Let’s address the elephant in the room. This is a silly painting for a book cover, especially one for a story that purports to be an espionage & science fiction adventure story. What gives?
What gives is that
this is an expression of the great joy of writing and publishing your
own work. You can do whatever you damn well please. The painting
illustrates, with some artistic license, the opening lines of the
book. And the opening lines of the book are me thumbing my nose at
the received wisdom of what an opening line should be these days in a
traditionally published novel. The fashion in books today is to have a opening “hook” to draw the agent, editor, and eventually, the reader into the story, like a fish. The opening should have a
worm, a barbed hook, or intriguing lure. Of course you still have to land
the fish, but let’s leave this analogy aside, and move on…
One of the many things that bug me about today's fashion in books, is the perceived necessity of hooking a reader with a dramatic, and often violent, opening scene. Sometimes this is in the form of a prologue, sometime this is a scene taken from the middle of the book that then has to be then walked back. and sometimes a writer just starts their book in the middle of the action and explains it later. The idea is to raise the stakes in order to draw in the reader. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work, only that it doesn’t work for me. In the case of The Girl on the Kerb, I deliberately decided to make my opening stakes trivial, by having my main character oversleeping and finding that he is going to be late for work. Basically, it's a private joke, but I write what amuses me, so it works, for me. And I’m willing to let the chips fall where they might.
The cover is in the same vein. There are more than a few exciting scenes in the story, but the overall tone of the book is similar to all my others; lighthearted and very retro, despite it being set in the far distant future. The cover is about as far away from science fiction as you can get, and this is somewhat deliberate, as I will be "marketing" this as an espionage novel first, SF second. While my regular readers are used to my covers, who knows how this cover will be perceived by readers not familiar with my work. My theory is that my covers, being different than the run of the mill books in the genres, makes the WTF nature of it stand out as something different, something worth investigating. That's my story, anyways. On to the cover.
Below is the original piece of art I painted for the cover. I take these photos of the art outside, and as a result the photo captures some of the blue of the sky, which usually gives the resulting photo of the piece of art a blue cast that has to be color corrected. The photo below is before I corrected for color, so the blues are bluer in the photo than they are on the paper.
As I mentioned in my last post about this cover, the painting is just the first step. After I take a photo of it and upload it into Gimp, where I can play around with it, changing tone, colors, crop and edit details. Below are the various versions I tried. In them you can see how I played around with color, tone, size and orientation it order to capture the mood I wanted to give to the cover - that of a carefree spring morning.
In this first attempt, above, I've brightened the painting, toned down the blues and upped the yellows to create a bright spring morning look. I faded the colors of the tram and distant buildings in the distance to create a greater sense of distance. And finally, I added the cartoon effect to sharpen everything up a bit.
In the next version above, I dialed back the brightness of the yellows, did not fade the distance, and upped the blues a bit. The cover is cropped slightly different as well. Things like this come down to a matter of taste and experimentation. It works pretty well, but I was afraid that the printed version would be too dark and dull.
In the version above I've brightened things up again, making the colors more saturated, in anticipation of the colors getting duller when printed on a matte cover. The distant buildings are a bit more faded, the tram less so. Plus, the crop is different, making the figure of Henri Hardy a little larger.
In the above version I've died back the brightness a bit and enhanced the blue in the shadows. The black outlines are a little stronger. The crop is a little wider so the character is a little smaller.
In this, the current final version of the art, I've once again dialed back the blues, and the black outlines. I have fixed up the tram so that it has more regular features and straightened it roofline a bit. The crop is closer, so the figure is larger again.
As you can see, these are minor variations, each has its pluses and minuses. It's take your pick. And one of the factors in taking your pick, is knowing that what you see on your computer screen is not exactly what your printed copy will look like, even if you have a color calibrated screen, which I don't. Images often look darker when I open an image in another context like the Amazon listing, so I'm not afraid to make my images pretty bright, confident that they won't be too bright at the end of the process. In addition to the image on a glowing screen is going to look different on a matte paper book cover. And those covers might be a little different every time the book is run. Being print on demand books, subtle differences in color can occur. For some reason my dozen author copies of my most recent release were printed at two different plants, and there was a slight difference in colors between the two editions. The nice thing about self publishing is that you can tweak things as you go, even paperback covers, since there is no long press run. (I saw a YouTube video recently where the cover had an error in it, a quote from H P Lovecraft, without the quote, so they had to place a sticker with the quote above his name on the cover. Having been in the print and newspaper industry, things like that happen. Somehow.)
If you look closely at the actual cover of the printed book above and compare it to the final version on the top of the page, you will see that I've tweaked the back blurb a bit. Not that it matters, since I do not expect anyone to find this book in a bookstore and turn it over to read what the story is about. The back blurb is there, just because that is how things are done in the real world.
Not being a patient fellow, and not wanting to wait 2 to 3 weeks after my announced release date for my author copies of the books to arrive, The Girl on the Kerb trade paperback is now, quietly, available for $11.99 on Amazon ( Here ) in order to get my copies as soon as possible, hopefully next week. My beta readers will get their copies a week or so after that. You, dear reader, are welcome to get you own paper copy now.