Friday, April 6, 2018

Book Covers - They can make or break a book

by Leslie Ann Sartor

When I decided that the indie publishing route was the path for me, I realized immediately that I would need to find a cover designer. Lucky for me, one of my writing buddies was designing covers for other authors and offered to do my first cover at no charge. 

I was filled with ideas and had the image of what I wanted firmly planted in my mind. Then I tried to describe it to her, I even had artwork for her to use. And bless her heart, she did a great job. A few months later, I realized my first cover wasn’t saying anything about the story and we needed to change it.  She again got my vision and we created the new cover. 


But there were many moments that frustrated me, and I know she was on edge a bit too, because my vision was hard to translate to words and colors were different on her computer than mine...endless little adjustments of all sorts were needed. After cover number 3, I realized that if I wanted the book cover to completely encompass my vision, I had to do it myself.

Two weeks ago, I launched my 7th book Prince Of Granola and my 5th cover (I redid one of the earlier ones if you’re doing the math 😊)


I love this cover. In fact, I believe it’s one of my best. Why? Because it tells the reader so much with a single glance.

·      While I don’t like to see the complete faces of my characters, I prefer my readers to imagine the characters from my description, I’m finding fewer stock images to draw from that I like. So here I give you profiles.

·         The cover shows you the setting immediately

·        It gives you a visual clue to a scene, and when you read it, hopefully you’re immediately seeing the cover in your mind and feel you’ve uncovered a little secret.

·        And it tells you what the genre is.

How do I know where to start when creating a cover? I usually have the sense of my character’s physicality. I look through several image companies; AdobeStock, RF123, and DepositPhotos are some of my favorites, and I book mark or lightbox tons of images from them. BTW, you can download watermarked photos to try and do I a lot of this.

Once I’ve narrowed my characters down, I find a background that will work for that image and the story. More photos to try, but that’s the only way to see what will work before you buy.

Then I spend a huge amount of time adding to the original images. For instance, I added the waterfall to the left because the title got lost in the rocks. I blend and subtract and add.  There wasn’t any water around my stock couple so I added it to make it look like they were in the water, not on top.

I find the font that I want to use and keep it for the entire series.  My name is always in a specific font, not related to the book but to me. Not necessary, but I like that consistency. 

Lastly, at least for this post, remember that you must own the images and the font. There are a variety of commercial licenses, so you need to read the licensing carefully. No pulling random images off the internet-ever!!

On my website (http://lesliesartor.com/writers-tools) I have two pdf’s that you can download that show you how to create a cover using Photoshop Elements.  I use Photoshop CC, but the steps are very similar.

If you want to try it and have questions, you can email me at Leslie@Lesliesartor.com and I’ll do my best to help.

I’m happy to give away an ecopy of Prince Of Granola to someone randomly chosen from the comments.

Hugs to all, L.A.



I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study … urk … grammar. I went to college, moved a few times, came home and found the love of my life (that is another novel worthy story, but for later), and got married.

I have always been a voracious reader and one night after throwing a particularly bad book at the wall (even putting a small ding in said wall), I realized that I could do better.  I told my husband, and he said go for it. I called Mom and she revealed the junior high teacher story and she told I’d been writing all the time up to that point.

That blew me away. I didn’t remember any of it.  But I started writing again, nearly the next day, pen and paper, learning, making mistakes, winning contests, then moving away from novel writing to screenwriting, getting a contract for a script and doing really well in screenwriting contests. But I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel and people were making big dollars.  I didn’t believe him even after he showed me several Wall Street Journal articles. I thought indie meant vanity press.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and while I’m not rolling in dough, I’m absolutely on the right course in my life. Prince Of Granola is my 7th book.

Please come visit me at www.lasartor.com, see my books, find my social media links, some screenplays and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers. And remember, you can email me at Leslie@LeslieSartor.com


Buy Links:

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iBooks     
Nook      
Kobo   


Website         http://www.lasartor.com
Blog                http://www.anindieadventure.blogspot.com
Facebook author      https://www.facebook.com/LASartor.Author
Twitter            http://www.twitter.com/@lesannsartor
Amazon Author Page           http://amzn.to/1e10fkd
Bookbub        http://bit.ly/2kdhjkM

67 comments:

  1. Hi LA:

    I saw this cover and bought the book within minutes! But I had no idea what kind of book it was. Actually, I thought the picture was a very fancy pool in an expensive Las Vegas hotel where half the pool is indoors and the other half out in the sun.

