Cover Workshop

General discussion on illustration, art, and the business of same.
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gower21
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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby gower21 » Tue Dec 20, 2011 3:00 pm

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:Interestingly, I added the drop shadow only because Scott and others had advised against plain, unadorned text. I do wonder how the drop shadows will look in a thumbnail. I suspect it won't matter, because blurb text is pretty much unreadable in a thumbnail anyway.


You're probably right.

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:See my reply to Stewart.


Yeah, I saw it right after I posted and went back and edited-- not fast enough though. I think the picture is awesome. She's very talented. The colors will go well together.

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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby soulmirror » Tue Dec 20, 2011 3:27 pm

1) Thanks for the awesome and very spot-on feedback, everyone! you've given me much to ponder. Some "get" that she's underwater, or not (I'll add surface ripples on both sides of her missing head, maybe that'll define the plane better?) Definitely she was meant to be "standing vertically" in the water ... but Tina your comment about putting a surface ripple on the MOON instantly flipped my perceptions, so now I see how some could see her as "laying horizontally" in the lake, with the moon and trees being surface reflections -- and then her head IS missing! The gold/sepia ... I keep flip-flopping on myself ... but definitely it damages the eye's understanding of an all-blue water or night shadows scene!

As we've discussed: sometimes what works for the MIND conceptually isn't what works for the EYE ... and which is more important to "liking" and "wanting to read" and "buying" ??? And should we NEED to parse an image out by thinking too much?

2) Martin -- I'm absolutely in CRUSH with your new cover idea!

To me the white banner/framing looks VERY pristine and sci-fi elegant! I very much like the blue drop shadows too. The sci-fi landscape may not have the immediate "concept" identification as the starscape/scool bell ... but it's a KILLER piece of art, and it'll integrate wonderfully with your white frame and titles etc!

As for it already being used, like you said, that's just a matter of audience overlap. How many would see BOTH uses, or stop to really care? It's COOL, and that's what they'll care about!
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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Tue Dec 20, 2011 3:35 pm

soulmirror wrote:To me the white banner/framing looks VERY pristine and sci-fi elegant! I very much like the blue drop shadows too.


Honestly, I think I may have just stumbled onto my "house style". Maybe vary the font/glow colors for some books or something. But it's a pretty easy style to work with, and it's very recognizable.
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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby MJNL » Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:41 pm

Oooh, Martin, I like it a lot. The blue and white are very crisp. And I don't think the artwork appearing in another story is that big of a problem, unless it personally bothers you. That's the thing about stock images that are licensed for free or commercial use by anyone: chances are someone else might pick the same image as you. So unless you commission work or get a contract directly from an artist, you'll run the risk of your cover image being used by someone else as well.

I do agree with Tina about the smaller, black text, though. Perhaps just scaling back a bit on the shadowing would help? None is flat, but less is more.
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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby soulmirror » Tue Dec 20, 2011 6:09 pm

Well, your feedback swayed me away from the gold / sepia emphasis (though I still like the added colour, it's not worth the loss of folks not being clear she's underwater, which hopefully added "ripples" make a little clearer? It still needs a little subtler blending between upper blue and lower black ...

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7001/6546657029_ecbb2ebfcd_z.jpg

But it's definitely worth the effort to finese things, so we all profit from tossing in ideas and observations!

The cover is the first key to opening the book .... and then you Writers have them on your hook!
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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby gower21 » Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:12 pm

Soulmirror: Love the added ripples! It does make the head look more like it is coming up out of the water and the body is under the water. It drew my eye there -- then I looked down her body to see the smaller fish and all those clued me into the fact the body on the right is underwater.

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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:29 am

The ripples help. I didn't recognize the small fish as a fish. Too early in the morning for my eyes, maybe.

