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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Author beware: 'Custom Cover Design' does not mean 'Original Cover Art'. {revisited}

Due to a question asked me on Twitter many times, I've refreshed and republished this post three times. The original article was also posted on the 4RV Publishing Blog.on 12/09/12. Most recent edit of this post: 09/06/18.

Watercolor, acrylics, and color pencil,
traditional art style.

You've decided you want a unique book cover for your book but you don't want it to look like every other book on the shelf or web browser...

You hop on Twitter or Facebook and put some feelers out, searching for an artist or designer. You get dozens and dozens of responses, from both amateurs and professionals, regardless of whether you request a cover artist or a cover designer. How do you know you are going to get what you want and that it's unique?

A cover designer may or may not be trained for what you are looking for. On the flip side, a cover artist may not have any design skills.

First, before you put out those feelers and start interviewing artists, learning a few key terms and phrases will narrow your request which will help attract the right type of artist and aid in your decision.

This design utilized a legally-obtained photo for
the background, supporting the illustration.
1- cover designer

Designers are trained in typesetting, photo-manipulation, and formatting (among other fun stuff), often with a lean towards advertising and product packaging. Though not typical, some designers are skilled photographers and/or traditional artists (meaning they have drawing and/or painting skills). 

It's socially accepted among designers, once an image is altered it is a "new work," and by law, that is true. All it takes are three, distinct changes. Not all designers are ethical about what constitutes as "distinct" and how many changes they should make or where they grab their root images from, though. 

Designers also tend to include the commercial rights to the end product because, technically, they don't own the original elements that created the product anyway. They are essentially just transferring the license they hopefully paid for in the beginning.

Manipulated parts of stock photos could potentially be used on another book cover or product. If you want something more original, tell the cover designer not to use stock imagery, or you need to verify the designer is skilled enough to make the manipulated image look original. Manipulation that creates originality ensures making the image both legal and unique. 


Watercolor and color pencil, traditional art style.
2- cover artist

In years past, publishers hired a cover artist to do the visual and cover designer to do the typesetting and formatting aspects (putting it all together).

In today's tough job market, more and more designers are adopting the task of providing the cover image as well as the cover design, all under one job.

A majority of publishers have found it more cost-effective to have their in-house designers provide the visual (usually a stock photo or stop illustration) rather than outsource the art to a cover artist. Publishers only commission an artist if their design team doesn't have the desired look or skill set.

On that same note, more and more illustrators or cover artists are tackling the job of cover design as a means of ensuring their own marketability by adding a skill set. It's good to note, cover artists tend to retain the copyright of the artwork, only transferring commercial rights for use on or in the product in which the art was created for (in this case the book). Artists sometimes offer extended or full rights for a higher price, but this should never be expected.

It is prudent to verify, before trusting your book to anyone, that the person you hire is trained and skilled to do what you want for your cover. After all, your cover will be your primary, strongest marketing tool and should work toward your book's success.

Pencil and charcoal, traditional art style.

3- custom vs original

Many designers and websites that boast cheap 'custom' cover designs or art can be misleading. Again, let's look at the laws regarding art.

By law, if an image (art or design), is altered in three ways, it is a "new work." If an artist or designer manipulates two or more images by combining a figure from one and changing the color of something from another, then adding an element from a third, all they have to do is add text. Voila! By law, that is a "custom cover." That may be acceptable to you, and that is OK.

Designs like this tend to be a cost-effective way to dress a book. However, many authors want a more detailed, story-relevant cover, that does not include mixing existing stock imagery. If you are in that group, be sure to hire someone who ensures the art is original, not simply custom. You'll likely pay more, but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.


Digital painting.
How does one recognize the difference between cover art and cover design when looking through portfolios?

A book's cover artwork should be able to stand alone and still tell a story, related more closely to an illustration (a term usually reserved for interior images). A design, though it may look amazing and fit with the title and cover text, if presented alone, it would just be a great visual. The only way the image makes sense is if accompanied by the text.

Does the portfolio show heavy use of photographs? If so, were they taken by the designer or a hired photographer? Or are they stock? Most importantly, make sure they were not just grabbed from an internet search or someone's Instagram or Flickr account.

