Sunday, May 11, 2014

behind the covers

cover by Jennetta Dodge 

This blog is about book covers and the images behind them. Both are much on my mind because this month I've been engaged in picking out photos from a site that offers royalty free images through credits or subscriptions. Since winter, I have put together five covers for new books (two out and three to go). Make that six covers as one of them, after making what I thought would be the cover, I changed my mind. Actually that does not count the ones I changed on books already out.

cover by Jennetta Dodge

Although the covers here were done by a professional, I do my own for several reasons and cost is only one of them. I enjoy playing working with images. I know my characters better than anyone else, and I like my covers to reflect what my hero/heroine look like. I also change my mind sometimes for what a cover should say. Twice that happened because of reader complaints. Sometimes it's all about me when I look at a cover and decide it doesn't tell the story as well as it could-- and a cover should tell the story.

I won't argue with those who say a graphic artist can do them better. But for me, doing them is part of writing my stories. There are those who say I would sell more books if I bought covers. I don't know. I won't say that someday I might not put it to the test and buy a cover like one of these gorgeous ones by Charlene Raddon who sells them under her pen name-- Jennetta Dodge.


cover by Jennetta Dodge

Charlene/Jennetta has long been doing covers but only this spring turned it into a business. I think she has a knack for finding interesting model photos. And having spent a lot of time looking for such, since I got into ePublishing, I know how expensive, time consuming, tiring, and difficult that can be. 

Under her pen name, Jennetta Dodge, she has created spirited, complex, beautiful, and very tempting covers for readers and authors. She said when one is sold, she will put the author's title and name onto the cover, send it to them, and take it out of her catalog. Check the links for more about her images.





I think it's pretty universally agreed that the right cover is a big part of selling a book. It is important it fits its genre but also that it attracts the eye. A good cover tells a story; and if that story looks like one a reader wants, it might just be the one thing that gives the writer a chance to have them read their words.

For my own covers, the royalty free images I purchase are generally of people and animals. Literally I have looked through thousands of images--some professional models and some just someone who thought it'd be fun to put their photos out on a sell site. I buy what I know I need for what I've already written, but am always interested in images that might inspire a new book.

While I am looking for the right people, I am also considering the right background for each book. My backgrounds usually are strong parts of the cover because of how I see the land in my stories. To me, landscape is another character. So along with wanting the right couple, who seem to fit my story, I look for the right background. 

Backgrounds have, so far, all come from my own photos as I haven't seen many images at any site that I like as much as the ones we have taken on trips-- and all my stories are set in the American west-- contemporary or historical

For this blog, I decided to create an example of how that works-- which may or may not ever become part of a cover or end up in a trailer. I opted for one that might fit into the Arizona story coming out in July. Great saguaros, interesting mountain-- totally bland sky.



Again from my own photos (other than lightning-- I buy those), I found a sky better suited for that scene. I took it from the moving truck as we were driving to Arizona on one of our trips. Those hills are in California and as you go over the first ridge of them toward the Mojave.  It was a phenomenal sky for interesting clouds. Sometimes I like a stormy sky but not this time because of the lighting on the cacti.


To create a cover, I start with a blank canvas, created in the desired size-- 2500x1566 pixels for an eBook and 8.75"x5.75" for a paperback (and the paperback has to leave space for the publisher to crop-- nothing important goes right up to the edge as it can with an eBook). 

On that white canvas, I lay my re-sized sky, move it around until I find the part I like best. The sky photo was gorgeous from end to end, but I opted for the feathery cloud-- interesting and this book does have a Native American theme. Sometimes the sky is the most important part of the picture, and I would keep most of it making the landscape secondary. In this case, I don't consider that the case.

I had to sacrifice with the landscape also. I gave up the biggest, most beautiful saguaro to keep the mountain. It is possible sometimes to bring the two together. You can do some adjusting with changing dimensions but watch out that it doesn't end up looking stretched-- that does your image no favor. 

In the first image, I went in and cut the land away from the sky, did a copy, and laid it onto the new sky-- again playing with what looked most balanced. I could be doing this for my photography, but I don't like changing what I saw when it's meant as a landscape photo. The fad for over photo-shopping photographs just ruins them in my eyes. But for a cover, well anything is fair.



If the image is intended for a cover, I'd normally then find the hero and heroine and set one or both into it. That has its own complications for making sure they are the right size. For mine, they are generally in the foreground and should be dominant which might mean a little fading out of the background to give them that dominance.

In a trailer, something like the image above might not have people as it would more be about atmosphere, getting the right vibe, and setting a stage. Trailers have around 4 seconds for the viewer to look and you don't want to crowd it with a lot of words or images.

A consideration in the background is also leaving room for readable text. So by the time I actually have one I like, I will have spent a fair amount of time and some money for any purchased images. 

One other thing about making your own covers and trailers-- every image I have bought hasn't been used; which means it's not as saving of money as one might think. Some might show up in a future book, some never be seen; but since for me doing covers is fun, I consider this my chance to do art and play. I also find sometimes seeing a particular face can be inspiring and give me an idea for a future book

Last step in creating a cover comes when I have the image put together and exactly as I want it-- fonts. That's where I turn it over to my husband and publisher. He has a good feel for fonts. I approve them to be the size and color I want, to not cover up anything critical-- like a hot male chest-- but mostly I like what he has learned to do. Then they're off and hope that they will be liked by potential readers.

4 comments:

Charlene Raddon said...

Nice job, Rain. Some readers might be confused by the fact that my covers are being sold under the pen name Jennetta Dodge, which isn't mentioned. I think you've done a beautiful job on your own covers, too, very professional.

Rain Trueax said...

Thanks for mentioning that. I added it to the blog to clarify it for them.

Alison E. Bruce said...

Very interesting insight into the process, Rain. Love your covers, Charlene. You both do great work.

Rain Trueax said...

Thanks for stopping by, Alison :)