• Art

    Pre Designed Custom(ish) Book Covers

    As some of you know, I’m taking a bit of time off for personal reasons and decided to not schedule any new covers for awhile. I have a very long lead time and I didn’t want people to wait for two, three months and then be told that I wouldn’t be able to do their cover, so it was best just to finish the current cover schedule and then have some downtime.

    It’s not all going to be sloth and reruns of Grey’s Anatomy, though. :) I want to focus on doing as many predesigned cover designs as I can and work on building a more cohesive style. I mean, I enjoy doing covers in different styles for different genres, but I think it’s time to find out what I’m really good at doing, rather than being a somewhat competent jack-of-all-trades designer. It will probably focus on the genres that I enjoy reading, as they will be the ones that I understand the best: urban fantasy, dark fantasy, science fiction, horror, and so on. I would like to go back to learning 3D graphics as well, but pain and worry have made it really difficult to concentrate on anything, so we will see.

    I would like to ask: what do you look for in a predesigned cover? Have you purchased one, and why? How do you balance having something which is specific enough for your project with having the cost and time savings of a more instant design?

    What I’m thinking about is doing proper cover art with all of the time and detail that it involves and offering it semi-customisable in that I can switch out colour on hair and clothing, change fonts and so on. This would be at half my normal rate for that level of artwork, but I would skip the stress of piecing together exact clothing, precise background detail, etc. This will also allow me to have more freedom with style and detail.

    What are you looking for? General ideas? Wishlist (in a very general sense, of course)? What types of images have you just not been able to find on other predesigned sites? Let me know.

    Thanks. <3

    The wonderful Alex Gregg responded on Twitter with a very good suggestion: premade covers for series, carrying the same models and look/feel across multiple books. Awesome idea, and this was the type of feedback that I was hoping to get.

  • Art

    Learning to Paint

    One of the reasons for my (somewhat interrupted) hiatus, aside from wanting a stress-free month for writing, was to regain my happy thoughts about my artwork. I’d grown bored with the style of cover work that I was doing, and wanted a chance to start again with a fresh outlook.

    I’ve recently come to a realisation, though…it isn’t so much my work that I was bored with, but the style of cover currently in vogue (at least in the area that I most often work in, which is fantasy and young adult). You see the same stock used over and over, and there are genres of cover that I personally dislike such as bare male torsos. I mean, I’m a big fan of fit, sexy men, but I hate bare abs covers. Girls in pretty dresses have come and gone, as well as Big Face covers. So much of it, though, just looks the same.

    Illustrated covers have fallen out of vogue for the most part, and photomontaged covers using commercial stock reign on self-published books. Obviously, part of this has to do with cost – illustration is definitely not inexpensive. I think it also has a bit of an old-fashioned vibe, especially on fantasy covers (who doesn’t remember the greats such as Frazetta, Rowena Morrill and Jody Lee?). There are books that have used “designer-y” graphic covers to good effect, and there are also stunning painted covers such as those done for the Expanse series by artist Daniel Dociu. That kind of crazy genius talent is rare, however.

    What I’ve been trying to do in these last few days is to learn how to paint. I do paint on covers, of course…but although I’m great with colour and shadow and highlight I absolutely suck at the bones of an image. I can’t draw. This is a real problem, and I want to go back and take my teenage self who refused to take any art classes because everyone was trying to push me into it…and I want to just smack her. “Oh, no, everyone says that I should be an artist so I’ll refuse. I’m going to travel and write.” Well, guess what? You didn’t, and now going back and learning to draw properly is a bitch.

    I’ve been posting the speed-paint images that I’ve done recently to Twitter (sorry guys!!!) in an effort to stay honest. I won’t post them here, as at this point they’re pretty sucky. But I’ll work on it until they’re not so sucky and hopefully someday they’ll be good enough that I can consider them to be professional enough for covers. Even though everything feels horrible right now, and it’s embarrassing to show anyone these rough little sketches, eventually they’ll morph into something worthwhile.

