Author: dove-author

Guest Interview: Sarah Waites on Illustrated Page Book Design

Posted October 2, 2020 by dove-author in Guest Posts / 0 Comments

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Today I’m interviewing Sarah Waites, awesome book blogger, maintainer of a queer SFF Database and kick-ass cover designer, to talk about her work designing diverse covers. You can check out Sarah’s work on her website, The Illustrated Page Book Design, here, but we’ve got some gorgeous samples scattered throughout the post as well! Sarah’s got a special tarot-inspired premade cover event running on her Facebook group on October 11th! If you’re an author looking for some amazing (premade) covers, be sure to mark your calendars and check it out!

S.L.: Before we dive into some of the nitty-gritty of your work as a cover designer, I simply have to ask: what are some of the things you’d recommend authors look out for when looking for a good premade cover design? It can be tricky to know what to look for when you’re not going for a completely custom design.

Sarah: This isn’t the question but I need to say it – a premade cover is called “premade” for a reason. (S.L.: OMG that genuinely needs saying? Excuse me while I go cry in a pit of despair for a few hours.) While some designers might allow you to pay for customization, most professional designers don’t. So when you’re looking at potential covers don’t think of the cover as a starting place but as a final artwork. And some changes are so big that they would be a completely different cover! If you have your heart set on something very specific, you’re going to need to commission a custom cover.

With that out of the way, there are two important things to look for in a good premade cover design. The first is overall quality. You want something that looks professional, since readers tend to associate a professional-quality cover with a higher quality book.

The second is something called “genre matching.” Essentially, covers are a marketing tool designed to sell your book. I already discussed in a previous question how it’s important to let your genre’s readers know that this is the sort of book they’d be interested in, but that goes beyond fonts to all other aspects of the cover. Color, contrast, figure size, clothing, poses – all of it and more is important for signaling the genre of the story.

So when approaching a potential premade cover, try to come from the perspective of a reader, not an author. What sort of genre do you think the cover is? What sort of tone does it convey? If it’s a romance, what’s the heat level? Think about what sort of expectations this cover is creating in its readers. That’s far more important than if the cover matches the exact details of your story!

S.L.: Oh, that is a superhelpful tip. I love the concept of premade covers, but I’m rubbish at picking ones that match myself. Your designs focus specifically on creating a wide variety of diversity, especially for self-published authors, something which I find is sorely lacking in many (premade) cover designers’ portfolios. Intersectionality is an important aspect of all the work you do, but it strikes me as one of the hardest parts of designing your covers. How do you keep going when you’re struggling to find what you want and need?

Sarah: Premade covers are often easier because they’re usually driven by what’s available. For example, my f/f historical premades that combine two photos are usually made with the sole criteria being “which two photos can I fit together?” For custom projects, there’s other considerations, like matching the time period, costumes, and characters. That’s often where things get tricky.

If there’s absolutely nothing available, not even photos I can rework or combine, then I usually suggest the author hire a DAZ render artist to create a custom image (basically a 3D computer rendering) that can be used for their cover. The main issue here is that it often adds anywhere from $30 to $60 to your overall cost, plus you can also be limited by what’s available as DAZ prefabs and some authors don’t like the idea of using computer renderings.

I ended up hiring a render artist, Kelley York of Sleepy Fox Studio, to create some f/f poses with women of color, because I was having trouble finding the photos I needed to create them.

Examples of CGI renders turned into cover images for books.

When you swap out the render’s head with a photograph, it’s often not obvious that the bodies are computer generated. If there’s something I really need or want to do and I run up against a brick wall, renders are usually the way to go!

S.L.: That’s really interesting to hear! I remember there was a time in ebook publications especially where renders were both the way to go and heavily frowned upon, so hearing about mixing them with photos this way is absolutely fascinating! I have to ask, though, since custom covers can be so tricky due to a lack of good stock material… What would your ideal photo shoot look like if someone handed you a million dollars to organise one? (Or multiple ones.)