Or, if you are looking for artwork, does the artist also do the design aspect of the cover (title treatment, bylines, etc)? Or will you need to hire a separate person to prep the file for print? If the person does do their own design work, how well do their designs complement the artworks? If they do design, they may also provide formatting, and maybe even ebook coding. Ask LOTS OF QUESTIONS.

These are all questions that should be asked and answered before money changes hands. Make sure all is in writing, whether it's email or chat window (where a copy can be retained). Phone agreements are not legally binding and also don't provide a record to refer back to later.


If anybody has questions as to what is considered original vs custom, or the difference between cover design & cover art, please leave a comment or contact me via the links in my signature below.

I hope this has made the process a little clearer. If you have any questions, hit me up on my Twitter page.

Don't forget to follow the above authors on Twitter: Tobin MarksSara Fower Kjeldsen, Beverly Stowe McClure, Lucretia T Knight, Ingrid Kern.

*All art and designs in this post were created by myself unless otherwise noted even if some images have been replaced with newer ones to keep post current with my portfolio.






Onto wrapping up the next book :-D
Until next time ...
Aidana WillowRaven

http://WillowRaven.weebly.com


This post edited by Grammarly* ~ NOW FREE FOR CHROME USERS!

Grammarly.com
*Blurbs and quotes provided are not edited by WillowRaven but posted as provided by author/publisher.

*All art and designs in this post were created by myself unless otherwise noted even if some images have been replaced with newer ones to keep post current with my portfolio.

Friday, August 17, 2018

A book cover is an ad. The art and title need to work together to compel the readers to read the blurb. They need to tell: Who, What, When & Where; or it fails, no matter how big a following or marketing budget the author has. Today's featured cover fail: THE ROOSTER BAR BY @JohnGrisham & @randomhouse #AmWriting #WritingTips #CoverArt

All of the covers in this post are my art & design except for this one.
I normally focus my posts on promoting my latest commision, helping the author to create some buzz in a huge sea of both traditionally and indie published books. 

Today, however, I want to point out how big publishers can and are getting lazy with their primary marketing tool, the cover, and why it's not a trend indie authors want to follow, no matter how well the big-six, bestsellers do. 

Today's primary example of what's wrong with recent cover trends with the big-six is John Grisham's The Rooster Bar, published by Random House. Knowing the authors rarely have input on their covers, the publisher did a huge disservice to such an amazing author, one that makes them tons of money.

In my experienced opinion, the cover is an epic fail, and it's not the first time in recent months I've seen such a lazy, cheap, ineffective cover coming from a major publisher for a bestselling author. And the frightening fallout of this is indie authors in the same genre will attempt to mimic or follow the bad trend because, 'It's working for John Grisham, it will work with my book.' WRONG... Let me emphasize that better ... DO NOT DO SOMETHING THIS AMAZINGLY STUPID TO YOUR BOOK COVER.

Now let me explain why this is such a bad cover for this book. Part of my job is knowing the readers my client is targeting. Knowing John Grisham's work, he tends to write thrillers in a few different styles (some are law or crime thrillers, others are western thrillers, just to name a few). this cover tells me nothing if I didn't already know what Grisham writes. The only part of this cover that tells me it might be a modern-day thriller, is the tiny print under 'Bar'.

As stated in the heading, a book cover is an ad. The art and title need to work together to compel the reader to read the blurb. They need to tell: Who, What, When & Where; or it fails, no matter how big a following or marketing budget the author has. In this example, Random House is counting on John Grisham's existing fanbase to buy the book simply because his name is on it. But what if you don't have his huge fanbase, and worse, still, if you do have an existing fanbase, but an aging one, wouldn't you want to attract new readers, who don't already know you?

