How To Create Great Cover Art

‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is the saying, but let’s be honest, it is what we all do. At least if I’m honest, it is a big part of the decision to pick up a book or not, especially a tree book (physical book) but even an e-book could be dismissed if the cover looks like something a six year old would have come up with. Not bad if it’s a book aimed for that age group, but it’s not something you want if you are looking for the mature reader.

 

Cover Cranford Bad      Cover Cranford

Take the two covers above. To the right is the one by Penguin Classics and shows basically what the book is about with the right feel to it. Left is … Well, let’s say it’s a bit of a crowded picture and I don’t see what it has to do with the story behind the cover.

There’s a lot of things that can make or break your work but the very first thing, after you’ve written that masterpiece, you need to create a great cover for your book, and for that you must have a great picture. One that covers what the book is about and not just one you like.

There are many places to find good photos to use as cover art for your book. I always like to browse Flickr to find pictures to match the stories I write or create a cover for, and if you do an advanced search for pictures with a Creative commons license, chances are you can use the image for free. However, even if it’s under creative commons, you still have to make sure it’s available for commercial use and if you are allowed to alter it. Also remember that it’s always nice, and good manners to let the owner of the picture know you are going to use his–or her–picture and to what purpose. Most of the times the photographer will be pleased to hear their work will be published and might even help you with promotion once you publish.

I promised the owner of that beautiful Red Ridinghood photo–which I am using as the basis for my cover–a copy of the book and of course being mentioned as the photographer. It has resulted in a great working relation with Lee Turnbull and two great covers.
cover Red Gone Bad         a-menu-of-death-final-full-KLM
If you have money to spend and want a picture by a renowned photographer rather than support an upcoming great artist, you can always look for commercial content, sometimes those aren’t that expensive either. On sites like Istockphoto you can find pictures, not even that expensive. I’ve seen very nice ones for only $13 and high resolution, which you need if you want to be able to use it for a print too.There are many more sites with loads and loads of content to chose from, but these are the ones I prefer to browse.And then there’s ImageShack not a site to find pictures to use as cover, but certainly useful to upload your own pictures for safe keeping and sharing with others. They allow you to embed, or link to pictures on their site.
Now that you’ve found the perfect picture and the photographer has agreed for you to use and alter the photo for that cover the real work begins. Creating a cover is not as easy as you might think it is. Which font is the right one to use for the by line, the title, where to place those, do you need to add or remove anything from the picture?
The cover for Red Gone Bad for example started with the below picture. Great work of art, but too busy to use as a cover and however beautiful that lens flare is, it has no place on a book cover. So get rid of the ‘tossed salad’, the flare and to be able to place the title and by line in the right place the image was flipped.
Original RGB
The artist, Lee Turnbull, was very happy with the end result and up till this day we have a great contact, even developed a kind of friendship, and a working relation that serves us both, because I will depend on his great eye to shoot the cover for The Power Of Three too.
So, with the right picture you’re not there yet. You need to either learn how to use Photoshop, of Gimp which I prefer for the simple reason it is free software, easy to use and does everything Photoshop does too. There’s an abundance of tutorials on Gimp all over the interwebz, but I quite liked the Gimptalk forum.
How do you get your covers? Create them yourself? Buy them and get disappointed every now and then, or do you have friends helping you, like I have when I’m stuck and can’t see where to take the cover I’m working on.

How To Write Like a Goblin

Another Monday, another post from the elusive Goblin.

***

the goblin’s inability to post recently, reflected something inside, which was as if saying to him “too much on ones plate” and yet, it was probably more important is this moment then, that the goblin posts on, “…simply, you see, the plate becomes so big that one eventually sees nothing else but it…” repeated the goblin, still aware that it was nearing christmas, that the american post election was being played out on some wobbly stage, and that the world was still warming too, and yet, all the goblin could actually see now was a massive plate of his own personal problems, “…oh no, just to think is not enough here, where “I post is to win”…” said the goblin, somewhat unconvincingly to himself, but, whether the goblin in fact posted or not, or whether the goblin looked only at his own personal problems then, the slot would only catch up with him at some later point with a tally of the duration of the time passed against the number of posts he had done, “…ah, this muse’s pact is too severe and slot always hungers…” mentioned the goblin trying to think beyond his little plate of concerns then

***

How full is your plate and how do you deal with it?

Guest Blogger – Amber Lea Easton on How To Write A memoir

Embracing the Unexpected

Amber Lea Easton

AmberinSantaMonica

 When I set out to write Free Fall, I had only one intention: to let anyone else experiencing the same circumstances know that they weren’t alone. You see, when my husband committed suicide, I had just turned thirty-seven and had two young children. Every book on widowhood that I discovered only focused on the elderly and none touched on surviving suicide. There I was—suddenly a single parent who had put my career aside to be a stay-at-home mom who worked for “fun money” and who inexplicably wore a scarlet S for suicide on my forehead—and I needed to navigate this new normal without any guidance.