    I also could tell little from the title. Was it a modern day fairy tale book like Cinderella? Was it a royalty 'Prince' book from some fictional little country in the Mediterranean? Lucy Gordon has written a few like this that really are good reads.

    The title, "Prince of Granola," is also odd in that granola is a cereal. As far as "Plantation of White Treasure 1" -- the only 'white treasure' I can think of off hand from a plantation is cocaine.

    It's a beautiful cover but the title is rather bewildering. I bought the book because of your name at the bottom. I suggest you rethink the title to better identify what the book is about. Just a thought! I've only read the first chapter so I really don't know that much of what the book is about. Please forgive me if I've got it wrong.

    Advertising saying: "While a picture is worth 1000 words, the wrong picture (or title) can steal 10,000 words."

    What say you?

    Vince

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    1. Hi Vince, nice to see you today. My first reply may or may not show up. I guess I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you on this one. You are my guru, but the student has wings now :) People have commented that they love the title, it makes them curious and that’s great in my opinion, hopefully enough to buy the book but at least enough to read the blurb. And the cover, well, people seem to love it as well.

      So my friend, I don’t know what more I can say :) Except, you can’t be wrong in expressing an opinion and I value yours. Hugs, L.A.

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    2. Hi LA:

      I must say your are the most gracious host I've encountered in ten years on Seekerville! I read your post past 2 am last night and just rattled off comments like I was at work. I woke up at 4 am worried that I was not very diplomatic in my comments.

      You are truly wonderful.

      I also think your Christmas covers are as good as any I've seen.

      Vince


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    3. Vince, you should never be worried about being honest with me. I love your candor. And thank you for being worried :) You're a great friend and mentor.

      Thanks for the kudos on the Christmas covers, two of them are getting tweaks, not much, but now I can fix the background for the hair on Jennifer (PS has progressed so much) on Forever Yours, and I can paint in the hair on Be Mine and make it look more realistic and make the stars look that way as well. Simple stuff, but important to me :)
      xo
      L

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  2. Leslie, thank you so much for being here today! I find covers very interesting.... not for me to do, but to study. When I was looking at what I wanted for my reverted women's fiction books, I went searching bestsellers... and found that some of them have very indistinct or un-notable covers. That got me thinking (what doesn't????) about how things go these days... and how one type of cover sells a genre (there are some very interesting old-style bodice-ripping type books that came up sponsored under "Prince of Granola"... Oh, Amazon!!!) while another leaves things ambiguous.

    I found women's fiction with a simple porch with empty rockers... a flower... A front door.... a seascape.... literally nothing that tells you anything about the story, but sweet. Debbie Macomber's books with those cute houses.... Or a dystopian series with haunting images....

    Beth Jamison did my new covers and I love them... I loved the original covers, they were beautiful and artsy, but I think these new ones, all with a child or children on the cover, give the reader a hint of story.

    This Prince of Granola cover is gorgeous. Good for you! Who'd have thunk a cacao plantation would cause such a stir, I didn't even know there were cacao plantations, so already I'm drawn! Congratulations on your newest launch!!!!

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    1. Ruth, thank you for your comment. I love being here with you all. I look at covers all the time and frankly, if I see one more 6-pack ab cover with little left the imagination...I don’t mind seeing a body, obvioulsy as I have two in mine.

      Sometimes I see a cover that is so wonderful, I study it and realize it tells nothing but the tone of the book, or so I think. Then I read the blurb and I’m saddened to realize it was nothing like what I thought it would be. However, often I still buy it b/c I like the story idea. If that makes any sense.

      Thanks for the congrats, I hope it does well. So far the numbers are looking good :). Hugs, Leslie Ann

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    2. Hi Ruth:

      You sure give me a shock this morning when I read this: "my reverted women's fiction". For the life of me I could not fathom what a 'reverted woman' was! What were they reverted from? Did they used to be men? Have you gone that far? Wasn't hospice and cancer enough for you? I can't wait to see the covers…or maybe I can!