If it wouldn't be too cheesy, maybe another very small fish near her head or waist would help.
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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby Strycher » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:54 am

Hmmm, well, I'm late to this party but:

Soulmirror - I really like your revision! I'm quite taken with the portrait on the upper left side of the illustration. (Is she single? Scratch that, I'm pretty sure she's either dead or deadly.) Your water ripple over the moon is spot on perfect. wotf009

Martin - As everyone else mentioned I like your cover design and that illustration is pretty kick-ass. (Also, if her story hasn't had too much exposure, I don't think reusing the image will matter.) However, I think that you should ditch the ellipses.

"A young teacher . . . A starship full of children . . . An interstellar disaster . . ." Sounds like there's a mystery. (Is this a sci-fi mystery?) Like the central point of the book is unraveling a secret or plot. Whereas (I think) "A young teacher. A starship full of children. An interstellar disaster." sounds more like you presenting an intriguing premise. "There is a young teacher. She has to deal with a shipful of kids during an interstellar disaster." Rather than "A young teacher? Maybe. And perhaps a starship full of kids. And an interstellar disaster . . . Or was it a disaster? Muhahahaha!"

But that's just my opinion, and I can tell you it's not even worth that grain of salt.

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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Dec 21, 2011 10:54 am

Thanks for the advice, all! Strycher, yours was sadly just a little late, even though I think you have a point. But the new version went live on Amazon last night:

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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Dec 21, 2011 1:47 pm

OK, I have a question I could use some help with here. I'm trying to understand the potential of Amazon.

Yesterday I published Ulterior Motive Lounge to Kindle; but I haven't announced it here or anywhere yet, because after I clicked Publish, I decided I wanted to add a subtitle and tweak the listing text just a bit. And when I tried to do that on my slow internet connection, things got knotted up at KDP. So I had to clean it up today, and it takes as much as 12 hours to publish the corrected listing.

Today, I sold a copy.

The closest I've come to promoting this work (other than the original publication in my blog three years ago) was asking for cover feedback here. If it wasn't one of you folks here -- Tina, maybe -- then it had to be someone just randomly finding it on Amazon... the very first day it was available... with no publicity of any sort...

That possibility stuns me. It reinforces everything people have said about the potential -- potential, mind you -- of epublishing.

If it was one of you, I'm grateful. If it wasn't one of you, I'm amazed.
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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby soulmirror » Wed Dec 21, 2011 1:54 pm

Martin, honestly ... I think that looks as professional and bigtime as anything I've seen (actually, it looks alot cooler than MANY if not MOST of the sci-fi books sitting around our house) !!! wotf007

Your cover would officially give any other book in the bookstore a run for its "cover oompf" money imo !!!
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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:01 pm

Thanks, Scott! Of course, Spinning Angel and MS Word get all the credit. I just assembled their pieces.
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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby Strycher » Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:43 pm

Ack, sorry.

Anyway it looks great! I love that illustration and I really love the cover color palette. wotf007

I'll be interested to see if someone here bought the copy in question. That is rather exciting!

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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby gower21 » Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:57 pm

Not me! I think you're getting some serious sales mojo going on. And the new Mother Anthony cover: WOW! It looks spectacular all together, the colors go great. What a huge difference professional art makes.

Edited to add: I went to go check out the UML book for my husband and saw we get to read for free (Amazon Prime)...Muahhhaaa!! HAPPY DAY! I like free!! And I hope I understand correctly that the author still gets a cut (does anyone know how that works)? And Martin, The Mother Anthony looks awesome with the new cover sitting up on Kindle. I was going to write a review of it (when ever I got to read it) and my one beef was the old cover...now you've taken away probably the only thing I could have said negative about it.

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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Dec 21, 2011 3:19 pm

gower21 wrote:Not me! I think you're getting some serious sales mojo going on.


Yowza! OK, I guess it's my day to make a long shot.

And the new Mother Anthony cover: WOW! It looks spectacular all together, the colors go great. What a huge difference professional art makes.


Yep! I'm happy to recommend Spinning Angel to anyone.

Edited to add: I went to go check out the UML book for my husband and saw we get to read for free (Amazon Prime)...Muahhhaaa!! HAPPY DAY! I like free!! And I hope I understand correctly that the author still gets a cut (does anyone know how that works)?


