• book cover art

    Experiment: Custom Premades

    I’m starting an experiment with predesigned book cover art that is somewhat customisable. I’ve tried this before, and ended up with people who wanted a full custom cover for the predesigned price, but I think it’s worth trying again.

    The problem with custom covers is that increasingly they are done with a design-by-committee approach, as people post them on their Facebook groups, etc. The design window stretches out, far past the assigned slot, and the many, many micromanaged changes mean that you usually end up with a bad cover. I’ll be honest, I’ve considered giving all of this up due to this…and you know how little I want to go back to grey cubicles and software design! :D

    What I’d like to do are covers where the art is intact, yet the author or publisher can change the face and hair to match their idea of the character. Covers are rarely helped by having an exact depiction of a certain scene on a cover, as the art is meant to be a marketing tool to intrigue people enough to pick up the book. Although I’m calling these predesigned covers, they’ll have as many hours of work in them as a custom, only at half the price.

    Fingers crossed that this is a win/win for both artist and author!

  • book cover art

    This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

    I’ve come to a decision that I’m going to request that authors that I’m currently working with don’t post rough mockups and work in progress to various groups, Facebook or otherwise.

    Previously I’ve allowed it as long as the author stated that it was a rough mockup. I’ve always said that I prefer showing more options for a cover with less finished work, rather than two or three choices that are more like finished images. I think of them a bit like storyboards, where you can get a good idea of what the finished cover might look like, but you have to use your imagination a bit.

    And then came Facebook groups. I’m a member of several, and many authors have their own private groups. Cover designers cringe and wince when talking about them (yeah, we have our own groups as well), not because we’re not up for honest criticism, but because the advice given in these groups is mostly terrible.

    I used to treat it as one of the downsides of an otherwise rewarding trade – I mean, we always had to deal with the “My mother thinks…” kind of uninformed feedback, and this is similar but taken to the nth degree.

    You know the saying about opinions being like a certain body part, and of course everyone has one. The trouble is that what you get from them is usually hot air or crap. Design by committee is never easy or productive, and when the people contributing have no actual knowledge of design or genre it gets worse.

    Currently I’m at version, what, thirteen or fourteen of a cover that has steadily gotten worse. We’ve gone through several incarnations that I loved, but the current one is going to be one of those covers that I don’t want to put my name to. And this kills me.

    So, please for the love of fluffy kittens and all that is right and good in the world, please please please don’t post mockups in these groups. I’m going to start weeding out authors who do this and not working with them again.

    I’m begging you. :)

  • book cover art,  featured

    Free Cover Giveaway 2018

    I’m going to continue this contest again this year: email me a short description of your project (something that will be published within the coming year, please!). Rules, background and a description of the type of book I’m looking for are located here.

    Now more than ever the world needs diverse books and characters in all the glorious range that human beings exist in, and I think it is important that that diversity is represented visually on the cover. Everything we see contributes to our perception of the world, and that representation has been narrow in past years. It needs to change, and this is why I try to do my very small part to make the world a better place.

    This is NaNoWriMo month, and NaNo projects are welcome. Open to all fiction genres.

    This is the type of information that I would need for the winning covers: https://ravven.com/book-cover-art/

    Click here to enter

  • book cover art,  Stock Photos

    Freebie Friday: Sci Fi Woman

    Another Freebie Friday, this one for a sci fi scene. I very rarely do stock with a scene and figure because, well, I hate the idea of a bunch of covers that all look the same. I did like this one, however, so I decided to make it free. Do something different with her.

    Use as you will, commercial use okay, just don’t resell as stock or I’ll take the whappin’ stick to you. :)

     

  • book cover art,  Stock Photos

    Freebie Friday…the First :D

    This is the first in a series of non-regular (i.e., occasional and random) freebie offerings. Download it for book cover stock or artwork, personal or commercial use is okay, but just don’t resell it as your own stock. Play nice. :) Change the hair, add a new face, change anything that you need – the stock that I create is meant for book cover artists who need more action-y poses, or new clothing options. Have fun!

     

    Click to download

     

  • book cover art

    3. Making a Template

    Quick post today because I haven’t been able to work on this as much as I had planned!

    Today’s topic: making a starting template. Specifically, this will be an ebook template and I will show you later on how I turn those into POD (print on demand) templates. I know that some people work on a wraparound template which is designed to wrap around the front, spine and back of the book. It does make it easier to visualise the entirety of the book, but I find that it throws my visual sense of balance off.

    At this point I’ll have to make a disclaimer that will cover the entirety, every word and thought, of this series: this is how I work. I am self-taught, and although there are a universe of tools and hotkeys and proper ways of doing things, this is how I work in Photoshop. Tricks, old dogs, and all that mean that I’m not going to change at this point so just use this as a starting point to develop your own workflow – your method may be better!

    Anyhow, I start with a basic .psd template that I use as a starting point for all the covers that I do. The image below will show you where these options can be found. Open Photoshop CC, and:

    1. Create a new file that is 6×9″ and 300 dpi. With the Paint Bucket tool, fill the Background layer with a colour that will complement your intended cover.
    2. Either use View>New Guide (twice) to add two vertical guidelines, or
    3. Using the Move tool, drag them out from the left-hand side of your image. Either way works.
    4. Using the ruler at the top, set these lines at an equal distance from the sides. 200 pixels, 300px, whatever. This gives you a visual guide to help you centre things such as your author name.
    5. On separate layers, use the Text tool to add your name, the book title, and the series name if that applies. We’ll make these pretty later on, at the moment they’re just a placeholder.
    6. While holding down the Control key, click on each of your text layers in the Layers menu on the right hand side of your workspace to highlight them at the same time. Once selected, use the symbol marked #6 on the image below to open the context menu and choose New Group from Layers. Name that group “Text.”
    7. Save this document. This forms the basis of your cover, so name accordingly: title_book1.psd or whatever.