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    3. Hi Ruth:

      I share your comment on covers:

      " I found women's fiction with a simple porch with empty rockers... a flower... A front door.... a seascape.... literally nothing that tells you anything about the story, but sweet. Debbie Macomber's books with those cute houses.... Or a dystopian series with haunting images...."

      I agree that the cover art should 'show what the story is about'. It should show this in a way that will attract the favorable attention of the readers who would most enjoy and buy this book. These readers are the low-hanging fruit of marketing. You must get these readers to know it is a book for them. If a reader is looking at a hundred books displayed face out at Wal-Mart, they should be able to instantly identify your book as the kind they like best!

      Next I like the scene on the cover to tell a story and be so welcoming that I'd like to join the people on the cover. Compare Glynna's "The Nanny Bargain (Hearts of Hunter Ridge)" -- that is a perfect cover for this book. I'd like to be in that scene with those people.

      When possible I also like the cover scene to show the event readers of that theme romance most look forward to reading! For example: in a 'hidden child' book readers look forward to the scene when the father finds out the child is his. Show that scene.

      Also add 'selling points' if they are in the story and can be shown on the cover. Things like adorable pets, a lighthouse in the background, sail boats, a historical monument, etc. In short, make the cover show what kind of book it is plus show other things that readers also like to have in stories. Make the cover sell…and sell to the right readers = prospects!!!

      It's also important to have an art department that understands selling. :)

      Vince



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    4. Yes!!! I read awhile back that children on the cover were the kiss of death to a book. I don't think that's the case any longer, but I took the shadow of Haley off the cover and added a bunny (well the entire cover changed and is changing again...it's the hair, I gotta fix the hair. I applaud my artist for making it work on a no hair shows in the photograph model, but now I know more and can fix it myself, I think).

      Hugs,
      L

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  3. I BROUGHT COFFEE!!!!! And chocolate croissants. And chocolates from a little shop up Leslie's way, in Ouray Colorado. Mindy Obenhaus stops by there and loves it!!!!

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    1. Ooo, I do love me some Mouse's chocolate. Best ever. Yes, I will be hoarding it.

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    2. Ohhh, I’ll have to stop by sometime when I’m on the Western Slope, or maybe we’ll make it a trip. Tell me more MINDY OBENHAUS!!!

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    3. Thanks Ruth, because I need it on this dark morning. We’re supposed to have snow later and I have a dinner party!! And chocolate croissants, you are hitting all the right notes. Xo

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  4. Hi Leslie, what a great post! Thanks for sharing.

    Coffee and chocolate croissants? Yes, please.

    Have a great day!

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    1. Hi Jackie, Thanks for stopping by. Yum on the coffee and croissants, I’ll leave some for you :).
      Hugs, L.A.

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  5. Good morning, Leslie and welcome to Seekerville. This was an interesting post. I liked hearing all that goes into creating a cover. While I don't write indie, I still have to submit ideas to my publisher and sometimes it's a challenge. So I'm in awe of those who create those own covers. And I think I really might need to go check out The Prince of Granola. :)

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  6. Leslie, welcome back to Seekerville! I see Vince was the first one to greet you, LOL. Good to see he'll always be a fan :)

    I absolutely love this cover. And when you consider the parts and pieces you had to work with, it's wonder the final product came out so intriguing! Actually, I'm a fan of all your covers. The Star Bright series were beautiful, as well.

    I'm praying for a slow day at the day job so I can pop in and play a bit. C'mon, it's Friday. Surely there'll be a little time, LOL.

    Thanks for joining us today, Leslie, and tremendous success on the launch of Prince of Granola!

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    1. Hi Audra:

      I always look forward to LA's visits to Seekerville. I'm also very interested in headlines and artwork. It's said in copywriting that the headline is 80% of the ad. (This is very much the same for the artwork.)

      It's not just a numbers game. For example: If one ad with headline "X" and artwork "X" attracts the attention of 57% of readers and another ad with headline "Y" and artwork "Y" attracts the attention of only 10% of readers, ad "Y" could still be the best and most powerful ad you could run.

