Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cover Design - Giver of Wonders

My Facebook friends may have seen my upcoming cover already, but I figured today I'd do a design post on it, just for fun. =)

You've no doubt all heard me talking about my idea for a biblical Christmas story. It will be set in the early days of the man who became known as St. Nicholas, though I'm calling him by his name as it was said in Greek, Nikolaos. Nikolaos is one of the key characters in the story, but this is me--I'm all about the fictional characters. =) So in this case, my protagonist is a young woman named Cyprus. A young woman with rare (in that part of the world) red hair that plays a rather vital role in how her life goes. A young woman who experiences a miracle...and then spends years wondering why the Lord healed her. What's her purpose? What life is she meant to live?

My search for a model photo led me to www.DeviantArt.com, and I'm oh so glad it did! I've discovered that a lot of the artists and photographers and designers there love to share their work and have permissions for even commercial use on their pages. Which thrilled me beyond all thought when I stumbled across the Greek queen collection by Kirilee Lennerts. She had many poses of herself in this fabulous green dress, but I fell in love with this one.

I love the draping of the fabric. I love how she's looking over her shoulder. And I love how her hand is right there by her hair, playing with it. Something Cyprus does whenever she's upset or distracted. Of course, her hair's the wrong color, but red is an easy change. So I deleted the background and reddened her hair. I moved her off to the side of my page so I'd have room for the title.
(You're seeing it here with some lighting effects added too...)

I was happy with how she looked there, but feedback on Facebook said her arm looked weird and a few folks weren't sure what her hand was doing there, so I decided to add a bit more hair to make it clear.
There she is--hi, Cyprus!

Now, background. As I was playing with this cover for the last month and a half, I thought I wanted a fireplace in the background, or candles. The main action of the book takes place during Saturnalia, the Roman festival of lights that led up to the winter solstice, which Christian scholars believed even then was also the birthday of Christ, though the celebrations we know and love were still centuries away from developing. I thought this would look Christmasy though...but try as I might to play and play with fireplaces and candles, it just wasn't it.

So I did a lot of studying of successful Christmas novel covers. I asked everyone questions. I learned that the majority of Christmas-story readers like things like snow on the covers.

Um...this is set in present-day Turkey, then part of Greece. They aren't exactly rolling in snow, LOL. But it's really the colors that shout "Christmas!", right? So I have the green, snow = white. White I can probably do.

I decided to head to Wikimedia Commons and search for Patara, the town it's set in. I find quite a few pictures to choose from!
I'm not sure if you can really see it in the screenshot, but there are lots of photos of the countryside and the ruins of Patara, some with archways, some with columns. (And a turtle??? LOL)

For once, the first one I choose ended up working out well. ;-) I chose the picture in the middle of that bottom row there, the one with the columns.
Photo by John Morgan-Evans
Of course, I don't want the people in there. And I also don't want the pillars to be in obvious disrepair. Plus, I need the perspective to be right. So that picture gets super zoomed and put behind my heroine.
Doesn't look very white yet, I know. But with some brightening and lighting effects, it turns into this.
I really liked how it looked both white and gold. It complements the gold on her dress just beautifully. =) Of course, in the image here, the top and bottom are faded out. That's because a bit later in the process I decided to fade the bottom to the creamy gold and the top to the same green as her dress. It ended up looking like this.
I was in love! LOL. The colors felt spot-on, and I had a lovely blank space with a nice glow to it for my words.

So. Title. By the time I started this round of the cover, I had it nailed down, but when I first started playing with it, I had no clue what I wanted the title to be. I started with The Gift from Nikolaos. Which...meh. I looked up things like The Gift Giver and Giver of Gifts...all used quite a few times. I liked the idea of Gift for a Christmas story...but I just couldn't think of how to make it sound right. So what else was Nikolaos known for?

His miracles. As a boy in Patara, he was called Wonder-Worker. (Can you imagine growing up with that for a nickname???!!!) Wonder...hmm. I liked the sound of that! It also evoked Christmas, but more beside. So how could I work with wonder? I decided to put it together with the gift idea and ended up with:

Giver of Wonders

What do you think? I really liked it. I liked how it could be describing God or a person (Nik), how it evokes thoughts of both gifts and miracles and the simple wonder we feel as we look at his amazing love for us. I decided that was my winner. =) So it was time to play with the font and positioning.

I won't lie. I tried a lot of different fonts! But I won't show you all of them. I'll just show you what I decided on--something bold and big, which would fill that space, be easy to read in a thumbnail. The font is called Bembo, and it's a rather traditional typesetting font. I really love the Ws in it. ;-)
The only fancy part is the "of" which I made just a shade or two darker and, in typical "me" fashion then rasterized so I could delete parts of it and make it look like it loops around the E and the O. (Not sure if you can see that on here, LOL, but it's one of those "well, I know it does!" things.)

So putting that overtop of our picture, we get this.

I actually put Giver behind the girl--it only slides behind her hand a bit, but I liked the interaction of model and font. So then I went ahead and put my name on there too. It's big solely because it filled up the space best that way, LOL. And to make it easily read in the thumbnails. Same font as Giver and Wonders.


We're getting somewhere. I liked the red of the font--I now had all my main colors. Red, green, white, and gold. How much more Christmasy can we get?? Yet it's subtle. It's not something that looks cheesy or over the top.

But Wonders didn't stand out very well. And when my hubby came over to look at it, he said, "I liked the way you had the title on your old cover." He was referring to The Gift of Nikolaos cover I first played with, which had Nikolaos on a banner. I headed back to Google to look up free banner vectors and decided to try out a gold one.
I plugged it in behind Wonders and voila!
Yep...definitely in love. =) My final step was to add a little subtitle (which could yet change). I used "A Story of St. Nicholas" to let readers know it's a seasonal story and that, despite the biblical flavor of the cover, it deals with a well known Christmas figure. Though I may yet also add a little something to the top left that says something about this being about the Visibullis family my biblical readers love so well. =)

So there we have it! The cover for Giver of Wonders, which will be coming to you late this year, in time for Christmas but not solely a Christmas story. =)

And just to make sure the amazing Kirilee had no issues which me digitally dyeing her hair, I did send the cover to her for approval, and she was incredibly stoked. ;-)

8 comments:

  1. So, so pretty! As someone who designs her own covers, I really appreciate you sharing your step-by-step process. Thank you.

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    1. Sure! I obviously gloss over a lot of the tedium and how-tos so I don't bore everyone, but if you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email sometime! (Not that I know everything--I'm frequently shooting Google questions, LOL)

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  2. Beautiful! It makes me want to start reading! :)

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  3. These are absolutely my favorite posts ever! Can't wait for it's release and know one Christmas book I will definitely be reading! :D

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    1. They're fun to do too! Take a bit of time, but not a whole lot of thinking. ;-) (The posts, not the covers, LOL)

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