Designing the book cover for Malfunction Junction

If you haven’t heard me talk about it enough already, some friends and I made a book! It’s a Memphis-themed anthology called Malfunction Junction: Memphis Stories of Stops, Starts, Wrong Turns, and Dead Ends. You can buy copies at Novel (see photo of Alondra and I posing in front of the display below), and we’ll be signing copies and talking about the book at our author event on January 15th at 2:00 pm.

Also, if you come to the event, we’re going to have a special bonus (scroll to the end of this post to see what it is!).

This post is all about the cover design for the book, which you’ve seen. But the road to getting this final cover design was its own journey of stops, starts, wrong turns, and dead ends.

Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!

In the past few years, I’ve discovered (rediscovered?) my interest in art and design.

So when Daniel (head honcho of this anthology operation) asked if I wanted to work on the cover design, I jumped at the opportunity. I really wanted this project to have an excellent cover, and self-published books aren’t necessarily known for having the best cover design.

I got right to work.

I spent a few hours playing around with different designs and effects with Procreate on the iPad. We wanted to incorporate a map of Memphis as well as roads because of the loose theme of the anthology.

But all I came up with these were these hot messes…

I gave up on the first two midway. The design on the right was a crossroads for me, if you will. I knew the design wasn’t working. But I couldn’t explain why it wasn’t working. I’d reached the frustrating point where my tastes far exceeded my current skill level, and I was ready to give up.

I told Daniel maybe we find someone else to do the cover. I hear $30 can go a long way on websites like Fiverr. But Daniel said he thought we could do this, and that last design wasn’t all that bad. (I still thought it was pretty bad though.)

The breakthrough came when I made the roads as rectangles instead of hand-drawing them. I also got some great feedback from Justin Wells, a former student of mine who graduated at Memphis College of Art and is an amazing artist and graphic designer.

That’s how we ended up with this draft of the front cover. See below for the time lapse of my Procreate file! You can follow along with all my experimenting.

What about the Spine and Back Cover?

The what and the what?



Um, well. Oops. Okay, I didn’t think this through.

Here was the problem. We had a cool front cover, but those roads I made needed to extend over the spine and the back cover (at least, that’s how I wanted it to be). Also, the dimensions were off. Since I had just been experimenting originally, I didn’t pay attention to the actual dimensions our book would be. Making all these changes in Procreate was going to be harder than it would be to start over and recreate the. whole. thing.

So that’s what I did.

That went a little quicker because I was mostly recreating what I had already made before. We added some text on the back, a publisher logo, and all the other important cover elements. You can see in the time-lapse that I created the design on top of the template from Ingram Spark (the printer) to make sure everything lined up perfectly.

Actually uploading this was a whole other ordeal, the trauma of which is still too fresh to talk about…

Okay, it wasn’t that bad. But it involved me fumbling around in Adobe InDesign, Daniel fumbling around in Ingram Spark’s online cover program, and lots of frustration because the process is incredibly convoluted and unclear. But we eventually got it.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we had…bookmarks!?

Rae Harding, a friend and fellow contributor to the anthology, had the idea (and a coupon or something?) to get bookmarks printed. I gave myself a little more creative freedom with these, and I ended up with a design I liked as much as the cover itself.

We’ll be giving these out at our author event at Novel. bookstore on January 15th! Hope to see you there!

2 thoughts on “Designing the book cover for Malfunction Junction

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