Sarah: Oh wow! That would be a dream, and you could do a lot with a million dollars.

I’d want to hire a diverse range of models and get a variety of high-quality costumes and props. As for what sort of photos I’d want… there’s so many! I’d love more historical and fantasy photos with models of color and plus size models, and some with same gender couples. I’d particularly love some African fantasy stock photos, since I’ve recently been working on a project that’s required a lot of combining photos to create the main figure.

Other things I would love to have stock photos for:

  • Black and West Asian people in Greco-Roman costumes
  • Asian women in historical Western dresses
  • PoC in traditional cultural clothing (especially African models, for African fantasy covers!)
  • Women of color in armour that isn’t male gazey
  • Just like… any f/f fantasy photos!
  • Trans people in genre-appropriate outfits and poses
  • More women of color in fancy, fluffy princess dresses
  • Latina models and Latinx couples
  • South Asian and Southeast Asian models in genre outfits and poses

And I’m sure there’s more! Basically there’s generally a scarcity of any photos that aren’t centered around white, cis, abled, skinny people either in solo photos or in f/m couples.

S.L.: So true. I know there have been companies trying to focus on creating those shoots, but I think sadly all the ones I’ve heard of closed down. Or they offer more diverse stock, but not a commercial license and they generally don’t fit the list you mentioned here either. 🙁 So, in hopefully something a little less depressing because of society’s penchant to ignore the majority of people in it, let’s talk about another integral part of cover design: fonts. How do you select just the right font for the image? Do you have an idea on what you want to use before you start or do you fiddle around with it until you find one that looks good?

Sarah: One of the most important thing about fonts is making sure that they match your genre. Different genres have different types of fonts that are used, and font choice is important for signalling genre (and thus letting genre readers know they should be interested in your book!)

For fantasy, that tends to mean all caps serif fonts, often with some decorative flourishes. Thankfully Photoshop lets me filter by font type, so I can go and take a look at all my different serif fonts. I have a few I really love and which are great for the genre, but I’ll usually try a few different options before settling on one.

If there’s one font I find myself using over and over again, it’s Desire Pro. And that’s true for many designers! It crops up a lot in fantasy, paranormal, and historical romance, both with indie books and traditional. Sometimes I worry that I’m using it too often but before I started designing, I didn’t even notice how many covers were using it.

Several covers using the font 'Desire' to showcase how often it shows up.

That said, Desire can cost a pretty penny, so if you’re an indie fantasy author looking to make your own cover, you’ll likely want to go with another option. If you have Adobe Photoshop, you’ll likely have access to the Adobe Fonts library, in which case I suggest Yana (which is another serif with alternates) or a combination of Cinzel and Cinzel Decorative, which are both free as Google Fonts.

I’ve mostly talked about fantasy here, but obviously different genres have different font standards! Going back to the original question, I’d say it’s a combination of knowing genre conventions and what fonts work well and experimenting with different choices within that category. The rest of the typography is usually choosing the alternates, arranging the layout, and applying text styling. I probably spend more time fiddling with the text styling (color, texture, gradient, shadows, bevelling, etc) then I do with the font!

S.L.: Oh, that sounds so familiar. You can fiddle endlessly with text styling. Not that I’ve done that or anything… Thank you so much for your insights into cover design. I hope that it gives people some insight into the amount of work that goes into creating them. You can find Illustrated Page Book Design on Facebook (joining gets you 10% off premade covers as well as dibs on new designs), Twitter and, of course, on its own website. You can follow Sarah on Twitter and her own blog The Illustrated Page. Sarah’s running a special premade sale event in her Facebook group on October 11th, 2020 as well!

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Week 33 Update

Posted August 15, 2020 by dove-author in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Weekly Accountability

Hi, everyone! It’s that time again! Weekly updates delivered every Saturday!

Completed Projects

Nada! (Seriously, the only thing I’ve done the past two weeks is wilt.)

Goal Updates

  • 0/10,000 words
  • ???% Actually stay on top of things
  • 12/12 books

Writing Updates

This Week’s Fiction Wordcount: ???

