Wednesday, July 18, 2012

#Writerly Wednesday- I'm #Dreaming of an Awesome Book Cover

As a writer, it's sort of my birthright to dream and dream big, but I also dream vivid, at night, while I sleep, too.

You see, yesterday I spent a good portion of my afternoon just scrolling through image after image on a couple of those stock photo sites, trying to get ideas for book covers, perhaps find models who resemble what my characters look like in my mind, or themes that might make good background layers for book covers.

Then last night I dreamed I was designing covers and they were great, just cover after cover and even some I did were so good they impressed publishers. One in particular had a young woman's face, cast in dark shadows, her skin shimmering with perspiration or rain, with a title like "Overwhelmed" and the young woman looked, well-  overwhelmed, tears rolling down her face, from her bright blue eyes, as though I had captured exactly what was needed to grab the reader's attention.

Of course, it was just a dream, but it was vivid and inspiring and that's the little burst of air I need under my wings.

Now, years ago, I used to piddle around with Paint Shop Pro, making signature tags and cutesy banners for my computer desktop and for a Mommies forum I belonged to. In fact, that's where I cut my teeth on graphic design, making cute images with my children's pictures on it to put in my signature when I was chatting on the forums with other moms. Or making tags for them, as well. Of course, I'm by no means a professional, but I can manipulate images, crop, layer, adjust the opacity, etc.

When I started writing, I stop designing cutesy sig tags and I started searching online for images of actors and actresses who fit my characters...I made tags with them for my own personal use, sort of like putting them up on an idea story board, but using them as the desktop backgrounds, so I could see the characters while I was on the computer, which helped me with the descriptions. Eventually I made my own "faux" book covers for each story I wrote, just to give myself "inspiration."

As I've mentioned before, I am giving serious consideration to self-publishing, but I'm one of those people who like to get my ducks in a row, take my time about researching and discovering the ins and outs of things. I'm kind of riding the fence on the to self-pub or not to self-pub, but I'm liking the idea the more I read about how to format novels and I kind of like the idea of having more control over what goes on with my books and so since I'm considering self-pubbing, I'm also considering cover design, too.

In my youth, the idea of self-publishing was something I once knocked because back in the day it was more about vanity publishing and paying hundreds of dollars to someone to put everything together for you. I couldn't image spending all that time writing and polishing and preparing a story and then not getting that validation from a big house. And then spending unimaginable amounts of money I couldn't afford to have it published myself. Nowadays though, I think I'd rather get my validation from readers who enjoy what I write. I write because I love the stories and want to share them. Being a best-seller would be great, but it's not a requirement for me regarding how I value my career success.

Self-publishing is not vanity publishing. The author puts in a lot of time and works hard to see that they put out a good product. It is not vanity publishing, as I'd say the majority of what's "spent" is time and hard work rather than a lot of moolah. Sure there are a few fees (editors, formatters, cover art, etc) unless you are able to do those things yourself, but it's not the same as forking over a lot of money like back in the day.

I mean, after all, I also once doubted the viability of digital books because I wanted to cling tight to my paper books. I love the smell, weight and feel of a real book and shopping for a real book in a brick and mortar store, but I'm coming around and I now see the logic and viability- and the mobility of eBooks. I actually love my Kindle Touch, so it can't be all bad, right?

But as for covers, if I find I just can't hack it with designing covers, I'll hire someone, but first I want to see if I still have the graphic chops to do a few myself and I'm eager to learn more, so if you know of websites that are great for amateur cover artists, sites that offer great stock images that don't hurt the pocketbook, or other things that you've found work well with design, let me know. I'd love all the help I can get and it would definitely be appreciated more than you know.


Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I wish I could help you, but I know nothing about this! Jaycee Lorenzo does cover design, and I've heard she does a great job. Do you follow her blog? She might be helpful.

Cherie Marks said...

I'm by no means an expert but I just finished my second cover and I've had a few meaningful compliments on my first one. I got started last year when a prominent designer posted a quick process using Gimp on a forum at Romance Divas. I have a document I created from that withthe basics and I'd be happy to send it your way. It barely cracks the surface when it comes to creating a book cover but it's a start. There are royalty free sites but most of the time if you search on them it returns a majority of photos you have to pay for. I did find one that has a great policy, but I have saved on my computer and I'm on my phone. I can pass it along once I get home. Two sites I've bought from and was pleased with the process were and Vivozoom doesn't have a great selection and you have to turn photos on and illustrations off in the advanced search box cause it gives you only illustrations first. It's the least expensive I've found though. Bigstock isn't the most expensive and, as the name implies, has much to choose from. But it's still pretty rich for my shoestring budget.

