Cover Travails

August 21, 2016

Even though I said I wouldn’t bore you with the story of my many frustrations in getting this book out, it occurs to me some of you might find the cover saga amusing. It’s one of those that’s not at all funny to the person involved at the time, but becomes so in retrospect. Now that it’s over, I do see the humor of it, although I’m still doing a little teeth gritting when I smile.

As you probably know, images for book covers have to be ones I can get the right to use. When people just Google images and post them in blogs, maybe they get away with it, but it’s a violation of copyright law. You should acquire the right to do it from the creator before using anything like that. As a writer, I’m not going to violate anyone else’s copyright on principle, and for book covers it would be asking for trouble.

So I searched and searched for something I could use for this cover on the royalty-free image sites and didn’t find much. After hours and hours, I came up with half a dozen sunsets over scenery that maybe could work but that I had doubts about. The sites that sell images let you download small, low-resolution versions of their images with watermarks over them.

One big problem was the car. I wanted the image of the Franklin in there, and I could only get a side view of the Franklin. Some images would have worked, but they needed a front-end coming-at-you or angled auto in them, and I didn’t have one. So finally I found something, bought the image – and lo and behold in full size and resolution the people in it were not just modern – I knew that and that I would have to put a long skirt on her – but you could see details in the image like their clothing and bare skin where it wouldn’t be bare in 1905.

So I spent more hours making them real silhouettes, putting a skirt on her, etc. Then I fiddled with getting the car in there forever and a half and finally produced a book cover.

And I hated it.

Maybe that’s too strong. I didn’t like it. I never liked the colors. My guess is someone used a strong filter to alter the original scene in the first place. The field the couple stood in was dark red, almost maroon, and the sky was orange but a flat orange without clouds. It was the combination of those colors mostly that put me off. No matter how much I told myself it would do, I just didn’t like it, and after covers I liked a lot and felt good about for Beautiful Bad Man,  Into the Light and Without Words….

In the meantime, I knew and have known for a long time the desktop computer I used for things like this was on its way out. I had recently spent a couple of days transferring almost everything on it to a new box. However, when I say “almost” it’s because the old one was running Windows XP and had a couple of programs on it that won’t run on more modern systems. One of those I reluctantly gave up on and the other – the other is the one I’ve always used for covers.

So the old PC was set up in a corner so I could use that one program – and it died right before I finished the cover I didn’t like. Eeek! Yack! I’d already found that some people have made that program run on more modern systems, but I was ready to buy a used machine with XP or have XP put on it just to use that program, but of course I’ve never been able to find the installation disc for this old “orphan” program. I think it came with something else I decided I didn’t need and tossed long ago.

I found the program for sale on eBay and immediately ordered it. Then I got an email from the seller telling me she’d ship my order of Family Tree the next day. I emailed back frantically, no, no that’s not what I want and got no answer. So I bought it again from another seller. That seller, bless her, sent the right thing and sent it forthwith. (I did get Family Tree and eventually a refund from the first seller, and she’s lucky I haven’t left buyer feedback.)

So I did get the software and can make it work, sort of. I have to reboot the PC each time I want to use it, tell it about needing Windows XP compatibility each time, etc., but it will load and work.

Back to square one, I cut those silhouettes out of the scenery I’d come to hate and had them on their own. And I searched and searched and found the background you see in the cover I posted for A Grand Race, but my silhouettes didn’t look quite right, at least to me, so I sculpted and sculpted. And of course there’s no road ready to receive the car, so I wiggled it and did this and that and finally settled for what you see.

So cover was all done and I loaded it on my laptop – and it was ugly. On the desktop I wasn’t in love with the colors, but they were realistic of a certain kind of storm and okay, but on the laptop, too yellow, too tan, ugly.

Back to the old software, back to the sunset scene, fiddle with the color, add the silhouette of the people, add the car, add the text.

I’m not sure if I like it or if I’ve merely collapsed in relief.

Then there’s my new formatting software, which is wonderful, I’d love to hear what you all think when you get the book, but it also came with a few surprises.

~ Ellen