    It’s never too late to rectify the mistakes of your past. :)


  • Art,  Writing

    NaNoWriMo: Slooooow

    I’ve been struggling to get back into writing, as it has been such a very long time since I’ve written anything. I’ve gone a month or so without doing a blog post, for gods’ sake. As of today, I’m under my target wordcount, but my words-per-day to finish on time is still under 2k/day, so that is entirely doable. So far, it’s been a bit painful and each target has been met after many agonised hours spent sitting at my desk, staring at Scrivener and asking why this all wasn’t more fun.

    What I don’t want to do is hit that 50k and trigger that “Yaay, I’ve won!” feeling, because it is very hard to continue past that point. I’m trying to think of this as a habit that I am setting which will continue month in and month out.

    I am glad that I’ve arranged a small hiatus from cover work, because if I had any pressure, much less the inhuman schedule that I had last year, I would have used it as an excuse to punk out. I know I would have.

    That said, this afternoon I did some personal artwork, and it felt fantastic. Here is “Crow Girl” – click for info about stock credit.



  • Art,  Book Cover Reveals

    Book Cover Art

    I’ve been lax in posting new book cover images. Come to think of it, I’ve been lax in making any kind of posts at all lately due to being swamped with work, tiredness and intermittent ill health. I don’t know how people keep up with multiple social media outlets in a consistent manner as well as do the work that all that social media is supposed to support. I keep a Facebook page, Pinterest boards with my book covers and also inspiration boards for The Clockwork Bluebird, The Tatterdemalion Dancer and Voyage of the Sky Kraken. I have a Goodreads account (which I rarely have the time to visit except to leave reviews of books I’ve read) and a Google+ page which I just don’t have the time to update. I don’t want to automate anything and be one of those awful people who have automatically-generated tweet spam that says “I posted a new picture to Facebook!” Of what? Your lunch? Your cat? Your genitalia? I’m just not interested enough to click through to find out.

    If you’d like to see the most recent book covers (and really, who wouldn’t?) you can see them here: Book Cover Art By Ravven.

  • Art,  Personal

    Covers: On Hiatus

    Currently I am finishing all current cover commissions and then taking a hiatus of sorts, so I won’t be taking on any new cover work for the next couple of months. I am currently working on edits for The Clockwork Bluebird, as well as finishing The Tatterdemalion Dancer. I’m also taking some time to rest and recharge and do some art for myself. The problem with deciding to do something that you love professionally is that you lose a bit of the joy of sheer wild-assed creation, which I’m currently trying to regain. I love all my authors, though, and will miss you all very much!

    I also want to think about a change to the way that I do covers. Unique stock is difficult to come by and with the growth of self-publishing there are a lot of covers out there all using the same stock models. What I want to do is shoot my own stock and offer bespoke covers that will be truly unique to your project.

    That’s the plan, anyway. In the meantime I’m going to be working on getting my happy thoughts back. Like Tootle’s marbles, they’ve somehow gone missing. :)


    Sea of Dreams

  • Art

    Non-literal Book Covers: Mortality

    Mortality Book Cover Art

    As I’ve posted before, I’m not a fan of super-accurate, extremely literal covers. As a reader, they don’t necessarily draw me in, and as an artist I find it difficult to retain the utmost level of creativity when trying to portrary characters exactly in a precise replica of a scene. Mortality by Kellie Sheridan has always been one of my favourite covers, in part down to Kellie’s original vision for the cover (duality, girl/zombie reflection) and willingness to have a very subjective cover. It’s a very good book which I enjoyed enormously (even though the end really threw me for a loop) and it’s been getting great reviews.

    One of the most recent reviews really described exactly what we were going for in the cover, and why a subjective cover can be a lot more powerful than a more literal one. Dani of Refracted Light writes a great review of the book, and had this to say about the cover:

    I’d like to imagine that I’m above being influenced by a pretty, pretty, oh-so-pretty cover, but the truth is, I’m not. I’m susceptible to awesome, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Truthfully, upon spying this cover in my inbox for a cover reveal this past December, I just knew I had to read it based on the cover alone. (Because that always ends well, right? But…) What does the cover mean? Are these two separate girls? The same girl? Is it a literal representation of a character(s) or is figuratively showing the duality of an individual? Is it more complicated than that? I had to know.

