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The evolution of a book cover design

Posted October 1, 2013 by M.J. Hearle

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This post first appeared on M.J. Hearle’s blog

I was very pleased with the covers for Winter’s Shadow and Winter’s Light. Many readers and reviewers commented on how beautiful they were. My publisher did a bang up job at creating something that would appeal to the books targeted demographic. If I have a criticism, it would only be that they were a little too generic. Certainly, they weren’t the first paranormal covers to depict a girl against a moody backdrop .

I went out of my way to make sure the stories weren’t just generic paranormals – no vampires or werewolves (shirtless or otherwise) – so felt that maybe the covers should have reflected this. Perhaps sport a design that was a little more idiosyncratic. A little strange. Like the stories themselves. I raised my concerns, but in the end, deferred to my publishers judgement. This was the right decision.

Before I set out to write Claudette in the Shadows I decided I would take a more active role in the eventual marketing. I may have even mocked up some cover concepts before typing the first word. Blame my advertising background for this. In our industry we routinely put chickens before the eggs.

When Momentum agreed to publish the novella, I wrote an email outlining my thoughts on Claudette’s cover – specifically the fact I wanted to design it myself. My publisher, to their credit, told me to have a crack at it.

I started with this sketch.

Claudette_in_the_shadows-cover-design_01As you can see, I’m no great artist. I’m definitely more comfortable with words than creating pictures. For one thing, I screwed up the clothing on the figure. A long slinky dress is far too contemporary considering the time period of the story (late 1800′s). However, I think I got the posture right. The attitude in her face and body feels like my Claudette.

After scanning the sketch into the computer I brought it into photoshop to see if I could add some texture. It was important that the cover have a very rough, imperfect aspect to it – partly to cover my lack of artistic ability, and partly because perfect art doesn’t interest me. I like my art to be messy. A technically perfect drawing leaves little room for the imagination to flex its muscles and I like to indulge my imagination whenever I can.

This is what I managed to create in photoshop:

Claudette_in_the_shadows-cover-design_02

All that was left was to add a type treatment. Normally, I would have liked to spend some time developing the typography, maybe offer a few examples, unfortunately I was facing a deadline so in the end had to just pick a font and run with it. The name of the font is ‘Nosferatu’ which may have had something to do with my selection.

Here’s the the finished cover layout with the type treatment that I sent to my publisher.

Claudette_in_the_shadows-cover-design_03

I added the smoke thingy in the background at the last moment. If I spent a bit more time I might a figured out a way to incorporate it more creatively. Regardless, my publisher was very positive about my design and I left it in their hands to tweak or ignore as they saw fit. Secretly, I figured they’d scrap it and go with something like the other Winter covers. I wouldn’t have blamed them. It definitely would have been a safe marketing decision. You can imagine my delight when I received this in my inbox:

Claudette_in_the_shadows-cover-design_Final

Does that silhouette look familiar? The publisher’s designer took my initial sketch and created something that I think is fantastic. I love the bold use of red and the art deco influenced typography. It’s certainly going to pop on the iTunes/Amazon/Kobo page and by ‘pop’ I mean jump out and grab you by the throat. No matter what the commercial fate of Claudette in the Shadows I feel a great amount of pride when I look at this cover. It feels right. It feels like me. I hope you like it.

M.J. Hearle is the author of the novels Winter’s Shadow and Winter’s LightHis new novella, Claudette in the Shadows, is available now.

 

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The Last Airbender meets Assassin’s Apprentice: Mudlark Revealed

Posted June 3, 2013 by Anne

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“One person alone can wield the magic of the box, Lark. What we need to find out is if that person is you.”

     “Why didn’t you let me bring the box with me?” asked Lark.

The earthwitch laughed. “You’re sharp, boy. The truth? We didn’t dare. We are not about to put the most precious vessel of our combined magical traditions in the hands of a young boy who has not been tested.”

     “Are you prepared to be tested, Lark?” Simon’s steel-gray eyes looked into his.

     “Of course,” he said. “What do I need to do?”

 

On the outskirts of the city, a young orphan boy, Lark, is forced to scavenge the muddy flats of the river for treasure in order to survive. When he finds a magical box that cannot be opened, his life changes forever. Lark soon learns that he is destined to battle the Capposeign—the corrupt and evil theocracy that rules the city of Perous with fire magic.

However, Lark soon discovers that he has his own sort of magic, earned through a childhood spent in the water. He must quickly learn how to use his power—or die trying. In his quest to take down the Capposeign, Lark must ally with a witch, an artist, a revolutionary, and a strangely familiar and beautiful courtesan. Facing the powerful fire mages will push Lark and his friends to the very limit as they fight to save the city—but will their efforts be enough, or will it all go up in flames?

Like Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Assassin’s Apprentice, Mudlark is an atmospheric and thought-provoking fantasy adventure by debut author Chris Matthews.

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To pre-order your copy of Mudlark, click through to find your preferred retailer.

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Revealing some Skin

Posted December 10, 2012 by Anne

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Joel sent this cover to me on Friday to upload but I only got around to looking at it this morning. And now I need some time to recover. So, in the meantime, enjoy some Skin.

Here are the opening lines, just in case you missed them last week:

In the end they took a vote on whether or not to trade Roslyn to the stranger at the gate. They even gave her a say, demonstrating democracy was not dead even if civilisation had gone belly up six months back when the virus first struck.

All nine survivors gathered on the school steps. The weak winter sun above them did little to combat the bitter wind. Her marrow was ice and her teeth chattered. She wanted to wrap her arms around herself, huddle down into the green school jacket she’d purloined out of a student locker. But she didn’t. Spine straight, shoulders back. Her father would have been proud.

She cleared her throat. No one would meet her eyes. They couldn’t do this and she would explain why in a sensible and rational manner using as many small words as deemed necessary. “I know we’re running low on food, but there’s no reason why we can’t make a trip into town to look for supplies. If we just make a plan-”

“Let’s get on with this,” said Neil, former head of the Maths Department. Still pissed she had refused to put out. Never had she met such a pretentious, unattractive git. “A raise of hands for ‘yea’.”

Her gaze skittered around the group.

Some hedged, but the hands were definitely there, six of them.

Skin will be out in February 2013, but in the meantime you can catch up with the world of Flesh with Room with a View.

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Bringing Back Pulp Fiction Cover Design

Posted July 19, 2012 by Anne

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I’ve recently become utterly obsessed with old pulp fiction novel covers thanks to this website, and am now on a mission to convince Joel that all of our book covers should resemble pulp novels from the 1950s. So in the spirit of my crusade, here are my purely hypothetical suggestions for some of the existing books on our list.

Casting Couch Confidential

The White

Okay yes I know this is from the opposite pole but just pretend that polar bear is a penguin.

Painting Naked

The Power Within

Flesh

The Last City

Willie’s Bar and Grill

The Beginning of Everything and the End of Everything Else

Chopper 1: From the Inside

Thanks to Andrew Nette for the inspiration. You should follow him on twitter, he is tops.

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