It’s not everyday that one gets to blur the lines between fiction and reality. Using a high quality version of my cover, I had a 20 x 30 inch canvas print of the Lady made.
So what is a canvas without a frame? I had a local shop build me a custom frame using two separate borders. I have to admit that rather like the final product. Although I will say that I am likely biased!
I got a few copies of The Portrait in the mail from CreateSpace the other day, but could not inspect the package due to a business trip. This is the first time since my arrival that I’ve been able to get a good look at them and I believe they came out well!
As previously mentioned, this edition is in black and white which significantly reduced the prices. The images turned out well and are clear, additionally the four pages that were flagged as having unusual characters came out as they did in the preview… flawless. So yes, I am rather happy how they turned out!
I was making sure that all of my storefront links to the Portrait were valid, when I noticed that my novel had reached 150 downloads on Smashwords. Well it is 151 because I was rather late in noticing the milestone.
My decision to target Smashwords seems to have been a good one. Here are some reasons why:
Smashwords has a user community of its own and have left more comments than any other.
Smashwords has not buried my book under tons of new material. I still get views, even if the downloads have waned. I have to be realistic, pushing people to view and download a book can be a full-time job all by itself!
While this is an achievement (albeit a minor one), I did not feel it was worth the effort or calorie intake to make a full-sized frosted cake. I will save that type of indulgence for later!
I am rather negligent when it comes to looking up my book on sites to see if someone has read the book and left a review. While Smashwords had a strong initial trend of views and downloads, it has since slowed down.
That is to be expected, since The Portrait has been out a while and I do not actively push the content. However, it has yielded some reviews over time and I came across this one today!
Any review that says the reader will grab my next book is a great news for me. So I thought it would be nice to share!
In February of this year, I released The Portrait. During its previous incarnation as The Portrait of a Woman, it saw little traffic and activity graphs conjured up images of a patient flatlining.
At least my decision to move away from Amazon‘s Kindle Direct Publishing sphere of influence and branch out into additional markets has breathed life into the project. On Smashwords, the novel has broken a hundred downloads (was 118 when I posted) and still sees daily views.
While downloads may be waning on the graphs, I prefer to not make draw any definite conclusions. The book is available through considerably more markets and is free! After all, what is the value of a novel if you cannot actually sell it?
Smashwords has also been wonderful in delivering my eBook to other markets. True you may have more control if you do it yourself, however for free novels this I feel this feature is invaluable.
“A vision from the past becomes a writer’s deadly obsession.”
The Portrait of a Woman was released over a year ago through Kindle Direct Publishing. The novel never did gain much traction, so I decided it was time to breathe some life into it.
Enter The Portrait, featuring a shorter title, a fresh cover and minor changes to the storyline. I had someone review the novel to touch-up the formatting and grammar here and there. Overall this release is superior to the original release.
This time I used Smashwords, which also distributes through popular sites like Barnes and Noble, iBooks, iBooks, Kobo and Scribd. Additionally, this book is available at no cost, since I feel that it’s more important to get this story out there!
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 and leads the author to question her sanity. Is this simply her slipping deeper into madness or are there other factors in play?
The Portrait is a mixture of contemporary and historical scenes with the latter revolving around her muse. In this novel, the author will revisit an iconic scene using both prose and art yielding new pieces to the puzzle with every pass.
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. Reddoes 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 Hoteluniversally 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, selectCanvas Size.
A newWindow 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:
Click on the OK button, which adds an empty space above the image found.
Using 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 MenuselectFlip then Flip Vertical.
Line-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 MergePopup-MenuselectMerge 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 Stylesadjust until settings match the options below:
The next step is to adjust the Outer Glow, set it to match those shown below:
While there are a lot of ways to adjust transparency, you can do so from the GeneralTab 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.
The Tagline only makes use of Emboss, copy the settings below to match our style.
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:
This is Part 5 of the Dressing up the Cover tutorial and previously we covered Borders and Text.
Make use of the Pick Tool from the Tools Bar to reduce the size of Lady Shade until she fits within the confines of the borders. Take your time to ensure that the resize operation is done using one of the Corners to maintainAspect Ratio.
Sometimes the Pick Toolwill notResize. Attempts to modify will instead alter the Perspective which is not the desired behaviour. To correct this behaviour change the Mode to Scale.
After completing your adjustments Lady Shade should look roughly like below.
