Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Secrets of an Indie Author Cover Designer

with guest blogger, Lacy Williams.

 Hi, Seekerville!

A huge thanks to Tina and the ladies for hosting me, I’ve always had fun when I visit here.

One thing you might be surprised to know: in addition to being an author, I am also a freelance cover designer.

Some of my covers:





I loved the post you had back in July with one of the Love Inspired cover designers (http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2014/07/inside-cover-design-with-love-inspired.html ) and I thought it might be fun to show the difference in how one indie author/freelancer does it.

The biggest difference: I use stock art, not models at a live shoot. Although I’d love to, when I grow up…

It’s really important to understand copyright for photos, the difference between commercial and personal use, and licensing on the different stock art websites. That’s a whole ’nother post for another time. I will leave you with this sage advice: Read. The. Fine. Print.

Finding the right piece of stock art is one of the longer parts of the process. Not only does it have to be the right price for my budget, it also has to have a certain feel depending on what book the cover represents.

(Before I started creating cover art myself, I used to make funny faces at the cover art questionnaire for my traditional publisher, especially the question where it asks, “what is the mood for this cover?” and gloss over it quickly with some unhelpful statement, like inspirational, sweetly romantic. No longer. Now they get detailed information. Because there is a difference between, “they’re probably arguing, so sparks flying” and “she’s secretly in love with him”.)

I will spend hours browsing for the right stock photo to use as the backbone for my cover. Last year I stuck to sites like www.istockphoto.com and www.shutterstock.com but when iStock changed its plans and got pricey, I had to go elsewhere (hey, I have a budget and so do my clients!). This year, I found www.depositphotos.com, they have a great selection of photos and very reasonable prices.

Once I’ve found the exact right photo for the cover, say, this one…

 



…I create a new image file in Photoshop Elements and drop the stock art in. Don’t they just look lovely? This is actually a great image because it doesn’t need any tweaking before I get going on the cover. But sometimes the couple is right but the background is wrong. Or she’s supposed to have brown hair instead of blonde. In that case, I’ll spend time fixing what’s wrong. I can erase the background and drag a new one in, if needed. I can use the Color Replacement Tool to change the color of her hair (or dress, or his shirt). When you’re using stock photos, sometimes you have to accept something in the photo that doesn’t completely fit the story exactly… or find a better photo to work with. Because I don’t have models and because I don’t get to choose the clothes that these people are wearing, I’m more limited in what the final cover design will look like. However, you can always use a well-placed title to hide something you don’t like in the photo… :)

This photo is really great, and I’m going to use it as-is. Next, I need to have some idea where the different pieces of the cover will go (title, author name). This is a branded cover for Inspy Kisses, an author co-op that I belong to, so there is a flash line with our logo across the upper one-third of this cover.

 


It’s also part of our branded look to have the title in the upper part of the cover and the author names at the bottom.

 

Okay, the top half looks great, but those author names are impossible to read. What’s a girl to do? There are several tricks out there, like using a solid-colored box to highlight the names (or sometimes the title, if there isn’t a clear space on the cover for it). However, we used a Gradient on the first two covers in this series, so that’s what I’m going to use here. A Gradient is a way to fade something on the cover. It can add transparency if you’re folding two photos together, but in this case I’m going to use it as a solid color. I also use a small white gradient to made the blue sky behind the title disappear a little, so the title is more visible.

 


It’s looking pretty good, here! We’ve got a romantic couple, all our author names and a title.

But wait. This is a Christmas collection, so maybe we want to go even more wintery. I know! Let’s add an effect to get snow on the cover.

Um… but I don’t know how to make snow. I’ve never done it before.

Okay, I’m going to let you in one my Super-Secret, never-before-shared cover creator tip: YouTube. Don’t laugh! It’s a treasure trove of tutorials. Within a couple of seconds I have found two videos that look really promising, and I follow the instructions and voila:

 


This is actually just a picture of the Layer that has my snow. When all the other layers (titles and pictures) are visible, you get the full effect, but this is the snow by itself.

