Thursday, 13 August 2015

What's in a cover?

 I designed the first cover The Finish ever had. It was just so that I could get it out on Authonomy and You Write On. Once I'd found a publisher I stopped using it because the image of the woman was a stock photo and, although I bought the licence for a paltry sum, it is being used elsewhere.

 The second cover, below, was what the publisher's designer came up with. I deemed it crap. A second design was offered to me, it was so lousy I can't even find a copy of it anywhere.

 After this disaster, I said I would give it another go myself. I started offering up design ideas thus:

 I knew what I wanted it to look like: a little bit ragged round the edges. Covent Garden, silhouettes, a bit Musketeer-like. My publisher said he liked the idea, but it wasn't quite right. I played around some more, going ever so slightly over the top a bit with this one.

It was good, but a bit too classical. There followed several more with women on the front. This was one of them.

I then went totally crazy and tried this out for size.

You have to admit, it's a bit lurid thriller, rather than historical crime.

After my publishers said, yes, I like all of them, but they aren't quite right, I thought I would just put the elements I liked from each of the ideas together. This is what I came up with, and what we used in the end.

Hey ho, I went and did a cover for each of the four books in the series, all along the same lines as this one.

As you can see, it has the idea of the woman on it, plus the map in the background - a bit of the ragged 'fire' remains to frame it, and I put a frieze of 18th century fashionable ladies across the bottom. The image of the women are each by the same artist and are way out of copyright, being from the 18th century as in the public domain. The type was a free to download and free to use font called Aquiline Two. I built the covers in photoshop. The background is the same in each, but with a colour change.

Following the decision to use these covers, I produced them in different sizes to suit the requirements of the different digital stores.

How come I could do this myself? Well, because my first job was as a layout and pasteup artist, way back before we used computers to do it, and because I had done a Fine Art degree and still dabble.

So, what do you do if you've written your opus and need a cover?

If you are self-published, or even indie published, you probably have more control that if you are trade published. That's because with a traditional publisher, they are holding the purse strings, and thus, have control. With Indie and self-publishing you get to say what you want, how you want, and when you want. You might have to shell out a couple of hundred bucks (over here in Blighty we say a couple of hundred quid), or you might get it for free.

One thing though, whether you get it designed by a friend, do it yourself, or employ a designer, you'll want it to look professional.

Yes you will.

Oh boy, and I see so many covers that are just don't come up to the mark. Is yours one of them?

First off, you need to check out covers that you really like. What is it that floats your boat about them? Is it the image, the font, the colourway, or the overall layout?

Secondly, what is the theme of your book and what do you want your cover to convey?

Thirdly, is you idea for a cover in keeping with the genre? Oh yes, go look. Each genre has a specific type of cover - and within, that genre even, there are other styles of cover. It's highly technical.

Once you've got an idea, start to play around with it. Even if you are employing a designer, you should be able to mix up the ideas.

Photoshop and Illustrator are a godsend because they make everything a lot easier. Beware though of making your cover look overly slick - some cgi images are too good and people forget about using gaussian blur to really punch out the type. They rely on an embossed font and that isn't always what you want if you want to look professional.

Add into that, the need for more than just the title and author's name. It's good to have a testimonial on the cover. Maybe a 'from the author of', or some such thing. Perhaps the publisher's imprint. Really go look at covers and decide what you like about them.

Failing all that, I'm here if you need me. For a fee. Lol. It's negotiable.

Read The Finish here

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