To prove my point, I called my seventeen-year-old son into the room. I put my finger over that tiny line under 'Bar' and asked him if he was familiar with the author and his work. He said no (and my teen loves to read -- his personal library fills every bit of space on a 6' tall bookshelf). Next, I asked him if he could tell by the cover what genre the book was or what it's about. He responds, "It's something about a bar in a city." That's it, no clue as to genre or plot. Knowing he likes action, suspense, and thrillers, I asked him if he'd be interested in hearing more about the book or if he'd like to read the blurb... "Nah, looks boring." and he walks away. My point is, this cover just lost one millennial in under ten seconds, how many more is the publisher ignoring because they are not familiar enough with the author to know it's likely a kick-ass thriller that they'd tell their buddies on Snapchat to read it if the visual doesn't say, "Hey, I'm one of the 1-3 genres you like to read," and do it before they scroll down or swipe their smartphone? 

At a glance, can you tell me the genre?
As a book cover artist and designer, I have to know not only what readers, as a whole, are drawn to; but also the different visual nuances from genre to genre. I need to know what will encourage readers to pick my client's book over another book. I need to know who the target audience is and sometimes the age group or demographic. 

Over the years, I've also learned the title and blurb has to do the same thing, only with words, but that cover has less than ten seconds, tops, to make the reader bother to read the blurb. 


This symbiotic relationship between cover art, title, and blurb, all have one goal ... to compel the reader to want more ... to buy and read the book. 

Once in a while, one of my authors struggles with this symbiosis, wanting a cryptic visual or handing me a vague and confusing blurb. This, inevitably, fails to entice the typically, lazy reader. 


At a glance, can you tell the genre?
While it's true a book's blurb should not give away the whole story to the potential buyer, who on average spends maybe one minute considering a book (if that) before moving to the next, that first glance has to convey a lot. If the cover is the bait; the blurb has to be the hook.


Remember elementary school English classes and how teachers tirelessly drilled in the next set of words: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How? Just as that process works for writing anything from an essay to a novel, that same mantra can be applied to your book's cover; just on an abbreviated, visual level.


Keep in mind, you don't need to answer all of the Ws with each element of the cover (imagery, title, blurb). Save all of that for the story. But those three are your book's holy trinity when it comes to marketing your book. As a group, they need to address a modified version of the W's in a matter of seconds ...



'Who's the target audience?' 



At a glance, can you tell the genre?
I know it's trendy to not want to be boxed in by genre stereotypes. But don't fall into that trap, especially if you are an indie author.



'What's the conflict or challenge?'



Is there a battle or suspenseful situation? That would be an ideal visual for the cover over something vague.



'When and Where are we going to be taken?'



Did I forget Why and How? Actually, I didn't forget. They get the why and how only if they buy and read the book. ;P


A book cover's an ad. The art and title need to work together to compel the readers to read the blurb. They need to tell: Who, What, When & Where; or it fails, no matter how big a following or marketing budget the author has.  #AmWriting #WritingTips








Onto wrapping up the next book :-D
Until next time ...


This post edited by Grammarly* ~ NOW FREE FOR CHROME USERS!

Grammarly.com
*Blurbs and quotes provided are not edited by WillowRaven but posted as provided by author/publisher.

*All art and designs in this post were created by myself unless otherwise noted even if some images have been replaced with newer ones to keep post current with my portfolio.



Thursday, June 28, 2018

A FAMILY FOR LEONA, by Beverly Stowe McClure (@beverlymcclure) & 4RV Publishing (@4RV), has won 1st place in the 2018 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards Historical Fiction category!

Published by and available at 4RV Publishing
Some very exciting news came my way a few days ago from one of my favorite authors. A Family for Leona, by Beverly Stowe McClure (published by 4RV Publishing), has taken FIRST PLACE in the 2018 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards under the Historical Fiction category. And guess who created the cover art? Yep: yours truly. 😀 Isn't that awesome?

The contest is sponsored by Story Monsters LLC, which is home to the award-winning Story Monsters Ink® magazine, the literary resource for teachers, librarians, and parents — selected by School Library Journal as one of the best magazines for kids and teens. 

They also help authors of all genres strive for excellence through their marketing and publicity services, Dragonfly Book Awards contests, Story Monsters Approved! awards program, and opportunities to connect with schools and the media.

Not sure where I can fit another award seal, lol, but there's no reason I can't show it here. (The gold seal you see on the cover right now is 2017's Children's Literary Classics Award -- Their top honor.) 










