Writing: The Cover Art Process

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks getting Embers Amongst the Fallen ready for publication. I decided to go the electronic reader route first and chose Smashwords, which will format it for different ereaders, PDFs and html. While formatting a story is relatively easy (I have a couple of stories I will be putting up) the formatting of a book with titles, footnotes and table of contents took far more time. And even then I had to keep correcting items. Eric Warren of Creative Touch Design Group did the cover for the book. I’ve never had control of the cover before and the process was an interesting one.

cover art, writing, publishing, book covers, speculative fiction, Smashwords

One of our first tries, before I changed the title.

Eric is a friend, a writer and a great photographer. I told him that I wasn’t sure what I wanted but it needed to be darkish and smeary, with red, brown, green in it. He read a couple of stories and I filled him in on what some of the others were about. The images that caught him were ghost children, a woman being swarmed by insects and a funeral pyre. He sent me the version on the left. I liked the image of the person but I didn’t like the glaring white of the shirt. I liked the blurred features but felt the background was too indistinct. When I stood back and looked at this book there was nothing that really said fantasy or horror and it could just as easily be a book on spiritual inspiration.

writing, publishing, epublishing, speculative fiction, books, Smashwords, cover art, book covers

Version two did not have “speculations” but we thought this would help clarify the category though it has confused a few of my friends.

So we talked about it. One problem is finding enough images in the public domain where there isn’t copyright infringement. Sometimes you can change a picture enough. I liked Eric’s ideas and said can you add a wing behind one shoulder of the person? After all, there is a tale of angels in the book as well. With some hunting Eric found the right wings. Sandra Kasturi suggested I go with Embers Amongst the Fallen, taken from the title of one of my stories and much more imagistic than Temptations and Transformations. I also used Facebook to poll people.

Version 4 with image toned down and bugs added.

Version two was significantly closer. It had the blurb from Wayne Sallee, and the new title, flames and wings. But it was still too white. I didn’t like the white. And I liked the blurry androgynous figure better. This one looked like a man. To me it didn’t mesh. I was happy with the font. We decided the blurb was too busy so we dropped it.

Eric sent me a blurry and a non-blurry version because sometimes our brains envision other than reality. I also said, how about a swirl of insects coming over the body and up under “Embers.” Like an S curve, Eric asked. Yeah that’s it. Okay, it was getting better but it was still too white for me. And the font was a little too subtle in color.  I suggested taking the yellow color from the fire and using that on the font instead. The bugs looked more like ships from Star Trek and I wanted some contrasting color. I asked Eric to put a mask on the shirt and make it green and put a slash of green into the background. I also asked for one version with a cursive script just to see how it would look. Eric added a screen to the background, which also helped in texturing.

cover art, publishing, ebooks, book covers, art, design, composition

Version 7 is getting much closer. There is more depth between the background and the font and the bugs look better.

Version 7 was getting closer. But the cursive font didn’t work. Too light to be seen in a thumbnail image that Smashwords puts up on their site. Eric added in some bees and beetles that helped define the swarm better.  The flames also stood out from the background, and the greens were helping. But the shade on the shirt wasn’t right, too opaque. I asked him to make both like the background color.  Then I was fooling around in Picassa when I downloaded one of his versions and I hit one of the screens. It turned the whole thing a bit more yellow but it made the wings creamy. That’s what I wanted, no white except my name. I also suggested putting a dark green drop-shadow behind the title to differentiate it a bit more.

cover art, cover design, book covers, publishing, Creative Touch Design

Version 10, with many tweaks. At this point I posted it for comments.

We went back to the other font and added Aurora Nominee above my name. He suggested Two-Time Aurora Nominee but I thought that was too much and would be cluttered. We decided to try a few bugs over top of the font. At version 10 I asked for opinions. Overall positive, but I’d already noticed that the beetle over the “L” in Fallen cut the word too much. People said it looked like an “I”. We moved it down but it was still cutting it too much so I said, try a bee instead. We also dropped “Speculations” down a bit to differentiate it as a subtitle. Embers had also been too close to the border so I had Eric bring that down as well.

I’m quite please with how the cover turned out. Eric’s happy with it too. The important thing in designing a cover is to allow for some artistic interpretation and know your first design probably won’t stay.

writing, publishing, cover design, art concepts, cover art, book covers

Embers Amongst the Fallen available through Smashwords

Your ideas may not come out exactly as you envisioned: I know what I had in my head but it probably would have involved an illustrator. Still, this works well and I let Eric actually begin the process. Bugs and flames and wings speak of more than one thing and it references the 16 tales in this book. So here is the final version and if you would like to order an ecopy go to Smashwords. I should have a print version by the end of August and will post that when I do. Now I’m off to Alberta to the When Words Collide convention where I will be on several panels, do a reading and see if I win the Aurora Award.

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1 Comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

One response to “Writing: The Cover Art Process

  1. Fascinating. Gorgeous cover. Thanks for sharing the process.

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