Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Evolution of a Book Cover

Here is the cover for my novel The Stone Dragon.

I'd like to share its evolution with you--one that was a step-by-step progression, aided by friends and online suggestions.

The first version of the novel's cover was composed on a Word document, using a borrowed photo from the web. It was a personal-use visual for me as I revised the novel. The background was a plain white, the image was that of the "dragon" above but as a plain rectangular photo, and the font was Papyrus. It did the job--I looked, revised, and planned.

Then I decided to get serious and contacted the photographer, French photographer Suzanne Bonneford, and boldly asked for permission to use the image for my book cover. Permission was granted for two photos, the original jpgs were emailed to me, and I was in business!

Working with PhotoShop with my first novel, Love Ya Like a Sister, taught me quite a bit about the process. Once the book block text was fairly complete, I then sent to Lightning Source for my cover template. This allowed me to start laying out my cover, the template lines providing size boundaries.

The template came with all the margins that structured the correct placement of the front, back, and spine of the book. It also determined "safe" spaces for edges for slight shifts of the cover when it was printed.

The cover background was still white, and with a comment from my wife, I realized that a stone background would be good. With that idea, I biked to a local stone retaining wall and looked at individual stones and their patterns until I found one that I liked. I took the pic and came home with it.

Playing with contrast with PhotoShop soon gave me the basic background. Then I had to learn how to cut the hole in the background for the "dragon" to peek through. This was both fun and tedious--making the hole the right size and following the grain of the stone to make the hole look more natural.

The next big break-through was giving the wall a "drop shadow" effect. This provided a lip to the hole and made it look more three-dimensional.

Comments from online groups prompted me to change the font to "Charlemagne," a bolder and more chiseled font.

Finally, my tech friend helped me lighten and strengthen the colors of the "dragon's eye" so that it would dominate the cover and not be washed out and lack strength in relation to the wall and type.

That is the process. Time was an essential element--time for me to grow in my skills as to what was possible, and time to live with the various versions and to then see more options.

Designing a book is very different than writing a story. Both creative processes are challenging and fulfilling. Becoming a publisher has been a real growing experience for me. And, as a bonus, I'm already finding ways to incorporate my new knowledge into my teaching.

The Stone Dragon will be available sometime in October.

Copyright 2011, by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


  1. Reading about your process on this was fascinating. It struck me as being worth expanding into a short ebook!

  2. @Brenda
    Becoming a publisher has been a fascinating process. Thanks for the idea of creating a short ebook about it. Maybe after I finish this book . . .