Category Archives: Book Cover Design

I’m published!

noboundariescover-frontonly

 

Here’s a holiday selection

From my collection

(changed slightly to accommodate Thanksgiving)
**** 

Holiday Dinner

Chicken runs round the farm yard,

Wishes he was the duck.

Duck runs round the barn yard,

Wishes he was the pig.

Pig runs round the pig sty,

Wishes he was the horse.

Horse smiles, relaxes in stall.

Thanksgiving Eve, he’ll mourn them all.

****

My collection includes Family and Friends, God Bless Our Military, Limericks, Beautiful Earth, Art, Imagination, & Miscellany, Haiku, and My Funny Bone.

To order, go to “No Boundaries” at Amazon.

 

 

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Filed under Book Cover Design, E-books & E-publishing, Personal Articles, Prose & Poetry, Publishing

Writing is like baseball

DSC02103

Writing has been compared to many things: creating great food from a recipe, a long, arduous journey, a trip to the circus.

I once compared it to Family Court – The writing life is like family court only family court was more fun.

My favorite comparison is Vaughn Roycroft’s What building my house taught me about writing. A must read for every writer!

I was struggling with a short story while watching a baseball game (Go Phillies!). And boing! I realized, “Hey, writing is like baseball!”

The writer is the pitcher

Consider the writer as the pitcher – the dude on the mound. But the pitcher is not the only player on the field.

Long fly ball or an infield out

You pitch the ball and the batter hits it. It’s a long fly ball! The center fielder snags the ball, throws it to the cut-off man, the cut-off man throws it to the plate – runner out!

You pitch the ball. The batter hits it. The shortstop snags it, flips it to the second baseman, the second baseman throws to the first baseman. Double play!

You may have pitched the ball, but you weren’t the only player handling it.

Your pitching coach

Do you have a pitching coach – an expert editor? She/he tells you where the ball was dragging, where it was too high, where you lost control.

Your team DSC01384

Is the pitcher the only player on the field? No! The pitcher has eight other guys on the field with him and a load of other players in the dugout.

Think about all the friends and associates who follow your Fan Page, your beta readers, your blog followers, the people who allow you to guest post. These people are your team.

Looking good on the mound

Let’s not forget the uniform guys. The ones who make you look good when you go out on the field. Imagine what a book cover designer can do for you.

GehrigThe Iron Horse

Lou Gehrig played for the Yankees until his stellar career was cut short by ALS, now commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gehrig played from 1925 to 1939 and made it to the field for 2,130 consecutive games. This streak was considered unbreakable until Baltimore’s Cal Ripken, Jr., broke Gehrig’s record in 1995. Ripken went on to play 2,632 games.

Moral of the story…writing – and incredible baseball stats – is a long-haul sort of thing.

Don’t be an ass-terisk*

A few players are listed in the baseball record books with an asterisk. Why? They cheated to achieve their monumental goals (remember the writer guy who paid a few thousand people to write awesome reviews for his book?).

Let’s keep it simple – do not cheat.

See you at the Series

No player gets to the World Series by playing just one or two games. You have a long spring training and a long season ahead of you. And sometimes, you might have to wait several seasons to get the recognition you deserve.

So wind up, and keep pitching.

What other activity can you compare to writing?

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Filed under Book Cover Design, Editing & Proofreading, Publishing

Creep Into the Mind of a Book Cover Designer, by Linda Boulanger

Thank you, Karen, for inviting me to your monthly event and allowing me to share how I go about creating great book covers – information that may help your blog readers design their own covers or know what information to pass on to a designer and why.

As an author and book cover/interior layout designer, I’ve designed covers across many genres, though the process always begins the same way.

1. Gather information about the story

2. Consider elements that grab

3. Search for images that might work

4. Design the cover

Information Gathering

One of the most important aspects of designing a cover is to truly capture the story. My “tag” is: Your Readers’ First Glimpse of What’s Inside. When an author contacts me I immediately start asking questions. There’s a whole list but the information that helps me the most:

-Do you have a synopsis/blurb?

-Do you already have a “vision” or idea in mind?

-Are there particular covers you’ve seen that you are fond of/prefer?

-Any particular point in the book that comes to mind that would make a reader say “aha!” when they read the book?

Without either sitting down to read your book or getting inside your head, I am never going to know your story as well as you do. And the reality of either of those two things happening before I design a cover are … well, one is impossible and the other is improbable. You decide which is which. Same goes for potential readers. They don’t know your story yet so your cover needs to convey what they need to become interested.