    FYI, I’m not giving you any answers in regard to those questions, but justsoyaknow, in relation to the story, the cover is pretty brilliant, and even better, the story between the covers lives up to the pretty. Er. Kinda. I mean zombie stories aren’t pretty…but I think you get my drift.

    All of my favourite covers have had that exact effect on me. What does it mean? It’s pretty, and I’m drawn to that…but what does it mean? A cover has to clearly communicate genre and the main themes of the book in order to prevent readers from being unfairly disappointed, misled or confused. But they should leave room for magic as well – it should make you feel something rather than just conveying what colour hair and eyes the character has and what she wears. Who cares? What I want to know is how she feels, or how she is changed by the events in the book.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the cover should convey one of the main themes of the book without spelling it out. It should entice and intrigue. It should be a mystery that the potential reader has to answer by buying the book.

  • Art,  Writing

    Just For WriMos – 2013 Cover Giveaway

    As part of my New Year resolutions I’ve decided to do a cover giveaway in support of indie authors: specifically, all of the quirky and wonderful writers who make up the great NaNoWrimo community. I truly believe in supporting self-published authors and it is one of the reasons why I’ve kept my rates where they are. I’m also one of those people with dreams of finally publishing a book which is very dear to my heart, and I know from personal experience how difficult that can be to do successfully without a network of beta readers, editors and book blogger friends.

    What I would like to do is offer the things that I personally can do, such as a professional book cover and layout services (ebook formatting, Createspace interior print layout and POD cover template) in hope that I can gather together a few like-minded people also involved in NaNoWriMo who in support of the community would offer other services such as:

    • Beta reading
    • Proofreading
    • Editing
    • Facebook, Twitter and (some) site graphics to tie in with the cover. (I’ll probably do this as part of the cover work.)
    • A post after publication on your book review blog. This could be an actual review, a cover reveal, an interview, a spotlight featuring information about the book, etc.
    • PR services and advice.
    • A book trailer.
    • Anything else that would help a first-time author that I haven’t thought of or covered here.

    What do you think? I’d love to make this a yearly contest. I see it as being open to:

    • NaNoWriMo “winners” of the most recent National Novel Writing Month.
    • First time authors (first time to actually publish a novel).
    • Any fiction genre up to a certain word length. (Sorry, no one wants to work on a 600-page doorstop.)
    • Prospective authors would have to submit a synopsis and, say, the first three chapters. Best candidate chosen will be based on submitted material.

    Can you contribute some time and professional services to this project? Comment here or email me and we can work out what we can offer. As for WriMos interested in entering, once we have the details worked out, I’ll post on the NaNoWriMo forums. I’ll also be bothering some of you personally in email…be warned. :)

  • Art,  Book Cover Reveals

    Cover Reveal: Reaper’s Novice by Cecilia Robert

    Reaper's Novice Book Cover Art

    Book description:

    17- year-old Ana Maria Tei’s life has always been perfect: loving parents, good grades, and a future so bright it outshone the sun. But now words like “separation” and “divorce” are sending her world plummeting to hell. Determined to keep her family intact, Ana plans a family-bonding trip from Vienna to Tuscany. Except fate has other plans. Ana’s parents and siblings are killed in a car accident on their way to pick Ana up from school.

    Enter Grim, aka Ernest. He promises to relinquish the four souls if Ana agrees to trade her soul for theirs and serve a lifetime as his novice. In order for Ana to graduate from her Reaper’s Novice station to a Soul Collector graduate, Grim puts her to test. To her horror, she finds out becoming a Reaper’s Novice didn’t happen by chance. It was preordained, and she is forced to make a choice: save her family’s souls or come to terms with who she really is and complete the task set for her.

    Buy Link: Amazon or Kobo.