As I understand it... You get to borrow one book for free per month, and get to keep it borrowed as long as you want. As a member of Amazon Select, I get a proportional royalty of their monthly Select fund. It's $500K total for December. It gets split strictly based on number of borrows, without regard to size or price. If 100,000 books are borrowed total (or any combination adding up to 100K), then one borrow equals $5. If it's a million books, then a borrow is 50 cents. (Rumor is they expect to sell 5 million Kindle Fires alone by year end, so I'm betting the borrows are closer to a million than 100K.)

I also get to pick 5 days in my 90 days and make the book free during those days. I think I'm going to time that to coincide with one of the major software development conferences and hope to generate buzz that way.

And Martin, The Mother Anthony looks awesome with the new cover sitting up on Kindle. I was going to write a review of it (when ever I got to read it) and my one beef was the old cover...now you've taken away probably the only thing I could have said negative about it.


Thanks! Reviews are always appreciated!
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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby gower21 » Wed Dec 21, 2011 3:57 pm

All good information. I've been wondering how it all works.

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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby AeW » Tue Dec 27, 2011 2:27 pm

I just wanted to say that I really like the idea of a cover art workshop, especially for some of us do-it-yourself people who can definitely use all the help we can get with cover design!

I look foward to participating in the next round of feedback, and possibly with one of my own covers in the (hopefully) near future!

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Re: Cover Work Shop

Postby soulmirror » Thu Dec 29, 2011 3:34 pm

AeW wrote:I just wanted to say that I really like the idea of a cover art workshop, especially for some of us do-it-yourself people who can definitely use all the help we can get with cover design!


Indeed! It's a great feedback opportunity and tool for the artists who create our own covers ... but even writers need cover art (hey, I've seen covers that were nothing but the TITLE, and they've STILL managed to make a visually sale-killing layout!)

... and hearing and seeing visual issues discussed and tried out here can help authors know some issues to discuss with the artists working to make their covers!

I suppose there are writers who are happy to just hand their covers over 100% to someone else? But ... well ... I'd rather have something I liked on my book cover, rather than something i didn't (even if a pro artist was all "trust me, I'm a pro" wotf008 Even pros (prose or illustration) have differing tastes.

Get something you like by first KNOWING what you like. (Or get stuck "faking it" I guess ?)
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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:36 pm

OK, I've got a cover plan for my next story, and I'd appreciate feedback. It's based on the "house style" from my last cover:

Image

I'll have to work out the image later. Right now I'm mostly interested in layout.

Because the name is quite a bit longer, I ended up with it on three lines instead of two. I tried reducing the font size to fit on two, and it became cluttered, especially in a thumbnail. So I went with three, reducing the space available for the image.

Even on three lines, I had to conserve space. For one thing, I reduced the kerning quite a bit. Then I had problems with the articles and the pronoun: if I put them at the start of the line or at the end, they looked like they were dangling, and they pushed the major words to one side or the other in a very asymmetrical fashion. Finally I struck on the idea of running them vertically and flush up against the major words. It all fits, but does it work? Or does it confuse the reader? Also, the letters are centered vertically -- I know they are, I pulled quite a few tricks to make them perfectly centered -- and yet the h's look off center to me. Is it just me, or do you see the same?

And once I've got a layout, then I need to decide on an image. I can't imagine what sort of image makes sense. I need something that says "tavern" and "Luna" and "sewage treatment" and "tall tale" -- and yet something that doesn't spoil the climactic action scene. I'm open to suggestions; and if any of you artists have ideas, I'd like to discuss some terms. It could be just two of the terms, maybe "tavern" and "Luna" for example. Pat Steiner's icon is kinda what I see in my head...

Image

...if the desk were a bar and there were a beer bottle in the guy's hand. So Pat is on my short list of artists for this one!
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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby kyle » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:00 pm

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:OK, I've got a cover plan for my next story, and I'd appreciate feedback.

