THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE BEEN PAYING ATTENTION — and I admit it hasn’t been easy here lately — may be aware that I and my cohort are in the final stages of preparing my second novel for publication. The MS is with my alpha, who is promising to get back to me ASAP. She’s not a robot in returning comments and so-forth, but I wouldn’t want her to be. One of the things I prize her for is her very humanity. Waiting is. When waiting is filled, I will move to the next cusp. The cover. I have an advantage, here, and that is that, since this is a series, I have already done a lot of the thinking on this subject. A Baby Troll Chronicles cover looks like so and so and so — only the images and colors change. And, while I wait for feedback, there are a few details I can put through the grinder. Well, I already have. And herewith lies the lesson.
Again, tapping those of you who have been paying attention, if you have been following along, you have seen the cover for my first novel. If you haven’t, there’s a link in the right-hand sidebar where you can see the cover. And, while you’re there, buy the book, why don’t you? And, if you have (it’s been selling at a walk here lately), why haven’t you left a review. Was it that terrible?
That cover was mainly blue and featured a background of linked hexagons, representing the benzine rings of a testosterone molecule, and an iconic image of Dolly shooting her service pistol on the run. (And, as has been noted in other articles on cover design, this is a sell, and not documentation, Dolly’s hair is not shoulder-length and in a ponytail in the story, though she is wearing a cheongsam in a couple of scenes. That the book has sold (at all) amid the noise and the Tsunami of Carp that is Amazon’s e-book sales tells me that the cover typography is not utterly shitful, so, until somebody manages to gen up an absolute formula for same, I think mine is a worthwhile example.
First, fonts: I use two. A commenter was fooled early on about the faces on The High T Shebang, but there are only two: Clarendon and Nuptial Script. I have used two weights and two widths — Heavy and Medium Condensed of the Clarendon. The Nuptial only comes one way, but I have fattened it a bit with strokes the same color as the face. I have been tempted from time to time to play with a variety of faces in the same design, but have almost always ended up with a cleaner, easier-to-read design trusting to variations among a single face or family of faces, rather that entirely other faces.
Second: type elements. There are two, basically, the title and the author’s name. Other elements may be present, but they are nowhere near as important and are to be de-emphasized, if not deprecated entirely. In my case, these are: the slug line which tells this is a book in a series and which it is — this is important in genre fiction, but as I say, not to be emphasized; and the publisher’s colophon (on the left margin midway up). In my case, the main type elements are given more-or-less equal weight. The author’s name is set in a single line in a color which stands out in a condensed face, but almost two inches tall when printed. Having stared at it on the Amazon pages for hours on end over the last two years, I can tell you with some authority that the author’s name is recognizable, readable at small size and low resolution, and, by its presence on this cover alone, should be a household word real soon now.
The title is a bit trickier. It starts out with “The”, which is a nearly invisible word — like “said” — and doesn’t need any emphasis but the spare breath of its being said. The second word is the key word of the novel. In the case of the first, The High T Shebang, the High T referred to a state of High Testosterone, which the lead characters were poisoned with, and which made for the central plot point of the story. This second one, the main character’s creation — or Genesis — as an artificial person, brought to life by the Goddess Aphrodite as the culmination of a millennia-long effort. In both cases — and, as I intend, in all future cases in this series — the third word — a noun — is selected from the list of translations from the Greek Upothesa, which is the name by which its members refer to the secret syndicate of Men and Gods to which the main (and indeed, most) characters belong. In this case, the U noun is Undertaking. The novel does not encompass the entirety of the Genesis Undertaking of Aphrodite’s, (that’s left for two additional novels to fill in), but it details the first twelve hours of life of the creature thus created.
I used a single-word slug for the power word in the title — High T on the first and Genesis on the second, set in Clarendon Heavy and placed in the middle of a hexagonal shield, which echoes the hex grid background. I use a goldenrod yellow (approximately a PMS 137) as a color that will stand out on the Amazon page and read against the background.
And the U noun — Undertaking — is set in Nuptial, in the same goldenrod, with a 1-pixel outline in the same color. All type in this new cover has a black drop shadow approximately 10 pixels down and to the right to enhance contrast with the background.
As has been noted elsewhere, The Chronicles are fantasy — contemporary or urban fantasy — and maybe paranormal romance, so the cover art practically requires an illustration and most effectively a “realistic” image of a human figure, illustrative of the kind of story it is — but not necessarily a scene from the book. The use of an iconic silhouette on The High T Shebang was an error I hope some day to correct, but I felt that drawing a suitable image was beyond my ability-time resources and I couldn’t find stock imagery that suited me, so I fell back on what I could find-slash-make work. On The Genesis Undertaking, I feel like I have a little more room to stretch out and have suitable stock-type images available, so I have a couple of options, one a scene from early on in the book emphasizing the fantastic myth nature of the story and the second, a bit of a spoiler, which portrays a scene from later on in the book which emphasizes the action/adventure aspect of things. More on that later, as I work the concept and have results to show.
But, whichever way I go, you can see that I have left a space below the title where a picture can be montaged or vignetted in.
I did the design in GIMP. The original cover was lain out in a combination of CorelDRAW and Photoshop. But, since I no longer have Photoshop available to me on my home machine and no longer have a work machine, I have had to adapt the .psd file in GIMP. The layering should be somewhat obvious. What is not, perhaps, is that I grew frustrated with the difficulty of setting and scaling type within GIMP, so I took the design as far as I could — layered in GIMP’s native .xcf format then exported a flattened version to .png, which I imported into Inkscape, where the vector capabilities made it easier for me to, first, set and scale type and set fill and outline strokes, and, Second generate a drop shadow (which I did by the expedient of duplicating the type to be shadowed and coloring it black before offsetting it manually right and down by 10 pixels. Then I re-exported to .png for the final image you see above and at right.
Still left to be done, are, of course, the illustration(s) for the front cover, images for the spine and back cover of a trade paper binding Ebacks don’t need back covers or spines, so I’ve never done one. However, I have looked at CreateSpace’s guidelines and see nothing I can’t accomplish there.
When and as those are done, I’ll post what looks newsworthy here.