The Clockwork Dungeon: The Cover Design Process.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

… and so goes one of the most overused and misleading quotes in human history. Covers matter, especially to Indie Authors – they entice people to look further, and on channels like Amazon, you only get one shot, and less than a second to catch someone’s eye.

With this in mind, I’ve spent a lot of time and money making sure the covers for my novellas are engaging and interesting; I want people to stop and take a second look. This blog is my attempt to show you how I go about designing a cover, and what the finished product looks like. This is also the official cover reveal for The Clockwork Dungeon‘s cover, so scroll down to the bottom if you’re just keen to see the final product in all its glory!

The Inspiration

Growing up, I loved reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries. Whether purchased from garage sales and second hand bookstores, or borrowed from the library, these books were strewn throughout our house, and their covers etched a certain cover style in my mind over time; a style filled with mysterious discoveries, enticing titles, and a sense of danger bubbling just beneath the surface.

Gotta love those shocked expressions! With this style in mind, I decided that I wanted my new novella to pay homage to these classic covers.

The Commission

Just like with my previous Inspector Ambrose stories, I went through ArtCorgi for this cover design, and in particular, the artist Silvadoray, who has a wonderful way of translating an image from an idea into a reality. This was what I sent through:

Visual guides

It’s important to be really clear when you’re commissioning any work of art, and this is certainly crucial in designing a cover. With the clear vision I had in my mind, I decided to send examples to help the artist along.

The scene in my mind was when Ambrose, Percy, and Felicity discover a study inside a house they’re visiting, which hosts a half-bodied Mech on a plinth. The visual aids I put together started with two covers that showed the angles I wanted the protagonists to be standing at; on the bottom of the cover looking up at the Mech, just like these folk:

Next, I included an idea of the Mech’s shape and the Plinth I wanted it to sit on:

I was keen for the office to feel like a study from an Agatha Christie novel, and for the desk to be in an old school hardwood style, so I included the images below. Amazingly, the first photo I found in my Googling was almost perfect, so naturally, I added some notes on top of the photo and a seperate photo of the ideal desk. With my editing ‘skillz’ I also pasted the Mech prototype into the middle image alongside my notes:

And just because details are important, I added an example of the book piles I was thinking would be littering the floor in the office:


Along with some basic description of the scene and the characters therein, I sent my notes off to Artcorgi, and anxiously awaited the first draft’s arrival. And when it arrived, boy was I happy:

Clockwork Dungeon Draft

It was incredible to see the scene come to life on the screen. The vibe of the early Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys was perfectly captured, but with a modern, steampunk-flavoured twist. I was blown away, and this was only the draft! I gave a little bit of feedback (mostly “wow, that looks amazing!”), and then it was back with the artist to add colour and texture. Soon enough, the final cover arrived. So, without further ado…

Welcome to The Clockwork Dungeon:

The Clockwork Dungeon

Thanks so much to Artcorgi and Silvadoray once again. It’s nerve-wracking to hand over your work to someone else and trust that they’ll ‘get’ it enough to create a piece of art like this.

With the cover now complete, The Clockwork Dungeon is almost ready for release, and will be ready for preorders soon. Stay tuned for more news soon!

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