Write me: michelle@michellejoquinn.com

Guest Blogger, Trinity Hanrahan

You do it. You know you do. I do it! We’re all guilty of it. We just don’t want to admit it. It’s one of our dark secrets of shallowness.

We judge books by their covers.

Now, don’t go hiding your face in shame. This is a fact of life. We as a species are attracted to pretty, shiny things. Unless you’re a woman–and some men–then you’re attracted to hot, half-naked men on the cover. Sexual orientation aside, it all comes down to one universal fact: the more professional, well-put together covers get books looked at before their counterparts. It was because of this that I started doing book cover art.

Actually, let me back up a bit here. Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Trinity Hanrahan, although many on the Internet have known me for many years as Muse/musesinspire/musesinspiration. I started out years ago making fan art for friends’ fan fiction pieces.

Yes, you read that right. Fan fiction. Artwork for fan fiction. Basically, book covers for their work. Although, they were more of what would be referred to as banner or poster sized. I still have some of it up, too!

When I started my artwork back in 2005, it was as a desire to give people a visual of what the story was about. A blending of images and words that would ignite a desire in a reader to click on a link and check out a story that someone had written. I felt a need to share what I envisioned when I lost myself in my favorite authors’ worlds.

After a while, I started making smaller graphics for websites. Icons, avatars, headers, etc. for the various writers to showcase on their sites. This led me into website design as I had to start learning the website requirements and how to read the HTML code to get the dimensions correct. I had to also know how to help the authors install the images that I had made for them.

It was while I was helping one author, Rebecca Nolan, set up her blog that she asked me to create a set of covers for her Lilly series. She was in the process of publishing and wanted a look that she felt I could capture. Naturally, I figured she’d lost her mind and suggested serious medications for her issue and continued on my way.

Ms. Nolan, however, is quite persistent when she puts her mind to something and wouldn’t stop pestering me. Between her and my friend Charlotte Dhark, I was badgered and stalked, er…ENCOURAGED…to give it a shot. Wow!

It was like the mothership called me home!

While quite similar to what I’d already been doing, book cover art was almost a new medium. And one I found that I greatly enjoyed. I’d found a niche that I could settle into and establish a name for myself in.

Cover art is a challenge, however. Unlike fan art, it’s not as simple as just going out, finding a couple of screenshots that fit your idea and slapping them into a manipulated poster for a fan fic. No, as an artist, you find yourself facing several things that fan artists don’t have to.

First, depending on where the author is publishing will determine the dimensions; Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Wattpad…they all have different specifications. This will dictate how much canvas space you have to create your work of art. What can be really challenging is when the author decides to publish across more than one platform. Then whatever you make has to fit a variety of dimensions (height and width of cover) and resolutions (basically, the overall quality of the graphic, which can affect the size of it).

Second, you have to worry about copyrights. If the cover is going to be commercially used (i.e. published for purchase/to make money), then you can’t use images that you don’t have a license for. So then you have to troll the various stock websites to find just the right images for that particular cover. This is difficult considering you can find about 8,540,972 images that fit ‘absolutely perfect’, but are usually owned by photographers or are from movies/TV shows. Yeah, I’ve maybe screamed at the computer monitor a time or two when I’m facing down a deadline and I can’t find the right image for what’s in my head.

Which leads to the next challenge: figuring out how to project the book’s theme/message into a single, small cover. This is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I always ask for the book’s blurb, a basic summary and some examples of other covers that the author likes and feels are close to what they want it to represent. Now, do I always go by those examples? Usually not. But it does give me an idea of colors, placements, etc. that the author is drawn to. Sometimes, the idea comes to me right away and I’m able to just get it and it’s perfect and the author loves it. Other times, I feel like I need to curl up in a corner and rock, quietly sobbing while Photoshop (my graphics program) sits on the screen and mocks me.

But then it comes together and holy hell! I feel like my world  has rocked and I need to scurry behind the high school bleachers and have a smoke. Yeah, it’s that satisfying. I love knowing that I’ve made that cover; you know, the one that you’re going to click on long before that one that just has a blank cover and some badly colored text on it. Yeah, that is the best feeling in the world.

Now, when it comes to choosing a cover artist, it’s important to keep in mind that we all have a ‘style’ that we tend to gravitate toward. If you check out my page, you’ll see what I mean for mine: Trinity’s Creative Haven. You know what you want for your book and you’re taking your baby that you just wrote and having someone make the cover for it. The thing that everyone will judge it by. So do your homework! Check out multiple artists, talk to other authors and get their opinions, do your research and always, always know that you don’t have to settle on whatever you’re presented with. If you hate it, if it’s nothing like what you were expecting, let the artist know! We’re not mind readers.

We just try to make sure you get judged well.


About the Author: 

 Trinity lives with her husband and four children in Virginia. She grew up overseas in Turkey and Japan, where her love of reading developed due to a lack of English-speaking television. As her need for written works grew, so did her desire to create worlds for others to enjoy. By the time she was in middle school she had started writing short stories. She endeavors to break the mold where modern stereo-types are concerned and create engaging characters.

When she’s not writing or working, Trinity still enjoys settling down to read book or doing graphic art in her spare time.


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