Prisma: An Inadvertent Cover-Creating App?

Prisma app logo

A friend of mine has told me that covers should look good, because people unfortunately do judge books by their covers. With that in mind, I try to create the best covers I can, using what resources I have and looking to friends when I can’t do something with a cover. And recently, I came across an app that I think I can add into my cover creating resources: Prisma.

I got this app on the suggestion of a friend, who told me that it can be used to make your own artwork out of photographs (I’ve got my own apartment these days, and I’m looking to put some more art on the walls without breaking the bank). Prisma is a recent creation dating back to June 2016, and was created by Alexey Moiseenkov. The app relies on artificial intelligence and a neural network to take photos on your phone and turn it into art. The best part is, you can choose from forty different art styles–or as they’re called in app-language, “filters”–in turning your photos into art. Some of these filters come standard when you download, while I believe others can be bought from a store.

Take this selfie of me, pre-filter:

Now put it through the Comic filter:

Not bad, right?

Now here’s a shot of my multivitamins:

Put it through the Roy filter:

It makes no sense to me, so it must be art!

Yeah, it’s a fun app, and the filters allow for some really wonderful, one of a kind pictures for your personal gallery. But I realized soon after I made some art pieces with the app that there were further uses for this app than just stuff for my wall. Perhaps uses that even Mr. Moiseenkov hadn’t thought of. What if you could use this app to give your cover a special touch?

Yeah, we work hard on our covers. We learn Photoshop, we download stuff from the internet, we take special shots in the middle of the night while it’s snowing heavily (or is that just me?). But sometimes we feel like there’s something missing, something that makes the cover perfect. Why not add a little art to it?

For example, here’s a cover provided to us by our good friend Joleene Naylor, who downloaded it from The photo was uploaded by a user called–I kid you not–remains:

It’s a good cover, and gives an idea of what sort of story it is. Problem is, the impression might be a bit too general, to the point that you worry it seems too run-of-the-mill.

Now put it through the Candy filter:

Nice! Not only does it look like it was painted, but the effect kind of brings to mind a strange, Warhol-esque vibe. Maybe this story takes place in Greenwich Village in the sixties, and there’s a hippie girl who isn’t so into peace and love, or something. Slap on a title and author name and you’re good to go to publish!

Bottom line, there’s plenty of potential for creating covers with Prisma. With so many different styles to choose from, there’s sure to be a way to make your cover look special. Download it to your phone, give it a go, and see for yourself.


The Trouble with Stock

Unless a book cover has customized artwork, there’s a good chance that the author (or their cover artist) got that fantastic image from a stock photo site such as or istock photo. Sure, those places have great images, sometimes at very low prices, but there can be a drawback to using stock images:

You can find yourself with the same cover as someone else.

Take for example Sunny Days,  Moonlit Nights vs Safe With Me. They’re by different authors, are filed in different genres, and are about different things, yet they have the same couple on the front. Is that really a huge problem? No, not technically. They’ve both “mixed it up” differently, so the covers don’t look exactly alike, but what if they hadn’t? Some authors simply put a title on a preexisting photo and go. If that were the case, they would be exactly alike.

Funnily enough, it’s not just book covers. The other day I was cruising through my Popular Mechanics magazine and noticed a familiar looking girl in an advertisement in the back. I double checked and, sure enough, there she was pouting back at me from a cover I’d done for the Wasp’s Nest Pinata. Though we’d gone with a different pose there was no mistaking her.

Why could this matter? People are visual creatures. If they read – or see – a book or product that offends them, annoys them, aggravates them, or that they just plain don’t like, and then they see a second book with a similar cover, those feelings are going to transfer unfairly.  There could also be a question of genre confusions or of readers mixing up similar looking covers – and consequently books and authors.

How can you avoid this? One way is to try to use “one of a kind” photos, such as photos you’ve taken yourself, or photos by friends, relatives, etc. In some cases, a cover artist might even be willing to take the photo for you, depending on what it is. (I’ve done this, myself).