    That’s it. :) Now you have a blank canvas of the correct large trade paperback size* and your text layers in a convenient group so you can turn them off and on as needed. You’ll be doing a lot of that, which is why we’ve grouped them.

    *If you know in advance that your book will be printed at 5.25×8.25, you can go ahead and make your template in those dimensions. For me it makes a lot more sense to work at maximum size so I can resize it as needed later on.

    Previous:
    Know Your Competition: Research

    Next:
    Choosing Stock

  • book cover art

    2. Know Your Competition: Research

    Aside from learning how to use the tools of the trade, one of the most important things that you can do prior to creating your cover is to research current trends in your genre, as well as cover trends overall for the current year.

    Cover styles go in and out just as fashion does, and while it can be worthwhile to ride the crest of whatever trend is current, it’s usually not a good idea to be behind it. It’s better yet to come up with the next Hot New Trend and have everyone follow you, of course. :D

    In the genre that I usually work in (YA fantasy, urban fantasy, fairytale retellings) we’ve all seen the styles of past years: big face covers where a closeup of the face takes up most of the cover, drowning/sleeping/floating girl covers, covers where every single character has mysteriously had their heads cut off, pretty dress covers. In science fiction covers right now the trend seems to be stylised illustrated covers of ships, planets, explosions, very little character representation except in the genre of military sci fi.

    I normally keep a Pinterest board of book cover art that I really admire – mood boards are an excellent way of collecting ideas for your cover. I also have a feed reader stuffed full of book bloggers and book review sites which I follow, both from a reader’s perpective and also as a way of seeing new covers.

    Always take a look at the top-selling books in your genre to see what sells, but to be honest personally I find this less helpful as you’ll see an awful lot of crap there. It may be selling, but lord are there some damned ugly covers there!

    I also look at movie poster art: you’ll see some of the most powerful designs here. Make your cover cinematic!

    Another thing you want to watch for are trends in typography. I admit that typography is my weak point, which is why I rarely do covers with an emphasis on title typography rather than character art – it’s not my forte. But keep an eye out for new ideas, and also to see which fonts are becoming overused.

    Overused stock is another thing to look for – there are really gorgeous images out there that I would love to use, models that I adore but cannot use because I’ve seen them on so many books. Rule these out completely unless you have the skill to totally change the image (in which case why are you reading this?). Find something new and change it to make it your own. If you use straight stock without creating a unique image you’ll see other books with your cover.

    These rules aside, the most important thing is to create a cover that you really love. The adage in writing is “Write the book that you want to read,” and I suppose the same holds true for the covers that you create. You want something that gives you that “grabby hands” feeling, a cover that makes you immediately want to know more about the book. What looking at current trends does is to try to rule out anything that make people give it a pass, or have misconceptions of genre and theme.

    The links below probably say it better than I have done here:

    Links

    Previous:
    1. Getting Started: Tools

    Next:
    3. Making a Template

  • book cover art

    1. Getting Started: Tools

    This is the first in what will (hopefully) be a series on basic book cover design. Nothing scary, nothing too complicated, just a guide for authors who want to design their own covers or graphic designers just starting out. More experienced designers will know all of this and will probably have their own shortcuts or ways of working, but this is how I work.

    To start with, you’re going to need a graphics program, some stock images, and a few basic tools. I know there are template software programs out there that will help you design your cover, but this tutorial doesn’t cover that. We’re going to make the assumption that you want to do it properly, gain skills and build on them, and apply those same skills to other projects: swag, doing your own ads, graphics for your site, social media headers and so on.

    This type of thing allows for a hell of a lot of fumbling along the way, but very little in the way of shortcuts. :)

    First, software. Personally I have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription and for me it is invaluable. The basic Photography rate is under $10 a month, which is a huge bargain. You can also use Gimp, which is free. Anything that I post here will be using information and screenshots from Photoshop.

    Next, you’re going to need a basic graphics tablet. You really, really can’t do this stuff with a mouse. It’s the type of thing they make bad designers do all day in hell, it’s that bad. I have a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet that I’m happy with, but in the past I have used one of the Huion tablets which was dead cheap and did a fine job.

    You need something to work with, right? You’ll need stock…and by that I mean commercial stock from a reputable site, or good images that you have created yourself. Never, ever, ever risk using something that you don’t have the rights to as it isn’t worth it. Since I use so much stock I usually watch out for the yearly deals that Depositphotos runs on Appsumo, as you can pay $49 for 100 images. I’ve had subscriptions in the past to Shutterstock and so on, and for me it was a lot of pressure to download my quota of images every month when I may or may not have needed them at the time, or known what I did want. Having credits means that I can use them whenever I need to, to suit my current needs. For specific genres there are sites such as Period Images where you can find good images from various historical periods for romance covers.

    Do you need all of that to start off with? No.

    You’ll need some kind of graphics program, of course. And you’ll thank me once you get a graphics tablet. The key throughout all of this, however, is to just start playing with it. Play, as in have fun with it! Do images of the kids, photoshop wings and a halo on the dog, whatever. Everything you do is a learning experience. Keep doing this during the next step, which is looking at current trends in cover art and deciding what would suit your book best.

     

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    Know Your Competition: Research