I thought it might be interesting to explain the process I continue to put my poor designer through. Although there are a ton of places out there that have pre-designed covers available for sale, I decided from the start not to go that route for my first few books. Partially because I knew that I would need the series to tie together visually, partially because I really love working collaboratively with my designer, but mainly because…well…I like to control things. It’s alright I’ve totally learned to embrace it!
There are many gifted artists out there and in no way am I saying that this process is the right way to go for everyone, especially since some of the grab and go covers out there are fabulous. But, this is what has worked for me so far, especially considering that these books are so near and dear to my heart and I had certain things in mind for the series from the start. It also allows me to navigate each piece of the process in order to better understand how it all works, which I feel is important when hiring outside services to help you with your projects. In order to understand the value of something you are paying for, you need to understand just what is involved. Now that I have my third book under my belt, I think I can finally say… by jove…I think I’ve got it! I break this process down into 4 basic categories: Theme, Content, Formatting & Final Proof.
Theme: So as I said for my series, there were elements that needed to be decided on from the start, and in this case, they were the actual elements…you know the symbols for Water, Air, Fire, Earth. In the very first book, I had to decide what they would look like, and how they would be represented, which gave the designer a little more work to do up front, but provided the blueprint for the graphics we would use in future books.
Once we had the symbols nailed down, the designer came up with a template to use that featured them on the cover and along the spine. This template will now be used for each book, but the colors, silhouettes and other visual content is varied depending on the story. For instance, in Sea of Dreams, the magick took the form of glowing light in Brooke and Will’s case, so it was added where their hands join. For Winds of Change, butterflies and winged creatures play a roll in Amie finding her power, so I felt it was important to include them on Book 2’s cover. For Playing with Fire, well... you get the picture.
Content: I start the process by finding inspirational images of the characters, models that I believe match the people I have created. I gather several and put them in a Word doc, including a link to where I found them, and item numbers if they are stock photos. I add text explaining what I liked about the picture, or how I think it could be used. I also send samples of covers I like from the genre I am writing in, which I find is a very helpful exercise. It gives a real good feel for the visuals being used in your particular corner of the writing world. Once I send the images to him (could be 22 pages by the time I’m done), we meet and whittle down the choices, discussing how the image could work, or what the limitations might be. We happen to be in the same area, but if you hire a designer that is some distance from you, you can always hold these meetings virtually which is just as effective.
At the same time, I also give him 4 quotes from my manuscript to use as marketing slides, as well as the completed blurb for the back cover. Once the images are decided on, he pulls together the cover, marketing slides and other visual aids, such as social media banners and profile images. The timing on this is typically a month or two before the launch of the book. That gives me time to start putting the images out there on social media and my blog.
Formatting: By the time the image files are complete, I have generally had my manuscript edited and polished. Once the final draft is sent, my designer continues to work on the formatting of the manuscript, putting in the fun things like drop caps and fancy flourishes. I still haven’t found the secret sauce to having them present in the digital copy, since the e-books are still a learning curve item that I am trying to sort out. In the meantime, I do my best with Word and the tools I have available to me through the vendors I upload the digital content to. They don’t always play nice with PDFs, so I work around it.
Final Proof: Once the final files are complete and sent to me, it is time to upload them and order a proof copy. I generally order a few, using one to do my final read through with my handy red pen and providing a few for the beta readers. Once I receive comments back and make adjustments, I am ready to upload the final version and announce it’s for sale! For more on my editing process, see: Preparing my #WIP for my Editor. At this time, I also order digital downloads on my Kindle and Nook, and double check how the digital book acts on the various devices. There are programs out there I will be trying for my next few projects, fingers crossed that they will do what I am looking for!
Even with all the reading and rereading, and the number of eyes that go through my text, there are bound to be errors or things that I forgot to include. I try to cut myself some slack and wait until I have a good enough number of corrections to make before updating the file into a Version 2. I always make note of them though, so if you ever find anything in one of my books, please be sure to drop me a line! I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I find the easiest way to do this is to write in red pen directly in a print copy of my book.
Being part of the developmental process of my book from start to finish has been a huge learning experience, and if nothing else, makes me appreciate the massive amount of work that goes into bringing a book to life. My hats go off to all the authors out there who send their book babies out there for the world to read and enjoy! It is a satisfying, scary and surreal process, and it helps to know that there are writers just like me out there making it happen each and every day! Happy Writing! - DH
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