Now, just to add to the fun: That big, red gradient looks so… Plain. I use some special paintbrushes to create some snowflakes

 


and we’re there! Here is the finished product:

 


This is the final cover for our USA Today bestselling anthology, Mistletoe Kisses. We actually used this cover in a 3D boxed set cover, but I prefer the full-on cover shot myself.

Creating covers isn’t usually a step-by-step process for me (other than I have to find the stock art first!). Sometimes it gets circular. For instance, I flip-flop the placements of the title and author name. I go searching for fonts because what I have isn’t working. I try a different background.

And sometimes, I spend three hours working on a cover, and the author hates it.

But this is a process that I really enjoy. It uses a different creative part of my brain than writing or editing a book. For my own books, I’ll often create a cover while I’m still writing the book. Having the visual part of the book is a motivator for me and spikes creativity as I write.

So here’s a question for discussion. I recently stumbled onto a Facebook discussion where people were almost getting into fisticuffs over the answer: Do you love/hate covers with cutoff heads (borrowing my friend Regina’s cover as an example)?


 


Or prefer covers with the full hero/heroine on display?



 



 A Cowboy for Christmas 

 After an accident leaves her injured, Daisy Richards stays secluded at her family’s Wyoming ranch to avoid the town’s gawking stares. Yet handsome cowboy newcomer Ricky White insists she can do anything she dreams—ride a horse, decorate a Christmas tree…even steal a man’s heart.

Once a reckless cad, Ricky is to blame for what happened to Daisy. Now reformed, he wants to make amends by setting things right for his boss’s beautiful daughter in time for the holidays. But Daisy doesn’t know Ricky’s responsible for her predicament. When the truth is revealed, will he lose the greatest gift he’s ever received—her trust?

 Comment today for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card stocking stuffer. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition. And we're throwing in a print copy of A Cowboy for Christmas as well. Merry Christmas!

 

Lacy Williams (www.lacywilliams.net) is a USA Today bestselling author of 19 books and novellas. Her December 2014 release, A Cowboy for Christmas tells the story of one cowboy’s quest for redemption—and how it leads him to fall for the woman he handicapped. If you’d like to get a free ebook, sign up for Lacy’s newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/Tk-rn . Lacy is also the Managing Editor for Redbud Press, a new inspirational romance publisher. Find out more at www.redbudpress.com



 

100 comments:

Marianne Barkman said...

Welcome, Lacy. I love your books, and your covers! Great post. I don't think I like the covers where the head is partially. But that doesn't keep me from reading the book.

Helen Gray said...

Nope, don't like the cut off head. Much prefer the full hero/heroine.

I've spent hours searching those graphics sites, for the AFS's for my traditional series and an indie series that's in the works.

Coffee is brewing.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome, Lacy. Gorgeous covers and congratulations to you and your team for your tremendous sales on Inspy Kisses!

Natalie Monk said...

These are beautiful covers.

I really like the ones where the faces aren't fully shown. I'm pretty persnickety about covers I truly love. It depends on who else is on the cover, too. My preferences:

Hero or heroine alone--don't show her full face unless he/she is a spitting image of the character as written and portrayed in the novel. Many of Deeanne Gist's and Karen Witemeyer's books are a gorgeous example of the partial face covers I love.

Hero and heroine--show her face (with natural-looking makeup & hair if it's a historical). Don't show his full face next to her unless you have a spitting image photo of your hero. It's very hard to reconcile a hero in my imagination with one on the cover unless he just IS the character. A great example of when I loved showing both hero and heroine's faces is Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure. I got hooked on Julie's books when I saw Colin staring moodily at me from that cover in the library. ;)

I told y'all I was picky, lol! Not to say I won't read a book if I don't love the cover, but I'm a very prejudiced reader--unless I love the blurb/premise and/or a friend recommends, if the book cover doesn't hit me just right, I usually don't bother. (Wow, that sounds so snobbish of me! But reading time is so scarce these days! Especially since pursuing publication!)

