History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

29 July 2013

Creating A Cover

I thought today I'd talk a little about creating a cover. I got a lot of questions about what I did to create the cover for my upcoming indie novella, RIPE FOR ANYTHING, while I was at RWA. The short answer is "find the right people". The long answer is, well, long.

I knew that if I was going to self publish, I couldn't skimp on the cover. I had to be able to create something that would fit seamlessly with my New York covers.The image to the right is the result, and I think I managed to do what I set out to do.

Now, the nitty-gritty on HOW I did that, so others can too:


I'll admit I have an advantage here, being a historical re-enactor and a long-time costumer. I made a couple of "costume blanks" out of cheap cotton broadcloth. I made a dozen different trims up that could be swapped out quickly and easily so the basic gowns can be used over and over for many covers to come.

Costume bits hanging in my dining room
Costume bits
If you don't sew, or don't want to sew, you can look into renting or buying what you need. There are plenty of costume shops out there as well as on-line stores that sell very basic historical costumes for re-enactors for almost any period you can imagine. Yes, this will be an investment, but if you choose wisely, you'll be setting yourself up for long-term success. And if you buy them, then you'll always have them for future shoots (assuming that you're planning on writing in the same historical subgenre for many books to come).


Jenn shooting
This is trickier, but there are more and more professional photographers out there who are doing stock for book covers. I've met several at romance conferences, and the one I really hit it off with was Jenn LeBlanc of Illustrated Romance. She writes historical romance as well, and she really understood my goal. So I met up with her at a shoot, costumes in hand, and we were off to the races.

Jenn booked the models and I was able to see the shots on the laptop screen as she shot. This meant it only took a few snaps before I knew we had what I wanted and Jenn was free to move on to shooting stock for herself (there's a LOT of fabulous stock on her site, shot with my Georgian, Regency, and Victorian costumes).

"The Shot" 

Once the shoot is over, you have to study the stock and really LOOK at the details of each image. A limp, dead hand can ruin a great shot (though you might be able to hide it behind text!). Jenn also showed me what can be done in Photoshop in a few quick seconds to alter an image. She gave a model an eyebrow quirk that just MADE another author's cover shot. The model went from blandly smirking to hot and cocky. We played around with cropping the shots as well. I'm not good at looking at a stock image and seeing the potential of cropping. Or I wasn't. I'm much better at it now thanks to Jenn!

From Stock to Cover

I took advice from all the indie authors I know and complied a list of cover artists to check out. There were three in the final running, and after spending waaaaay too long looking at their portfolios, I emailed Carrie at Seductive Musings Designs. I sent her a rough mockup and she understood immediately what I wanted.

We went through eight different alterations before settling on the final design (Carrie talked me out of the duller lavender I'd had in mind and she added the fantastic background). Once the design was approved, she started working on the font. I'm honestly blown away by the job she did there. I think it's a near perfect match for the hand lettering on my New York covers.

[Edited to add: I think LEGIBILITY is very important. Especially legibility in thumbnail. This has been emphasized to me by Bella Andre, Courtney Milan, and Carolyn Jewel, who all know what they're talking about. The thin, fancy fonts that work great on a printed book often disappear entirely on a thumbnail, and it's the thumbnail that most people will see when browsing.]

So there you have it, my formula for indie historical covers. Which I readily admit is what happens when a control freak runs away to the self publishing circus.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't it get expensive to do all that? Pay photographer, models, designer?

Are you setting yourself up for a number of future covers, so it's worth it to you?

And I'm impressed with your costuming abilities - surely you know that's not an ordinary talent?

Nice job - it looks extremely professional.

11:04 PM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

@liebjabberings: It wasn’t cheap, but I honestly don’t think it’s possible to achieve professional results without making an investment (though my goal in loaning out my costumes to Jenn and other stock photographers is to help make it cheaper and easier on other authors).

And really, I didn’t spend a ton more than I would have just buying exclusive stock (and yes, I think that expense is well worth it and if an author can swing it, they really should). I didn’t pay for the photographer or the models out of pocket. I piggybacked onto one of Jenn’s regular shoots and then paid for the resulting photographs. And yes, I got three covers out of the shoot I went to, so it was well worth it. And now I have the costumes for future shoots and Jenn has a good idea of what I like, so technically I won’t need to fly in to future shoots (though I probably will because it was fun!).

I look at moving into self publishing like starting any other business. There will be start up costs. There will be investments that you have to make in order to be successful. If being New York published taught me anything, it taught me that covers (and editing!) matter.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

I love them, Isobel. But anything you set your mind to would have to turn out well.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

Thanks, Ella! It was a ton of work up front, but everything usually is. Once you get all the pieces in place, you're set.

11:28 AM  

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