Elements That Grab

Next, think about elements that attract. With millions of books being offered at the press of a mouse button, your book needs an eye-catching cover (and notice how small they are when you first see them – hint: give your cover the postage stamp/thumbnail test to make sure it stands out little as well as big). One of the major elements often used are eyes. Why? They help convey emotion. Look at the six covers I’ve included and see what each one tells you about the stories, as well as where your eye goes first. Was it to the eye(s)? That’s why we use them. However, eyes are by no means the only attention grabbers so study other covers in your genre to see what they’re using and what you like.

Images

Where do the images come from? The best place to get images are stock images sites. I like the user agreements and ease of use provided by the following:

Dreamstime – Free and Royalty Free for a small fee

BigStockPhoto – Royalty Free for a small fee

Stock Free Images  – Offers truly FREE images

If you find an image someplace else, check for usage rights. Free and Royalty Free are not the same so don’t just grab something off the web and try to use it or you could find yourself paying hefty fines (that goes for blog posts and other internet usage as well). As a rule, you purchase the rights to use a royalty free image without having to pay each and every time you use it up to a certain number sold. That’s what it means on the sites I have listed and why I like to use them.

Also begin to look at images in different ways. Look at the Creepy Title covers shown. The one in the middle – using 100% FREE images from the Stock Free Images site – is a simple combination of the two pictures shown on the right. Would you have thought to put them together? Learn to rethink as well as considering additional elements that might be added. I took my girl and kitty images, added elements from some of the covers above, moved things around, and created something completely different. Does it work? Maybe. Maybe not. The key is not to be afraid to try.

Design a Great Cover

While I can’t teach you how to design, hopefully some of the things I do will either help you with your own design or when you seek out a designer. Regardless of who creates it, the end results should be the same:

-Arm yourself with a cover that will jump out at potential readers from the multitude of offerings.

-Provide a cover that shows the reader what they’ll find inside.

-Work for a cover you love and are proud to hold up and say “This is me! I wrote this story. Want to read it?”

If you have questions or need help, I’m never too far away from my laptop.

***

Linda Boulanger

Finding Linda:

Tell-Tale Book Covers – Cover Design Site

Author Site

Tell-Tale Book Covers on Facebook

Email: TellTaleBookCovers@gmail.com

FreeStockImages.com images used:

http://www.stockfreeimages.com/3890369/Gothic-make-up.html# © Dancer01 | Stock Free Images &Dreamstime Stock Photos

http://www.stockfreeimages.com/5250691/Scary-cat.html © Everyfinn | Stock Free Images &Dreamstime Stock Photos

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Filed under Book Cover Design, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Publishing

How to work with an artist to create a kick-butt book cover, by Duncan Long

Thinking Machine, by Duncan Long

Read me! Buy me! – I think the main thing for writers to understand is that the illustration’s job is basically just to get someone interested in the book so they pick it up (or read a catalog entry) and get interested in buying that title. The cover has to be simple so it can convey its “read me” message with just a glance. That means maybe a character or two can be there with the proper color, lighting, and lettering to set the stage of mood and genre the book falls into.

That means the cover needs to stay pretty simple.

Just a flicker – Remember that a book is like a movie; it can have a cast of thousands; it can span centuries. The book cover is like one frame of that movie. It is just a tiny part, a brief flicker. It can’t tell the whole story of the book.

That seems obvious, yet too often writers want all the story elements in the book on the cover, and it quickly becomes a hodgepodge. And nothing causes folks to pass on a book instead of picking it up more than a confusing cover that can’t be understood with a glance. The cover can hint at what’s in the book; it can’t tell the viewer what the character is going to do for the first 100 pages.

I know that sounds simple. But sadly writers often miss this obvious thing (and part of my job is to try to educate them about this — often I don’t do this as well as I should).

Illustrators do not have time to read your manuscript– When an art director, publisher, or writer approaches the illustrator about doing a cover, it’s generally best to have a scene in mind. Don’t say, “Well, you’re the artist. Read my book and just do your thing.” Unfortunately illustrators are on tight deadlines and don’t have time to read an entire book. But worse, invariably the artist’s key scene will be at odds with the publisher’s. So almost always (at least in my experience) this seems to waste a lot of time and get us all back at the starting line when the dust clears.

Book cover for Paul M. Strickler’s “The Spiritar,” by Duncan Long

What mood do you want to convey? – It’s best to have an idea of what sort of mood you need to establish, what the main “scenery” of the story might be, and what your character looks like. Usually (especially with smaller ebook covers these days) you just will want one or two characters at the most on a cover, and ideally a “close shot” that shows their faces and upper torso rather than their whole bodies. Otherwise you lose a lot of details and don’t really get a good feel for the characters.

