Evolution of a Book Cover - How the Atlantis Papyrus changed

The Atlantis Papyrus was my first published novel. It came out in 2019 and is doing very well—and was followed by 4 more in the Whispers of Atlantis anthology. As required, the novel needed a cover, and like many before me, I was full of myself, thinking I could dabble into making my own cover.

Why use professionals who do this for a job? I said to myself, puffed up with self-importance as I scoffed at the many covers on the web. Watch my superior skills!

And thus began my journey trying to make my own cover for the novel. In this post, laugh at me as you read about my brilliance.

The book started as “Callisthenes’ secret”

As you can see, the superb first cover had all the hallmarks of Da Vinci and Michelangelo rolled into it. I thought it was great and really exuded the world of the book. It had a Roman/Macedonian type of guy, it had the Egyptian eye, it even had nice borders. What could possibly be lacking?

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Anyway, someone said during the beta read—“who the hell is Callisthenes?” So I decided to change the title to better reflect the book. I also added some flames and shinyness, a sign of my maturing brilliance. And did you notice the centered fonts? Brilliant!

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But after some time, I felt that perhaps the cover was, er, rather lacking. So I changed it again, and felt very proud of my new creation. It showed, ahem, a figure on a parchment, signifying mysterious things. I thought I was there.

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But then I felt very dissatisfied, clearly a sign of a wise, discerning perfectionist who sees the flaw in his creations. I changed it up—I changed the title yet again (the book hadn’t released by then), added brightness, put a cool 3D flame because who doesn’t like a cool 3D flame? Shiny flames and a splatter of blood, perfect to get that prospective reader’s spine tingling!

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Yet again I felt that it wasn’t quite the cover I wanted. By then, I was getting ready for the book promotion and the release day was getting nearer. So I changed the cover again, and admittedly, it was better than anything before. It showed a conflict and the background wasn’t that terrible either. The fonts were better too. My mother thought (OK, joking) it was wonderful.

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I tweaked this cover twice, even adding a flair of a blood splatter in the finalized version.

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I released my ads with the cover above, and waited with bated breath for pre-orders to fly off the shelves.


Barely anyone clicked the ads. But why? The cover was magnificent! It had all the messaging! I made some tweaks but none worked.

But by then I had learned a lot of cover making, and was still not quite willing to go to a professional. It wasn’t about the money. It was about my amazing skillz.

I was getting desperate and frustrated.

But finally, in one afternoon of inspiration (I’m not joking—it really was an afternoon), I saw the fatal flaws in trying to be stupidly original while attempting to make a genre-book appealing to its readers. I poured some humility on myself, visited the pages of a number of successful authors and their works, read some articles, and got back to the drawing board. I re-did the cover as below. The clicks went up 8x, and the pre-orders started.

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And finally, after some tweaks, and some professional input with latter works, the cover of the Atlantis Papyrus finally became what you see below.

The whole saga gave me a profound respect to cover designers who have to come up with new and tuned covers for a range of genres and right for the title. It’s really challenging.

Now scroll back up and see v1.0! Anyway, regardless of the journey the cover took, if you haven’t read the book, take a look. I think you’ll enjoy it. Or click/tap image to go to the series.

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I hope you found that entertaining! The lesson, just because I think I’m good at something doesn’t mean I am.

4.5/5 from 4000+ ratings (overall). Grab a thriller from Jay.

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cover image for The Atlantis Papyrus
standalone 449 pages e+print
The Atlantis Papyrus

Some secrets are best left buried.

“pure enjoyment…”

A frequent #1 on Amazon’s Ancient Egyptian History bestseller lists.

323 B.C., Babylon

King Alexander the Great has died, and his bloodthirsty generals quarrel for the pieces of a vast empire. But Captain Deon faces his own nightmare, born of a shameful past: a vicious lender threatens to sell his wife and young daughter into slavery if he does not clear his crippling debt.

Hope glimmers when the dead king’s wily secretary dangles a mission that whispers of an unimaginable reward.

Thrust into the murky and dangerous waters of succession where his success holds the keys to the ultimate prize, Alexander’s throne, Deon faces a terrifying choice: complete the mission and earn his family’s freedom, or refuse and let them perish in Nubia’s brutal gold mines.

Assisted by a companion as skilled in tongues as she is with a dagger, and pursued by malignant forces that will stop at nothing, Deon must cross violent lands to find an astonishing mystery hidden for a thousand years. But every step closer to freedom unveils a burden far heavier than his debt, for his choices could determine not only his family’s fate but that of a million innocents.

About Jay Penner

Jay Penner’s highly-rated books regularly feature Amazon’s category bestseller lists. Try his Spartacus, Cleopatra, Whispers of Atlantis or Dark Shadows books. Reach out to him or subscribe to his popular newsletter.

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