Monday, January 03, 2011

What's in a Cover?

What I'm reading: The True Love Quilting Club, by Lori Wilde

Today, I thought I'd share the evolution of my new cover for What's in a Name? which is now available at Smashwords. As an introductory offer, you can get it for 99 cents by using coupon code XC48J. It's also available at the Kindle Store, also for 99 cents, but only for a limited time. I hope you'll give it a try.

We all know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but cover art can play an important role in getting a potential reader to check out the words inside.
Normally, publishers provide covers. They'll ask for some preliminary input—with mine, there's a cover request form to fill out, but the art department makes the covers, not the author. They don't read the books (no time, obviously), so they have to translate what you give them to an image they think will sell. And that's the bottom line. What will sell the book? Often, it's not what the author 'sees' when she envisions the book on a shelf.

Fast forward to the rights for a book reverting to the author. Those rights include the words between the covers, NOT the cover. For When Danger Calls, I did acquire the cover image rights, so that was easy. However, for What's in a Name?, I had to start from scratch.



Decisions: Totally new, or stick to feeling of the original? I opted for the latter, simply because I figured the original art department knew what it was doing. Since What's in a Name? stands alone, I opted for something about the book itself rather than a 'look' for a series. Below is the original cover.

Images? Doing my own photo shoot was out of the question. So I spent hours looking at websites that offer royalty free (not free, mind you, but you get permission to use it as you see fit) images that might work. For my other self-published covers, I found reasonable images that worked well enough and only had to deal with adding my name and the title. But for this one, it would mean taking several images and combining them, a skill I don't possess. But I know someone who does! And, he'd just finished wrapping up his own new book release, so he was willing to give it a shot. I'm sure some of you know Jason from his Friday Field Trip posts here.


First issue: The composition wouldn't work with both images facing that way. Luckily, Photoshop lets you flip an image, the same way I used to flip negatives when printing from film. So we can "fix" the hero.


Jason came back with a quick rough draft, simply combining the images, based on what the original looked like.



Then we discussed the 'eye-grabber'. If you're a brand, it's your name. It can be an image on the cover that sets the mood. In this case, since it's a romance, I went with the eye candy. Focus on that shirtless man!



Other considerations? As we worked through possible layouts, I'd also researched a site that drove home the difference between a book cover a reader will see on a display in a bookstore, and a cover they'll see browsing a digital store. One major consideration is size. Your first glimpse of a cover is likely to be a thumbnail, not a full-size image. So it has to be simple enough to be eye-catching in that tiny format. We went back and forth numerous times on font placement, how big the background images should be (limited because I only gave him the 2 images, so he couldn't manipulate bits and pieces.) and how much of the cover should be text and how much image.



And then: Fonts, Colors, Layout. I thought the "in a" could be smaller, since it's almost intuitive for the reader. I also liked the bluer font. One other thing Jason did was shift the title because covers at the Kindle Store usually contain that little image of the Kindle in the lower right—so he allowed for that. What do you think?

So, here's the final cover. And if you click on the image below, you'll see it in 'real book' size.




Tomorrow, my first guest of 2011 is author Jeffrey Carver talking about where ideas come from.

22 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I love it! Y'all did a fantastic job coming up with it. I might like it better than the original. :)

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - thanks. I did have a lot more input into this one, for better or worse.

Carol Kilgore said...

What a great cover! Good job. I DO like it better than the original cover. Much better.

Grace Elliot said...

Huge improvement on the original cover - this one is eye catching to say the least, as a reader I'd be much more drawn to it. Just shows how much the 'professionals' know!

Terry Odell said...

Carol, Grace - thanks so much. I'm sure Jason will be pleased to know his efforts are appreciated (by others than myself!)

Lyla Sinclair www.lylasinclair.com said...

You two did an awesome job! It's so much more engaging than the old cover.

Maryann Miller said...

It was great to see how the cover evolved from first concept to finished. There is so much more to making a good cover than snatching and image and putting some words on it.

Debra Glass said...

That's gorgeous!! And Lyla's right. It's nicer than the original. I did my own cover for Lover by Chance - http://www.amazon.com/Lover-by-Chance-ebook/dp/B003XIJ5X4/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2

Kris Tualla said...

Jimmy Thomas! YUM! :)

Lisa Bouchard said...

Good info and it seems fairly straightforward if you can work with a photo editing program.

Terry Odell said...

Lyla - thanks, from both of us.

Maryann -- so true, and I'm the bane of a developer's existence because I don't have a clear concept of what I want, but I know what works for me. Means more work for the artist.

Debra - you're braver than I am.

Lisa - thankfully, my son is a whiz at editing photos (he's written 3 books on the subject)

Terry Odell said...

Kris - yeah, he's easy on the eyes. The previous cover featured Jason Santiago, who (I found out later) was "Mr. Romance" at the time.

Phoebe Conn said...

Thanks for the progression of images so we can see how the art grew from a concept into a stunning cover.

Hart Johnson said...

Ack! So much to think about! I have a friend who has done my pre-published covers that sort of keep me inspired through editing and such, and I know he thinks about a lot of this but MAN, I don't think I have it in my to track that many details at once. Looks good though!

Tammy Carter said...

I was thinking of getting PhotoShop. Did you use PhotoShop to create the cover or some other program. The cover turned out great.

Terry Odell said...

Phoebe - my pleasure. I enjoyed sharing, and I'm sure there were many, many numerous steps in between that Jason never showed me.

Hart - a good graphic artist is priceless

Tammy - my son did the cover, and I believe he used Photoshop for most of the manipulation.

Sheila Deeth said...

Cool! That was neat. Thanks for showing how it all worked out.

Molly MacRae said...

Wow - great job! The new cover is much more eye-catching than the original. It should immediately grab the romance crowd. Great job explaining and illustrating the process, too. Very interesting and useful. Thanks!

Terry Odell said...

Sheila - always glad to share

Molly - thanks. Let's hope so.

Adelle Laudan said...

Great job. I love being a part of creating a cover. I've been blessed with great artists so far. There's nothing worse than waiting for a cover and it does not match your vision for your book.

Terry Odell said...

Adelle - truth be told, the original publisher cover didn't appear until 3 days prior to release, so I had virtually no say. All I could get was for them to remove the earring from the cover model to better match my hero. But that's part of the game. With my Five Star book, When Danger Calls, it was pretty much, "Unless your name or the book title is wrong, this is your final cover." They'd hired someone to do an actual painting, so there wasn't much the could have done to change it. But I liked it, so that was good.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

That's a great cover, Terry - your son may have found himself a new sideline :)