Fun post! Thanks for sharing about these covers, Lacey! Speaking of fabulous covers, is that a blue-eyed redhead with a shadow of a beard toting an ax on your cover? Methinks I need to read this one ASAP. :)

Would love to be entered for the book or gift card!

Lyndee H said...

Hi Lacy! I really like seeing a cover's evolution. Thanks for sharing. Also love the plot of your December cowboy story. I ordered that book directly from Harlequin and it's sitting on my desk, torturing me because I don't have spare time right now! Hopefully, I can catch reading time over Christmas.

Regarding covers, for me it all about the DRESS! If the characters faces are missing, I can get over it if the dress is fantastic.

Natalie Monk said...

*Forgive my grammar. Handsome redhead is toting the ax, not his beard. LOL.

Natalie Monk said...

Lyndee, I totally agree! Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love cover with the red dress is one that comes to mind!

Lyndee H said...

NATALIE, I like Francine's cover, too.

The cover I was thinking of when I wrote my comment was Deanne Gist's It Happened at the Fair. I knew I was going to buy the book when I read the early blurb, but when I first glimpsed that cover with the white lace dress and wide brimmed hat, I dropped what I was doing and drove right to the bookstore! Lovely, lovely!

Mary Preston said...

A fascinating process that's for sure. If there is a model on the cover, and I don't always feel I need one, then I prefer they don't get the chop.

Jenny Blake said...

Hi Lacy, thanks for telling about designing covers. not sure I like cut of heads but for some books it works.
please enter me would love a stocking filler.

Cindy W. said...

Quite interesting how you design your covers Lacy. They are beautiful as well.

I really don't mind the cut off head because it usually means it is a Bethany House book and I love there house and authors. However, I would much prefer seeing the face as I like to see if the designers created a cover to match the story.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

cathyann40 said...

That was quite interesting. I enjoyed it.

Amy C said...

Great post! I love reading Indie books and I love to see how the cover process comes about. Thank you and I hope all have a Merry Christmas.

Mary Curry said...

I'll be back later to read, but I had to take a minute to say - these covers are GORGEOUS! They absolutely catch my eye as a reader.

Jill Weatherholt said...

Thanks for sharing the process with us, Lacy. I've been seeing the Mistletoe cover on various sites the past couple of week. So fun to see how is was designed. All of your covers are beautiful~

Jackie said...

Hi Lacy,

What a fun post. Thanks for sharing your process.

I mostly read contemporary, but A Cowboy for Christmas sounds like a great story.

All of your covers are beautiful. Great job!

Terri said...

Good morning, Lacy! I've been anxiously awaiting your post since I read the Weekend Edition. Absolutely love your cover designs. You do fantastic work and I'm sure it is much harder than it sounds.

I still remember the perfect picture you found for my onesheet this year.

Your Christmas anthology is great and congratulations on becoming a USA Today Bestselling author!

Terri said...

Oh, and I forgot to say, it doesn't bother me when they crop the picture if it fits the book's style. Regina's cover is adorable.

Kelly Bridgewater said...

Thanks, Lacy. I enjoyed learning about your process to designing covers. Merry Christmas!

Dora Hiers said...

Awesome insight into the design phase, Lacy. Thank you! And your covers are beautiful!

I don't have a preference. Sometimes, a halfie can be playful and fit the mood of the story more than a full-on, so whatever works.

Eileen Barnes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Audra Harders said...

Lacy, what a fun post! I love seeing how covers are created. It's so...so...creative, LOL!

I've spent hours digging through stock photo sites. While searching for the perfect heroine for Second Chance Ranch, I discovered I have outrageously expensive taste. You are so right when you say read the fine print!! If I had chosen her licensed photo, a second mortgage loomed in my future. LOL!

Excellent post! AND congratulations on the success of Mistletoe Kisses!! Way to go!!!

Audra Harders said...

BTW, on your cover question. I don't mind full face or partial face as long as the photo portrays the character in the book!

