Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cover Art Corner

Today, I'm starting a quarterly series on cover art. I'll be asking for people to send me questions which I will answer in future posts. To start out, I'll give you all some information on who I am and who I do covers for.

For those of you who don't know me, I write under the pen name Lex Valentine, but before there was a Lex there was a Winter. Winter's been around on the internet since the early 90's. That's when a friend got her the domain name winterheart.com. (Yes, I really have had the domain for more than 15 years!) Winter has also been messing around with websites and photo manipulation for about that long although not in any real serious way.

So, now we've established that I go by both Lex and Winter and that I've had winterheart.com a long time, I want to roll the calendar forward to 2006 or so. I started writing in a serial story online and we gathered photos of celebs to depict our characters. I ended up making banners and avatars for the characters and learned to swap heads on photos. (Guess whose head was swapped on that image of "Al & Lex", two characters from the serial story?) This is really where I started learning Photoshop. I took a couple of classes that the company I worked for paid for, but really, what I learned was all trial, lots of error, and some video tutorial watching on YouTube.

When I was first published, my publisher at Pink Petal Books was ecstatic to learn I knew Photoshop and I started doing covers for her, including all my own covers. Over the years since then I've started doing covers for MLR Press and it's imprints Passion in Print and Featherweight Press. I've also recently begun doing covers for MuseItUp too.

Last year one of my covers for Pink Petal Books won an EPIC ARIANA Award for best erotic contemporary cover. Competition is fierce in the ARIANAs and I was honored to win one. I've had numerous covers final but there is nothing like winning!

Currently, I do a lot of work for authors who are self-publishing the books they get their rights back to. A couple of weekends back, I did a total of 13 covers! Well, it did include two series with similar covers but it was still a lot of work.

At any rate, what I do involves a lot of communication with the author. I use the information I get about the book to come up with a cover that is visually appealing while still conveying something of the story inside. This isn't always easy to do. Some authors have a very clear vision in their head of what their cover should look like, regardless of whether they have an artistic eye or not. They want what they want. I try to give authors what they want whether I think it's appealing or not because the most gorgeous cover that I think will sell lots of books may not be at all what the author wants for his/her book. And if the author isn't happy with it, no matter how beautiful it is, they will treat it like it's ugly and unhappy authors don't say complimentary things about cover artists.

I really like it when the author gives me a sense of the book without telling me what to put on the cover. I like a little freedom to create something I think will appeal to those who look at it. It's a tough line to walk though and authors can be all over the charts in terms of how easy or difficult they are to work with.

In the end, what I really want is for the cover to sell books. I want the author and publisher to be so happy with sales that they are happy to work with me again.

I'm going to close today with a slideshow of covers I've made. I want you all to look at them and think about them and what makes them appealing or not appealing to you. And then I want you to comment on this post or email me with questions or comments about the covers and what you liked or didn't like and why. I'm going to take all those comments and use them to tailor my next post about cover art.

Until next time,