I've gone on quite a bit. Hopefully I've shared something useful. Oh, and I learned some of my techniques using Gimp from YouTube. I'll send the links with the romance divas doc.

Good luck.

Taryn Raye said...

Well, you pointed me in the direction of a good cover artist. I'll definitely have to follow her blog. Thanks, Rachel!

JM said...

As artistic as I feel I am, I don't think I'll ever be able to design my own cover. I'm lucky I can stop editing my manuscripts. Can't imagine working on a cover over, and over, and over again. I'd never be happy! I use Viola Estrella for my covers right now. She's fantastic, and very willing to work with you.

Taryn Raye said...

Thanks, Cherie. I've heard a few talk about using Gimp and also some talk of Paint.NET. I'd love the info you have. Feel free to email it to me when you have a chance. I'm not sure I've heard of Vivozoom or Bigstock, but I'm marking them down. ;)

I know what you mean about the shoestring budget. Any opportunity to find other useful sites and such is worth checking into.

Taryn Raye said...

Thanks JM. I'm checking out Viola's right now and WOW! I'm loving a lot of hers!

Janie Emaus said...

I couldn't imagine doing this myself. Good luck.

Devon Matthews said...

Taryn, I also use Gimp. It's an absolutely free and simpler version of photoshop. Here's the url for the official site (don't download from the other sites because you might end up with some kind of malware attached)

Very user friendly, once you learn how it works. Highly recommend. Best of luck! :)

Krista said...

Love your post Taryn...makes me want to self pub as well. Please keep us updated on your venture...might have to pick your brain one day :)

Suzanne Lilly said...

Good luck with this new venture, Taryn. It's an incredible amount of work to self pub, but the authors I chat with who've done it successfully, love it. Let us know how you like Gimp, if you try it.

Cheryl Norman said...

I self-publish my cookbooks and I'll confess I'm no cover artist. My first two were done by Pam Ripling, who also did the fabulous artwork on my earlier fiction (Wings ePress) titles. Full Moon Honeymoon received awards and accolades (my first book). I wouldn't try to improve on Pam's work.

Taryn Raye said...

Thanks Devon! Definitely bookmarking GIMP site so I can get back to it after while.

Krista, I will definitely keep you posted!

Suzanne- it is a lot to take on, but I'm hoping it will be worth it.

Cheryl, I'll have to go in search of Pam's work and check it out.

TMcCusker said...

I just wanted to pop in to offer a nugget of advice about finding images for covers. "Royalty Free images" do not mean "free". Public domain images are free. Searching for "public domain images" may help you find what you are looking for (free images), but they probably won't be the best quality ones.

Royalty Free mean that you pay a flat fee to use the image, and then can use it to your heart's discretion without having to pay licensing fees for each new additional use/cover/book sold/etc.

Most pay stock image sites have royalty free licenses up to a certain number of books per run (something like 500,000 usually). Although you are likely never to have to run into problems about image rights. DO MAKE SURE that you are within the rights of the image license. It sucks to get screwed by not reading the fine print (if the image can't be used on ebook covers, for example).

As a graphic designer whose moved from designing for fun to designing for clients, I've had to become a lot more wary about that.

I personally use Shutterstock for stock images, but it's only a good value if you are buying quite a few images at a time.

Taryn Raye said...

Thanks Tracy- Oh, I'm well aware that Royal Free doesn't mean free. I'm looking for low cost sites, where I can buy images that fit my budget. Public domain images work all right for blog posts, but I know I need images that are crisper and more vivid for cover art.

I am discovering that credit/subscription options aren't exactly pocketbook friendly for someone who's main goal at this point is only 8-10 covers. I'll give it a good go and if it's not up to snuff, I'll find someone who can do it and do it well.

Those who can do, those who can't buy pretty covers from those who can.

I think I have shutterstock in my bookmarks. I'm just hoping at this point to gauge where I'd get my best deals.

Appreciate your comment! :D

Krystyna said...

Nice blog.

Crystal-Rain Love said...

Best of luck to you and make sure to post your finished work when you get a cover done! I also have been wanting to do some covers. It seems so easy until you sit down to do it and realize it's actually quite overwhelming. :)