Blurb:

Ten-year-old Leona Chapter doesn’t understand why her papa left his six children at the Brooklyn Home for Homeless Children after their mother’s death in 1921. Each day she prays he’ll return and take his children home. God, however, isn’t listening. Her brothers and sisters are either adopted or run away, leaving only Leona and Baby Mildred in the orphanage. Leona promises she and Mildred will be together for always. A promise she cannot keep, for Leona, along with her friend Noah, who she defends from the bullies Hiram and Jehu, and several other orphans, are soon on a train headed to Texas, while her sister stays at the orphanage. Leona vows she’ll go back to Brooklyn, the first chance she gets.




Be sure to check out these other great books from Beverly and 4RV Publishing







Onto wrapping up the next book :-D
Until next time ...
Aidana WillowRaven

http://WillowRaven.weebly.com


This post edited by Grammarly* ~ NOW FREE FOR CHROME USERS!

Grammarly.com
*Blurbs and quotes provided are not edited by WillowRaven but posted as provided by author/publisher.

*All art and designs in this post were created by myself unless otherwise noted even if some images have been replaced with newer ones to keep post current with my portfolio.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

GREEN TUNICS OF NOON ~ Cover art and Design for book two of THE GREAT WYRM SAGA by Victoria Lynn Osborne (@VictoriaLOsborn)

I'm excited to show off my latest project, Green Tunics of Noon, by Victoria Lynn Osborne, for a few reasons.

One - My first love with art is fantasy. I love everything about it. The elves, the dwarves, the unicorns, the dragons, the kickass women who can wield swords, I love it all.

Two - Surprisingly, although fantasy cover art is what got me reading (and eventually enrolled in art school), most of my art commissions are mainstream fiction. So when Victoria told me she wanted a winged horse and a syln in a forest... Perfect!

Three - Victoria just told me there are three more coming in this series. I can't wait!

So without further ado ...

blurb:

The Daughter of Prophecy has joined with her Regalta. Jarvis's ships have conquered the lands of men. Now the islands of men are enshrouded in darkness stunting the growth of plants and animals. Supplies flow from Jarvis's islands but are they safe. Monsters fill the villages and cities mutated cannibals of the once peaceful fishermen.

Meanwhile in the land of the syln. Jarvis launches an attack on their biggest food producing island. New allies pour in ones that are immune to syln magic.

Can Levet turn the tide against the dragons? Cindar lays eggs by the dozens an already the islands are filled with new terrors.

Don't miss the next exciting book in The Great Wyrm Saga.

If you'd like to learn more about book one, Red Sails in the Morning, I have feature pages on my website for it and Green Tunics of Noon, and The Great Wyrm Saga. Framed wall prints of the artworks are also available in my Imagekind gallery.
  

Be sure to connect with Victoria Lynn Osborne on all her social networks and online activities (best way to get signed copies and news of the latest promotions):

Azure Spider Publications logo






Onto wrapping up the next book :-D
Until next time ...
Aidana WillowRaven

http://WillowRaven.weebly.com


This post edited by Grammarly* ~ NOW FREE FOR CHROME USERS!

Grammarly.com
*Blurbs and quotes provided are not edited by WillowRaven but posted as provided by author/publisher.

*All art and designs in this post were created by myself unless otherwise noted even if some images have been replaced with newer ones to keep post current with my portfolio.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

BEYOND THE DREAMS WE KNOW ~ Cover art and Design for Rachel Neumeier (@RachelNeumeier)


I'm really looking forward to this book, Beyond the Dreams We Know, by Rachel Neumeier, hitting the shelves. 

It's a collection of short fiction stories, one of which is represented on the cover.

Those that know how I work, know I don't read the manuscripts (unless I am also editing). I create covers by getting pertinent information straight from the author (a process often akin to pulling teeth).  I do, however, glean a bit more of a glimpse than what's offered in the blurb and most times, even more than what's written in the story. So much more of the perfect scene stays in the author's head, and never made it into the story, itself. Much like this scene. 

