Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holidays and News :-)

Happy Holidays one and all!  No matter what you celebrate, I hope you are having a wonderful winter season!

Because it is the holiday season, I need to inform everyone of my holiday schedule.  I will not be available from December 19, 2014 until January 4, 2015.  I won't even be checking my emails.  For me, Christmas is the time to spend with my family, making lots of food, getting fat, shopping, and decorating :-) 

In cover art news:

I don't accept rush jobs.  It's unfair to put an author above another author who is already in the queue.  It keeps thing fair and organized this way.  If you do have a rush job, you should seek another cover artist.  Perhaps they won't believe in being fair.

Pre-Made covers are changing.  I'm calling them "Concept Designs".  I'm doing this because so many stock sites are now requiring extended licenses for any images used in Pre-Made Covers.  Even though I only sell the pre-made covers once, the legal wording used in the stock sites makes it so I have to purchase an extended license.  My pre-made covers are inexpensive so it's not cost effective for me to purchase an extended license.  Therefore, I'm creating Concept Designs.  These can be used as covers.  All we do is add title, author name, etc.  I'll have individual prices under the Concept Designs.

One of these days, I'll have to start taking pictures myself.  Stock images are getting more expensive--especially if you want images that are more rare.  I've seen so many of the same images on covers that it makes me nauseous.  I'm sure, as authors, you want something original for your book as well.  Custom images can be expensive.  I'm also searching for new models.  I'm bored seeing the same ones on so many covers.  Of course, I still have my favorites--Jax Turyna, Max Aria, Jason Aaron Baca--to name a few (there are several).  But I want new faces along with the popular faces.  It helps new models become the Heroines and Heroes they want to be :-)

I'm thinking of changing my pricing scale.  As you all know, I like being fair.  It doesn't seem fair to charge the same price for a cover that has 1-3 images the same cost as a cover that has 7-9 images.  The price is too disparate.  I'm thinking of employing a price scale like so:
(e-books)
1-3 images:  $100.00
4-6 images:  $125.00
7-9 images:  $150.00
More than 10 images:  $200.00

What do you think?

Have a wonderful holiday season! :-)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My process...well, a piece of it :-)

Hi all!

I decided to share what exactly I do when I create graphic art or cover art.  Granted, I can't show you everything because that would give away too many secrets but I wanted to show you some of the process.  I do this because I have actually heard a few authors say, "Cover art shouldn't be expensive--it's easy".  Yes, cover art is easy if you don't do it right.  Also, keep in mind a cover is not an image of a sexy dude or couple with words on it.  But I'll get to that in another post.  For now, let's see the finished product:


This is Ursula, the sea witch from Disney's "The Little Mermaid".  She doesn't look like the cartoon character and that's because I thought the cartoon character was a tad bit insulting.  So, only skinny, young girls can have a happy ending?  Sorry, that's another tangent.  Getting back to the art piece...I wanted to show Ursula as a sad woman.  Perhaps this was her right after her world was turned upside down, when she no longer had friends, just before her misery turned her into a ball of hatred.

Anyway, my interpretation of Ursula used the following images:

 
Can you see them all in the final product?  I wanted to first start out with a woman in a mermaid costume so I could better get the feel of what that combination would look like. 
 
I first combined the mermaid, the octopus, and set up her pet eels:
 
If I left it like this, it would be awful--very cut and pasted like many covers I see these days (that'll be another blog post). I painted on her hair and added a few shadows while I was there.  I colored the octopus and the eels the color I needed--a very dark blue, nearly gray.

The next step was to add her ink.  This would prove difficult because the art piece was already dark.  I took the image of the fog, inverted it, and got black fog.  I added that, added some light and here is that product:
It's starting to get some texture.  I hate smooth images.  They don't feel real.  When I create covers, I always add texture of some sort.

Next, it was time to gray everything out.  The art piece was becoming far too blue and losing the feel I wanted.  I colored in gray so I could better see the highlights and shadows.  There were certain parts of the tentacles I wanted shown and certain parts hidden.  I also had to make sure everyone could tell the eels were not coming out from her body as the dark colors could blend in together.

Once I realized what it was I wanted to highlight, I then began to add color once more.  I still wanted the gray feel but I needed some harsh contrast and I wanted some of the blue back.

 
Next, I added more color--this time green.  I went with a Lomo style type of coloring because I love the depressed feel of it.  It would be perfect for this art piece.  I also added in another image to give more texture.
 