I absolutely love the covers on Mary Connealy's entire Petticoat series. Very eye catching. Chop off their heads!!

Audra Harders said...

Natalie, you said it perfectly when you mentioned Julie's covers. You could FEEL the emotion in the characters portrayed.

Who wouldn't pick up a book with a cute heroine and brooding hero on the cover??

Excellent point!

DebH said...

thanks for this post Lacy. As someone who wishes to design book covers, I love seeing how different people go through the process.
as for the full hero/heroine or cut off images... it depends on where that "chop" happens. if the cut creates a bit of mystery, or enables the reader to put themselves in the place of the character, I like it.

I think it really boils down to if the design is aesthetically pleasing.

I will definitely remember to read the fine print as I move forward on designing covers.

Jackie Smith said...

Welcome, Lacy, enjoyed your post.
Love your books and the covers!
I prefer a cover with the head NOT cut off..lol.
Please enter me for your giveaways!
Merry Christmas.

Cindy Regnier said...

Welcome to Seekerville Lacy. I love your post and I love your books. I just bought A Cowboy for Christmas and can't wait to read it. Oh and Inspy Kisses too! And for the record, Kissed by a Cowboy is my favorite Lacy Williams story. Thanks you for all your words of wisdom. Never delved into book covers as yet but hope to someday. Yours are beautiful.

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Lacy! Fun to see the process of creating a cover. Love the cover of Mistletoe Kisses. Congrats on the book's success!

You have to be one very busy woman with your writing, own press and cover design businesses. How do you manage it all?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Lacy, I'm okay with partial heads or full views. What I want is a tease of the story. Something that entices me to pick up the book.

Janet

Tina Radcliffe said...

I've been debating this cover art question and I have to say I don't have a definitive answer. Virginia Carmichael has some of the best ever headless covers AND yet, a good hero is a favorite of mine any day.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Goodness, you ladies are busy bees. I'm trying to get the kid ready and out the door for school then will be back to comment! Thanks for being here today.

Sally Shupe said...

I love the cover for A Cowboy for Christmas! I don't like the cut off heads. Thanks for the post detailing how to create covers. I never thought about how to create one.

Pam Hillman said...

I love seeing how covers come together! Thanks for sharing your process, Lacy.

What design software could you NOT live without? :)

Julie Lessman said...

HEY, LACEY, SOOO good to see you here, girl, and SUPER CONGRATS on the USA Today bestselling author status, my friend -- VERY cool!!

Personally, I don't mind heads cut off on a cover -- I mean, look at Deeanne Gist's books. Each are big sellers and every single one has the head cut off or not shown except for her upcoming novel. Personally, I think that's the tact Bethany House is taking with Regina as well -- making her covers look like Deanne's used to because Regina has that fun and humorous take to her books that Dee had.

But I do like full-on pix as well ... as long as both hero and heroine are appealing. I've seen a bad pic kill book sales, so it's very touchy. ESPECIALLY with heroes, which is why Revell stopped showing heroes on the covers of my books.

Great post, Lacey! I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and holy holiday season!

Hugs,
Julie

Tina Radcliffe said...

"You have to be one very busy woman with your writing, own press and cover design businesses. How do you manage it all? "

I was thinking the same thing, Janet. A woman who wears many hats.

AND A FAMILY WITH YOUNG KIDDOS.

Do you have help? Do you want to hire me as a personal assistant, lol. I see this as the money maker of the future. Services to help indie authors.

Tina's Indie Author Assistants.

Tina Radcliffe said...

You are actually the second guest in Seekerville in the last week or so to say they make a mock up of their cover before writing the book, for inspiration.

This is now sounding like a very good idea.

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Lacy,

Great post and I'm looking for a cover designer. Your covers are beautiful.

I don't mind cut-off heads or profiles or back of the head, if it fits the image. I have to say, I prefer both h/h on the cover if it's a romance. A cover with just the woman has me wondering about the hero the whole time I'm reading. It annoys me when the historical heroine is wearing make-up too.