I actively dislike the use of "It's about" in your cover copy, because it sound very amateurish. I like the punch of the "and beer" but I don't think it makes up for the bad taste in my mouth. Even just "An ecological disaster... and beer!" might be better, though I suspect you can wordsmith it even better than that.

By having your name at the top, in the same font, and in the same color as the title, I think you weaken your title, which is what needs to pop the most. Blues recede, so I'd recommend using a color that advances for the title (such as a red or a gold) and/or giving the title a drop shadow.

Speaking of which, I'd tone down the drop shadow on the marketing copy. It's going to compress poorly at smaller sizes.

Solid-color backgrounds are risky. As a general rule, every graphic design should have three layers of information, and your background is one of them. The use of solid can be very powerful because it's playing with the horror vacuae and can be very eye-catching as a result, but more often it comes across as half-finished. While keeping the background off-white, try laying in a texture that is meaningful to the story (even one of the photoshop stone textures might be nice). Once you have your illustration, you can also pull a color from it, and use a desaturated version of it as the basic background color.

Hope that helps.

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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby MJNL » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:32 pm

For me, the alternating sizes of "the" and "we" is a bit distracting, and I feel like slightly larger margins would give the title more room to breathe. Right now it looks squished in there.

And I'm with Kyle on the drop-shadow. And the "It's about." Perhap something like "Amidst an ecological disaster: beer." Donno. I do like the idea of the line. It sets the tone well.

But I personally like the blue and white--it feels very crisp.
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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby gower21 » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:05 pm

If you go with Kyle suggestion here is a great picture for a really faint background (to use instead of white):
http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-f ... ge18971021

Make it faint, really really really faint (so faint that people won't even notice it) --

As far as the words I agree I like something more like: An ecological disaster...and beer. Also I think you should ditch the ellipses at the end of "and beer" because a period will give more of an illusion of a punchline than an ellipses will. Using syntax to express the humor you'll want to illustrate. Drop the drop shadow (especially if you go with a background. but if you don't go with a background maybe tone down the drop shadow a lot...my personal opinion is that with the stylized letters you have in your name and title you don't need the tagline to pop as much anymore and it being black it won't fade in either).

I like the blue and white too, but also like Kyle's suggestion. I'll be the tweener vote. Somebody better get on and break the tie!

As far as pictures go. What about an old beat up looking tavern on the surface of the moon? I know it won't have the sewage treatment in there, but if you went with the faint pipes in the background you might pull that theme in that way?

Ditto on some of Marina and Kyle's comments they both have a good eye for this stuff.

ETA: I ran a quick search of taverns on the image places, but none had female bar tenders (boo!) I did find this cool picture of a beer (looks like it is at zero gravity! http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free- ... age8124755

So yeah, I got nothing. You should get Pat to draw you something up before he wins IOTF and gets busy being famous!

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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby s_c_baker » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:52 am

I agree about everybody's agreement about "it's about." That is very blegh.

I don't particularly mind the solid colour bg, but a heavily-faded bg image could be cool, too.

I will also third (fourth?) dropping the drop-shadows. If nothing else, make them more transparent--right now, they make the letters a bit hard to read even at the full resolution.

MJNL wrote:For me, the alternating sizes of "the" and "we" is a bit distracting, and I feel like slightly larger margins would give the title more room to breathe. Right now it looks squished in there.

Agree with Marina on both these points (especially margins).

I think I also agree with Kyle about the identical colour/font/style for the title. Everything looks kind of "samey," especially with such a big title. (I didn't have this problem with TMA.) However, I'm not so sure I agree about the solution being changed colours. How about a different font/styling? The clean, crisp blue-white fade doesn't look so great on such a barhopping-sounding tale, anyway. How about something boozier, without being obnoxiously styled?

