Design Project: The Unremarkable Squire

As the layout monkey for each and every Barking Rain Press book, one of the most challenging parts is creating the complete cover; that is, the front cover, the spine, and the back cover. Once I know how many pages are in a book, I can calculate the spine width and generate the cover template and get started. Of course, the front half of the project is already done, since one of our fabulous cover artists has already created that part of the artwork.

But that’s where it gets tricky, because whatever I design for the spine and the back cover has to match up with the front cover. And in some respects, that’s even harder than staring at a totally blank template.

Full Cover Treatment Postponing Armageddon

Full cover treatment for “Postponing Armageddon” (click to enlarge)

Sometimes, I get lucky and I know right away what’s going to work. Case in point: the full cover treatment for Postponing Armageddon by Adele Abbot. Artist Michael Leadingham did an incredible job creating the perfect cover for this book… and it was very easy to simply continue the parchment over the spine and out to the back cover.

The Unremarkable Squire Front Cover

Front cover for “The Unremarkable Squire” (click to enlarge)

But this is the exception, rather than the rule. Usually, I get something that doesn’t lend itself to simple duplication… as with the cover art for author Nick Hayden’s The Unremarkable Squire. The cover artwork for this fun Fantasy novel is also by Michael Leadingham, but there’s nothing here that can be easily copied to the back cover.

Plus, the left side of the image is going to be tricky to carry over to the spine and back. We have the squire’s dark cloak, which dominates the bottom half of the image, and then the top half is various sky colors, including yellow, orange and purple. What to do?

purple book cover

Old book cover. Notice the yellow stain at the bottom left, as well as the frayed, worn edges (click to enlarge)

Usually, I start with color. Two of the dominant colors are the purple in the sky at the top of the cover, and the grayish mist at the bottom of the cover.  So, something in the lavender family could work well with the sky and the road/mist. Alternatively, something in contrast (perhaps gold, like the sun splash in the sky?), could also work. As I was looking through stock photography for ideas, I came across a beat up, stained old book cover, and the creative juices started to flow!

Full cover template

The old book cover has been cleaned up, straightened and appended to the front cover artwork. Notice how the purple line/purple stars are repeated to wrap around the spine area (click to enlarge)

Not only did it have a regal looking pattern, the spine was gray and there was an attractive seam that I could copy to frame the spine. I cut off the ragged edges, straightened the pattern, and cleaned up the yellowed stain along the bottom half. After dropping that into the template, I copied the seam onto the edge of the front cover, so that I had a complete back-spine-front image.

Embellished cover

Once all the finishing embellishments are added, this is as far as it goes in Photoshop. The text and logos will be added using InDesign.

Now I was ready to set up an area for the descriptive copy. I wanted to play off the gold touches on the front cover, so I found some gold frames and other elements. A piece of stock parchment fills the center frame and serves as a nice background for the text, which I will add when I pull the art into InDesign.

All that remained was to add the logo, ISBN, spine text & artwork, and the descriptive copy and blurbs, and voila! Another book cover is ready to entice readers everywhere to pick up a book and get lost in a great story.

Full Cover Treatment The Unremarkable Squire

Full cover treatment for “The Unremarkable Squire” (click to enlarge)

While this may sound simple, in reality, it took about four hours to find the various elements and put them all together in a custom-sized configuration that uniquely wraps around the contents.

This was a fun cover to do, and the book itself is equally fun. It’s high fantasy with humor, and you can read the first four chapters for free over at Barking Rain Press.

 

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