Tina Radcliffe said...

And I have heard that there is now some controversy out there regarding extended licensing and Big Stock. Any comments on that?

Jennifer Smith said...

Lacy, those are excellent covers. :) And thanks for sharing the process! Very interesting, and something I'd never thought about before.

As for preferences about covers not showing full faces, I'm not hard to please, but I do usually find cut-off-faces covers attractive. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

Oh, Jennifer Smith, love the new profile pix!

Tina Radcliffe said...

And where are my hostess manners. Today we Bagels & Schmear from NYC catering this virtual event. Bagels & Schmear

Enjoy!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Lacy, WElcome to Seekerville. What lovely covers. It is always so fascinating how you all come up with such great ideas.

Thanks again and have fun today.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

What fun talent, Lacy and how smart of you to use it wisely!

I love the diversity of covers. No heads.... Which seems barbaric, doesn't it, but they can be so catchy! And then the reader isn't disappointed by the model choice, and I love happy readers!

But I also love happy couples, dogs, kids, farms, small towns, and the occasional Dwarf Nigerian goat. All are welcome on my covers!

Wonderful work, congratulations to you!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

How come I've never been to Bagels and Schmear???

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, Bagels and Schmear is on E. 28th Street and when I visit lawyer boy... his offices are on W. 14th St... That's a 14 block walk, and that's nothing in Manhattan! I won't stand in line hours for a cronut, but I'd walk with lawyer boy and finance boy up to E. 28th Street!!!

#hungryauthor!

Jennifer Smith said...

Thank you Tina! :)

Jeri Hoag said...

Hi Lacy, your blog was so informative and helpful. I think I need the full faces too although now I'm open to considering half faces as like a mystery. Thank you!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Here's the article I was referencing: Thread: Premade ebook covers = DMCA violation?

Thread: Premade ebook covers - DMCA violation?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Field trip to Bagels and Schmear, Ruthy!!!!

Becky said...

I liked hearing your process of creating a cover. I think I prefer the whole hero/heroine, but I really dislike when the cover doesn't match the book! There was a guy on a traveling evangelistic group that came to my church a couple of years ago that is the PERFECT match for my hero. It might be a little strange to email him and say, "Can I use your photo for my cover" lol

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Lacy!

Thanks for the look into the process! It looks like a lot of fun, but not something I'll be trying anytime soon. Too many plates in the air as it is :)

And the head or no head question - When the cut off head cover works, it's very effective. But only when it works.

How is that for being non-committal?

Have a good day, everybody!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I don't know, Becky, that might just work out! He'd probably be flattered.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Jeri! Good to see your face in Seekerville. Happy holidays!

Tina Radcliffe said...

There you go, Elaine. We've introduced you to a ton of cover designers in the past year and this one designed a cover of a book set that make the US Today Best Seller List! That's a nice recommendation.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Lacy is a Photoshop gal, right? If you go to her webpage she has the handouts for her ACFW Conference workshop on the topic. You can get the workshop audio on the ACFW site too.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Hi, Marianne, Helen, Tina and Natalie.

I love the differences in opinions already! Natalie, I think I used to be more like you, expecting the hero to look exactly like the book--now I don't even look at covers, usually the blurb and author name.

And after being published, you learn how little control you really have... the publisher picks the models. :):)

Lacy J. Williams said...

Lyndee, Mary, Cindy and Jenny - thanks for stopping by! I also love Bethany House covers, they have a fabulous design team. My friend Regina Jennings writes for them and her covers are fabulous...

Tina Radcliffe said...

I guess it was an RWA workshop. Why did I think ACFW?? Any thoughts on my confusion?

Here is her site

Lacy Williams

Any special way to contact you for cover quotes?

Kav said...

Fascinating stuff -- and such lovely covers. That does make a HUGE difference to me as a reader. Especially on indie books. If it looks professional on the outside, I'm guessing the inside will be the same.