      This happens when "X" does not attract the best prospects for the product…say it only gets 1% of the target audience. That ad can fail with very high Starch test numbers ( A test of what ads are remembered.)

      On the other hand, when ad "Y" attracts only 10% of readers but does manager to get the attention of over 50% of the most likely buyers, then ad "Y" is by far the most powerful and profitable ad to run.

      In short, you don't always want the most attention. You want the favorable notice of the best prospects for the product.

      There is a saying in advertising: "If you want to get the most attention, put a naked woman in your ad." Of course, if you're not running an adult movie theater, you'll probably ruin your business!

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    2. See, this is why Vince has been my guru!! Thanks Vince, I keep learning from you.
      Hugs, L

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  7. I see Ruthy brought coffee already. Atta girl!! Well, I brought more! And a lovely pineapple tart to go with the tropical theme we have going in Prince of Granola. Mango and papaya, anyone!!

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    1. Yum, Audra. Thanks for inviting me. Mango and papaya both for me!! Did you know those are great dipped in dark chocolate? YEP!!

      Thanks for inviting me. I did realize after reading the post today, that I DID change the font on my name for this book. BUT it has the same position and style as the other covers.

      I’m tweaking Dare To Believe, Cate’s hair needs work and I’m moving some of the cover’s tag lines around a bit. And on Be Mine This Christmas Night, I’m leaving the idea the same, just fixing the couple, and the stars. Annie looks a bit off to me and now I think I know what to do :) Maybe...

      Thanks again, it’s always a joy to be here.
      Xo Leslie Ann

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    2. Every time I study the process of creating a cover, I'm in total awe of the artistic types that can "see" their cover and then make it happen.

      I've watched you do it many times and I'm STILL in awe :)

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    3. You're making me blush. I love it, yes, I get frustrated at points when I just can't make something work. But I keep learning. I think I have a new cover to make soon for you....????? Paterra Springs will be fun.

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  8. Good morning, Leslie! Looks as if you have as much fun designing your covers as you do writing the books! Love it! :)

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    1. Hi, Glenna,
      Why, yes I do :) I absolutely love being in control...over those things in this crazy biz that I can be in control of ... which is maybe a smidgen!!

      Hugs, and thanks for commenting.
      L.A.

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  9. Leslie, thank you so much for sharing! I downloaded the trial of Photoshop CC and realized it was way over my head. I even started taking an online class at Udemy but got sidetracked by life.

    I'll be sure to check out your directions on your site, though. I might need to try it again eventually! I think it could be really fun. I've always enjoyed picking photos for covers.

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    1. Also meant to say thank you for the offer of help!

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    2. Hi Missy, please don’t hesitate if you have questions. I’ll do my best to help. Yes Photoshop is a beast, I’m always learning new tricks. And Photoshop Elements is getting beastier (word???). It is fun and yes, frustrating, but I’m happy working on the covers and often get instant gratification when something turns out. (That is often after hours of trying, but them BOOM, there it is)

      Super hugs,
      Leslie Ann

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    3. Missy, I discovered Udemy through an email I received from them about a tremendous sale they were having on courses. I, too, bought the Photoshop course, but I think mine is specific to Elements. Udemy has a lot of courses to choose from. I made the most of the 11.99 sale :)

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    4. I bought an Adobe Illustrator class, and I have the scrivener for the iPad. Now I have to upgrade to the CC version of Illustrator :)

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  10. Covers are so important. It took us three or four tries to get the cover of my book right last year, so I totally understand the frustration. Thanks for sharing your tips.

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    1. Hi Amy, yep, I completely agree. That is one reason I’m tweaking a few of my other covers. In Indie publishing you can completely redo a cover for marketing if for no other reason than to freshen up the look and bring new sales in!!

      Hugs,
      L.A.

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  11. Hmmm, I’ve been responding but comments weren’t posting. Give a couple of minutes to see if they show, if not, I’ll post them again. Hugs, L.A.

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  12. Helpful information. Thanks for posting.

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    1. Hi Sally Jo, Glad you liked the post.
      Hugs,
      L.A.