Despite having a good intention for writing it, I hesitated. People close to me asked an important question, “Why dredge all of that up again?

Good question.

It took me eight years to be strong enough to open the journals written during that timeframe. Tearstained pages filled with raw anger, confusion, and sorrow slammed the past into my face. But the more I read, the more I knew I needed to write Free Fall for other reasons. I also needed to face that horror again so I could finally let it go.

I didn’t expect to feel that. I’d thought that I’d come so far in my journey, accomplished so much, and had truly moved beyond it. In most ways I had…but those journals reminded me how lost I’d been, how much I’d stuffed inside for the sake of the children and social expectations, and I couldn’t ignore the pain I felt.

But the pain was different than what it had been during the time. I read my words as a compassionate observer to the woman I’d been then. I felt the fear again, but now I experienced it from a place of peace. I traced every tearstain with my fingertips and felt my heart ache in sympathy for the scared and sad woman I’d been.

That’s when I knew I had to go through with writing it. Compassion filled my heart, not just for myself, but also for my husband who lost his battle with his demons. Suicide carries such a stigma—compassion is a word that’s often lost in discussion, not just for the person who died, but also for those closest to that person. Even today, I receive questions about how much I loved him and if I’d ever let him know. Blame. Not compassion. The idea of shedding light on a dark subject pushed me toward the keyboard.

Now my compassion extends to readers who have unexpectedly reached out since Free Fall’s publication with stories of their own about loved ones lost. The fact that they feel so free to share with me after reading my memoir expands my heart in ways I’d never anticipated.

Writing a memoir is bittersweet. I’m sure it’s that way for most people who dare relive the past without blinders on about their behavior. The trauma of surviving the suicide of a loved one is something I would never wish upon anyone and hope to never experience again, but it has strengthened and deepened me in ways I never expected.

Thank you Amber for sharing this with us. What do you as a reader think when you reflect on your life, could you go through the most painful episodes again? Relive them and turn them into a book worth reading?

Amber did with FREE FALL

FreeFallFinalCover

How’s Your Gas Mileage? How To Be a Hybrid Author by Melissa Bowersock

It used to be that there was one path an author could follow to publication: find an agent, pitch your manuscript to a traditional publishing house, sign a contract, and get published. Pretty straight-forward, much like buying a car. You narrowed down your choices by style of car, color and options, you bought the thing, and drove it off the lot.

Easy, huh?

Not anymore. Now we’ve got a zillion options for powering a car: regular gas, diesel, electric, hybrid, flex fuel. Having these options is a two-edged sword: we have lots to choose from, but the decision-making process gets a bit tougher because we need to research all the options to know which one is the best fit.

Publishing is much the same. That one avenue to publication has turned into a superhighway complete with onramps, off-ramps, overpasses, bypasses and cloverleafs. It’s sometimes hard to know which is the right way to go.

I got into the game back in the 1980s when that one clear path was the only way to go. Through an agent, I sold my first two books to a NY house and was *ta da* traditionally published. All well and good, although the experience was not quite the joyful satisfaction I had dreamed about. The publisher changed the titles of both books, chose the cover designs, and the only editing process consisted of asking me to either add or delete x number of pages in order to make the page count. But, true to their word, the books were published, they appeared in book stores, grocery stores and drug stores and I made a little money.

making money

Enter the 90s, and the rules started to change. The traditional big houses got more and more gunshy; they were less inclined to gamble on a new, or little-known name. The good news was that the entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well, and small presses were springing up like weeds to take up the slack. Or rather, they were making tracks in the weeds, carving out their own dirt roads to the promised land. Suddenly there were a few more options for authors, although some of those dirt roads were bumpy and some took longer and more convoluted paths to get where the author wanted to go.

where

Breaking into new genres my original publisher had no interest in, I hooked up with a few of those small presses. One contracted with me to do only an e-book of my satire of romance novels. Another picked up a contemporary romance and did both a paperback and a Kindle version.

Then I learned about CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing company, in the mid-2000s and decided to give it a go. The first time through the process had a steep learning curve. Formatting the book to the finished size with chapter headings, page numbers, and headers, creating the cover, uploading the files and then proofing the final product were all huge steps, and I did quite a dance around my mistakes before I broke through to the finish line. But in the end, I did it—I self-published my first book. And it looked good.

happy

Next challenge was converting the book for Kindle. Again, there was a learning curve, but after the formatting experience I’d already been through, it wasn’t that difficult. Now I was an e-book publisher, as well. Reading through several of the writers’ forums online, I heard about Smashwords, an independent e-book publisher that would provide digital formats for all the other e-readers out there beside Kindle. More learning curves, but I followed their extensive guidelines, plowed through it and converted most of my books for all readers. I had all the options covered.

