RW: You are the Indie Authors best friend. That’s something many people know you as, but there is another aspect of your contribution to the Author world that some are not quite as familiar with. Tell us about how and why you came to create book covers? What was your first one?
CHRIS: My first cover was for the late Steve K. Smy, ‘Shade of Evil’, the first of a new series that Steve intended to publish, this was quickly followed by two more for ‘Evil Under the Circle’ and ‘A Darkness in Amazonia’, unfortunately, Steve died shortly after publishing this last one, however, based on notes left behind by Steve, his son Damien has published one more book of a new Fantasy series (asking me to do the cover and a map) and already has the cover plus maps from me for a second book:
RW: What types of software or online tools do you use in creating the artwork for the book covers?
CHRIS: To create the scenes and characters in 3D, I use Smith Micro’s Poser 10TM and E-ON Software Inc’s VUE Esprit 10TM programmes and render them into exportable Image Formats (usually PNG for best resolution and Hard / Paper back books, plus jpg / jpeg for eBooks).
For working the rendered scenes into covers and add text, I use several Image Editors, the main one being a GIMP-like software called ‘Seashore’ which is compatible with my Mac. The others are mainly to generate any special fonts or effects.
RW: I’ve looked into free programs like Blender, since I was originally planning to be an art major way back in the day, so I am very interested in illustration and that part of the Lit World. Have you tried it and if so what has your experience with free programs similar to that?
CHRIS: I did try Blender and several other programs, but they are way to user unfriendly – you need to take courses on them. Poser and Vue are much easier and intuitive to use.
RW: I have to agree with you. Blender is so complicated, at least for me at the moment, that I just open it and close it again. But it might be I don’t have the time to invest in it. But Poser and Vue sound more user friendly. I saw the prices so I it will be a long time before I could even think about visiting those sites again to make a purchase. How do you do the layering using the different software packages and make them blend together?
CHRIS: Layering in any Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Gimp and similar programmes are all done the same way.
RW: Chris just showed his professional side there and did a duh answer on me. Okay, do you read the books first or does the Author give you an idea they have, such as a feel they are going for?
CHRIS: I’ve done both – but usually the author has a good general idea of what they’d like and I prefer to work with that – so far I’ve been lucky enough to hit close enough to their marks first or second time to work out the final details quickly.
RW: How long does it take to do a book cover on average?
CHRIS: I really couldn’t say – sometimes I can get something together in a day, but one cover took me over a week to get to the final tweaking part.
RW: What are some of the covers that come to mind that even impress you? I know you will say you love them all but there has to be some that once complete just took you by surprise how good they turned out.
CHRIS: The first one I did for Jo Robinson was a WOW moment for both of us, I did the cover image, Jo sourced and added the title, etc, font:
RW: How does one approach you to have a book cover done?
CHRIS: That’s easy, go to the following link:
You’ll also see all the covers and maps I’ve made for authors to date.
RW: Where do you get your inspiration for the artwork for the covers? Do you have an art background?
CHRIS: After reading the information the authors send me, I mull it over for a few days, maybe do a little research if there are any specific objects involved, then I just start pulling bits together until the scenes feel right, render, maybe enhance the image a few different ways and send low resolution copies, plus suggested enhancements, to the authors for them to consider.
I have GCE ‘O’ level and Royal Drawing Society Level 5 Certificates in Art and even had a (not all that good – I was only 16 years old at the time) painting exhibited in a London Museum (probably one of the easily missed back street ones NOT the Famous London Art Gallery lol).
However, any drawing and painting talents I ever had have long since vanished and that’s why I resort to using 3D computer programmes 😀
I trained as an Engineering Draughtsman, progressing onto Designer and as a Construction Site Project Director, had occasion to do some “Remedial Re-design” to suit site conditions, because the designers had not attended site to carry out proper surveys before making their designs.
RW: Most book cover makers source stock images online, then cut, paste and modify them to get the final result, but you use 3D programs to create the scenes instead – is there a reason for doing them this way?
CHRIS: Yes, several reasons:
Many of the stock image sites charge small fees, which is not a problem in itself and well worth it in many cases, plus, really great images quickly become popular for using in all sorts of ways, posters, banners, Websites, etc, and so may not be unique to the author’s book cover.
Any costs I incur would need to be passed onto the author whose book cover I’m making (thus adding to the price I quote – which is already nominal and affordable for custom made covers using my own materials), plus, it’s critical for any author who wants their book cover to stand out from the rest, to have a cover that no-one else can ever get, intentionally or unintentionally.
By custom creating the scenes myself for each author and saving those scenes, plus any resulting cover images right up to the final one, under that authors name and never using those scenes for anyone else, I can guarantee each cover will be unique.
RW: Is book cover creating something you would suggest people get into? For example; are there creative headaches involved? Be honest, Authors are very possessive and particular about their books. I have an image in my head for a book cover for one of mine and I can see it almost exactly, does that ever rear its ugly head and you have to rework a cover over and over?
CHRIS: Only one cover needed more than a few tweaks, but it was well worth the effort by both the author and myself.
RW: If someone wanted to become a cover designer how would you suggest they begin? Art classes, computer classes, or maybe just jump in and become familiar with things?
CHRIS: Some people seem to have a natural affinity for composing art (I had a friend once who used to doodle mini masterpieces on scraps of paper, then discard them), but like most things, art is learnable, so if someone is not feeling all that comfortable with their efforts, taking art and/or computer classes may help.
However, why not just jump in and have a go – you’ll have great fun even if you never sell any of it.
RW: Do you ever see a book cover or even a DVD/Blue Ray cover and think “They so got that wrong”?
CHRIS: I can’t think of any.
RW: You’ve recently started practicing Promotional Trailers, will you be offering this as another service?
CHRIS: Yes – but first I have to satisfy myself that I KNOW what I’m doing with the new software I’m teaching myself how to use, then I will definitely offer that service at competitive (and affordable) prices.
One thing I would like to make clear though.
It is NOT my intention to undermine Professional Book Cover and Promo Trailer Makers and steal business away from them – my intention is ONLY to offer Indie Authors an affordable alternative when starting out ,or, when trying to become better established and in a position to be able to afford those professionals.
RW: Lastly, as I ask all the creative people that come through here, what is your favorite word and why?
CHRIS: ‘FUN’ because everyone should enjoy what they do and if you take everything, including yourself, too seriously, you’ll go NUTS.
Facebook Promotion of New Authors and Books Page
Google+: Chris Graham (The Story Reading Ape)
LinkedIn: The Story Reading Ape
Pinterest: Graham Christopher
Goodreads: Chris The Story Reading Ape
COVERS REVEALED BUT NOT YET PUBLISHED
Chris Graham is more than a blog host to Indie Authors. I wanted people to find out the talent behind the ape. I think after reading his answers you will all agree that there is a lot more than than the fur shows us. There is an intelligence there that he downplays but you can’t hide it for long. Doing illustrated work has long been one of my biggest dreams. In reality it was perhaps my first dream career. When I found out what Chris does I had to talk to him and share what I found out. I thank Chris for agreeing and sharing. Visit his blog, buy the books he covers, and as always . . .
Read a Book, Write a Review.
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