This Week’s Non-Fiction Wordcount: 0

GalaQ: Oh, hey, I got some words before the heatwave descended and wiped out any chance of progress.

Life And Other Such Important Matters

It! Is still! Too hot! I’m so relieved I managed to get the discussion post for Let’s Read Academics written up because it was touch-and-go on my ability to do it for a while there. Thankfully, it is somewhat cooler than it has been, so hopefully soon I won’t have to worry about the heat and being an utter flop in it. I may even catch up on my emails! And, er, work. (Listen, I have a standard for myself and I have not met it. Because I was too busy flopping around like a dying fish.)

Yes, I am somewhat loopy from a lack of proper sleep thanks to the heat, why do you ask?

Stand-out Positive Moment

I took the dogs for a walk and nothing went wrong! Which means I can wear shoes again and do all that good stuff that needs doing that require shoes. I think this means my toe wasn’t broken? Which is a nice thing to think of because the only other time I’ve broken anything at all was miserable for so many different reasons.

This Week on Patreon

All the Patreon posts from the past week, collected in neat and tidy lists, divided by tier.

Free

$1+

How about you? What have you been up to lately? Has anything awesome happened?

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Week 32 Update

Posted August 8, 2020 by dove-author in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Weekly Accountability

Hi, everyone! It’s that time again! Weekly updates delivered every Saturday! Actually on Saturday!

Firstly, a quick question: If I were to convert the old Rambles into mp3s for anyone who finds those easier to listen to/more accessible for their needs, which ones would you be most interested in and would you like me to start with? It’s little trouble to make two options available for people who prefer having them listenable as proper podcasts at the start, but with the older ones I’d like to know if there are any you’d like me to tackle first since those are a little bit more work.

Secondly, I strongly urge you all to check out this Twitter thread explaining some of the changes that Patreon is planning to make obligatory for all patrons and creators by October 5th. I still don’t quite understand exactly what this means for any of us, though. I think our pledges will change because they want patrons to pledge in your own currency if you’re from the EU or the UK? Oh, actually, let me make this a question to: since this change is currently still opt-in, would people want me to enable it so you can see what happens to your pledge as a result? (Note that I think it unlikely I’ll be able to opt back out if it’s detrimental to people, but I wanted to at least offer this as an option.)

Thirdly, I’ve crossposted those of the ace lit essays that were and should be public to Medium, so hopefully they’ll be a little easier to access there. You can find them all here, but honestly they’re all reposts of older essays right now. I’m looking forward to getting to share new ones. 😀

Completed Projects

Hahahahahahaha. It is too hot to get anything done.

Goal Updates

  • 0/10,000 words
  • ???% Actually stay on top of things
  • 11/12 books

Writing Updates

This Week’s Fiction Wordcount: 0

This Week’s Non-Fiction Wordcount: 0

Life And Other Such Important Matters

I am exceptionally tired of 2020. I swear it has a personal vendetta against everyone. In my case, August was off to a fabulous start. And then I apparently smashed my toe into a stool so badly it is possible my toe is broken. And, sadly, it’s one of those toes they can do literally nothing about beyond confirming whether or not it’s broken. And then the expected heat wave struck, which okay fine, I anticipated that. I did not anticipate the part where apparently heat waves above around 33 degrees Celcius (that’s, um, 91.4F?) give me a (mild) heat rash no matter what I do.

Thankfully the only thing standing in my way of getting things done is the fact that my computer is in a heat trap room and everything else is just an annoyance and a reason for me to indulge in whinging. That also means, though, that I haven’t been able to record the roll for books for August. Boo! I do have one, though, and aim to do a ramble about my TBR choices and the selected books etc when it is not going to raise the room temperature into unbearable-even-with-a-fan. Thanks, global warming!

