Steal It Like It’s Hot
I have a confession to make. I do art like I write. Mostly by my toes or something. It’s not an entirely rational process, and the advantages of doing it electronic is that I can move things around until it “clicks” and this process sometimes takes years.
Which is fine, except of course in covers I don’t have years. I don’t have years when doing a cover for a client (look, at least I don’t make their books look literary) and even when I start the cover for myself when I first write the book, it’s not that long till I need a DECENT cover either.
So I remembered an adage from when I was first learning to write and plot was a foreign concept. (Things happened, mind. Or as a friend writing his first book put it “when I don’t know what they should do I take them shopping or get them drunk.” Which is fine, but is not a plot. In my case my characters took a lot of strolls through the woods and cooked a lot. And there was the book (never to be published) in which the characters drank so many cups of coffee that the entire book should take place in the bathroom.)
The adage is “steal the element you don’t have naturally.” Because at the time I couldn’t even “see” plot, the best I could do was diagram a book’s plot and then replace the “hits” of that plot with mine. It worked, and we call it my first published novel. (Ill Met By Moonlight.)
So, faced with the bewildering array of cover possibilities and the fact that they signal genre and subgener and sometimes I don’t even know the genre or subgenre or if I do I don’t pick up all the signals (fact. Bought three books this week without glancing at the cover. Bought on title, author name and blurb. (Well, in two cases, in the third I didn’t know the author. I’m halfway through the book — have been reading in five minute segments, or so — and it’s d*mn good.)
When Amanda asked me to redo the covers for her Nocturnal series because the signaling has changed (and everyone has gotten better at covers, upping everyone’s game) I was a little flummoxed because I only read Urban Fantasy occasionally and it can be years between a bout of binge UF reading. (I’m actually like that with everything. I read all genres, but not at the same time.)
So I hadn’t looked at any new covers. I asked her what series was most like hers, out today.
She gave me three series and I looked at the covers. Since I was also looking at images she’d selected, I had to figure out how I was going to process the image (I have filter forge. Buy it. Best thing evah. I can, if you wish, next week, do a post just showing transformations.)
I don’t remember why now (it’s been months. I’ve slept since then) but at the time I eliminated two of the series’ covers. Either because there was no way I could make her images work, or because I didn’t have fonts I could approximate to theirs. (I am not allowed to have Adobe products on my system, and I actually agree with it, since they gum up everything. And their new “rental” system is a pain because if you stop subscribing, you stop having the right to the fonts you already used in covers. Realistically this means I can’t use the same fonts as publishers, who use Adobe. At best I can approximate it.) I have bought a package of something like 1001 fonts. They’re mostly public domain and/or retired fonts, but they are very useful. Yeah, I could have got similar with dafont, but think of the time it would take me, and this only cost like $30 to have all of them at my fingertips. Periodically if I need something very specialized I go to dafont and others and get one or two for a job.
So the covers I settled on “stealing” were the Jane Yellowrock series covers. And before you say “Ah, you stole them!” — not in any copyrightable way. Only insofar as it has the same general design “touch/feel.”
Note the not quite but almost monochromatic feel of the book — the pictures Amanda had sent me (which she’d bought) were not that monochromatic but more realistic. (And btw, they’re not scenes from the book, just an attractive model with several poses. Back when she and I were trying to be a lot more realistic, we spent a lot of time trying to find stock photos of policewomen. Don’t. JUST DON’T. Apparently to some people “policewoman” means open top and sexy lingerie, and that’s the BEST we found.)
I actually had to go in search of a filter to give the photo a similar look, but that was fairly well accomplished:
My least satisfactory thing was the font for the author’s name. It should be blockier. But it was the only semi-leggy font I had, so it had to do. It’s “fluffier” than the original and if I stumble on a better font, I might change it (and drive Amanda insane having to put it in again.) But the rest I more or less stole, and it comes closest to signaling the genre, etc. than anything else I’ve done.
So, if you don’t know how to do it, steal it like it’s hot.
And if someone can identify a look for “historical” and one for “High brow vampire historical semi-erotica” I can stop redoing the covers for the musketeers mysteries and the vampire musketeers. The second is not up yet and is already giving me cold sweats And the first has had about five covers and the current ones suck. (I have new ones ready to go up, but it’s low priority and waiting till I have time to finish the sixth book.)