I’ve written three poetry books so far, and in each case, I’ve painted the graphic for the covers, which has been a fun part of the process. You know people do judge a book by its cover, right?
The cover process has grown a little each time as I learn more about the industry and what a book cover needs to do. My covers still aren’t like those really good ones that the professionals do, but I’m pretty happy with them anyways. Since I’m working on my fourth poetry book now, I thought I’d share the process with you.
I have learned to keep it pretty simple with my covers, because if they get too busy or complicated they lose people. When someone is looking for your book, they want to easily see a graphic, book title, and your name. It isn’t the same as painting something for an actual picture that you will hang on the wall. The cover should convey something about the story or feeling from the book, and the pertinent information to buy it.
For this cover, what I did first was start with an idea I had about reading poetry in my favorite big, red chair. I painted a chair and then some blue walls, because blue is my favorite color so why not? I also wanted to include my previous poetry book covers, since this was going to be a “new and selected” book combining older poems with a bunch of new ones. (The reason I’m doing this, incidentally, is because I took back the contracts for my first two poetry books and just released them as ebook versions. I want to include them in this new book so if someone wants a printed copy, they can get it.)
I decided that since I had a “living room feel” to the graphic so far, adding a picture above the chair would work as a placeholder for the other book graphics I wanted to pop in there. After I painted it, I scanned it, and found that it was too big for the scanner. Normally when I’m painting for a book cover, I use a smaller canvas so it fits (and also because it’s easier to do), but no, why be easy, why not just make it a challenge for yourself? LOL! So I scanned in different pieces of the painting and merged them together.
Next to pop in my previous book covers. The first book cover was from The Difference Now, my very first book ever. I painted this cover in 2003 after putting together my final draft. Since the poems were about overcoming my childhood, female empowerment, and inner strength, I painted a woman who was happy in her own skin, hair flowing, and in a garden of flowers. I tried to picture in my mind what a content and happy woman would look like. I took some flack from certain bookstores about this cover, and I can tell you that in no way did I ever mean to offend anyone. This wasn’t a real woman, it wasn’t me, it was just an artist’s conception of someone who I pictured happy and strong. The words for the title poem (and title of the book) are painted in along with her flowing hair.
The second picture is from A New Dish, my second poetry book. I actually had painted this one years before (still life is a favorite of mine) so I thought it was perfect to use for the cover. This time, I scanned in the picture and then just added the title with Photoshop.
The third picture was from Father’s Eyes, a Christian-based book and what I call my autobiography based in poetry. For this cover, I painted a simple image of what I imagined was the Heavenly father looking down on us as we surrender our lives to him.
I took this image, played with it, and added the title in Photoshop. I also included faint lines from the title poem, which represented the time in my life when I stopped seeing myself as the child of an alcoholic and started seeing myself as a child of God. This changed the way I thought about my life, and brought me a sense of peace I didn’t have before. I wanted the words reflected on the cover, but not clear enough where you could actually read the whole poem. I just wanted the hint of them there.
I then took the picture (of a picture) that I had painted, and moved it up and made it bigger. Then I took the three book covers and popped them in. The trouble is, the book covers were straight and looked out of place with what I wanted to do. I wanted them just to look like a casual part of this painting on the wall. So I messed with them. Blurred the edges and put in a messy background behind them.
My poetry book should be out by April. I’m finalizing the copy now, but at least the cover is done.
Congrats on the book. Thanks for documenting the creative process.
I’ve taken pictures of my wife’s and daughter’s art as I never thought I could scan them. If you get the lighting right, it’s OK.
How nice of you to take photos of your family’s artwork! My camera wasn’t good enough to do it, but it might have been easier than the scanning method I choose. You have to play with it a lot in Photoshop when you do it this way.
Thanks for your kind words on my book. 🙂
I was going “hmmm” as you started your idea – wondering how is she ever going to get all of that into one small book cover. Great job! I like the final result. It’s very interesting to get a sense of how something like a book cover comes to fruition.
You do beautiful work! I love the paintings!
Aw… thanks, Linette!