27 May 2012

Of Covers and Other Love Affairs

I remember when I was a kid and would browse the shelves at the bookstore. The first things to catch my eye were the covers of the books I wanted to read. Some were amazing works of art (Michael Whalen, Jody A. Lee, and Alan Lee to name a few); while others were clearly done by more novice artists but still depicting worlds into which I wanted to wander.

And wander I did. I read widely, not just in science fiction and fantasy, but mystery and “regular fiction.” I loved cover art because I did not express myself visually, but with words, and the cover artists got to do what I did but with images. I experimented with painting, but not until adulthood did I learn that artists use photographs, models, and all sorts of props to design their images. I had believed that they simply saw something in their heads and put that on the canvas; and that, when I tried it, my results were less than desirable.

Now I am in a different position relative to covers. With two books out, I have gotten to see the cover art process from the inside. Before that, I developed my personal blog (my first one) and got to experiment with cover art of my own. While I’ve learned a lot since then, it’s more a matter of learning all the stuff I still want to learn – from Photoshop to manipulating stock photo images, color theory to typography, and whether to use hand-drawn images translated to a computer or native images conceived and drawn within the digital world.

The process of getting our covers has varied depending which house and, from the other authors I talk to, is similar to their experiences. Each house has its own approach to art just like it has its own approach to story. The common elements are some kind of “cover art form” wherein the author explains what they would like on the cover and the “image” they are going for in the book; a synopsis of the book so the artist can get an idea of what the story includes – and doesn’t include; and selections of example images. In my experience, those example images aren’t always included in the final product, but it did give Rachel and I some measure of “control” in the process and was, frankly, a lot of fun to do.

Our new cover is for our latest novel, Emerald Fire, coming from Torquere Press next week. We got the cover and are very excited. We were asked to go out to specific stock photo sites (sites that have photos and artwork available for purchase) and select ones that appealed to us. Since Emerald Fire is set on a desert world, we knew we wanted that to feature on the cover; they went with the image we found. The cover artists then created the cover from our suggestions, including two figures walking through the sand dunes and selecting fonts that reflected visually the elements of the title.

We are excited that Emerald Fire is coming out and are very grateful to the team at Torquere Press, not only the cover artists and art department but the editorial staff and our fantastic editor, Liz Brooks. We hope you enjoy the book as much as we did writing it and seeing it through the production process! Available May 30th from Torquere Books.

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