I think is both elegant and heavy enough to stand out). My own name is in the font (Delicious, I think) and positioning chosen originally by Pete and kept for every subsequent cover.

I really didn’t think it would stand a chance when I entered it into Joel Friedlander’s e-Book Cover Design Awards competition for September 2011. I’ve been following Joel’s blog for a while and his passion for great design is inspiring but also daunting for a dilettante like me.

So I was surprised when Joel commented on the cover in the ‘nominations’ stage (he listed all 200 covers entered) and said Andy, you could have been standing on your head and this cover couldn’t have been better. From the “warm, sentimental” look to the perfectly-chosen typefaces, it gets everything right.

Praise indeed. But there were still some very professional covers in there, and several that took my breath away. So it was another great shock when I found myself listed as one of the five winners!

Joel wrote: The casual romanticism of this e-book cover perfectly matches the story of a blind date in a Paris cafe. With nothing more than an iPhone and a little imagination, the author shows that a great cover can be right in front of us if we learn to look.

[Unfolds speech] So, I’d like to thank my iPhone, the Hipstamatic app, Lorna for her coffee cup, table and the chair I stood on, my Mum for the air mail envelopes she sent me 20 years ago…

But seriously, there were a few people who took the time to look at the original design and texted me with their comments and suggestions for improvements. This led to some minor changes in teh  sizing and positioning of typography, and the only re-touching of the photo I was capable of attempting: lightening it slightly so the words ‘me in’ would show up a bit more.

Without their feedback it wouldn’t have looked as effective and probably wouldn’t have won a design award. So a big thank you to Lorna, Zoe, Sarah, Kim, Danny and Jim.

Does this mean I can call myself a prize-winning author now?

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