Designing Your Own Bookcover: Not As Easy As You Might Think -- Part I

As some of you may or may not know, besides being an author I'm also an artist.  I work mainly with soft pastels and charcoal, and have designed and painted the covers for three of our books. Now I  do not consider myself a 'professional' cover designer, but I've also seen artwork on books that many times had very little to do with what goes on in the story. And as one of the two authors who knows the story inside and out, and as an artist who had taken awards in various art shows over the years, I felt I was qualified enough to give it a shot. Especially when I had a specific image in mind that would incorporate the title of the book into the artwork itself. "It should be a piece of cake," I told myself.

I suspect a number of you already have an idea of what came next. Our old friend the "Learning Curve" decided to make his presence known.

First there were the experimental designs


I knew right from the start that I liked the title being part of the bridge's stonework, but the upper half was not quite right. After getting feedback from friends and prospective readers I refined the design into a scene that was straight from the story itself.


This early version with some of the coloring added was well-received by viewers and I continued to flesh out the design.


At this point I found myself at a loss as to what to put in for the background in the distance. Again I drew upon the story itself and added a storm and some shadowy trees which surround the bridge on all sides.


This image was very popular among those polled and of course became the cover for the book. But not before Mr. Learning Curve made his presence known once more. After all my efforts of finding the right image and getting it committed to paper, I still needed to get it photographed and submitted to not one but three different self-publishing routes (Createspace, Smashwords, and Kindle).

To make matters worse, I did not have the money to hire a professional photographer who would already know how to light the image, keep the colors true and rich, and finally format it for submission. Instead I had to do all the photographing, cropping, and then get an image program called GIMP which allowed me to do some serious touching up of the image. It also allowed me to resize and rework the pixels of the piece so that the final image to meet the requirements of  Createspace, Smashwords, and Kindle.

But even then there was a few more things to do. For one thing I had to put my name and whatnot on the image, which I did through GIMP.


Then I tried uploading things and... got rejected. The lettering of the words "The Bridge" was too close to the edge and could wind up being cut off. What to do? Simple, I went back to GIMP and added a black border all around the image. I made sure it was wide enough to protect the image.


This met not only the requirements of the publishing programs, but also helped the image to really pop out at the reader.  In fact I was told by more than one person that the unique artwork and style were big reasons why they picked the book up in the first place. They also told me, they had not been disappointed with the story.

So with all this experience the next book should have been easy, right? Actually it was.  Once more I started with a rough idea, making sure to incorporate the title into the image...


Developed it some more...


Started fine-tuning it...


Too busy in the middle area, so I revised it some more...



Then finalized, with matching computer lettering...


Of course once again, the lettering was too close to the edges so a border was required.


Again, I used GIMP for get the pixels to the right level as well as enhancing colors.

So by now I was an old pro at this right? WRONG! Up until now I'd been able to incorporate the title into the cover image. But now I  began work on a new book "The Vampyre Blogs: Coming Home", and there was no way I was going to be able to fit all that into the image. Or could I?

TO BE CONTINUED...

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