Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Making of Carnival of Cryptids by Keri Knutson

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes of book cover design? Please welcome writer and cover artist Keri Knutson as she discusses how the cover for "Carnival of Cryptids-A Kindle All-Stars Anthology",came to life. 

I’d been lucky enough to be involved in the first Kindle All-Stars anthology, contributing a short story and an essay about independent publishing to Resistance Front. The experience was really great, but I’d been too busy working on novels and designing book covers to write a story for the follow-up Carnival of Cryptids. So when Bernard emailed me to ask if I could do a cover for the new anthology, I jumped at the chance.
There are two basic parts to designing a book cover: finding the graphic elements and putting them together. Tony Healey had already done the first part, finding a great piece of art (a painting called Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley) that both embraced the theme of the anthology and had the same sensibilities as the cover art for Resistance Front.

The first thing I did was to brighten the picture by upping the contrast so that the colors were much more vibrant. Then I cropped it so that it was optimized for the size of a book cover. The next step was choosing text placement.

The difficulty in adapting a pre-existing work of art into a book cover is that the art is already optimized as, well, a piece of art. It doesn’t necessarily have what they call in the ad business “text space.” With this particular painting, there really wasn’t anywhere to put text without obscuring the picture or marginalizing the text. In a situation like that, a designer needs to decide what it visually most important in the graphic art and make that work around the text. 

Book covers need to be legible, especially ebook covers, which need to be readable in thumbnail. I wanted a big, bold title, and in looking at the art, I decided to highlight the two most visually interesting sections of the painting (the two figures against the gorgeous sky and the victim and monster in the water) and sacrifice the least visually interesting part of the painting, with was the boat section. I placed the text section slanted across the cover, again to maximize the space. But there was a lot going on behind that text, so to make it pop more, I put a box around it and filled the box with a color sampled from the ocean in the painting and then faded it down so you could still see the action on the boat without sacrificing readability.

I chose a nice, clean sans serif font and did some slight text effects to make it stand out and added a stroke and shadow to the banner to give it some depth.

Buy it HERE!
To finish the cover off, I did a bit of black grunge frame with Photoshop brushes, placed the Kindle All-Stars logo, and added the tag in the same font, in a yellow color sampled from the clouds. Et voila, a cover.

After my initial trepidation (pretty much, “Yikes! Where am I going to put the title?”) I was really happy with the final, and I hope it does justice to the wonderful stories within.

If anyone is interested in hiring me for cover design, you can take a look at my portfolio at I have a gallery of premade covers, and offer custom covers for all genres. I’m also a writer in the horror/mystery/crime genres, and you can pick up my books on Amazon.

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