Rachel sent me an excerpt that described the world and spider-like figures, but it was up to me to discover how they look and ambulate. I just know Rachel was vague about it on purpose, lol. 

My favorite part of the scene? The lame boy on the branch-crutch. I can't say why. But for some reason, I want to know him better and sincerely hope that spider-thingy can't see him under that tree.

blurb:

In the world of City in the Lake, entering the great forest may lead you to your heart's desire . . . but the one certainty is that the forest always has its own desires, and might very well tilt anyone's quest to its own ends.
***
In the whole history of the Floating Islands, no girl has ever put on wings and taken flight. Now a special audition has just been announced, and despite her responsibilities, Nescana isn't sure she can resist at least trying to make a new life for herself among the kajuraihi.
***
The Lord of the Delta is a busy man. But every now and then, Bertaud manages to take a day away from his duties. Just one day for himself. What could possibly go wrong?
***
Erest's family knew they might risk unknown dangers when they first chose to build their home in the shadow of the Kieba's mountain, but she hasn't seemed offended by their presumption . . . yet. When disaster strikes, could Erest dare turn to the Kieba for help?
***
In a world much like our own, no one expects mysterious, beautiful dragons to begin emerging from earth and stone. But even when mystery and magic isn’t concerned with us at all, it can change our lives . . .
***
Rediscover four worlds and explore a new one in Neumeier's latest collection of short fiction.



Be sure to connect with Rachel Neumeier on all her social networks and online activities (best way to get signed copies and news of the latest promotions):







Onto wrapping up the next book :-D
Until next time ...
Aidana WillowRaven

http://WillowRaven.weebly.com


This post edited by Grammarly* ~ NOW FREE FOR CHROME USERS!

Grammarly.com
*Blurbs and quotes provided are not edited by WillowRaven but posted as provided by author/publisher.

*All art and designs in this post were created by myself unless otherwise noted even if some images have been replaced with newer ones to keep post current with my portfolio.

Friday, February 9, 2018

THE GUARDIANS OF EASTGATE ~ cover art and design plus a map of Sterrenvar for Sherry Leclerc (@sleclercauthor)

WillowRaven's map of Sterrenvar for Sherry Leclerc's, The Guardians of Eastgate, book one of the Seers Series
Available in hardcoverpaperback, and ebook.
The original artwork is also available
as a wall print through my 
Imagekind gallery.

Available in hardcoverpaperback, and ebook. The original artwork is also available as a wall print through my Imagekind gallery. Come wander the magical world of Sterrenvar where swords & sorcery, action & adventure, seers & shifters all await you. Follow seer champion, Maelona Sima, & her friends Blaez, a wolf shifter, & Gareth, a human prince, as they protect the realm from enslavement by a dark sorcerer.

I'm so, so excited to share my latest cover project and introduce you to Sherry Leclerc, who I'm sure is going to be one of my favorite series projects ever, as well as one of my favorite clients. She is so very easy to work with. I kinda think we think a little alike. 

This is the new cover for The Guardians of Eastgate, book one of the Seers Series - Second Edition. 

We're going full-out with a fresh new cover art style, a revision of the text (to catch anything missed in the first publication), and so much more. Be sure to follow Sherry online (links below) to keep informed.

Blurb:

An ancient evil threatens the realm of Sterrenvar. A race of people called the seers had appointed themselves Guardians of the Realm, guarding the safety of their world and all the people in it.

Maelona Sima is one of four seer champions tasked with protecting the four keystones from being breached by evil forces, thus leaving an immeasurable magical force free to be used against the realm’s inhabitants. Yet Maelona is more than a seer. She is unique in her world, and she is the best hope of survival for the people of Sterrenvar…the very people who once hunted down and killed many of the seer people out of fear and mistrust.

Protecting the keystones is the first line of defense against the evil sorcerer who wishes to enslave the realm. Can Maelona, the guardian of the keystone at Eastgate, and her friends Blaez, a wolf shifter, and Gareth, a human prince, bring together their peoples to save Eastgate from destruction in this first book of the Seers series?