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  13. I'm not anywhere near publication yet, but I always thought I'd like to try my hand at a book cover if I went indie. I've been using Photoshop for years now so I think it might even be fun. Interesting side note that you also write screenplays. I've co-written a couple and my writing partner and I created a couple of DVD cover options that we've sent to our distributor. We'll see what they say, but it definitely will save us some money on the front end if we can do the work ourselves. Great post!

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    1. Hi Glynis,
      Thanks!! Since you use Photoshop already you’re ahead of the game. However, I have a workflow in the tutorials that might help you.

      What kind of screenplays do you and your writing partner write? I have several genres and seem to do well in all of them which is odd. I’ve turned a couple into books and plan to do a few more. It’s an interesting challenge. For some reason I seem to like taking on challenges.

      Let me know if you have questions. I really meant it when I offered help.

      Hugs,
      Leslie Ann

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    2. Thanks, Leslie! My writing partner and I write what we think of as "classic old movies", stuff with a twist like Hitchcock or suspense, but that wouldn't preclude a PG rating. Good stuff, not preachy, just good stories. We figure there has to be a market out there for that. I checked out your website. Great stuff!

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  14. Wow, it's snowing here. More coffee, please and another croissant, and pineapple tart. I'm going to need them.

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    1. Now I want a pineapple tart!!!!

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    2. It's still snowing so if you want to grab the last piece...you better do it fast :)

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  15. What do you all think about tag lines on a cover?

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    1. This is a good question.... and I like them, or "something" on the cover to lead the reader. I'm using quotes on my new covers, but I do like that single line tagline or a quote... Now on a category book it's overkill because size doesn't allow it... but on the 6 x 9 books, yeah. I like 'em!

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    2. I do too. I have on Dare To Believe now, but it'll be one line on the new cover.

      Her daughter is missing,
      only one person can help...

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  16. As an indie author myself, I know how hard finding covers for your stories can be. I'm very picky about my covers, but thus far I've actually been able to find premade covers that match my stories. It's so cool that you make your own covers. I may have to try my hand at that someday, but I fear that I shan't be very good.

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    1. You are lucky that you've found pre-mades, that's awesome. And if you want, start playing now with either PS or Photoshop Elements, so you're not in a crunch at pub time. Playing is a good thing.

      Thanks for commenting, Nicki,
      Hugs,
      L

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  17. What a helpful post! With so many authors going indie, this is a much needed area of tutoring!

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    1. Thanks, Erica,
      I do hope it inspires and isn't daunting!! Let me know if I can help.
      Hugs,
      L.

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    2. Erica, I totally agree.... and how fun that it's primarily women taking their careers into their own hands! I love that!

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  18. VINCE
    What were you doing up at 2am? Even 4am?
    Hugs,
    L

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    1. I was reading Seekerville posts. I'm early tonight but I may be back around 2 am.

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  19. I enjoyed reading all of your tips. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Connie, Thanks for visiting.
      Hugs,
      L.A.

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  20. You did such a great job on the cover. Beautiful!

    I have just begun designing covers for Ruthy and it's been a fun learning experience. Especially for someone with zero background in graphic design. I've been using PicMonkey and have yet to venture into PhotoShop. I know it's amazing, but it intimidates me at the moment. :)

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    1. Hi Beth, how fun. It is a learning experience and believe me, you just never stop learning. Look at my PSE instructions, it's a good place to start.
      Hugs, L.A.

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  21. The Prince of Granola cover looks awesome. Great job!

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    1. Thanks, Sharon. I hope it keeps people coming to buy the book :)
      Hugs, L.A.

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  22. Leslie, you are so talented! I'm amazed at your abilities to both write great novels and design great covers!

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    1. Sandi, you're making me blush. Thank you.
      Hugs, Leslie Ann

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  23. Very interesting to see how different authors indie publish! Thanks.

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    1. Hi Paula, yep, I agree. That's one of the great aspects about Indie. So many ways to get a great book out there.
      Thanks for visiting,
      Hugs, L.A.

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  24. It's always fascinating to see how covers are developed. Thanks for the insights, Leslie.

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    1. Amanda, you've done some fabulous posts on how Revell creates your covers. You all should check out her blog and take a peek.
      Thanks for visiting.
      Hugs, Leslie Ann

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  25. Leslie, you do a tremendous job on your covers! Thanks for sharing your expertise and for being a great encouragement to others!

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