We're now getting toward the end of this art piece.  I painted a lot of the image to give it the right feel, I used hard brush strokes to make the edges harder, increased the lighting and the shadows, increased the contrast, added more color, and changed the size of the image.  I like having the models take up more of the piece.   I added in some plants because the piece was feeling a bit boring.  And voila!  The art piece without the fonts:


I know I only showed you six steps, but I have 76 layers for this piece.  If you've ever worked in Photoshop, then you know you need many layers to make an art piece.

I hope this has been enlightening and although I didn't show you everything I do, which would give away far too many trade secrets, I hope authors learned that creating art isn't easy just like writing a great book isn't easy.  It takes time and effort.  There is a great deal of work involved but just like writing, it's still really fun!

Thank you!



 





Monday, June 9, 2014

Cover flagged at Amazon? Here are some unofficial rules to safeguard your future covers.


“What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.” -- https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1KT4ANX0RL55I

For someone like me, that rule from Amazon’s KDP program is a little vague as to what makes a cover offensive.  As an Award-Winning Cover Artist at EDHGraphics with a focus on Romance and Erotica genres, I find there is little that offends me.  How am I supposed to know what is appropriate for Amazon?
As far as I know, there is no official list from Amazon of what is or what is not appropriate. The following are examples that have been brought to my attention--instances where Amazon has flagged a book because of what it deemed as "inappropriate" content and those were the reasons given to the authors and to me. This list is based on what people in my field--art directors, cover artists, and authors have told me. My list is to just simply save you the headache of potentially having your book flagged. However, I do believe Amazon needs to have official rules instead of the very broad interpretation of "What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect". My goal, as a cover artist, is to provide the most eye-catching cover I can provide within safe guidelines. I compiled the list of examples over the past few years for your benefit.

All of these are unofficial no-no’s:
--Naked female torso including front view or sometimes side view.  Side boob inappropriate.
--Arms or hands across breasts.
--Naked butt.   On one occasion, upper thigh close to lower butt cheek was unacceptable.
--No naked people in a clinch even if they aren’t “fondling”.
--Any sexual position that implies penetration (Missionary, doggie-style, etc).
--No naked characters straddling each other.
--No handcuffs on wrists.  Handcuffs being held is fine.
--No “O” faces.
--No nudity.
--No women on their knees in front of men (as in implied fellatio).
--No men between women’s thighs (as in implied cunnilingus).
--No men’s faces on breasts.

Following the above list will keep you relatively safe.  There are exceptions to be found.  A recent cover was banned because the woman was bound in ribbons.  There will be never be a guarantee because Amazon does not have any official rules.  They “reserve the right to make judgments about whether content is appropriate and to choose not to offer it” (https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1KT4ANX0RL55I). 
If you are an author of dark erotica, BDSM, or even general erotica, I would highly recommend one of two options:

1)    A symbolic cover.  If Amazon finds offense to a rose, then I throw my hands up. J
2)    A “step-back” cover.  Have your artist create a very safe cover and then have her/him create an insert cover with a very smexy image J  I have to emphasize here no nudity—that could still cause issues.  A fine example of this is Jenn LeBlanc’s ABSOLUTE SURRENDER.
It is challenging to create a cover that Amazon will not find inappropriate when there are no official rules.  Hopefully, this will change one day and we will not be expected to piece together emails, letters, and comments in order to keep covers from being flagged.

As a side note, if your cover is safe, your book could still potentially be flagged.  Amazon does flag books based on content and blurb descriptions.
Thank you!

Update on Unofficial Amazon rules...


“What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.” -- https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1KT4ANX0RL55I

For someone like me, that rule from Amazon’s KDP program is a little vague as to what makes a cover offensive.  As an Award-Winning Cover Artist at EDHGraphics with a focus on Romance and Erotica genres, I find there is little that offends me.  How am I supposed to know what is appropriate for Amazon?
As far as I know, there is no official list from Amazon of what is or what is not appropriate. The following are examples that have been brought to my attention--instances where Amazon has flagged a book because of what it deemed as "inappropriate" content and those were the reasons given to the authors and to me. This list is based on what people in my field--art directors, cover artists, and authors have told me. My list is to just simply save you the headache of potentially having your book flagged. However, I do believe Amazon needs to have official rules instead of the very broad interpretation of "What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect". My goal, as a cover artist, is to provide the most eye-catching cover I can provide within safe guidelines. I compiled the list of examples over the past few years for your benefit.

