Thursday, May 30, 2013

Copy, right? Wrong. Cover Yourself (geddit!!??) by Russell Cruse

I have a thing about copyright.  So many new writers ignore it at their peril.

The covers of both my published books comprise nothing but images created by my own fair hand. If anyone's interested, this is how I did it. 

This is the cover as it now appears (click to enlarge if need be) but since I possess only limited charm and modest funds, It was unlikely that I would be able to persuade someone to stand on the side of a mountain in the middle of the night whilst, a mile away, another willing volunteer skis away, leaving neat tracks in the pristine slopes. So how was it done? Well, the first thing to do was to raid my holiday snaps.

I took this photograph (1) about four years ago on the slopes of Diavolezza in Switzerland.  Since this is
(1) Mountain ridge on Diavolezza
where part of the novel is set, I thought it apposite.  I snapped it just as a party of cross-country skiers had crested a high ridge. You will notice a distinct lack of a) the moon and b) a figure.  The sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that it appears to have been taken in daylight.  Well done.

(2) Colorized
The first thing to do was to colorize it on PhotoShop(Copyright Adobe Systems 1989-2011) (2)
This is embarrassingly easy and creates instant night scenes.

Then I fished out another photo I'd taken high on the Julier Pass, again in Switzerland, of the full moon.

(3) Fiddling with the moon (Original on left)
This required rather more jiggery pokery to get the effect I wanted.(3) I had to enhance the moon enormously, cut it out and then insert it in a suitable place on my master sheet.(4) It still needed a bit more finessing since the altered moon had too much of an unreal appearance.  I settled for somewhere between the two.

(4) Moonrise on the mountain.
The next thing it needed was a figure.  In the story, the hero, David Benedict searches the mountains for his lost love (yes, I know: it's very moving) and so I needed a picture of him.  The main problem in getting him to pose for me was that he is merely a figment of my fevered imagination.  So I needed a stand-in. Again, my holiday snaps were enlisted. 

(5) Skier gets into shot
I found a shot of a frozen lake in Silvaplana, south-west of St. Moritz which had been spoiled (not the lake, the picture) by a skier gliding into shot at just the wrong time. (5)  Of such serendipitous strands are our little lives fashioned.  

(6) Skier gets plopped onto mountainside
With a bit of help from PhotoShop (Copyright, Adobe Systems 1989 - 2011) I was able to make a passable David Benedict, whom I then inserted into the picture.  I added a suitable shadow and there it was. (6)
All that was then needed was to crop the picture to a suitable paperback aspect ratio, add the text and that was it.

Now whether or not it's a good cover is debatable.  I happen to like it but that doesn't make it good.  I was told by someone in the business that it was too individual - ie:  in order to have impact, your cover should look as much like the cover of a book with a similar story as possible. 
I'm certain they are right.  If I was to do it again, I might aim for an Ian Rankin/Val McDermid kind of feel, although "Head Count" is a more humourous work than that of either of those two authors.  I need to get my hands on a couple of good, darkly comic whodunnits and see what their publishers come up with.  

More of Russel Cruse's work can be found on his blog, Authonomy and Amazon

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