Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Word Witch Wednesday - the mad science of book covers (part 3)

Welcome back! I'm happy my rambling hasn't scared you off yet. It's been a few weeks since my last book covers post. Click on part one and part two if you need to remind yourself where we are.

Today we're talking about image shopping. You should have your notes on the basic elements you need for your book cover. You're not forming images of finished covers in your mind yet, are you? Don't do it. Not at this point.

I posted five image shopping tips in May. Before you decide where you're going to get your images from, do your research. Make sure the price is the best and the images can be used for commercial use. Usually they're unlimited for electronic use and limited to 100,000 copies for print books. (The latter I don't worry about. If I ever get to the point where I'm selling over 100,000 print copies, I will be able to afford to buy the rights to the print images!)

When purchasing the images, buy the biggest size with the highest resolution. Make certain the images are clear and in color. If you want blurry effects, black & white, or color washes, you can do those yourself later. They are simple to do in most programs.

Backgrounds: There are tons of cityscapes, castles, mansions, forests, and galaxies to choose from. If you have a real location, find an image that has a well known landmark so the reader will be able to pick it out. Otherwise, don't go searching for an image that is exactly what you're imagining in your head. Remember, we want to create a mood and portray the general characteristics of the setting. Is it mysterious you want? Or foreboding? Dynamic? Serene? Magical?

I was searching for a bit of mystery and larger than life awe. (If that makes sense!) I had a subscription to a stock image site, so I bought a few possibilities for each cover. If you can only afford to download one image for your background, you can get a sample of it and try it out with the other cover pieces before you purchase it. I highly recommend that you do.

For the background, you're walking along the edge of needing a scene that fades into the backdrop and yet very clearly captures the atmosphere. An experienced cover artist will know what they're looking for, but if you're like me, it will be a lot of trial and error.

A reminder of my basic elements for my backgrounds: late summer forest, base of a mountain, and tiny Native village.

Here are the backgrounds of the first three Totem books:

Oh yes. I'm taking you step by step with me! You get to see all my bare elements... and wow, that just sounded dirty.

Anyway, dark with a bit of mystery and awe. Book #1 was the first image I came across and I loved it. For book #2, that image is the tenth candidate. I settled on the fourth image I tried for Book #3.

Tip: you might find an image with something you like in it, but you don't like all of it. You can use part of an image. I've done that with almost every element I used for my covers. This is why you download the largest image. So when you chop it up, the pieces are still a good size.

Since these posts are turning out much longer than I expected, I'm going to continue on with image shopping next time. It will be about the most difficult part: the unsmiling protagonist.

What do those background images make you feel?


  1. Great tips Christine. I'm so glad you are doing this. I'm finding it extremely helpful and am grateful for the guidance. Thank you! Have a lovely week. I hope life is being kind to you and your family.

  2. You selected some cool scenes for your books.
    Bare elements. Yes, my mind went there...

  3. Nicola, thank you. I hope my experience can help others.

    Alex, thanks! Yeah, I shook my head at myself too.

  4. I had no idea what goes into designing your own cover. This is so helpful for those working on covers.

  5. Great tips! I'd add that when choosing a backdrop with well-known landmarks make sure they aren't trademarked like for example, the Transamerica Corp. building in San Francisco or the Eiffel Tower at night with the lights on it.

    I love the images you've chosen. They all have a peaceful, yet mystical feel to them.

  6. I think it's a really good tip not to go into searching for cover images with a clear view of what you want. The chance that you will find it is slim to none.

  7. I love doing artistic stuff like this, but boy am I glad that I have a cover artist who deals with the whole creation. Although, I would love to work more closely with the artists. What I do now is submit a detailed cover art sheet.

  8. Excellent tips! I hope that when you're done, you consider putting this into an e-book. :)

    And, those background images make me feel awed and haunted at the same time.

  9. Excellent tips. Searching for images annoys the crap out of me, though. If I could, I'd hire someone to do it. LOL

  10. Natalie, thanks!

    Holly, very good point. I actually didn't know that!

    Cherie, so true!

    Chrys, it's tough. And I would hire someone if I could afford it!

    Tyrean, thank you. Hmm, maybe I might later on! :)

    Patricia, it can be annoying, but it is also fun.

  11. I can't even imagine the complication of trying to make my own book cover. You guys are so amazing! I don't think people realize all the hard work that goes into publishing your own book. You're a publisher, editor, AND writer, all in one.

  12. These are awesome tips. I missed the first posts so I'm off to check them out now. I'm closing in on the point where I'll need this advice! Thanks :)

  13. Hi Christine - those images all tie in together - great sequence of views. Thanks for these tips and ideas ... cheers Hilary

  14. I love the behind-the-scenes look. I always wondered just how people go about doing this when they use existing images. Sounds like you've got it down to a science. We do things the old fashioned way, so don't mind us with our cameras and lights as we resist stepping into the new century.

  15. Stephanie, absolutely! It's a lot of work.

    Jemi, thank you!

    Hilary, thanks! :)

    ABFTS, I just want to yell out "SCIENCE!"

  16. I love your choice of images. And these are awesome tips! Thanks for the insight!

  17. Great article. Love that forest scene. Still not sure what to do for my next book. Hire a cover artist or make my own.

  18. Great post, Christine. Another aspect of this cover business is rights. Indie authors have to be so careful about the covers. I just read a post from one who's ready to publish and has just discovered she may not have the rights to her cover. Not good.

  19. I used to have to do the same thing when I made images for commercials. Big size file so you can use a small part. Going for high res pays off every time. Good advice!

  20. Awesome shots:) They kind of remind me of Gothic poetry to be honest - lots of atmosphere:)

  21. I'm really enjoying this series and can't wait for more. To be honest, I'm a little afraid of working with cover art. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette


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