Regarding cut-off heads. I kind of like them - if there's enough going on in the rest of the cover art. Like the one you showed -- I'm drawn to the movement in the picture -- I get the sense of motion and that totally fits the heroine. Loved that book. But I like full images as well -- as long as they match the description of the hero and heroine.

Oh and oddly enough I prefer not seeing the whole picture of the hero...not sure why, but I'm guessing because I dream him up in my mind as I'm reading and if the cover art doesn't mesh it annoys me. LOL

Lacy J. Williams said...

Cathyann, Amy, Mary, Jill, Jackie - thanks for coming by. I'm glad you enjoy the covers. I have (thankfully) taken down some of the older ones I created when I was still learning. There is definitely a process to it. I love finding just the right photo!

Does anybody want to share a favorite cover? I know we've already had a Francine Rivers' mentioned and Deann Gist. Any others?

Lacy J. Williams said...

Kelly, Dora, DebH, Jackie S, Terri - thanks for stopping by!!

Audra - I also used to have very expensive taste, but then I found several sites (those listed) that had the same models as more expensive sites. Needless to say, I shop there now. :):)

Cindy - thanks for the shout out for Kissed by a Cowboy. I loved doing all the ice cream research... it's my favorite food!

Janet D - I actually have pulled back on cover design as a business now that I'm working intensively with Redbud Press. I design for the press and myself personally and very rarely on special projects. There's just not enough time in the day.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Sally, Julie, Elaine, Jennifer, Sandra, Ruth, Jeri - thank you for coming by today!

Pam asked about software and I use Photoshop Elements for all my covers. I have recently used Adobe Illustrator for doing some work with fonts, but Photoshop is my go-to program. For making fun pics for blog/FB, I like www.canva.com, it's drag and drop and easy to use.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Tina - I have used virtual assistants in the past. My main problem is I hate to delegate and always think I can do it better, so why am I paying someone... it's a personal problem. :):)

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks for joining us today, Lacy! I sat in on your cover design workshop at RWA last summer and learned a lot! "Playing" with this kind of stuff is fun for me, a challenging diversion from pounding the keyboard all day, and I only wish I had the time to really learn how and do it well. Except every time I open PhotoShop Elements and start poking around, it's like starting all over on the learning curve!

BelleC said...

Hi Lacy,

I find the whole topic of covers fascinating. I recently stuck my big toe in the self publishing waters and I know cover images are such a key ingredient to success. I love your cover for Mistletoe Kisses. I really want to learn how to do Photoshop and experiment creatively with my own covers. I actually like couples on my covers, but I see how if well done like Mary Virginia's covers the headless ones could be really eye catching.

Belle

Lacy J. Williams said...

Tina also asked about the Big Stock article. I had read it and thought it really stank for anyone who bought those covers. There are sites that do legit premade covers (I'm thinking of the Killion Group, but she takes her pictures herself). That's why I say always read the fine print. Most stock photo sites specifically have in their TOS about book covers now and how you can use their photos for that purpose. It's important to know if you are following the rules or you can get in big trouble. I would also really hesitate using a Creative Commons picture for cover art.

Tina Radcliffe said...

it's a personal problem. :):)

LOLOLOL

Tina Radcliffe said...

I really love Virginia Carmichael's covers for Simon and Schuster or Howard or whoever her publisher is.

And for Love Inspired. Belle Calhoun's new cover is a favorite for the year.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Thank you Becky, Jan and Belle for coming by!

Lacy J. Williams said...

So this year I taught Photoshop at RWA and Scrivener at ACFW. Both programs I use and love. :) I think you can get the individual tape at RWA but for ACFW I think you have to buy the whole set.

Myra - if you are looking for a good hands-on class, I took one through an RWA chapter that was video-based. I can't remember the instructor's name but they do it about once a year. Watching during 2015 and see if you can find a video based one because you can work through the steps at your own convenience - I loved it.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Kav talked about professionalism and I heartily agree. If you have an unprofessional cover, readers think the book will be unprofessional. And readers are getting much more savvy. The nice thing about indie publishing is if you have a cover that isn't working, you can always change it. You aren't limited to one.

