Guest Post: Author David Eccles – Shout This Book Cover Design Secret: You Don’t Need Photoshop!

I’m honored to have friend David Eccles, author of Darke Times and Other Stories, guest posting on the blog today. Getting into the indie author scene has given me a chance to network with some amazing people, and David is certainly one of them. From Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, David has an eclectic reading and writing mind. I’m thoroughly enjoying his new book and am happy with the topic he is discussing today, as it is an important one for all self-published authors. Enjoy!


Before I begin my article in earnest, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Allen for inviting me to guest on his blog, and for providing us indie authors with much needed and much valued information and guidance.

I know that Allen has plans to feature his cover artist, Jennifer Jordon in future articles, because a beautiful cover can and almost certainly does affect a reader’s decision to purchase an author’s book. One would be wise to read Jen’s articles which will give us all an insight into how a true professional goes about the task of creating a pictorial masterpiece from our literary efforts.

In most cases, it would indeed be wise to shell out money and have a cover artist produce your cover for you, but what if funds are tight, you’re a stubborn so-and-so like me (I’m also broke, by the way) and you feel that you have the necessary skills to produce a decent cover yourself? There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a go at designing your own!

Ah, but Photoshop is expensive, I hear you say. No problem! You don’t need it!

It’s true that while Adobe Photoshop is probably the most well-known and the most widely used piece of software when it comes to image manipulation, there is no point in parting with hundreds of dollars of your hard-earned money if you can achieve equally good professional-looking results using non-proprietary software that is open source, cross-platform, and free!

I’m a huge lover and frequent user of the Gnu/Linux platform, and I dual-boot my computers with both Microsoft Windows and Ubuntu Linux so that I can make the most of what software is available.

For image manipulation, my software of choice is the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), because it’s cross-platform and freely distributable, it’s packed with features and can do nearly all that Adobe Photoshop can do. Screenshots here. Using a plug-in called PSPI increases its functionality and enables the GIMP to use lots of Photoshop plug-ins too!

It is way beyond the scope of this blog to go into any sort of detail as to what one can achieve with GIMP, but there are multitudes of forums and tutorials on how to use it, there is a comprehensive separate installable user manual, and there is a very active community who are always working to improve and develop the program further. The learning curve is quite steep, but after only one afternoon of playing around with it I managed to produce some surprisingly good results, including the cover of my own book! It’s not perfect by any means, but it was good enough to pass the manual review at Smashwords and be accepted into their Premium Catalog!

I blogged about GIMP on my own website in an article called Digital Painting on a Budget, also mentioning free 3D rendering software Blender, and followed it up with a sequel, Digital Painting on a Budget, Part 2, where I introduce another free program designed for creating vector graphics, Inkscape, and a low-cost alternative to Wacom graphics tablets from a company called Monoprice.

This short article is meant merely as a primer to give the reader a little information about freely available alternative software that in the long run will save any author who wishes to go it alone and design his/her own book cover a lot of money. Please keep your eyes open for a detailed in-depth look at cover design in future articles by Jennifer Jordon on Allen’s site.

Click the cover image or the text link to be taken to the Amazon website where you will be able to purchase my book, Darke Times and Other Stories, a collection of fourteen pieces of flash fiction and short stories in genres ranging from general fiction to science fiction, bizarro fantasy, horror, horror erotica and full-blown (if you excuse the pun) erotica.

Darke Times and Other Stories is also available on Smashwords, Kobobooks and at all of the usual places that Smashwords distributes books. I’ve been fortunate enough that since my book’s launch date eleven days ago on the fourteenth of July, every review has been a five-star review, including glowing reviews from horror author John F.D. Taff and YA author M.C. O’Neill, and I’ve been guest blogger on John’s website, with more guest appearances to come elsewhere on the web in the very near future. It’s a great time to be an indie author! Thank you for your support. You can be sure that I’ll give you mine!

  Eccles DarkeTimes


Guest Post: Author Destiny Allison On Dystopian World Creation

Thanks for stopping by. I have an awesome treat for you today! As promised, Destiny Allison, author of Pipe Dreams, is taking over to talk about our fascination behind the dystopian genre.

Destiny Allison is an award winning sculptor, businesswoman, and community builder. Luckily for us, writing was her first love! Pipe Dreams is her fiction debut. I will soon be posting much more about her when I get to review the book for the blog and (fingers crossed) hopefully can get her back for a short author interview. Enjoy the post from Allison!

Click here for Destiny’s Webpage!


Thanks for having me as a guest today, Allen. In a recent post you mentioned that you were a political science major and said, “Turn on CNN or Fox News and you get pounded with stories about how bad everything is and how it’s the fault of one political party or another. Sure, I recognize there are important things we have to take care of, but sometimes I want to transport somewhere else.” This is a great intro into dystopian book. Sometimes I think that if observed by someone on another planet, our country would be labeled dystopian.

I’ve loved dystopian literature since I was a kid. Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, and others create worlds so different from ours but hold up a mirror so we can see the flaws in our own systems and our human commonalities.

Dystopian books are great for understanding why and how people do what they do. Traditionally, they look at dysfunctional power structures, illuminate our motivations, fears, and hopes, and offer us a peek at what could come if we don’t take personal responsibility for our lives. Often they’re chilling because they’re so real.

The world I created in Pipe Dreams is based on recent events, conspiracy theories, and breakthroughs in behavioral genetics. The People’s Protest ended in rebellion and isolated a fictional island city in upstate New York. A new government was formed to protect and nourish humanity’s last hope. To ensure mankind wouldn’t continue to wage war on itself, the government engineered a virus that turned off the DNA markers for greed, aggression, and other destructive human behaviors.

Like in other dystopian novels, my protagonists are everyday heroes. Circumstance forced them into roles they otherwise would not have assumed. As they search for answers and a way to stop a sadistic sociopath from releasing the airborne version of the virus, they have to face their fears and learn to trust again.

My challenge was to create a world that could happen right here and right now. It had to be believable. How could the NSO hold the US military at bay, ensure supplies made it to the island, and keep its miserable citizens in line? Why wouldn’t any of the inhabitants try to swim to the mainland? My reasons had to be good enough that readers stay engaged in the story instead of shooting it down because of flawed logic. Once that was done, the stage was set.

Unlike other books in this genre, I have a large cast of characters. Each of them has their own perspective on what really happened and each wants something different. Though none of them get exactly what they want, it is their pursuit of personal dreams that brings them together and forces a societal change.

I like to think that dystopian works are metaphors for our own lives. That is true with Pipe Dreams as well. As one reader said about the book, “Had your dose of manipulation today?”

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