Now is the time to add a Tagline, a sentence or short paragraph which is used to grab a reader. Since we not use complex Layer Styles for this section we can go ahead and create it one layer.
The Liberation Sans Font was used for the tagline. The Font Size was set to 72 Points so we can work on it later. Note that Bold or Italics in the Font Styles were not selected.
To match our example the following line was used:
A vision from the
past becomes a
Once the text is inserted, resized then moved the appropriate location (shown below) the image should resemble the following.
Next make use of Layer Styles to finish up the Text Lines and Borders. From the Layers Panel, select one of your Author’s Name Layer’s then click on the Layer Styles icon.
The Layer Properties window will open and feature effects applicable to layers. As seen below, operations range from Reflection and Drop Shadow effects.
For the Title and Author we want to make use of the Emboss style, use the settings above then click on OK to set the Layer Style. This process must be repeated for each layer, so save these settings to use as pre-sets. This will ensure consistency throughout all of the elements.
Now for the Tagline Layer, we will adjustDrop Shadow. You can copy the settings found above, to provide a subtle shadow effect to create the illusion the tagline floating over-top the Lady Shade Layer.
UseLayer Styles to Emboss the Borders as well. Once complete the cover should appear as it does below.
To continue with our design, we need to addtwo rectangles that have a Black Border and Fill. From the Tools Bar, select the Rectangle Tool.
Createtwo new Rectangles, one at the top and the second at the bottom and have them in the same Vector Layer to manage. Also ensure the Lady Shade layer is just above the Background Layer else the rectangles will be obscured.
Now create a Rectangle that has a Red Border and Fill. This one will be small and narrow to create a transition between the Lady Shade Layer and the Filler Layer. Duplicate this RectangleusingCTRL-C/CTRL-V combinations then move them over the transition points.
These two Rectangles should be grouped as this permits the application of consistent Layer Styles later on. This Borders Layer should then be placed on top the Filler Layer.
The image should appear like the one shown below.
Now it is time to add text. For now, we will work on the Title and the Author’s Name. These elements are prominently found on covers, although the prominence of the Author’s Name tends to vary with name recognition.
From the Tools Barselect the Text Tool.
As seen above, the Neuton Font was used for both the Title and Author’s Name. Since we are working at high resolutions, setting the Font Size to 72 Points and Bold is enough to both select and adjust at a later time.
Because Layer Styles will be used later on, the Title and Author’s Name are broken into smaller chunks. The image below denotes the different segments by alternating colours.
Using the tricks learned in Higher Resolution Blues, we lined up then Link the layers for both the Title (3) and Author’s Name (4).
Make sure to line up the individual elements before making any alterations. Once dimensions change, replicating the change in individual components is difficult to achieve. To adjust a line, select all layers by holding down the SHIFT key.
Experiment with these Text Lines until it looks like the image below. Be aware that you may need to move the Border Layers in addition to adjusting the Filler Layers to achieve this result.
When you want to resize a Text Line, always do so from the Corners. Using the other methods will stretch and skew the Text Line.
Before creating a cover, look at best-sellers within your genre. They showcase trends and expectations, such as the location, placement and style of image. After some research, I created a series of covers including the Bravo variant.
We know that Amazon.com requires their covers to be of a certain size. This guideline informs us that a resolution 625x1000px is the minimum resolution. From the File menu, click on New, which will open the New Image Window.
We are going to create an image that is bigger than required to maintain detail:
6250 pixels wide;
10000 pixels high;
300 Pixels/Inch for resolution; and
Once you are satisfied with the settings, click on OK, which will create a new image base. Now that we have a blank slate, it is time to start adding in elements.
For this particular version, we are going to use Lady Shadewithout the Ethereal background. Open up your fully rendered version of this image then copy it into the New Image. To copy a Background, select the Background Layer then use the CTRL-C keyboard combination. Alternatively you can click on the Edit menu then selectCopy.
Click on the Tab for your New Image. Then use the CTRL-V combination or from the Edit menu selectPaste As New Layer. This will drop in Lady Shade which takes up more than the allocated space. The end result should look like this:
Lady shade is currently not in position, we want her closer to the centre, even if that leaves a blank at the top. From the Tools Bar, select the Pick Tool then drag it down for a bit.
Do not worry if the image moves off the confines of the image. This has no effect on the layer being moved.
Resize and adjust as necessary, until you get the result below: