• Creating a Cover Swatch

    Dressing up the Cover – Part 7

    I discovered through trial-and-error that dropping a series of images into a gallery then asking users to comment was inefficient. Some of the reasons for this include:

    • Users tend to ignore titles and will comment on the first, or third image. Unfortunately some sites will vary the order;
    • Users have a hard time comparing covers which are very similar in design. This requires them to look back and forth, which makes comparisons more difficult.
    • Images dropped into a gallery may not exist or be accessible later. The first time I created a sample gallery to compare against, the images became unavailable and was unable to address the issue. This particular behaviour is showcased below:

    52-Post-Error.pngTo mitigate the above points, I created a swatch containing all of the images. This permits me to provide titles, a consistent order and can throw in thumbnails to compare how covers will appear at smaller dimensions. That single image will mean users need only click-once to get a view of all versions, which increases the chance of getting meaningful commentary.

    Creating a Swatch is straightforward; create a canvas large enough to fit the desired versions. Since Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing lists covers should be least 625 x 1000 pixels, all featured variants meet the minimum.

    Using larger covers in the swatch can make it too large to upload at many sites. Additionally, the swatch would take more time to view and require users to zoom-in and out frequently. Hence sticking to the minimum provides avoids a whole slew of issues.

    Cutting Down to Size

    Before we begin, we need to create usable variations. The files we created contain Layers and Styles which react differently at lower resolutions. Additionally, we want to preserve these originals, so use the Save as Copy feature to avoid modifying the source files.

    Open up your Bravo Paint Shop Pro project file then from the File menu click on Save Copy As.

    41-Save-Copy-As.pngThis feature permits you to save a copy of the image without modifying the working image.  Select either JPG or PNG formats then click on Save.

    Note

    Ensure that your save path and file name are correct prior to completing this operation.

    42-Save-Copy-As-Window.pngYou will be presented with a warning about losing Layers and Styles through a Merger. This is precisely what we want, since the image is to be resized later. Click on Yes, then open this newly created image.

    43-Save-Copy-As-Warning.pngFrom the Image menu click on Resize.

    44-Resize.pngA new window will pop-up. Resize to 625 x 1000 pixels or settings that allows you to meet the requirements. Since our examples made use of increments of the minimum size, so the window appears as follows:

    45-Resize-Window.pngOnce satisfied, click on the OK button.

    Repeat the above steps for each variant;  in this tutorial we did the same for Hotel and India.

    Creating the Canvas

    Since we are dealing with three variants (Bravo, Hotel and India) we need to create a swatch that permits fitting in all three. We also need to include a buffer since thumbnails will be added as well. So we create a canvas that is:

    • Width — 2500 pixels.
    • Height — 1400 pixels.
    • Resolution — 300 dpi.

    From the File menu click on New. This will bring up a new window, replicate the options shown below:

    40-Swatch-Create.pngThe colour of your background should be something neutral. This provides a separation between the covers and will not distract the viewer. For the above example, we used a variant of grey.

    Once satisfied click on OK and a new image with the appropriate dimensions will be created.

    Dropping in the Variants

    Now drop in copies of the variations onto the canvas. Click on your copy of Bravo then select the Background Layer. Now from Edit menu, click on Copy or use the CTRL-C keyboard combination.

    46-Copy.pngThis will place a copy into your clipboard.  Switch to your Swatch then from the Edit menu click on Paste As New Layer.

    47-Paste-As-New-Selection.pngThis will drop-in Bravo, which can be moved anywhere onto the canvas.  Since this is our first entry, place it near the edge on the left and leave a bit of spacing.

    48-Selection-Dropped-In.pngNow add-in the thumbnails for Bravo.  Switch to your Copy of Bravo and shrink down the image to a maximum 160×160 pixels.  Repeat the Copy-and-Paste operation done previously then drop-in the thumbnail.

    48-Thumbnail-Dropped-In.pngNow we can compare the full-sized cover to the thumbnail.  This permits us to see how the image appears on Amazon.com.  Now we lack a method of seeing how it appears on a black and white display like the Kindle Paperwhite.

    Drop-in another thumbnail then from the Effects menu, select Photo Effects then Black and White Film.

    49-Black-and-White.pngA new window will appear, I found that Default is sufficient for this step.

    50-Black-and-White-Film.pngWhen satisfied, click on OK.

    To add in a label, from the Tools Bar, select the Text Tool.  For this example, Arial Black at 28 points set all Black was used.  Adjust as necessary to end up with a result that looks like the following:

    51-Text-Tool.pngNow you have the following on your swatch:

    • Main image;
    • Thumbnail;
    • Black and white thumbnail; and
    • Label.

    Repeat as necessary for the other variants.

    Final Touches

    Once finished, crop the Image to remove any unused space.  You should end up with an end-result that resembles the following:

    Swatch.jpgNow you have one image that gives you an overview the three covers.  It’s easy to compare one against another and allows you to see how they hold up at lower dimensions and on black and white displays.

    Hotel does not display well as a thumbnail or in black and white.  That alone should steer you away from that design.

    Create these whenever you wish to compare a sample set of covers.


  • Creator of Worlds

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    Role-Playing Game Toolset on Inkarnate
    Authors often create worlds, while some are more drastic than others; the fact remains that it’s difficult keeping a clear image in our minds.  When reading through the Lord of the Rings, I found that the map provided came in handy.  This reference kept locations fresh in my mind while maintaining perspective.

    I came across this link on my Google+ feed.  It features a role-playing tool set from Inkarnate, which permits you to create beautiful and detailed maps.  While perhaps not publishing quality, this certainly permits an author to sketch out their world.  This alone would go a long way towards preventing the introduction of inconsistencies into their prose!

    This tool would have been invaluable in the early stages of The Grand Project. The review process led me to discover how  the hotel had not always written to be in the same place!


  • The Email Holy Grail

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    7 Tips for Getting More Responses to Your Emails (With Data!) on blog.boomerangapp.com.
    Came across this article from +Laurie Varga​​’s feed and it’s an interesting read. There is excellent advise within and statistics to back up their claims.

    Not all of it translates well for posting on Google+ and their ilk (i.e. Long comments probably will get you a TL;DR.) though some certainly applies!

    While the title of the article says 7 Tips for Getting More Responses to Your Emails, only six are outlined in the summary! I included the summary below for convenience:

    1. Use shorter sentences with simpler words. A 3rd grade reading level works best.
    2. Include 1-3 questions in your email.
    3. Make sure you include a subject line! Aim for 3-4 words.
    4. Use a slightly positive or slightly negative tone. Both outperform a completely neutral tone
    5. Take a stand! Opinionated messages see higher response rates than objective ones.
    6. Write enough, but not too much. Try to keep messages between 50-125 words.

  • Once More Unto the Breach

    I just began my second review of The Grand.  This is another intensive review of the project and this time, I aim to keep better records on the amount of edits and reviews done.

    The_Grand_Bravo_Series

    So far, the Synopsis (33) and my Prologue – One Small Step (207) has been completed, resulting in 240 modifications.  In time, I will get a better feel for this edit and figure out how drastic this revision will be when compared to the last.  Updates were made on both Google Docs and Wattpad. The Google Docs version allows for comments and revisions; so please make use of this capability.


    Filed Under
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    Tagged With
  • Another Tool in the Shed

    featured_ePub_generator
    The Redsy Book Editor: A Powerful Writing Tool on reedsy.com

    Came across this link on my Google+ feed.  Always a good idea to keep an eye out for new tools. This one may be cloud based, but it might have a must-have feature that people would kill for!


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    Tagged With
  • Notes and Variants

    Dressing up the Cover – Part 6

    This is Part 6 of the Dressing up the Cover tutorial and previously we covered Taglines and Layer Styles.

    t_21-Tagline-Inserted.pngNotes on Bravo

    Bravo was originally released along with two (2) other variants and was by far the most popular of the three (3). Feedback shown below led to the creation of other variants.

    Bravo caught my attention better than the others.

    Bravo looks the most professional, although the fonts are kind of sterile.

    I’m not a fan of any of them. They all scream —self-published— in the worst of ways.

    None of them say horror to me.  If you’re sold on using the image, I’ definitely try to bring it out in the fonts.  Look at some popular horror titles and see what they use.  That will give you an idea of what communicates —horror— to readers.

    Overall, the points brought forward were related to the choice of font and how the cover did not fit the ideal horror cover. The Portrait does not subscribe to the modern ideals of horror, at least in terms of gore playing a large part.

    People expected to see streaks of blood, fangs protruding from the lady’s mouth or vast amounts of gore. This worked against the story of the premise where the supernatural settings are concealed for most of the novel and would potentially spoil the surprise!

    There was a noticed distaste for the red borders employed with this particular variant. While I initially believed that they infused the cover with a bit of colour, people predominantly disagreed and preferred to have no transitions as all.

    Over all I managed to pick up a few points to work on:

    • Keep some distance between the outside edges of the image and the font. Text elements are more likely to remain visible if the image needs to be truncated or applied to a printed cover;
    • The use of red for fonts to add in colour may not work out as expected. Red does not display well in black and white images;
    • There is a strong preference for covers to use an image covering the whole of the visible area. This led to the development of Hotel and India variations which are covered later;
    • Font selection is key and has been discussed before. There was a strong push for Trajan Pro as a general-purpose font.

    Some  recommendations were applied to Bravo which created the variant below.  While it does not address all of the faults, it does provide an incremental improvement.

    A Hotel Visit

    Hotel was a variant that aimed to make use of different fonts that would grab the attention of a potential reader.  This version also made use of transparencies and the outer glow effect which differs from other versions.  While Hotel universally reviled in comments it does have certain features that were fun to explore.

    You will need to make use of the Lady Normal Base, to proceed with this aspect of the tutorial.

    The cover size is longer than the original image allows . To achieve this we needed to create a mirror image copy then join them at the seams. This increases the space above her head to prevent the Author’s Name from obstructing her face.

    From the Image menu, select Canvas Size.

    30-Canvas-Size-Select.pngA new Window appears, which permits you to adjust the Size of the canvas. Increase the Height of to 16000 pixels then ensure Placement is set to Bottom, Middle as shown:

    31-Canvas-Size-Options.png

    Click on the OK button, which adds an empty space above the image found.

    32-Canvas-Size-Result.pngUsing the Selection Tool, make a copy of the top portion of the Base then Paste as a New Layer. You up with two copies of the Top with the new selection that needs to be flipped.

    From the Image Menu select Flip then Flip Vertical.

    33-Flip-Vertical.pngLine-up the images as though they were part of a mirror image. Once satisfied with the merger, right-mouse click on the layers then from the Merge Popup-Menu select Merge All (Flatten).

    This operation will merge both layers together. You may need to experiment until the connection is seamless.

    Next add the Author, Title and Taglines. As mentioned previously, Layer Styles for Author and Title employ of Outer Glow, Emboss and Transparencies to get the desired effect. To reproduce the effects showcased on the cover the following fonts were used.

    • Title — Bebas Neue Bold
    • Author — Oleo Script
    • Tagline — Cinzel (Bolded)

    For Layer Styles adjust until settings match the options below:

    35-Layer-Styles-Emboss.pngThe next step is to adjust the Outer Glow, set it to match those shown below:

    34-Layer-Styles-Glow.png

    While there are a lot of ways to adjust transparency, you can do so from the General Tab of the Layer Properties window. Copy the settings found below then save it for later use. This ensures consistency when applying it to other layers.

    The Tagline only makes use of Emboss, copy the settings below to match our style.

    35-Layer-Styles-Transparency.png

    The Tagline only makes use of Emboss, copy the settings below to match our style.

    36-Layer-Styles-Emboss-Tagline.png

    You end up with a cover which looks roughly like our sample.

    A Trip to India

    India was not one of my designs. Ironically, an acquaintance used a phone app to whip up a design she felt worked well. This formed the basis for cover design used on The Portrait.

    Other than making use of Lady Ethereal as a base, this design uses techniques which have been explained before.  To the following fonts were used:

    • Title – Cinzel (Bolded)
    • Author – Cinzel (Bolded)
    • Tagline – Cinzel (Bolded)

    In Part 7, we will talk about making a Cover Swatch.


  • Preparing for Google+ Using Microsoft Word

    The Find and Replace capabilities within Microsoft Word are impressive.  However, the interface is not necessarily intuitive and some of features can work against one another.  Once aware of these limitations, we can use this capability to perform a series of tasks quickly and efficiently.

    Medium-Link
    Preparing for Google+ Using Microsoft Word also available on Medium.com

    This tutorial will reference the same text throughout.  A sample to follow along with is included below:

    “A vision from the past becomes a writer’s deadly obsession,” Evelyn Chartres.

    The Portrait is a Gothic horror about Victoria Frost, an author who develops an unhealthy obsession for her character. As events unfold, her obsession begins to turn on her forcing the author to question her sanity.   Is this simply insanity or are there other factors in play?

    The Portrait is a mixture of contemporary and historical pieces with the latter revolving around her character and muse.   In this novel,     the author will revisit an iconic scene using both prose and art yielding new pieces to the puzzle.

     Posting on Google+

    Google+ is a social media site, which supports limited formatting when posting.  These features however are not selectable through a menu, but interpreted by special characters embedded within the posts.  For convenience, three (3) formatting options are shown below.

    • Italics, _Word_
    • Bold, *Word*
    • Strikethrough, -Word-

    Say you have a document which has been drafted in WordPress or Microsoft Word with formatting in place.  Using the example provided, we can find Italics, Bold and Strikethrough formatted text and replace add in our special characters.

    Note: Due to the similarity in methods, only Italics is covered.

    From the Home Ribbon, click on Replace as which will pop-up the Find and Replace window.

    01-Search-Replace-Ribbon.pngFirst, ensure your cursor is in the Find what textbox.  In bottom-left corner there is a Format button, click on the Format button then select Font from the pop-up menu.

    02-Replace-Format-Font.pngNote: If you cannot see the Format button, then click on the More > > button.  It will expand the window and display additional capabilities.

    The Find Font window will appear and provides an extensive search capability.  In this situation, we need only select Italic from Font style section.  Click OK to proceed.

    03-Find-Font-Italics.pngRepeat the previous two (2) steps, this time ensuring the cursor is in the Replace with textbox.  This time select Not Italic from the Font style section.

    04-Find-Font-Not-Italics.pngThe image below shows how Find and Replace has been configured to search for Font: Italic and replace with Font: Not Italic.  This removes the formatting and prevents it being found in later searches.

    06-Replace-With_Underscore.pngTo have Google+ see the formatting we need to insert an underscore (_) at either end of the relevant text.  Start by typing in two (2) underscores (__) in the Replace with textbox then move your cursor between these characters.

    Click on the Special button then select Find What Text as shown below.

    07-Find-What-Text.pngThis inserts ^& into the Replace with textbox in between the underscores.  This sequence of characters references text found during the search.

    08-Replace-All-Italics.pngIf necessary, adjust the Replace with textbox to look like the image below.  When satisfied, click on Replace All, which brings up the following pop-up.

    09-Replacement-Results.pngClick on the OK button, close the Find and Replace window to find the following result:

    “A vision from the past becomes a writer’s deadly obsession,” Evelyn Chartres.

    The Portrait is a _Gothic horror_ about _Victoria Frost_, an author who develops an unhealthy obsession for her character. As events unfold, her obsession begins to turn on her forcing the author to question her sanity.   Is this simply insanity or are there other factors in play?

    The Portrait is a mixture of contemporary and historical pieces with the latter revolving around her character and muse.   In this novel,     the author will revisit an iconic scene using both prose and art yielding new pieces to the puzzle.

    Repeat the above to replace out Bold *^&* and Strikethrough -^&- fonts.  When done, all you need to do is Copy and Paste your text into your Google+ post and you are set!


  • Confitures a l’Oignon

    Sweet Red Onion Jam

    Confitures a l’Oignon

    A jam made of sweet onions, wine and blackcurrant liqueur.  This recipe makes an excellent hors d’oeuvre when served with strong cheese and something crunchy, or served on a toasted bagel.

    I usually serve this as a snack, mixing an aged cheddar, feta, or blue cheese and serving it atop a Grissol or roasted baguettes (pictured).

    (more…)

  • A Brief Reprieve

    In the week since the initial review of The Grand Project was completed, I finished reading The Martian and caught up on some television.  In other words, I have spare cycles until the review process begins anew.

    My review began on 16 August 15 and was finished 14 January 16.  This process took six months to accomplish and 4039 corrections were logged.  This means there were 1132 additional corrections made after the 71% mark was noted in Slow and Steady on 17 November 15.

    At that time, there were 41 modifications done for each percent of the manuscript reviewed.  The last 29% saw that number drop to 39 corrections while the global average settled in at 40 corrections.  Overall, the number remained consistent and that is not a bad thing.

    If my progress on The Grand Project follows a similar path to the The Portrait then I expect numbers to drop for the next revision.  My final review of The Portrait yielded less than 50 changes for the entire manuscript.

    During my next review process, I will keep statistics for every chapter.  That should yield some very interesting results!  For now, there are a few more readings on my to-do list to accomplish before I start again!


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