Designing your own books is, like any other art project, a mixture of fun and terror. There's the matter of your own skill in the tools required–I, for example, cannot draw to save my life–but also in how you can conceive the end result. You might picture, as you idly dream about your island-home-to-be, a multi-story manor flush with majestic windows and breezeways, with nooks for every child to escape and spend an afternoon alone with their imagination.
Translating that dream into the nuts and bolts required to make it real, and you might find the luster gets lost. Those majestic windows become what's available at cost from Home Depot. The nooks get shaved away to keep the structure stable on the slippery island sand. And those breezeways? Turns out they'll fall apart with the first hurricane's whisper, so better to nix them entirely.
With Sever Squad, and any book cover, their creation is a snapshot in time as to genre expectations, my own abilities, and what happens to be available in the market. Whether I can find the proper images to blend and shape, and whether I'm able to do all that mixing in a way that makes sense. The goal, of course, is to provide an attractive package that conveys the story beneath.
Whether I succeed? That's a question for the reader.
However, like with the words in the books, every composition brings a chance to grow. The brushes fall into place with more finesse, the colors hit their marks without as much fussing. Filters give grungy texture, whereas earlier versions may have stuck to a plain, straight color.
Most of the large publishing houses, and many authors like myself, find established artists. They hire out, pay for, and receive artwork that might hit the mark perfectly the first time around. An author at a large house may have little to no say in the art that gets slipped over their masterpiece, while others may have full direction and get something that matches their mind and not, at all, the reader's.
Much like the island manse dreamer, though, I prefer to delight in my own designs. It's more work, but it's fun. Challenging, but inspiring. When the final pieces click together and you arrive at a composition that speaks science fiction, it's . . . well, it's invigorating. I've tried working with artists, and ultimately, the final product, no matter how well done, feels more alien than the (often not quite as 'good') effort I'm able to make with my own hands.
Because when you're working with images, it's not so hard to add in those majestic windows, the nooks and the breezeways. It just might take a few tries.