Outside of this, though, I’m doing all right emotionally and all, so that’s good. DemiPrincess2 is, I think, finally back on some form of track, so I’m still hopeful I can finish that draft this year. I didn’t think it’d annoy me so much not to have any truly new fiction beyond the Patreon shorts out this year, but here we are. That also means that once I have a bit more buffer, the WIP posts will resume their sporadic appearances!

Stand-out Positive Moment

This may be a bit of an odd one, but this Twitter thread explaining changes that Patreon is going to make for its international customer base (assuming that by ‘international’ one means ‘US, UK and EU only’). This thread is a very good break-down of the changes Patreon’s been working on since February. Personally I’m still strongly in favour of letting patrons pay in the currency of their choice, but apparently that’s just me. Regardless, this thread goes into detail into what the changes mean for creators and patrons in a way that makes sense and explains where Patreon’s numbers come from in a way that’s also clear to those of us who are mathematically challenged, like me.

So now it all makes somewhat more sense at last!

This Week on Patreon

All the Patreon posts from the past week, collected in neat and tidy lists, divided by tier.

Free

$1+

How about you? What have you been up to lately? Has anything awesome happened?

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Guest Interview: Vincent Scott on The Hereafter Bytes

Posted August 7, 2020 by dove-author in Guest Posts / 0 Comments

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Today, I’m interviewing Vincent Scott about his debut novel, The Hereafter Bytes, coming out August 11, 2020. Let me give you the blurb for this comedic SF novel and then we’ll hop straight into the interview!

The Hereafter Bytes by Vincent ScottCOME FOR THE CYBERSPACE, STAY FOR THE LAUGHS.

COME FOR THE LAUGHS, STAY FOR THE CYBERSPACE.

Romeo is a digital copy of his dead bio self—a ghost—in a spindly robot body. When Romeo’s friend Abigail—a dominatrix with a gift for uncovering secrets—tells Romeo she’s at risk because of dangerous info from a client, Romeo agrees to help her investigate.

Pursued by digital Golden Retrievers and a real-world assassin, Romeo slips in and out of cyberspace in a madcap race for survival. Can he unmask the criminal who threatens the integrity of cyberspace and the real-world economy before it’s too late?

Read More

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July Newsletter (Week 27)

Posted July 5, 2020 by dove-author in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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July Newsletter

Hi, everyone! It’s that time again! Monthly news and accountability! This time with an actual monthly update!

Life And Other Such Important Matters

Well. Life has… been a thing that has happened. I’m sure you’ve all noticed me struggling to keep even regular updates going on Patreon. You’d think collecting links and setting goals wouldn’t be a very strenuous activity and easy to keep up, but apparently not.

Short version: Life has sucked this past month. I see no reason to imagine that July will be any nicer, but we can but hope. I do have some exciting and some not-so exciting announcements to make.

Let’s get the not-so-exciting one out of the way first: As of this month, Patreon has decided to charge sales tax. This is basically the US version of VAT, so some of you may now be seeing what non-USians were already dealing with when paying through Patreon. (It’s also a large reason why I won’t give up that $1 like it wants me to. That sales tax can make or break a low tier Patron.) I think there shouldn’t be any sales tax applicable to any of my tiers, but to be honest I already struggle with EU taxes before trying to understand the US system. That’s part of what Patreon is for. But do please let me know if anything needs looking at there from your end!

More excitingly! I have finished a Let’s Play at long last, so expect that to start up soon. I’ve also discovered some audio recordings of short stories in my drafts folder. I should redo some of them because branding and naming, but. For now they will do. I’d love to redo them once everything is sorted. Expect about 2 of those a month from now until about October.

Most excitingly, you’ll see I have continued DemiPrincess2 at last. Well, sort of. This month’s post is still a little bare bones. I’m calling amnesty on link collecting for one more month as it really is annoyingly draining at the end of the month. 🙁

Completed Projects

  • Tomb Raider (2013) LP

July Goals

  • Finish editing DemiPrincess2 sections
  • Read 12 books
  • Finish redoing website

Writing Updates

This Month’s Fiction Wordcount: ???

