Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

In the middle of life it happens that death comes and measures man. The visit is forgotten and life continues. But the suit is made, quietly. -- Tomas Transtromer

And that's the theme for my new WIP. It's taken me a long time to get back to this manuscript. The first draft went through some Beta reads and has been sitting in a drawer for two years festering in its own ooze. And for good reason. It's much darker than anything I have ever written. The characters are loathsome, and it doesn't have a happy ending, but I love it anyway.

That said, it's a difficult process to get back into a work after so much time has passed, but I am of the opinion that the fresher it is to your already weary writer's eyes the better. Even so, getting into the right frame of mind and the right mood for the story can be a difficult stretch to make, especially if you are just coming off the release of another book. In this case, I like to take a break from writing fiction for at least a month. I don't write anything, not a poem, not short, not even a chapter title because I find the words stilted if I dive right in without waiting for the right moment. So with all the idle time on my hands, I work on the cover. Nothing gets me in the mood to begin revisions on a story than spending time working with a visual interpretation of its themes.

I did a simple cover for this WIP when I was midway through writing the first draft. The title was different, obviously, and the cover was dark like many of my others, and I was happy with it at the time. It kept me going and focused while I was working on the story, but now that I am ready to revisit it, there were some things that bugged me about the title and the cover in general. First off, the title has been used many many times for movies and other books etc., and even thought it loosely represents part of the story, the title is too often associated with the folk legend of the same name, and that legend is really not representative of my story, so it had to go. The real title was on the page somewhere, and I just had to find it. Took me about two months, and once I found it, the entire cover needed to be changed slightly. The photography is mine, yet again, but it wasn't stark enough, disjointed enough to really work. What I ended up with was a happy accident. I misclicked on negative image and wound up loving what I got in the process, some minor adjustments aside. A negative image actually worked better thematically since the main character in the book is a photographer. Now I just had to find a font to match the new mood. I wound up finding commercial use freeware fonts over on Fontspace, and the cover just came together in almost an instant and with it came the headspace I needed in order to start the revisions.

Most of the authors I have met along the way at one time or another imagine some sort of visual interpretation of their work, and some traditional publishers are open to author feedback during the cover design process and some are not. Many Indie authors outsource their covers, and in that case, they are generally allowed a great deal of input when it comes to cover images and the overall design, and some Indies like myself give it a go on their own, for good, bad, or worse. Some authors, also like myself, enjoy doing mock-ups -- even if it will never see the light of day -- simply because it gets them creatively in the mood to immerse themselves in the story. It helps the author to flesh out the themes and helps bring the subliminal messages within the story to the surface. It also gives the author something to look up and focus on when they hit a rough patch. It gives them inspiration beyond the words, and so the suit is made, quietly.

As for resources, there has been a lot of discussion about book cover design and artwork. Joel Friedlander over on has loads of informative articles on the subject. Finding public domain artwork is actually pretty easy, but should you not want to go that route, you can find reasonably priced stock photography on places like I generally use my own photography, but when that is not possible or practical, I have never had a problem finding a good quality public domain image to use. is often a good resource, and the licenses are clearly stated. Just make sure you attribute on your matter page: some freeware actually requires this so check the license.

For a short list of resources from the Self-Publishing Book Expo see the mediabistro article here.

As for the photos used on my cover, one is a picture of the sun through the trees in my backyard. The other is a piece of Day of The Dead art I purchased at a local import store. I collect Day of the Dead stuff. I just hung it up on a blank wall and took a photograph of it. The actual Mexican artist is unknown.

So, how many of you like to doodle with your own covers, even if it's just a mock-up for inspiration. What programs do you use and where do you find your images?

Cheryl Anne Gardner


Anonymous said...

I usually use Free Stock Xchng when I need pictures for my book trailers. They've got some cover fodder there as well.

But for the original cover for Waiting For Spring, I used two of my own photos. I layered them with my Print Master Gold program, which is very inexpensive (around $20).

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

I always loved your cover, Kel. I like the new one too, but I always loved that pic of the orchard.

I used to use Photoshop, but my old program wouldn't load on vista, so I use Microsoft's version of it which is called Digital Image Pro. Works the same for the most part. I just have to distill to PDF a little differently.

Shannon Yarbrough said...

I use for stock photos. You have to purchase a bundle of credits to use toward photos, but they accept Paypal and are quite affordable.

For Stealing Wishes, I bought a program called Book Cover Pro. ( It was worth every penny and I made back my money by designing covers for a few other authors. Two of the photos on SW's cover are my own and the third is a stock photo.

For my latest book (Are You Sitting Down?), I actually bought the rights to a photo taken by an artist and photographer I found online. We drew up a contract together that both of us liked and agreed to. Again, it carried a hefty sum but in my eyes, my book's cover couldn't be more perfect. I had spent over a year designing it myself and was never satisfied with the results. A Google search for a few key words earlier this year led me to the photo I'm using.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

I love your new cover Shannon. It was worth the money it's so unique.