I spent much of the day designing possible concepts for the Mystery Western Series. It is difficult because I have a couple of requirements:
1. Genre - this is a comedy mystery western. Getting the right tone was really hard. It was relatively easy to get it very Western or very Silly, but Mystery is hard. Mystery covers are all over the place (partly because mysteries are all over the place). Artwork that screams "MYSTERY!" almost has to be done to spec. Very often a mystery cover will be another kind of cover with a mystery element in it - but it's incorporated in the artwork. The ability to use clipart is limited.
2. Cheap - I don't have a budget to hire an artist right now. But the other kind of mystery cover is Big Text and some iconic images. That is much easier to do with clipart or dingbat-style illustrations that I can do myself. But it's still hard to get just the right images to show all three - mystery, western, comedy. (Of course, if I can show mystery and western, the title deals with the comedy.)
3. I need to create a 'brand' for the series - so the design has to be something that can be adapted to other books. And in the end, I realized that this was the part I had to do first.
Here is the mock up of my FIRST version of my overall cover. I get "western" dealt with at the bottom - and then I have the white space at the top to deal with mystery. For this one, I'm planning to do something with Victorian toys and a gun. I may add a bloody hand (like a dead person) next to the toys and the gun. Or a badge. I may do a "logo" with a magnifying glass and a badge in the corner.
I could also play with putting in logo at the bottom.
(Note, the brown bands around the top of the image are just there to show the edges - they are not part of the design.)
Tomorrow I get ready to head for Duckcon. I will have intermittent access to the web, but I still hope to post each day.