July 22, 2014

The Story of a Cover

Today I thought I’d go through the process that was the design of the cover of Deep Down Things.  The bloody and complicated process of arriving at something remotely passing.

I designed the cover myself ~ with help.  Now let me say: I wouldn’t encourage people to try this unless they have an art and design background. Just as you wouldn’t build your own house but instead hire a carpenter, you should at least have professional input on a cover. There are so many clichés and things that will mark you as an amateur. That said, I do have an art and design background, but even then I called in the big guns ~ the lovely people I work with who are designers. (Thank you, beautiful people who helped me!!)

The first thing I did was scour the internet for covers that I loved that also might work for Deep Down Things.  Here are a few.  I gathered many more besides this.  You can see a pattern here.  I liked simpler covers with interesting fonts, and I seemed to be drawn to blue and green.

One of the challenges of this cover is it could not be representational.  I couldn’t have a picture of a group of three siblings, say.  I thought it would distract from the reader’s experience. And so I knew I wanted it to be more of a mood piece.  Hence the off-kilter-ness and the fonts and the blues and greens.

So since I knew I wanted to have interesting fonts, I downloaded a bunch and played with them.  This is what I ended up with at first.  It is a sort of a western theme, plus it’s fading into focus. I thought it also sort of represented differing points of view. Plus it’s dark, and after all Deep Down Things is a tragedy.

I did try to be a bit more representational and set the mood by showing setting (northern Colorado).  Did not work.  It has all the hallmarks of an amateur cover.

There is a theme running throughout Deep Down Things of the life of Jesus, very subtle but not religious per se.  And so I tried this cover.  Plus the star is important in the very last scene. I almost went with this cover, but I didn’t like how it gave the connotations of a nonfiction inspirational book. Mine was fiction and a tragedy.

Then I did a long search on iStock to find some backgrounds I liked.  I downloaded a bunch and played with them. You’ll see the iStock mark in the background because I wasn’t going to purchase the image until I was sure I wanted it.  Here are a few examples. I like the mood on this one.

I really liked this one, but all the friends I sent it out to nixed it.

This one, everyone said, was a bit too airy and the font didn’t really work.

I kept searching the internet for images I might use, and then I came across the work of this amazing artist Andrea Pramuk from Texas.  I immediately loved her mixed media painting that have exactly the type of mood I wanted to convey.  I chose her Tree of Life No. 3 and started playing with it.  Here was my first attempt.  I thought I’d match the colors in the lettering with the colors in the background. DID NOT WORK.  It’s too light and has the signs of an amateur.

But I was really sure I wanted to use this background.  I contacted Andrea and she was so great!  We reached an agreement so I could use the image.  I altered it (with Andrea’s permission) a bit to pull out the deep blues to give it more of a mood. But I still wasn’t happy with the lettering.  So I pulled in the big guns. I asked my designer friends for feedback.  They said with such a busy background, you need simpler lettering, and just white for heaven’s sake.  Plus I decided to simplify by taking off the reference to my other book.  Finally, I put my name up top more boldly.  I felt like I was claiming “writer” in a way I hadn’t before.

So there it is ~ the story of the cover.  Let me assure you, it took months and there was much anguish involved.  But I already have the cover of my next book in mind, which is a relief. Not going in blind, like I did with this one.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my tortured creative process!

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