Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Process of Cover Design From an Author's Point of View

I read a note from the amazing cover artist at Museitup Publishing explaining how hard it is to transfer the gist of a book onto a cover, with limited resources and knowledge of the book itself. It would be impossible for a cover artist to read every book from cover to cover, so they rely on a few words to convey concepts and ideas. Even working with authors, it is difficult for anyone to break down 80,000 words into half a dozen.
It's not a new problem and I have been through the cover dilemma a few times myself.

My first experience was woeful. I still shudder to see the cover from Exiled, published so many years ago. The cover artist was not brilliant. I won't say anthing else. I designed two covers for my self published books. There was no choice of fonts or spacing or editing of pictures so I chose two photos that followed the theme of the titles.

Again, the working is dissapointing. TNR without a hiccup of imagination. Someone said the first cover looks like the Good News Bible. hehe. My bad. Funnily enough, now it's been mentioned, it does!

So, when publishing loomed a few years ago, and the ideas sent to me were close to abysmal I despaired. There was a suggestion I change the age and gender of a minor character to facilitate the use of a small child on the cover. Another suggestion I change the colour of the hero's horse. For no other purpose than photos were hard to find.

I understand the cost and time and effort involved. Spending days, weeks even months searching for free photos, even cheap photos avialable online is heartbreaking. Designing covers, fonts, colours, spacing etc all takes time and flare and knowing what is marketable.

With suggestions from my supportive readers I took the step of creating my own photos portfolio for the eight novels in the series. It is still hard to believe where their ideas have taken me.
On the first outing, a beach shoot, we took some amazing photos. Inspiring and usable. My model was my beautiful daughter in law, the setting, our local beach, the camera just my little digital. Still the results spurred us on to greater things.

Our next outing was to a mediaeval faire held in our city centre. Here luck smiled on us again. We met a young man who fitted our hero's character perfectly. Not only did he look the part, he was happy to pose. Even better, he offered the use of his property for backdrops and his collection of armour, weapons and mediaeval costume for authenticity.

With creative director, photographer and map in hand we set out for a weekend photoshoot. The weather was perfect for two days of amazing fun. Matt, our hero, had completed reading Exiled: Winter's Plight and Exiled: Summer's Peril, days before we arrived. He suggested locations for shoots and provided the weapons and chain mail described in the books. His understanding of the story, the character and the costume/equipment was a brilliant help.
 Rachel our photographer did an amazing job. Lisa, creative director stepped in because I was too overwhelmed to direct. It was a completely new experience to see my character come to life...literally. And the photos are amazing. I am forever grateful for the opportunity and experience and the photos.

Creating ideas for covers with the photos, has kept me sane when publishing seemed like a forgotten dream. The feedback from the photos alone created such an impact, it felt as though the books would one day become a reality. To not use the work of Matt and Rachel would be a tragedy. Sadly back then I chose not to have the the books published and the photos have only had limited airing publically. Perhaps now that will change.

Even if Museitup's cover artist finds she can't use them for reasons of copyright, which I hold, I will still be using them for promotion. They have proved great marketing tools already. And, just quietly, working on covers with them is ever so much fun. ;)

I sympathise with all cover artists as I fade into a dream state.

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