Archive for the ‘cover design’ Tag

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 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 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’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 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.



Contemplating the Moon   Leave a comment

Front Cover UpdateSomeone wanted to know about the cover for The Willow Branch, which is a good time to talk about cover design.

“They” (the celestial body of supposed experts) say the front cover is as important has what is inside the book. I agree. It’s the best advertising I have. You also can’t judge a book by its cover … except when you can. The Willow Branch can definitely be judged by its cover.

First, it is a portion of a painting that dates from the 1800s that I found in the public domain. Why did the painter decide to depict the moon as so large? I don’t know. Maybe he was a moon gazer like my husband. It suited my story and that’s all that mattered to me.

Because the book hadn’t made any money yet, I was determined to find an image that wouldn’t cost me a lot of money. I also wasn’t as familiar with desktop publishing programs as I am now. I hadn’t encountered and I couldn’t afford Photoshop. So finding this image was a boon because it relates to the story and is striking. I couldn’t find an artist, but I did find a date and it was well before the copyright laws.

I tweaked the image for my use. I got rid of some portions of the painting that didn’t belong in the story. Then, just before I published, I discovered, so I worked some other magic to change image a bit and boost the dpi. That resulted in a slightly more oval “moon”, which I kept because …

If you read the story, you’ll learn that the “moon” shines at the wrong time of the month, suggesting it isn’t actually the moon, but is something extremely sinister.

#amwriting, #IARTG, #ASMSG, #lelamarkham, #willowbranch

Preparing to Print   1 comment

Front Cover UpdateI’ve spent the last two weeks formatting The Willow Branch for print.

I’m not a perfectionist. As I’ve said before, I worked in the mental health field for 15 years and professionals tell me I have a high commitment to quality that does not quite tip over into perfectionism.

If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right because I want my readers to enjoy not just the story, but the process of reading the story.

That was a lot of work!

Today, I finally got to see the digital version of The Willow Branch in print.

I knew I had it in me to design a professional quality cover without resorting to a professional designer. Not everyone can do this, but I’ve been involved in desktop publishing in a professional capacity for a long time. I just didn’t expect it to be so hard to meet CreateSpace standards and it turned out, it wasn’t, but that their auto vetter was confused for reasons they aren’t explaining. So, after three uploads that threw errors and an email asking why I kept getting the same error message that didn’t make sense (no, really, my front cover image is really truly on the right and my back cover image is really truly on the left), I got to see the result today. It’s one thing to see it in a flat image on my computer and another to see it in 3-D view.


Full Cover for CS

I’ve ordered my proof copies and hope the paperback will be available by Thanksgiving!

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