Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Word Witch Wednesday - the mad science of book covers (part 5)

Slip on your labcoats and adjust your goggles. It's time for another session of the mad science of book covers!

Here's a quick review:
Part 1 - knowing the book cover elements of your genre.
Part 2 - the basic elements.
Part 3 - image shopping and backgrounds.
Part 4 - cover models.

I'm going to cover the rest of the base elements, and I'll do my best not to rattle on. Though I think I could do a whole series about choosing fonts for the covers. Fonts haunted me for weeks while I designed the Totem series.

For my urban fantasy series, the basic elements for the covers are: mood creating background, silhouetted villain, unsmiling protagonist, and something to tie all covers together for the series. Possibly the shifter's animal.

We've covered backgrounds and the unsmiling protagonist, and I'm leaving out the silhouetted villain. Instead of featuring the shifters' animals, I'm adding in a different totem animal on each cover which they'll be hunting in each book. These I'll blend into the background, and truly, if you don't have the Photoshop skills to do it, this is something that can be skipped. Something I have battled with myself and remain undecided about.

The next vital element is something to tie all the covers together for the series. I knew what I wanted to do ever since I came up with the concept. I wanted frost creeping up over the edges of the covers. Just a touch. It will be the same on every book. Easy, right?

Nope. I tried so many different types of frost. I wanted it to look icy, but it wasn't working. Why wasn't it working?

Instead, I stepped back and looked at it as if it were a puzzle. I ended up piecing together bits from a frosted pane of glass. This is what the original image looks like:

Pretty on its own. Plus, it's a good way to make sure my Totem bear logo is clearly seen on the bottom corner of each cover. The logo will contain the number of the book.

Now you've seen all my bare images. But just as important as the pictures are the fonts you choose. Check out my post about finicky fonts for tips on how to choose yours.

Fonts are difficult for me. I tend to lean toward plain types. That can be a good thing. You want your readers to be able to read your title and name after all.

Seeing the title for my first book and my name, you're probably wondering why did I stress so much over it? It looks simple. And that's good. It's my job to make it attractive and easy for people to read.

If you click on the image, you'll see the title is textured. Like cracked ice or birch bark. It's subtle, but it adds a lot of character to it. I used the craquelure effect in Photoshop.

Choosing colors for the fonts was difficult too. Each of my covers have different backgrounds. There's a wide array of colors going on which make it hard to see fonts of most shades. I hadn't intended to go with white, but it works with everything. The light gold of my name stands out enough but doesn't draw all your attention.

Whew. I didn't blow anything up. I call that a successful mad science session.

Next week, I'll show you the completed versions of the first three covers of the Totem series.

Feel free to ask any questions. Or share your cookies. Cookies would be much appreciated.


  1. I've seen covers ruined by bad font, especially when it's the wrong color.
    The white and yellow are the reverse of what you used on The 13th Floor. (I'm currently staring at it in your sidebar.)

  2. I have read several places that simple and the right font and the placement of it will make a big difference. Good post.
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

  3. I like the gold and the white, and I really like the textured aspect. I saw it even without clicking on/enlarging it.

    (I don't know if you've ever watched the TV show The Middle, but in the early episodes the youngest boy, Brick, totally LOVED fonts. It was hilarious! :))

  4. Choosing the right typeface is so essential. I cringe every time I run across a cover with an amateurish typeface like Comic Sans, Papyrus, Brush Script, Bradley Hand, Handwriting Dakota, Kristen, or Bleeding Cowboys. It's like they didn't put any effort into it. I'm glad I was able to get the entire Wellingborough typeface family for free during a sale at one of the fonts sites two years ago. It looks very professional (kind of like a cross between Gothic and Edwardian), and conveys the mood I wanted to set for some of my books.

  5. The cover definitely sets the tone and mood, and any marketer will tell you that people definitely judge books by their covers:)

  6. I enjoy reading this series even though I could never make my own cover no matter how hard I tried. So hopeless!
    You always do an amazing job with every cover you've created. :)

  7. You're so right. Nothing more frustrating than not being able to read the fonts. I miss out on a lot when that happens. Great post, Christine. Very helpful.

  8. I love the texture! I need to learn how to to do that. My niece did that with the first version of my first book, and the second version of my first book, but we dropped it on the third one. It didn't show up right when we went through createspace and we weren't sure what we did wrong.

    So, any tips on beating the upload process and making sure the colors and textures in the images stay the way they are supposed to stay?

  9. MUHAHAHAHA Is it mean of me to feel smug that I've seen the almost final cover? ;)

  10. Alex, I didn't even realize that! I guess white and gold are the two colors that work well on a dark blue background. :)

    Juneta, thank you!

    Madeline, hehehe! I have seen a few episodes, but I had no idea. That is hilarious!

    Carrie-Anne, that's awesome. I collect fonts I like too. Just in case!

    Mark, they do!

    Julie, awww, thank you! I'm blushing now.

    Thanks, Joylene!

    Tyrean, I've never had that problem, but I'll share the fix if it happens to me. That would be terribly frustrating.

    Patricia, your laugh is so wicked!

  11. Cover creation is so interesting! I like getting on Canva and messing around. I'm certainly not great at making covers, but it's fun to play with!

  12. Another great entry in this series. Thanks.

  13. You are doing such an amazing job with your covers... You know I love them!!

  14. I've seen some pretty terrible book covers over the years. I don't know why a writer who put so much work into their book wouldn't seek out a better cover. It's the first impression of your story!!

    All your covers are amazing, Christine. Thank you for this informative post!!

  15. This has been a great series. Just caught up on the 4th installment as well. I'm definitely a "no-face" girl when it comes to my covers, but that's only because I usually can't find one that is exactly what I want, and with Zyan I have lots of books planned, so I can't change models after that. With the sisters, you can change and that works well. I love the three you picked. And yeah, fonts are a big deal. Some people really screw up the fonts and it makes it look wretched. Love the snowflake background.

    Can't wait to see the final ones next week!

  16. You've worked so hard on this. I know you'll have one winner of a cover.

  17. Leandra, I do love to play around too. :)

    Jeff, thank you!

    Tania, aww, thanks!

    Cathrina, I totally agree. People do judge books by their covers.

    Alexia, that's very true when it comes to a long series. I considered it for this one, but that would be a lot of blonds!

    Lee, thanks so much!

  18. Such detail with all of the layering, like the frost element. It's awesome that you put such care into this. It really shows. And yes, font is everything, and simple is good. We've both seen so many books that try to use extra fancy fonts... except replace 'fancy' with 'unreadable'.

    I mean, it's great if you have a cover that makes people want to stare at it, but not if they're staring because they're trying to decipher what the title says.

  19. Color of font is something I've asked my publishers to change in a cover mockup. I do have one book where I didn't realize how the words would blend into the background. A learning experience.

  20. I've read that certain fonts go with certain genres. Is this a consideration when your working on your covers?

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  21. I can give you virtual cookies, at least. Tying everything together with the frost is a good idea--I love the look of frost! And I agree about keeping fonts simple. It's frustrating if I can't read the title or author name. One of the first things they teach in Technical Writing is to use clean, clear fonts.


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