Physical description – So you might tell your illustrator, “The main character needs to look like he lives in the European Middle Ages, he should be wearing rusty armor, and his hair is long and stringy. He’s tired and sitting down looking depressed. And maybe there’s a dragon flying off in the distance.” That would give your illustrator something to go on and from there he’ll ask questions to learn what he needs to know to get started on the first sketches he’ll present to you.

Age, ethnicity, hair, eyes, and era – Also be sure you tell the artist how old the character is, ethnic type, hair color and length, and any other key details. Your artist is not going to be happy if he’s spent hours on a sketch of a blond Nordic warrior only to discover your hero is from Morocco with short black hair and an eye patch. The sooner your artist can zero in on things, the happier he’ll be and the more quickly you’ll have your cover.

He looks like Errol Flynn – Sometimes writers have a “picture” of who the character is in their mind. If you’ve been writing and picturing a well-know actor as playing the part (in your mind’s eye), tell your artist that it would be nice if the character looked a little like that person. He can’t give you a perfect portrait of the actor (due to copyright considerations), but it will get the artwork into the right neighborhood.

Remember that when the artist creates their version of the picture, it isn’t going to jive perfectly with how you’ve pictured it in your mind. But unless it really goes against the storyline, try not to dictate unnecessary changes. If you don’t write in the book that the guy’s eyes are blue, don’t be upset if they’re green. Or if he has more or fewer muscles than in your mind. Or his armor is bluish steel instead of silver. Or the distant dragon has horns when you didn’t picture it that way.

If it doesn’t make a difference, then go with the flow and everyone will be a lot happier in the end.

Work with, not against – In the digital age it’s possible to change all sorts of things: Colors, layout, you name it. But that doesn’t mean changing things will always be for the better. Remember that your illustrator has given a lot of thought to the layout before you even see they first sketch. He’s working to make the picture the best he can and also working to make it show off his best skills and minimize the things he’s not so good at painting.

That means don’t ask for changes unless you’re really sure they might improve things. Sometimes client’s make great suggestions for changes, so if you feel strongly, speak up. But also be prepared to listen to your artist if he says, “I don’t think that would work, because…” You’re paying him big bucks to do the work; you need to do your best to let him do his best.

Let your artist do his thing– Just as (hopefully) you don’t tell your plumber how best to tighten a pipe or fix a leak, you also need to stand back and let your artist do his thing in the most efficient way he knows how. He’s spent a lot of years honing his skills; let him give you his best.

Treehouse Clan, by Duncan Long

A writer’s vision, an artist’s vision – I suppose the worst problems I’ve had (and also some of the best, so it’s not an “always the case thing”), have been with writers who are also artists. They tend to have a vision of what they want, and often can almost do the work themselves but either don’t quite have the skills or lack the time. But the results can be somewhat like what would happen if I started telling them what to change in their book to make it better — pretty soon toes are being stepped on and it gets a tad tense rather than being the fun it normally is.

Delegate and let it go – So if you hire someone to do the work, there’s a point where you need to delegate the work and then let your illustrator do it with as little intervention as possible. I know that’s easier said than done, and you do need to give some direction and be sure the picture is turning out the way you want. But try not to micromanage.

Book cover for Philip A. Genovese, Jr.’s “The Grandfather Clause,” by Duncan Long

Fine tuning – Sometimes near the end of a project there will be choices to make: Is this typeface or that lettering better? Would the picture be better if it was flipped horizontally? Should the character be a little closer or a little more distant?

When you get to this point — there’s really no bad answer. That is, you’ve refined so much along the way that often you reach a point where all the possibilities are going to work. You can’t make a wrong choice. So my advice at this point is just to go with what looks best or let your artist decide. Just don’t get caught in that endless loop of infinite adjustments and changes that do little to improve things but can waste a lot of time all the way around.

Sign a contract – I’d say that it’s always a good idea to have an illustrator do the work for you with a contract that has spelled out the amount of pay, whether there will be royalties (generally illustrators get a flat fee and no royalties, by the way), and what rights you’re getting. If there’s no contract, US courts generally assume that the rights the buyer gets are minimal.

So if an artist offers you a contract, take it because it will likely be protecting you more than it does him. And have a lawyer look the contract over if you have even a tiny doubt about things; contracts aren’t written in stone and almost always the details can be hashed out to leave everyone happy with things.

Careful on the residuals – Finally, remember with a contract that the artist owns the artwork. You only buy certain rights to use that artwork from him. You don’t own the picture. You likely will only own the right to use the picture on one book cover. If you want mouse pad rights, t-shirts, or even the right to use the picture on a series of books rather than just one, then be sure that’s all spelled out in your contract. Otherwise there can be some expensive confusion and hurt feelings all the way around due to misunderstandings.