If that’s impossible, either because  of resources or subject matter, you can turn to lesser “looked to” places like Flickr, or Creative Commons. org, or even WikiMedia. The advantage to these is that the photos are also free. (It’s nice to contact the photographer and offer to pay them something, of course).

If that’s impossible then, before you buy and download that perfect stock image, take a look at how many other downloads it’s had. This information is usually on the photo page. The higher the number of downloads, the more likely someone has used it. A bonus to this is that the fewer downloads an image has had, the cheaper it is on many sites. (dreamstime, for instance, prices by “levels” of popularity).

But, what if you go to all that trouble and someone still pops up with a similar cover? Relax, it’s not the end of the world. Unless their book is one that really clashes with yours and gets a lot of attention, it’s doubtful anyone will notice. Though, if it’s making big, negative headlines, or people start to comment to you that they’re getting the books confused, you might want to rethink your cover. Otherwise, just let it go. You were there first, and chances are people will look at their book and think of yours.

(Special thanks to Barbara G. Tarn for her eagle eye in spotting two similar covers for this article!)

10 Ways to Make Your Cover Artist Love You

Yesterday I posted a blog “7 Ways to Irritate Your Cover Artist”, so today I want to look at the flip side and give you some tips to make your cover artist love you forever (or at the very least recommend you as a client.)

1. Do your homework. Most artists have a portfolio, so check it out and make sure that the artist you’re contacting actually does the kind of thing that you want them to do! Even better, if they have a FAQ, or a website that details the process, be sure to read it. This can save you both a lot of time. It cuts down on unnecessary emails, and it means fewer reworks for your artist – which may mean a cheaper cover for you!

2. Be up front. If you can’t pay them until you get your paycheck, or you can’t afford what they want to charge, then say so. Your cover artist is a human being, too, and chances are they’ll work with you. If not, then you should find someone who is a better fit before you’re committed.

3. If you know exactly what you want, then tell them! Some authors don’t know what they want for a cover, or have only a vague idea, but if you’re one who has an exact image in mind then share it! Use links, photos, drawings of stick people, long descriptions, whatever you think you need to get that exact image across. Your cover artist can’t read your mind, and saying, “A youngish male with brown hair” doesn’t automatically translate into a Zac Effron look alike to most people.

4. If you don’t, then provide lots of details. Nothing is more helpful, especially when you don’t know what you want, then to communicate the genre and the “feel” of your book. Is it a gritty thriller? A crime drama? A melancholy YA? All of should be rendered differently, and your cover will do a better job of expressing your book if your artist knows what you want expressed.

5. Answer their emails as promptly as possible. We all get busy. Sometimes it takes me awhile to get back to emails, but I make an effort to answer all “business” mail within 24 hours. You’re paying for the cover, so that makes it your business mail, too.

6. Be polite and courteous. If you don’t like what someone’s done, then discuss it in a reasonable and calm manner. There’s no reason to be angry or use abusive language. Something like that will get you blacklisted.

7. Show some amount of enthusiasm. You don’t need to leap over the table, or heap on hollow, gratuitous compliments, but you should be reasonably happy with the final product. If not, then you and the artist should have a long conversation, and if so, then it doesn’t hurt to say so.

8. Offer to pay for revisions. There’s a pretty good chance your artist will say no, but the fact that you offered is an acknowledgement that your artist’s time is just as valuable as yours. This is especially true for major revisions or redo’s.

9. Tell your artist that you got the file(s)!! I cannot stress this enough! You don’t need to be best friends; you don’t even need to chat with them if you don’t want to. A mail that just says, “I got it, thanks,” Gets the message across. If you don’t do this, you may get an email in a week asking to make sure you got the file(s).

10. Thank your artist for their work. Yes, you’ve paid them, but the word “Thank you,” can go a long way, and it doesn’t take anything away from you. Chances are, they’ve said “thank you” to you for the business.

I hope these tips have been helpful! And (you know it’s coming) should you be in the market for a book cover….. .