Monday, April 26, 2010

The Stages of a Cover

Writing Status - Err...
Mood - A-Okay
Playing on itunes - Nada

Right now, I should be writing.  Instead I'm going to discuss something some readers are unaware of.  Oddly enough, it's the first thing you see when it comes to choosing a book to read (if you like to shelf shop, as I do) yet you probably never really think all that much about it.

I'm talking about the "cover" of a book.

Most of my book art is unique or has images that have been manipulated enough that it's difficult to place them from other books that share a likeness (as a side, I've created all of my cover art with the exception of Crimson Moon, Soft As Moonlight, and my highly anticipated Loose Id story Eternity and a Day).  However, there is one notable exception, and that is the example I'm going to use.

When I started creating the cover for Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between, I took my time looking for the right cover model.  At that time, I hadn't been around the block yet, so I wasn't aware that the model I fell in love with had been displayed elsewhere.  When I found this image, it just fit. 

Here is how she looks from stock images:

Since Rhiannon works in a strip club and one of the major protagonists is named Disco, I figured some sparkly lighting would work.  So I found an image I liked and worked the mojo (and also changed the color and tone, using the reflection from a mirror ball and a red neon light visible over a door, which turned green as I changed the hues). The trouble was, the finished image was just a girl with snazzy lighting.  That meant I had to get creative.  I knew I wanted a beautiful pair of eyes at the top of the cover but all of the ones I found didn't get the job done.  After surfing for hours, I finally decided to make my own.

Here is the original shot (and no, this isn't how Disco looks at all, it's all about the peepers, folks!):

I cut it, trimmed it, folded it and flipped it (I also enhanced the blue so it would stand out and added flecks of gold which sadly, didn't show up in the finished product):

The end result:

The only regret I have about the cover is the fonts used for the title and my name. Back then, I was still learning the ropes and trying to figure out Photoshop and Gimp (a free program that works just as good as the expensive Photoshop, in my opinion).  In the end, I think it turned out okay and I'm happy with it.


"So why are you sharing this with us?" You might ask. The answer is simple. All images used to create covers are ones sold by stock image companies.  That means you're going to see repeated ones (especially those "eye-catching" shots) over and over again.  Once the image has been snatched up, it doesn't go away (nor is it owned by the person who purchased the rights to use it).  That means you're bound to see repeats, especially in the e-pub market. 

Today I got a Google alert about Dead and there was a nifty cover comparison (you can see it HERE).  A commenter said, "Boy not even original art protects you," and in this case, there is no original art.  The girl is just one element used for a broader canvas.  That's how it works.  You see, you mold and shape, and you let your creative juices flow.

I'm curious -- have any of you created your own cover art? If not, have you fiddled with the programs?  I'd love to see what you've created on your own if you have.  If you haven't, a word of warning. It can become addictive, so if time is limited you might not want to start until you can clear a spot on the calendar!


Robin K said...

I love playing in photoshop with images. I have been a designer for some time and though I am not a writer, I have been know to play around with cover images for fun. I love the red hues on your cover. Great job dear!

J.A. Saare said...

Hey Robin!

I know how awesome you are. I still have that nifty art you did with my tattoo! ;)

Robin K said...

pffffttt... I am not THAT awesome *blushes*, but you are :)

Laurann Dohner said...

I don't do my own covers but I did all the top banners on my website (my name . com if you want to look) and my WIP 'covers' (states they aren't real covers clearly..). I did most of them with a simple paint program (talk about HARD) and then I found photofiltre online and that's way easier! I'll check out that Gimp (thanks for the tip) It's very addictive playing with photos and I buy a lot of stock photos to play with. For someone who never tried before, I don't think I did too bad. (Not great but not bad...LOL) Your cover is awesome. I wish I knew how to add in those eyes and light effect but I'm just not that talented. LOL.

Brindle Chase said...

I know I've told you this before, but this cover is IMHO, one of the very best I've ever seen!!!!

I'm almost done with my edits (1st round), so I'll finally get to read my copy!

Jamie D. said...

Quick question - did you buy a set of stock images, or did you just buy these one at a time? I'm considering designing a cover this summer, and was just curious which might be more cost effective.

Thanks - and your cover looks very professional...I really like it. :-)

J.A. Saare said...

Hey Jamie,

I purchased them from various places. I can't recall the amount but believe I paid a set amount for credits ($20 bucks or so) to purchase a couple of them. The prices vary depending on the source.

If you're like I am (always fiddling with covers/bookmarks/etc) it's usually worth the discount if you buy the credits in bulk and approach it that way.

Scott Romanski said...

I haven't played with a cover yet. i do have a basic concept of what i want for the book i'm writing, but haven't found an image i like to use as a basis. Might have to do my own shoot for it