Book cover for Douglas E. Richards’ “The Devil’s Sword,” by Duncan Long

The artist as a shepherd – I’ve probably made this process of creating a cover sound a lot harder than it is or maybe even terrifying. Fortunately most illustrators have had lots of experience in these things and will be happy to answer your questions and shepherd you through the process. And once you get started, you’ll find it’s a whole lot of fun seeing your cover come alive, and later a real joy to see the book sitting there on a bookshelf or in a catalog. That’s when it all seems more than worth the little trouble you went through in getting it just the way it needed to be to help sell your book.

About Duncan –

Duncan Long has created over a thousand cover and interior illustrations for HarperCollins, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, ILEX, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and many other presses and self-publishing authors. Talk-show host Victor Thorn named Long one of the three “best graphic artists in the entire world.”

Long has also authored 13 novels (Avon Books, HarperCollins) and over 80 technical and how-to manuals, many of which he’s also illustrated.

You can view Long’s artwork at Duncan Long.

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Filed under Book Cover Design, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Illustrators & Illustrations, Publishing

How to work with an artist to create a kick-butt book cover.

Working with an illustrator or artist for your book cover – it’s a big deal! From my own experience, a book’s cover is a buy or not-buy scenario. Book covers attract buyers or give off a ho-hum vibe. The book cover is the first thing a reader sees – why is it the last thing a writer thinks about?

Welcome guest blogger Duncan Long. Duncan explains how to work with an artist or illustrator – what ideas you should convey to your artist, how to accept his expertise, how to produce a kick-butt book cover to get your book sold.

Take it away, Duncan!

Read me! Buy me! – I think the main thing for writers to understand is that the illustration’s job is basically just to get someone interested in the book so they pick it up (or read a catalog entry) and get interested in buying that title. The cover has to be simple so it can convey its “read me” message with just a glance. That means maybe a character or two can be there with the proper color, lighting, and lettering to set the stage of mood and genre the book falls into.

That means the cover needs to stay pretty simple.

Just a flicker – Remember that a book is like a movie; it can have a cast of thousands; it can span centuries. The book cover is like one frame of that movie. It is just a tiny part, a brief flicker. It can’t tell the whole story of the book.

That seems obvious, yet too often writers want all the story elements in the book on the cover, and it quickly becomes a hodgepodge. And nothing causes folks to pass on a book instead of picking it up more than a confusing cover that can’t be understood with a glance. The cover can hint at what’s in the book; it can’t tell the viewer what the character is going to do for the first 100 pages.

I know that sounds simple. But sadly writers often miss this obvious thing (and part of my job is to try to educate them about this — often I don’t do this as well as I should).

Illustrators do not have time to read your manuscript – When an art director, publisher, or writer approaches the illustrator about doing a cover, it’s generally best to have a scene in mind. Don’t say, “Well, you’re the artist. Read my book and just do your thing.” Unfortunately illustrators are on tight deadlines and don’t have time to read an entire book. But worse, invariably the artist’s key scene will be at odds with the publisher’s. So almost always (at least in my experience) this seems to waste a lot of time and get us all back at the starting line when the dust clears.

What mood do you want to convey? – It’s best to have an idea of what sort of mood you need to establish, what the main “scenery” of the story might be, and what your character looks like. Usually (especially with smaller ebook covers these days) you just will want one or two characters at the most on a cover, and ideally a “close shot” that shows their faces and upper torso rather than their whole bodies. Otherwise you lose a lot of details and don’t really get a good feel for the characters.

Physical description – So you might tell your illustrator, “The main character needs to look like he lives in the European Middle Ages, he should be wearing rusty armor, and his hair is long and stringy. He’s tired and sitting down looking depressed. And maybe there’s a dragon flying off in the distance.” That would give your illustrator something to go on and from there he’ll ask questions to learn what he needs to know to get started on the first sketches he’ll present to you.

Age, ethnicity, hair, eyes, and era – Also be sure you tell the artist how old the character is, ethnic type, hair color and length, and any other key details. Your artist is not going to be happy if he’s spent hours on a sketch of a blond Nordic warrior only to discover your hero is from Morocco with short black hair and an eye patch. The sooner your artist can zero in on things, the happier he’ll be and the more quickly you’ll have your cover.

He looks like Errol Flynn – Sometimes writers have a “picture” of who the character is in their mind. If you’ve been writing and picturing a well-know actor as playing the part (in your mind’s eye), tell your artist that it would be nice if the character looked a little like that person. He can’t give you a perfect portrait of the actor (due to copyright considerations), but it will get the artwork into the right neighborhood.