This Month’s Non-Fiction Wordcount: ???

How about you? What have you been up to lately? Has anything awesome happened?

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Reasons to Read J. Emery’s “From the Dark We Came”

Posted March 30, 2020 by dove-author in Ace & Aro Rambling / 0 Comments

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Earlier this, er, month (I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS WASN’T EVEN A MONTH AGO), a dear friend released a book! That I read! And loved! And wanted to talk about a bit. So I combined slides with my general rambliness and TADA! A rambly promo video thing was created!

Linkses:
NSP: https://ninestarpress.com/product/from-the-dark-we-came/
Cover Design: natashasnow.com
A whole thread of J’s books: https://twitter.com/mixeduppainter/status/1225515562421424128?s=20

This post is sponsored by generous patrons. Thank you so much for your support! It means the world to me! <3 I love you all! If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to support me in creating more free content, please consider subscribing or spreading the word to others.

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Lynn rambles about… The Letter for the King (Netflix 2020)

Posted March 24, 2020 by dove-author in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Surprise ramble! This time about Neflix’s adaptation “The Letter for the King”. Yep the whole mini-series in one go. Beware spoilers for the entire show and discussions of problematic tropes that didn’t need to happen and a general discussion of how this adaptation matches up to the original (don’t expect the same story if you go from the series to the book).

Let me know what you thought of the show in the comments!

This post is sponsored by generous patrons. Thank you so much for your support! It means the world to me! <3 I love you all! If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to support me in creating more free content, please consider subscribing or spreading the word to others.

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AroWeek2020: Lynn, Don’t You Write Arospec Books?

Posted February 22, 2020 by dove-author in Ace & Aro Rambling / 0 Comments

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Today on this last day of Aromantic Awareness Week, I’m talking about my own books because hi! I’m an arospec indie author.

In this video, I basically talk a little bit about what you can expect of the books (YMMV on whether you consider some points spoilers) and what you can expect of the representation in the books.

If any of the books has caught your fancy, here are some handydandy links to save you looking them up.

The Shimmering Prayer of Sûkiurâq: https://books2read.com/shimmering-prayer
Sea Foam and Silence: https://books2read.com/sfs-boxset
The Ice Princess’s Fair Illusion: https://books2read.com/thrushbeard
A Promise Broken: https://books2read.com/promise-broken

This post is sponsored by generous patrons. Thank you so much for your support! It means the world to me! <3 I love you all! If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to support me in creating more free content, please consider subscribing or spreading the word to others.

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AroWeek2020: I Want [This], But Make It Aro: Part 2

Posted February 21, 2020 by dove-author in Ace & Aro Rambling / 0 Comments

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It’s Day 6 of Aromantic Awareness Week and the generalised book mentions continue! The idea behind this section is that I take commonly requested genres or tropes and list books that /also/ contain aromantic characters (in prominent roles).

There’s a grand total of 12 books I’m covering in this section.

Covered in this video are:
Scifi
Pre-2014 aro-coded rep
Books coming in 2020

This post is sponsored by generous patrons. Thank you so much for your support! It means the world to me! <3 I love you all! If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to support me in creating more free content, please consider subscribing or spreading the word to others.

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AroWeek2020: I Want [This], But Make It Aro: Part 1

Posted February 20, 2020 by dove-author in Ace & Aro Rambling / 0 Comments

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It’s Day 5 of Aromantic Awareness Week and it’s time for some more generalised book mentions. The idea behind this section is that I take commonly requested genres or tropes and list books that /also/ contain aromantic characters (in prominent roles).

There’s a grand total of 12 books I’m covering in this section, but you’ll quickly see why I’m grumbling about the amount of aromantic representation currently out there. (Short version: We need more.)

Covered in this video are:
Aromance (i.e. romance tropes but with aromantic leads)
Contemporary YA
Fantasy

This post is sponsored by generous patrons. Thank you so much for your support! It means the world to me! <3 I love you all! If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to support me in creating more free content, please consider subscribing or spreading the word to others.

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