February 6, 2023

Artificial Creativity: The Making of a Book Cover with AI Art

I recently shared my perspective on AI as an author on this website. When I got a newsletter from an author friend of mine, I was amazed by the new covers they had created for one of their book series. Later, I learned they used Midjourney to help create the artwork on the cover.

Thoroughly inspired, I decided that I needed to make my own cover using AI design tools. At first, I was tempted to create a new design for my upcoming novel Memory Clear; however, the novel already has a gorgeous cover. Also, I’m squeamish about the copyright discussion going on right now about generative art and didn’t want to jump directly into using an AI design on a commercial work. I decided that my free short story, “Jennifer 2.0” (get your copy here!), deserved a makeover, and its cover would be the perfect vehicle for me to try out AI art for book covers.

The Process

Midjourney creates stunning images. It also has the capability of making portrait images that are the correct aspect ratio for a book cover. Therefore, I went to Discord and started feeding Midjourney some prompts.

First, I tried:

twenty-five-year-old woman and her clone standing in a sterile room

Something about the images felt a little too retro to me, so I tried something else.

future woman and her clone standing in a sterile room

Instead of nurses’ caps, these women wore bubbles on their heads. Odd, but not terrible. The two left images didn’t include strange headwear. The top-left women looked especially creepy, so I gave them a pass. I do like the bottom-left image, so I had Midjouney upscale it to make the base of my new cover.

(I also tried having Midjourney upscale this image to maximum resolution, but the results looked strange and decidedly un-lifelike.)

The vertical metal bar through the doorway confused me, so I removed it and patched the two sides together in photoshop. I also darkened the bottom of the image and a strip near the top to help the text that would go there pop. Then I just found a cool font to use and placed the title and my name in a bright orange, added an outline and drop-shadow to the text, and tada! I was done!

I really like how this cover turned out! It’s got a creepy sense of unease that the original cover didn’t capture.

I’m curious to see how trends in book covers will change as AI art becomes more prolific and accessible. There’s a lot of copyright consideration that needs to be ironed out, so you won’t find AI art covers on my books for sale until then. I predict that we’ll see more and more indie books with covers featuring AI art, and I bet more authors will try to design their own covers. Hopefully, these tools will help improve the overall quality of indie book covers. Or, perhaps we’ll see an influx of new books plastered with bad AI art. Regardless, I’m excited to see what future this technology will bring!

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