Tina asked about quotes, unfortunately I've had to cut way back on freelancing jobs. It's the nature of the beast with everyone on my plate right now. Sorry!!

Wilani Wahl said...

I enjoyed this post. The process is very interesting.

I have seen some covers with only part of the head and they were ok. But then I have seen some where the head was cut off and you are drawn to cleavage and that is not a good thing. I also love to see the whole character

I finished Hope for the Holidays Historical and loved it immensely.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I have to leave for work, but before I do I just want to know who everyone on your plate is, lol.

Debby Giusti said...

Lacy, congrats on your success...and the hard work that got you there!

Loved your explanation of the cover process. So fun to see that cover take shape. Lovely. You are an artist as well as a wonderful author.

So glad you're with us today in Seekerville. Thanks for sharing your secrets! :)

Hugs!

Linda Goodnight said...

Fascinating, Lacy. And to answer the question, I like the cut off head or looking at the back, hands, or other body parts rather than the face. As a reader I like to imagine the face myself.

Regina Jennings said...

Wait! There's my cover! You know I'm a big fan of your covers (and books!), but I'm sorry that I didn't see our Secondhand Cowboy on there. That's one of my favorite covers you've made.

I like to see the character's face, if and only if they look like the character in my head...so sometimes it's safer to not see their face after all.

Thanks for sharing the "A Most Inconvenient Marriage" cover!

Terri said...

Regina - I've loved all your covers!

Courtney Phillips said...

Fun discussion going on here. Like Natalie, I'm picky about covers. I don't want to see the models' faces (although there are exceptions). When I read, I like to imagine the characters, so I say chop off all their heads! :)

And it bugs me when a historical looks modern. Eyeliner and all that doesn't belong on a historical cover, in my opinion.

One of my favorite covers is Until I Found You by Victoria Bylin. I wanted that book even before I read the blurb.

Thanks for sharing how you made the Mistletoe Kisses cover. That's so interesting!

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Lacy! Thanks for sharing how you build a cover. I've often thought it would be weird if the model from either the stock art or even a regular photo shoot came across the cover with their face on it. Would that be weird? Would they read the book, or would that be too meta? What if the male model's MOM wanted to read the book? Would she have a hard time getting into the story because the hero looks like her son?

Anyhoodle, that wasn't being discussed. What you asked about was cut-off heads on covers. Honestly, I like both. Some books just lend themselves more to half faces. As someone else pointed out, if they are no heads, then the fashion usually takes center stage, which I love. Deanne Gist has had some fabulous dresses featured (I'm thinking "Deep in the Heart of Trouble," I think). Full heads can also be beautiful, if they match the character description. Most editing teams work hard to make sure those things match up, but occasionally they don't, and it's really jarring. And then, sometimes they get it SO right, that it's absolutely perfect. I think I read once that when Liz Curtis Higgs received the cover prototype for "Thorn in My Heart," she about cried because the picture of Leanna was spot-on perfect. I think she even has it as a painting in her office.

Have a wonderful day!

Sandy Smith said...

Very interesting, Lacy. I enjoyed reading about your process.

I suppose I prefer covers with full heads on them! But it would make no difference on whether or not I bought a book.

Please enter me in the drawing for the Amazon card and the book.

Thanks so much.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Thank you Wilani, Debby, Linda, Regina, Courtney, and Sandy for stopping by and commenting!
Stephanie talked about models seeing their faces on covers... I read an article on the cover models for one of Becky Wade's books (the one where they are embracing and looking upward, the title escapes me), and they had seen the final product. If it was me as a model I might be interested in seeing the final product but wouldn't necessarily read the book unless I loved reading. Interesting thoughts, though!

Lacy J. Williams said...

Tina, everyone on my plate... sigh. Typing too fast. LOLOL!

Chill N said...

