Wednesday 27 July 2011

Anatomy of a Cover (or an idiot trying to use photoshop...)

I've been lucky so far. A talented friend did the cover for my short story collection and a professional cover designer did the jacket for my novel (with input from the wonderful Al Guthrie whose help was much appreciated).

I have a crime short story I wrote for a competition. I rather like it and there doesn't seem to be a huge market for shorts, so I thought it might be time to put a few single stories on kindle to generate some more interest in the novel. It turns out that the writing is the easy bit!

version 1

First off, I need an image. No problem - there are lots on google, aren't there? Well there are millions to search through and many have no known owners that I can find. A lot are tied down by copyright and creative commons licensing and it's such a minefield, I don't know where to start. I don't want to pay monthly fees for image downloads and I'm not very good at sifting through them all to find what I want.

So given that my short story is set in Liverpool, I thought I'd go and take my own photos. Hubby has a posh digital SLR and happens to work near Pier Head, so I sent him off on a mission to take me lots of photos of the Liver Birds, Pier Head, the Mersey Ferry and terminal etc. He came back with half a dozen Liver Birds.

Next I need software. I have an old copy of Photoshop that I bought some time ago (you can buy previous versions - mine is CS3 - quite cheaply when new versions are released). So I chucked the best photo in, cropped it a bit, resized it and added a title and author. I even managed to sample the colour of the Liver Bird and use that as the text colour. The result was version 1 - but the Liver Bird is so small, it will be invisible at thumbnail size (need to remember that anything shown on Amazon or used as a signature in forum posts etc will be *really* small, so the cover needs to be sharp with a lot of contrast and big type).

version 2
So I tried again. This time I cropped more of the image so the Liver Bird is bigger. This is an improvement, I think, although you don't get a sense of the sheer size of the building. Now you can clearly see the colour of the text matches the Liver Bird. I'm not sure what else I want to add to this image yet - might go and take some more photos of the ferry and I'm not sure where on earth I can find a royalty-free image of a rocket-propelled grenade (rpg) from as unfortunately I don't know anyone who can assist me there! Version 1 would be better to add secondary images to, but then the whole thing might look too complicated.

version 3
Version 3 and I've cropped the image so that the Liver Bird dominates the space. A different look again.

So what's next? Well I'm not fussed on the font. It needs to be something that's obviously not romancy-chick-lit, all the more so as the title itself doesn't say "crime" (it's a song title for those of you who don't know). I've exhausted the fonts within photoshop so I need to go hunt around the net for inspiration (and fonts seem as complicated as images...)

Sort the font, maybe add a couple of smaller images if I can work out how to do it without it looking tackily amateur. Format the story and upload it and I'm away!

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