As for an image... How about a toilet? Heck, Marcel Duchamp's famous piece oughta be out of copyright by now.
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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby MJNL » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:30 am

That makes me wonder what the title and your name would look like in sepia tones. That might give it a bit of an old-timey, wild-west feel. And then contrast that with a cover picture that's clearly in space, and the cheeky tag line... You could end up with quite the tone-setting cover (presuming I'm making proper assumptions about the tone you'd like to set).
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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:37 am

MJNL wrote:That makes me wonder what the title and your name would look like in sepia tones. That might give it a bit of an old-timey, wild-west feel. And then contrast that with a cover picture that's clearly in space, and the cheeky tag line... You could end up with quite the tone-setting cover (presuming I'm making proper assumptions about the tone you'd like to set).


The tone I'm after -- the best description I've been able to come up with for this story -- is "tall tale". The climax of the story is preposterous -- and humorous, I hope -- but just on the hairy edge of plausible.
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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby kyle » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:48 am

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:The tone I'm after -- the best description I've been able to come up with for this story -- is "tall tale". The climax of the story is preposterous -- and humorous, I hope -- but just on the hairy edge of plausible.

In that case, browns and rusty golds are your friend, which ties in nicely with "beer"...

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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby soulmirror » Tue Jan 03, 2012 6:19 pm

As much as I like your white/blue/drop-shadow look, Martin (and I like that one alot!) i'll agree that the gold/sepia/brown unclean vibe would be fun to play with too. (That's one issue with having too much of a standardized look, no matter how nice it is: it sort of locks you in. The books in a SERIES can share a common vibe better than stories, etc)

Luv the Duchamp urinal! wotf008 It beat me to the punch, before I scrowled down I was thinking a beautiful full moon ... reflected in the unpleasant waters at the bottom of a toilet bowl ... but um, that might not SELL BOOKS!

The icy pipes are nice too. I'm blank, really, myself. I don't have a problem with the Title spacing or design, but I'll agree the "pristine clean" blue&white may not work as well here as before (where, again, I thought it was stunning! And i laughed out loud at myself typing that: 'stunning' is a word you throw around alot at the models/photographers forums -- it suddenly sounded funny writing it HERE. wotf008

If I start calling everything here "exotic and sensual, creatures of dark mystery and magic" ... you'll know i've confused my forums!!! wotf015

(Though not as much as it may at first seem, I guess, if we think Fantasy rather than sci-fi ? If we apply it to tales of were-creatures and faerie ... rather than slightly crazy doe-eyed model-wanna-be's who cannot read a clock to show up on time for a shoot!)
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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Tue Jan 03, 2012 6:40 pm

soulmirror wrote:As much as I like your white/blue/drop-shadow look, Martin (and I like that one alot!) i'll agree that the gold/sepia/brown unclean vibe would be fun to play with too. (That's one issue with having too much of a standardized look, no matter how nice it is: it sort of locks you in. The books in a SERIES can share a common vibe better than stories, etc)


Scott, Scott, Scott... You were my last hope. Indeed, you were one of the reasons I went with the design as I did, given how much you praised the last one. (The other reason was Dean's advice to have a "house style".)

I almost wonder if my background should be... beer.

But I'll be putting this project on hold for a while. The day job is heating up, and I want to save my off hours for more writing.

Thanks, all!
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Jess
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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby Jess » Tue Jan 03, 2012 6:56 pm

I'm not a big fan of the vertical "we" and "the," myself, and I agree with everyone else on the "it's about" part.

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:I almost wonder if my background should be... beer.

I was going to suggest that myself--a "book half full" sort of look--but you replied while I was skimming the other topics. Also, it might be enough of a "house style" if you just stick with a standard font and cover art size/placement.
Oh dear. I need a signature.
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soulmirror
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Re: Cover Workshop

Postby soulmirror » Tue Jan 03, 2012 7:27 pm

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:Scott, Scott, Scott... You were my last hope.


Sorry. But at least I did prophesy it in a pixture, years ago:

Image

wotf004

So I guess it's fitting that my only contribution this time, was:

I was thinking a beautiful full moon ... reflected in the unpleasant waters at the bottom of a toilet bowl ...
Image
'The only tyrant we accept in this world is the still voice within.' -Gandhi
IOTF:Winner Q1 vol.27 (3x Finalist); WOTF: HM x2


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