And that’s the best part about being a hybrid author. When you buy a car, you’re pretty much stuck with that engine system, be it gas, diesel, electric or some combination thereof. But as authors, we have a plethora of choices to choose from—one, two, or all of the above. We can keep going the traditional route or we can branch off into any of multiple directions dependent on how much time, effort and money we are comfortable putting into it. If we have multiple books, we can publish each in a separate manner. If we have only one book, we can still divide the print and digital versions into separate processes. The opportunities and the combinations are unlimited, and many authors are mixing and matching as their wants and needs dictate.

What’s the best way for you to go? Do your homework, research the options and choose the path that fits. Don’t limit yourself to old school thinking; find the option that gets the best mileage for your work, and kick that engine into overdrive!

Guest Blogger – Carol E. Wyer on Laughing

Humour and laughter has always played a large role in my life. I hid behind the mask of class clown in an effort to be accepted by others. It allowed me to mix with people even though inside I was a quaking jelly. A joke, pulling a funny face or being able to imitate people’s accents somehow helps you integrate better. I have since always tried to make people laugh whether that be at work or at social events. Laughter saw me through some very bleak times in my life, particularly when spinal injury disrupted my life. Humour carried me through several major operations, paralysis, months of bed-ridden discomfort and anxiety.

 Look at her now!

funny dance big hair

Nowadays, I write humorous articles and books. The more I write about life and its shortcomings, the funnier I seem to find things, especially the ridiculous things in life that can drag us down. Discovering you have lost all the hairs in your left eyebrow, but are now sprouting a fine moustache, can knock your confidence. Better to just shrug your shoulders, write a funny post about it then distract yourself with some silly jokes on Twitter or Simon’s Cat on YouTube.

simonsCat

Laughter is good for your health

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

So, laughter makes you feel good. And the good feeling that you get when you laugh remains with you, even after the laughter subsides. Humour helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.

More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh–or even simply a smile–can go a long way toward making you feel better. And laughter really is contagious—just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in the fun.

More important than all of the above, laughter connects us with others. Some years ago my husband and I were invited to attend a laughter course. We snorted with derision at the whole concept but went along because it was run by a neighbour who we didn’t wish to offend.

We all lay down on the floor forming a circle, hands on bellies. We had to feign laughter. Our neighbour began. He had a wholesome, Santa Claus type of laugh that made us snicker slightly. Others joined in with high pitched laughs, contagious giggles, happy sounding chuckles and sniggers. When you emitted a laugh you felt it transmit to your stomach which made you laugh even more. That, along with the sound of laughter filling the room, soon meant that we were all guffawing genuinely, to the point of hysteria. We felt so much better after the session, as we wiped away tears and hugged everyone goodbye.

laughing minions

Question: How many policemen does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: None. It turned itself in!

I read a few months ago that laughing with others is more powerful than laughing alone so try and create an opportunity to laugh with friends or family.

  • Watch a funny movie or TV show.

  • Go to a comedy club.

  • Read the funny pages in a newpaper or online.

  • Share a good joke or funny story

  • Play with a pet.

  • Check out the humour section in your local bookstore.

  • Read the funny birthday cards in the card shop.

  • Do something silly!

Question: How many line dancers does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: 5…6…7…8!

Even if you don’t feel like chortling merrily, the body can be fooled by even a fake laugh and will feel benefits mentioned above.

Question: How many mystery writers does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: Two, one to screw it almost all the way in and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

A recent study revealed that an average healthy child will laugh approximately four hundred times a day, whereas a normal healthy adult will laugh a mere fifteen times a day on average. I believe wholeheartedly in getting my daily dose of laughter. My mission each day is to attempt to make as many people smile or laugh as I can, and I always start each day trying to make my husband laugh. That is no mean feat in itself. It usually takes six jokes before he cracks, or tells me to shut up.

Question: What is white, fluffy and swings through the trees?

Answer: A meringue-utang.

If you feel a little low and you are struggling with life, take a dose of humour medicine. Put on some seventies or eighties music, have a little dance round the kitchen and then either watch a funny DVD or read a light-hearted book. You’ll soon find you feel better, have a smile on your face and will be singing along to ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Remember that life is too short. Smile while you still have teeth!

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Carol E Wyer is an award-winning, best-selling author and blogger. Her novels, books and articles encourage others to age disgracefully.