Remember that when the artist creates their version of the picture, it isn’t going to jive perfectly with how you’ve pictured it in your mind. But unless it really goes against the storyline, try not to dictate unnecessary changes. If you don’t write in the book that the guy’s eyes are blue, don’t be upset if they’re green. Or if he has more or fewer muscles than in your mind. Or his armor is bluish steel instead of silver. Or the distant dragon has horns when you didn’t picture it that way.

If it doesn’t make a difference, then go with the flow and everyone will be a lot happier in the end.

Work with, not against – In the digital age it’s possible to change all sorts of things: Colors, layout, you name it. But that doesn’t mean changing things will always be for the better. Remember that your illustrator has given a lot of thought to the layout before you even see they first sketch. He’s working to make the picture the best he can and also working to make it show off his best skills and minimize the things he’s not so good at painting.

That means don’t ask for changes unless you’re really sure they might improve things. Sometimes client’s make great suggestions for changes, so if you feel strongly, speak up. But also be prepared to listen to your artist if he says, “I don’t think that would work, because…” You’re paying him big bucks to do the work; you need to do your best to let him do his best.

Let your artist do his thing – Just as (hopefully) you don’t tell your plumber how best to tighten a pipe or fix a leak, you also need to stand back and let your artist do his thing in the most efficient way he knows how. He’s spent a lot of years honing his skills; let him give you his best.

A writer’s vision, an artist’s vision – I suppose the worst problems I’ve had (and also some of the best, so it’s not an “always the case thing”), have been with writers who are also artists. They tend to have a vision of what they want, and often can almost do the work themselves but either don’t quite have the skills or lack the time. But the results can be somewhat like what would happen if I started telling them what to change in their book to make it better — pretty soon toes are being stepped on and it gets a tad tense rather than being the fun it normally is.

Delegate and let it go – So if you hire someone to do the work, there’s a point where you need to delegate the work and then let your illustrator do it with as little intervention as possible. I know that’s easier said than done, and you do need to give some direction and be sure the picture is turning out the way you want. But try not to micromanage.

Fine tuning – Sometimes near the end of a project there will be choices to make: Is this typeface or that lettering better? Would the picture be better if it was flipped horizontally? Should the character be a little closer or a little more distant?

When you get to this point — there’s really no bad answer. That is, you’ve refined so much along the way that often you reach a point where all the possibilities are going to work. You can’t make a wrong choice. So my advice at this point is just to go with what looks best or let your artist decide. Just don’t get caught in that endless loop of infinite adjustments and changes that do little to improve things but can waste a lot of time all the way around.

Sign a contract – I’d say that it’s always a good idea to have an illustrator do the work for you with a contract that has spelled out the amount of pay, whether there will be royalties (generally illustrators get a flat fee and no royalties, by the way), and what rights you’re getting. If there’s no contract, US courts generally assume that the rights the buyer gets are minimal.

So if an artist offers you a contract, take it because it will likely be protecting you more than it does him. And have a lawyer look the contract over if you have even a tiny doubt about things; contracts aren’t written in stone and almost always the details can be hashed out to leave everyone happy with things.

Careful on the residuals – Finally, remember with a contract that the artist owns the artwork. You only buy certain rights to use that artwork from him. You don’t own the picture. You likely will only own the right to use the picture on one book cover. If you want mouse pad rights, t-shirts, or even the right to use the picture on a series of books rather than just one, then be sure that’s all spelled out in your contract. Otherwise there can be some expensive confusion and hurt feelings all the way around due to misunderstandings.

The artist as a shepherd – I’ve probably made this process of creating a cover sound a lot harder than it is or maybe even terrifying. Fortunately most illustrators have had lots of experience in these things and will be happy to answer your questions and shepherd you through the process. And once you get started, you’ll find it’s a whole lot of fun seeing your cover come alive, and later a real joy to see the book sitting there on a bookshelf or in a catalog. That’s when it all seems more than worth the little trouble you went through in getting it just the way it needed to be to help sell your book.

About Duncan –

Duncan Long has created over a thousand cover and interior illustrations for HarperCollins, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, ILEX, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and many other presses and self-publishing authors. Talk-show host Victor Thorn named Long one of the three “best graphic artists in the entire world.”

Long has also authored 13 novels (Avon Books, HarperCollins) and over 80 technical and how-to manuals, many of which he’s also illustrated.

You can view Long’s artwork at Duncan Long.

17 Comments

Filed under Book Cover Design, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events