All of these are unofficial no-no’s:
--Naked female torso including front view or sometimes side view.  Side boob inappropriate.
--Arms or hands across breasts.
--Naked butt.   On one occasion, upper thigh close to lower butt cheek.
--No naked people in a clinch even if they aren’t “fondling”.
--Any sexual position that implies penetration (Missionary, doggie-style, etc).
--No naked characters straddling each other.
--No handcuffs on wrists.  Handcuffs being held is fine.
--No “O” faces.
--No nudity.
--No women on their knees in front of men (as in implied fellatio).
--No men between women’s thighs (as in implied cunnilingus).
--No men’s faces on breasts.

Following the above list will keep you relatively safe.  There are exceptions to be found.  A recent cover was banned because the woman was bound in ribbons.  There will be never be a guarantee because Amazon does not have any official rules.  They “reserve the right to make judgments about whether content is appropriate and to choose not to offer it” (https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1KT4ANX0RL55I). 
If you are an author of dark erotica, BDSM, or even general erotica, I would highly recommend one of two options:

1)    A symbolic cover.  If Amazon finds offense to a rose, then I throw my hands up. J
2)    A “step-back” cover.  Have your artist create a very safe cover and then have her/him create an insert cover with a very smexy image J  I have to emphasize here no nudity—that could still cause issues.  A fine example of this is Jenn LeBlanc’s ABSOLUTE SURRENDER.
It is challenging to create a cover that Amazon will not find inappropriate when there are no official rules.  Hopefully, this will change one day and we will not be expected to piece together emails, letters, and comments in order to keep covers from being flagged.

As a side note, if your cover is safe, your book could still potentially be flagged.  Amazon does flag books based on content and blurb descriptions.

Thank you all for stopping by! :-)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

PRICE CHANGE!!!

PRICE CHANGE!!!!!

I'm increasing e-book cover prices to $100.00.  If you can't afford that, I'll understand if you need to go elsewhere but I can't make a living with the prices I have now.  I have far too much overhead--quality images, classes, software, computer, etc.  So, I'm being forced to increase my prices or not work at all doing this.  Even if you are a client of mine, the price will increase.   If we have a current project, then the price will stay as before but all future projects will have a price increase.

This is not limited to e-books only.  Print covers will increase to $150 and includes the e-book.  I will have bundles available at $175 and $200.00.  Bundle A at $175 will include print, e-book, 3D cover, and rackcard.  Bundle B at $200.00 will include print, e-book, 3D cover, rackcard, and Facebook banner.

Thank you for your understanding!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Being tagged as ADULT on Amazon? Here are some rules to follow for Cover Art...

Hi all!

As some of you know, Amazon, and a few other sites, have been cracking down on covers, book descriptions, and content.  (I know, content?  Yes, some books are too dirty).  It is their right to sell or not sell books so if you wish to remain with Amazon and not be tagged as an Adult, here are some rules to follow regarding your cover.  As for blurbs or content, I can't help you there.

NO:

Frontal nudity of groin area, male or female (DUH)

Naked female torso--front view or sometimes side view (naked back okay, as long as butt crack not shown)

Side view of bare female breasts
 
An arm across bare female breasts or hands touching or clasping female breasts
 
Naked butt, male or female (discreet view of butt cheeks peeking out of bottom of shorts or skirt is okay; for example, Hot Tango by Sidney Bristol)
 
Naked people in a clinch even if they aren’t “fondling”
 
Position that implies sexual activity—woman kneeling with mouth near man’s groin (clothed or not); one naked or near-naked character lying on top of or straddling the other
 
“Fondling” or implied masturbation (hands touching groin even if clothed,hands grasping nude butt or grasping nude female breasts)
 
Some of these are Duh! moments but others not so much.  I don't see why the arm across the breasts should be banned--nothing is showing.  It's odd not to show or imply sexual activity for a cover that is meant to convey what the erotic book is about.  With these rules, it's difficult for anyone to know that your book is erotica or romantica.  
 
In order to make sure your cover is safe, I recommend a flower on the cover.  However, if the content is very naughty, you will be tagged anyway and no one will be able to even search for you on Amazon.  However, Smashwords (to my knowledge) does not ban books or covers so you can upload whatever you wish there.
 
Or, you can have two covers:  one a solid color so as to not offend the Amazon Judges, and one very raunchy cover to promo.  Best of both worlds. 
 
These options aren't much fun but it's the best I can do under the restrictions.
 
Erin