Available in hardcoverpaperback, and ebook.
The original artwork is also available as a wall print through my 
Imagekind gallery.


Be sure to connect with Sherry Leclerc on all her social networks and online activities (best way to get signed copies and news of the latest promotions):







Onto wrapping up the next book :-D
Until next time ...
Aidana WillowRaven

http://WillowRaven.weebly.com


This post edited by Grammarly* ~ NOW FREE FOR CHROME USERS!

Grammarly.com
*Blurbs and quotes provided are not edited by WillowRaven but posted as provided by author/publisher.

*All art and designs in this post were created by myself unless otherwise noted even if some images have been replaced with newer ones to keep post current with my portfolio.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

BREAKING WORLDS (Lisen of Solsta, Book V) ~ cover art & design for D. Hart St. Martin (@hartstm)

Available in print and ebook.
I am so proud to show off my latest book cover. D. Hart St. Martin and I have been teaming up since 2013.

Breaking Worlds is the fifth book of the Lisen of Solsta series. I'm already prepping for book six's cover; I can't wait to fully dive into it!

What makes this scene so cool, is it doesn't actually get described in the story. It's sort of what we would have seen while the travelers were moving from point A to point B in the book. 

Since we had already started the series (books 1-3), quite by accident, with a spring, summer, and fall scenes (honestly, we really didn't start out with that as the plan -- it just sort of happened) I really thought it would be cool, when Hart and I were planning books covers 5 & 6, if one of them could happen in the winter. 

At first, it wasn't in the cards, then Hart sent me a 'stop the presses' type of message. Told me to throw all of the project notes out and that she had a winter scene for me. She sort of gave me a general theme to work with since there were no actual excerpts to be had. This one, more than all of the others, was really a joint endeavor. I was constantly asking for details she had to give me from her head since there was nothing already on paper. The result is what you see here.... the scene that likely happened, but was never written.  

Available in print and ebook.

Blurb:

After their first daughter’s death at the hands of the Thristans, Lisen and Korin escape the desert and ride home to Garla, but the loss of Rinli, the child conceived sixteen years earlier during the Thristan fertility ritual of the Farii, has delivered a devastating blow to their union. Their grief overwhelms them, and Korin, consumed by feelings he dare not express, reenlists as a captain in the Emperi Guard and runs off to Pass Garrison, abandoning Lisen and their two remaining children in Avaret.

Yet, at a time when miracles seem to have forsaken the two spouses to endless despair, something wondrous has unfolded in the desert. Rinli, thought lost forever, has fulfilled the prophecy of Mantar's Child and risen from her grave, proclaiming she has come to break the world. But her resurrection precipitates a personal crisis as she strains to identify who she is now and why Mantar sent her back, while for Lisen and Korin, it becomes a race to stop their lost-then-found daughter from bringing their world to ruin.

Return to Garla where before moving forward, Lisen must climb out of the abyss of her unbearable sorrow to confront her run-away spouse. Where she enlists his aid in an impossible task. Where Rinli takes risk after risk to prove her worthiness as a leader to the Elders of Thristas. And where Lisen realizes an inescapable truth—either she or Rinli must die to bring peace to the people of Garla and Thristas.
                                        
Blurbs for each book in the series can be found on my website.


Author bio:

D. Hart St. Martin lives in a small college community in Southern California. She is retired from “gainful” employment and now writes anything and everything she wants, including a fantasy series called Lisen of Solsta. She is owned by one cat, Calypso, who reminds her daily that she is common and of little use save for the food and treats she provides but who occasionally appreciates her abject humility in her supreme presence. 

For more information about Hart’s work and for updates and publication information, be sure to connect with D. on all her social networks (best way to get signed copies and news of the latest promotions):







Onto wrapping up the next book :-D
Until next time ...
Aidana WillowRaven

http://WillowRaven.weebly.com


This post edited by Grammarly* ~ NOW FREE FOR CHROME USERS!

Grammarly.com
*Blurbs and quotes provided are not edited by WillowRaven but posted as provided by author/publisher.

*All art and designs in this post were created by myself unless otherwise noted even if some images have been replaced with newer ones to keep post current with my portfolio.