Saturday, March 20, 2010

eBook Experiment - the First Version of the Cover

I mentioned earlier some of my practical thoughts about covers and genre. Now I'm down to thinking personally about my book, and I wanted a cover that accurately depicted the character and themes.

And as I mentioned earlier I am working at this point with no budget, so I decided to go with something from the public domain, something classic that would suggest an historical time period, even though this novel doesn't take place in real history.

My first thought was to look for something like Liberty Leading the People. The problem is that my heroine, Mary, is a loner who wouldn't be caught dead actually leading people. She's more a do-it-yourselfer. (And besides it's not the right period - a little late.)

So I thought about a more romance-oriented cover. Something that depicts Mary's soul, a free spirit. So I went for George Romney, who painted lots and lots of pictures of Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante. A free spirited maenad type.

The problem with this is two things. One is that the woman looks too happy. This is what is in Mary's soul, but it's not her. Mary was that girl once, but she was orphaned and raised by well-intentioned puritans. As she describes it around mid-book, they stuck her in a box and locked it. And the events at the beginning of the story undid the catch on the box, and out popped Mary "all on springs." There is something fierce and practical about Mary too. She is a hard working peasant woman, raised by puritans, after all.

And then there is the issue of that picture with the title The Whore of Freedom. It makes her seem like a party girl. So, I went for another period artist, George Stubbs.

Ah ha! There's the attitude. Bold peasant woman looking you right in the eye. I think this un-whore-like woman, in conjunction with the title, makes for an interesting cover.

Of course, there was still the problem of all the guys climbing around on the hay pile, but it's amazing what you can do with the Photoshop Rubberstamp tool.

As for the rest, as I mentioned before, I knew I needed a very prominent title. For that I needed a bold and condensed font. I would have preferred a sans-serif font, but Birch really gave me what I wanted in weight and size. It looks pretty good, I think. (Later edit - silly me, I DID find that perfect sanserif font - it's Helvetica Neue Condensed.)

(Note to amateur typographers: Do get the right font. Don't just stretch your fonts to make them taller or fatter. They will look whacky. The cross strokes really do have to have a thickness that is in the right proportion to the uprights. Also, if you don't know know what leading is, don't try this at home at all.)

Yellow is visible, and I think works with the prevailing blue-green. The drop shadow is the dark brown color from the hay, and it makes the yellow stand out, especially at smaller sizes. But unfortunately like all thin details, it looks different at different levels of zoom. If I offset it more it would look better at small sizes, but awful at full size, so this is my compromise. The author name is not as big, but big enough to see even at the smallest version of the thumbnail.

I also added a blurb in the same dark brown as the drop shadow. While this won't be readable in a thumbnail, it is a style element that common in this kind of book cover, so it "looks right." It is readable if people click on it.

Here is a half-size image of the beta version of the cover. The smaller one is the size that Amazon commonly displays Kindle covers. (Note, the drop shadow would probably look better in the littler one in real life - I was in a hurry so I did not export the little one from the original, but rather just shrank the other one down.)

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