February 27, 2014

evolution of a book cover

Since I’m both cheap and somewhat skilled in graphic design, it comes as no surprise that I design my own book covers. I wish I made enough money from book royalties to justify paying a professional cover artist to design my covers, but I don’t. Instead, I fiddle around for several hours in Photoshop Elements until I have something I would be proud to display on a bookshelf. I’m lucky that I have the skills to do this (hooray for taking art classes throughout high school and college!) because as we all know, most writers don’t. They don’t really have a choice but to hire someone to do their cover art or purchase premade covers (which may be an option for me in the future too, if I don’t think I have the skills to pull off a certain cover). Anyway, lucky me for being so darn talented at things and stuff.

So, since I’m not paying anyone to do my cover for me, I have to spend several hours doing it myself. This post illustrates just how I go about that.

First step for a cover is usually font choice for me.

I could easily spend a few hours just selecting the proper font for my title and name. No joke. Most of the time, I’ve decided on the font well before starting the cover, usually while writing the first draft of the book. I do need a pretty header for my document after all. In the case of The Wizard’s Heart, I settled on Portmanteau, a slightly distressed serif font.

Okay, so font chosen.

Next, I needed a cover image.

Cue more hours spent browsing DeviantArt, my favored place to find stock textures. Luckily for me, user Sirius-sdz releases his textures to the public for any use, no rules. After searching for a long time, I found this texture, which seemed to fit with the Persian-esque vibe I was going for.

Then it was just a matter of figuring out colors and text placement.

First version of the cover for The Wizard’s Heart, designed January 13, 2013:

Not bad for a first go.

I let the cover mellow for a while, and over time, I realized that something was missing. I needed a focal point. So I played with the cover some more and created an orb in the middle. Basically, I just created a circle with a bunch of lines squiggled in, and then used the swirl filter in Photoshop Elements to swirl it all together until I got something that resembled what I was going for. I did the same for the swirlies around the orb. I then adjusted the layers so that the orb appeared transparent and glowed like I wanted. I also adjusted the text a bit so that it looked cleaner and more polished, and I added lines of pseudo-cuneiform to the edges of the cover.

The second version of the cover, designed February 28, 2013:

I was happy with that cover for a long time.

Until about a week or so ago.

I was afraid that it was too plain. I felt the monochrome blue wasn’t strong enough, and the font could be snazzier. So I made some adjustments and came up with the third version of the cover, designed February 21, 2014, nearly a year after the previous version:

No one liked the font.

So I tried the new, colorful orb with the old font and made adjustments based on the feedback I received on the third version, resulting in the fourth and fifth versions of the cover, designed February 22, 2014:

I was happier with these two covers than any of the previous ones. They better illustrated what I thought the wizard’s heart actually looked like (which is the maguffin in my novel), and they were much better received, though, after a vote, there wasn’t a clear winner between these two versus the second version above.

After mulling it over for a few days, I realized that the two covers still weren’t quite right. I considered all the feedback I had received so far, made a few more adjustments, and finally ended up with my final cover. I’m extremely happy with this one. It only took me six tries.

Final (for now) version of the cover for The Wizard’s Heart, designed February 26, 2014:

And that, my friends, is how this cover came to be.

I may make a few slight adjustments between now and publication, but I look forward to seeing this one sitting on my bookshelf.

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