Thanks for the glimpse into cover design ... and the examples. A Cowboy For Christmas sounds like a different, interesting story. Best wishes for its success.

Nancy C

Robin Patchen said...

I love Regina's cover--and yours, too. The cut-off head doesn't bother me a bit. I prefer to imagine what my heroine and hero look like, anyway.

Great article, Lacy, and your covers are amazing.

Cara Lynn James said...

Great information, Lisa! I love the cover.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Hi, Chill N, Robin and Cara Lynn. Thanks for stopping by. "A Cowboy for Christmas" is my recent favorite that I've written. There's something about a hero seeking redemption that gets me every time. :):)

The Artist Librarian said...

Lacy, how neat! Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your book cover process! It makes me want to graduate from PhotoImpact to Photoshop. :) I don't usually care for the cropped look, but some of them look really nice in a series. Karen Witemeyer's books, for example.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I've got to hit the sack and gear up for another day (and maybe brave the mall one more time...). Thanks for hosting me, Seekerville!

Edwina said...

Lacy, thanks for sharing such great info!

Can't stand those cut off heads! I want to see my hero!

jubileewriter said...

Great information. I am sure if I decide to go Indie I will not be doing my own cover. You,however, are awesome. Love all your covers.

Kelly Goshorn said...

Hi Lacey,

It was great fun to watch you design that cover step by step! I'm awed at your eye for design! My preference for the cover is to see the model's entire head - especially if you're cutting off the handsome hero!

Mz.ZeyZey said...

These covers are lovely! I'm still new to indie publishing and I'm not versed in Photoshop or InDesign, so I leave making a cover to the pros. I did notice the picture I used pixelated a lot (it was one I took with a camera--standard 72 dpi). I like using images I've taken, but can't figure out how to get the right dpi. It all makes my head fuzzy!

As to the question of headless or straight on, it depends on the book. I think most do the headless thing either to help the reader insert themselves into the story or, if it is a sexier book (non-inspy), to showcase the physique of the cover model. I think it can be done effectively for inspy and non-inspy titles to show the main characters or not, but I prefer absent to headless. For example, I love how Love Inspired Suspense doesn't have cover models, just eery or suspenseful images that pull the reader to the book.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Lacy,
I love blogs about covers!! If I had to choose another career, it might be cover design.

Your covers are gorgeous! So important for all books, but more so with self publishing because you need to attract the buyer. (Confession: I have been known to buy an ebook solely because the cover was gorgeous!)

Cheers,
Sue

Deanna Stevens said...

I hadn't really thought about cut off heads, if the cover is attractive either way is fine with me.. Then I'll go more by whats on the back to buy... PLease enter me :)
dkstevensne AT outlook dOt CoM

Cindi A said...

I actually prefer covers that don't reveal the person's face. It leaves more for me to imagine.
Even though that is my preference, I don't allow that to steer me one way or the other when choosing a book. Especially, if I know and love the author's work.

Laney4 said...

Part of me doesn't like cut-off heads (just doesn't seem right), but I still buy the books. I never scrutinize the faces anyway (as I put my own spin on what they look like instead).

TheNewKaren said...

Thanks so much for the lesson in cover creation. You make it look much easier than I ever imagined it could be. Until I read your post, I had no idea where to even start. Thanks for sharing!

Heidi Robbins said...

I have to admit I like when the face is not included in the cover because I like to imagine what the characters look like in my own way. Either way is fine with me- there can be pros and cons to both. I hope I'm not too late to be entered in your giveaway!

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

My imagination likes to work overtime, so personally I prefer an impression to a full-face image. Her head doesn't have to be cut off, but generally the less I see of the face - especially eyes - the easier it is to picture the heroine. And heroes rarely match my mental image. Maybe I just have different taste in men, but men on covers hardly ever measure up.

Thanks for showing the cover-making process - it's always fun to see what goes into them!

Janet Kerr said...

This is an interesting blog about building a cover!Very good ideas & where to start.
Jan