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The Making of a Book Cover, Part 1

Step One ~ Come up with a design:

Letter Opener book cover design

A lot of thought went into this, as I know the most important aspect of any book cover design is that it needs to be clear as a thumbnail. Especially the title. So, that means the title needs to be large and bold. I knew I wanted to show the house where things take place, and the letter opener that runs as a theme through the book needed to be the key feature on the cover.

After playing around with this and the following two covers for the upcoming books in the series, I ended up actually changing the titles of the books for a running theme throughout. Letter Opener, Paper Knife and ~ get this ~ Page Turner. Yeah, a bit cheeky, that last one. But all these are actual physical items that used to be sold in sets a hundred years ago, used for opening envelopes, slitting open the uncut pages in new books, and turning newspaper pages without soiling your gloves. Even letter openers are becoming obsolete, what with online bill payments and online greeting cards. Who wants to open junk mail? That's why people are putting their paper shredders next to the front door now.

Back to the design process:

So, the letter opener needed to be big, and the title needed to be big. Bingo! Incorporate the letter opener, paper knife, and page turner into the lettering. All are long and thin. Within a short period of time I'd come up with a way to do that for all three books. (Now I just have to finish the next two books ~ a discussion for another day, as I'm still trying to pull them apart after starting what should have been book two as a NanoWrimo project.) The good news is that I won! haha - got Scrivener out of the deal, so I think it was worth it, sort of. I would have been better off to write more slowly, though.

So, now I have a cover design. House at the top, series title bar under, letter opener as the "P", the word "Opener" at a complex angle (prepare for Photoshop horrors) and the tip of the knife casting a shadow on the background, which I hope to be a blueprint.

The house where the main character, Mia, is staying while the treasure hunt is happening ~ is her recently deceased grandmother's house, which is being sorted out. (Will the clues be moved or worse?) It's not just any house, it's a house designed by the famous Philadephia architect, Frank Furness. The story takes place in Swarthmore, the next town over from my own, about a mile away. Swarthmore reminds me of my home town, a college town filled with big beautiful mansions of varying architectural styles. This particular house was one that Furness designed for a client but was never built. I drew my own rendition based on a blue print I saw in an obscure book on his career. Most of the over 200 charming train stations in our region, as well as many outstanding public buildings came from his design firm.

Step Two ~ Draw the House:

pencil sketch of Frank Furness designed house

This was the fun part! I was able to get out the pencils and play! This was actual fairly mindless "work" as I simple blew up the photo I had and traced off the lines using my cool new light box. What a world of difference! The old light box took up a good portion of my studio - enormous ~ and was hand made from wood and glass and large, hot fluorescent tubes. I found a home for it when I got the new one. This new LED baby is maybe a quarter of an inch thick, made of plastic and weighs next to nothing. And the light intensity is adjustable! Plus I got to listen to part of a book on tape, something I can't do while trying to concentrate on the graphics or writing aspects of making a book.

Step 3 ~ Scan the artwork, then clean up it up in GIMP and adjust the drawing to fill the width of the book.

Frank Furness house drawing placed on long background to cover width of book

Why GIMP? Because it's free and that's what I know. I'm learning Photo Shop, etc. but I know GIMP better, so until I need a tool GIMP doesn't have, it's just faster . . . .

What's next?

Next up are drawing/painting the letter opener and choosing typestyles. At one point I attempted to carve the letter opener with the idea of making a mold and pouring them in acrylic or lucite as promo items. I tried the wrong substance for the carving and couldn't get the blade perfect. Now I'm trying to find any sort of drawing I may have made before that carving attempt that I apparently trashed. Or filed too well. Wait! I thought a where I might have stored that carving, and there it was! It's pathetic, but it will do for a rendering. Ok, back to work . . . see you next time. Want to have some input? What colors do you think should be used? The letter opener, etc. are pink lucite. (Lucite was the hot new thingsback then, even overlapping the use of gloves for everything public.) So the house section at the top will be gray or possibly sepia toned, or even blue as in blue prints. Ditto for the bottom, just different shades of gray. Thoughts?

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Marie-Pierre LEMAHIEU
Marie-Pierre LEMAHIEU
2020년 6월 10일

Hey Joy so beautiful what you create !!!! And Magic colours. I would like to have one précision about the format of your garden book (i’ve left you a message on Messenger

Perharps could I have your mail ?

Many many thanks to you and what you share

Best regards


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