A Peek Behind the Curtain   17 comments

This week’s Blog Hop is about what goes on behind the scenes of writing our novels.

Check out what my fellow hoppers have going on behind their curtains.

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Writing novels is what I do besides working for a living. I am an administrator for the State of Alaska and that’s enough said about that.

Currently, I am chief cook and bottle washer of this publishing shindig. Like any entrepreneur, I have to decide where to spend my money … if I have any money … and where I can save money by doing things myself.

I stink at marketing, so I’m scraping my pennies together to let someone else do that, to the extent I can afford it.

I largely rely on beta readers and my family to edit my manuscripts. I hope one day to pay for an editor, but I’m not there yet.

Front Cover RedI create my own covers. I’m not really an artist, though I got a B in art class in college. My daughter is an actual artist and she insisted I give this a go, so I did. There are lots of options for cover design these days. You can pay a good cover designer hundreds of dollars, but I’m not there yet. You can use Amazon’s cover design program … but I don’t recommend it. You can buy an off-the-shelf cover image that allows you to input text, but then you are likely to run across other books with the exact same cover.

I decided to be brave and really do my own. First, I have to admit, I have typography experience. I trained as a journalist and typography was part of the advertising class I took. I worked for a time creating ads for he local newspaper before I moved into reporting and my skills have always been used in my jobs since. That ability is a great advantage and one reason my daughter thought I could do this.

Front Cover LAWKI no windowI use Paint.net to create my images and Publisher to do the typography. I believe Canva works well too, though I am less familiar. Either way, I don’t recommend doing typography (text) in an art program. Create the image and then suck it over into Publisher or similar to do the text. It’s just an overall better result.

My book covers are always based on something in the book the cover represents. The moon plays a prominent part in The Willow Branch. The forest plays a primary setting in Mirklin Wood. In Life As We Knew, the idea of facing nuclear Armageddon with just a barn to shelter is drives home my point that our country is woefully unprepared.

Because I’m not really an artist, I use a collage method to create the images I produce. I buy stock images or take the photographs myself (or sometimes my husband does). Government websites (especially in the very picturesque state of Alaska) are often filled with images that are legally considered public domain.

Willow Branch Blue White Recreation CoverPaint.net allows you to set the canvas to any size you want. Since my cover will eventually be a 5.5 x 8.5 print image, that’s my basis. Just as an artist would put gesso on a canvas, I pick a base color to fill in the entire canvas. Often this is the color of the sky, but in Objects in View, it’s the  color of the pavement. I then select the images I want to arrange on the canvas. I like to work in 500 pixel definition so that I am assured that my images won’t be blurry. I never want a cover of mine to look pretty much like someone else’s, so I am usually just taking parts of an image, just as you do with a collage.

So, for example, The Willow Branch started with a rectangle of deep midnight blue for the sky. The mountains are actually two different photos of two different mountain ranges found on the Alaska DOT website. The moon came from NASA. The foreground of the image is from a photo my husband took while flying above the Brooks Range cloud cover. Using Paint.net’s tool, I cropped out the parts of each photo I didn’t want. I saved these in separate files, so I would have to reinvent the wheel if something went awry.. I then layered the mountains to provide the illusion of depth. In Paint.net you can adjust the size of the image, which helps a lot with perspective.

The moon was a fun process because it looked very earthy – you know, the Face — but Daermad is not Earth, so I had to play with the image until the Face disappeared.  I had to decide whether to have it peek from behind the mountains or in full view in the mountain pass. The decision to make it full view then required that I adjust my light levels so the moon seemed to light the night. At the last, I placed the foreground image to provide yet another layer to the art composition.

Willow Branch Full CoverOnce I got my cover image just like I wanted it, I ran it through the rendering tool to create an oil painting effect, flattened the image so it becomes a single image, then saved it, creating a JPEG version of it. I brought that over into Publisher to work on the typography. The created art work becomes the front cover image. I also used a fuzzy version of a portion of the image to wrap the full cover. For a really simple cover like The Willow Branch, I used a single font color for the typography on the front cover. Other covers vary.

And, I want them to  vary. Although there may be similarities within a series, I ultimately want my covers to differ from one another to provide distinctiveness and flavor to my books.

So, now you know one thing that goes on in my private world. I wonder what Rebecca Lovell has going on behind her curtain.

 

 

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17 responses to “A Peek Behind the Curtain

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  1. I don’t know if you have seen that I am currently doing book and author promotions on my blogs!
    If you are interested in a little help promoting your novel or you know of any other writers that might need it please share this link https://aopinionatedman.com/book-promotion-terms/. Thank you!

    Jason

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on Daermad Cycle.

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  3. Your covers look great. I don’t have the confidence to do my own covers, but you’re definitely doing a good job with yours!

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  4. Sometimes, creating something other than writing clears my head and refreshes my writing.

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  5. I completely understand about your not being in a place where you can spend a lot on marketing! I feel sometimes like I’m missing out because I can’t afford some of the things other writers can but I keep reminding myself that it’s early on in my career and things will be different, maybe even next year!

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    • Being an entrepreneur requires some clear headed thinking and self-discipline. Every successful entrepreneur I know — meaning they are still in business 10 or 20 years after they started — started small, with realistic goals, didn’t get into debt, started with used equipment that they slowly upgrades, expanded only as their revenue allowed. They cleaned their own office, worked long hours, paid themselves less than they paid their employees (for a time), etc. Some of them worked second jobs for years before the business began to grow and they could finally just concentrate on that.

      I have tried to learn from them.

      At first I was funding with my own money, which is in tight demand. Now, the books are somewhat funding themselves. Maybe some day I’ll just have to write the stories. It is very much a long horizon view, but it works. And who knows, next week, the entire world might want Mirklin Wood and … I will still be an entrepreneur, growing a business, though hopefully with more funds to invest.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I find it hard enough to come up with the titles of my books, let alone the covers. I’m glad to let someone more artistically talented than me to do it.

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