Covering Up by Anne Louise Bannon
I’ve always been a dialog kind of woman. When I’m writing, the conversations between characters always come first, and then the visual descriptions. In fact, I have two main characters that I’ve never actually described. So, while I have learned how to add the visual elements into my stories, there was one other visual that I’ve needed to be on top of – the cover.
You see, I’m what we’re calling an indie author these days. That means self-published, which also means I have to put a cover on anything I write. For a non-visual person, this has been quite a challenge. Even those covers I pay (and I do pay for some), I have to have a clear idea of what it should look like so that my cover designer has an idea of where to start.
For the covers I have to do myself, what I mostly need is a single image that can stand for what the book is about. It’s kind of like writing your elevator pitch, but only with a single image rather than a single sentence. And I have an additional challenge since most of the covers I do myself are for novels that I serialize on my blog, I also have to turn my cover image into a header that has a completely different aspect ratio.
For example, a book cover is generally narrower than it is tall – I make mine for a paperback that will eventually be eight inches tall by five inches wide. A header is way wider, say about six inches wide by an inch and a half tall. It can really throw your composition off, let me tell you.
As it happens, I’m starting the serial for the fourth novella in my Operation Quickline, my cozy spy series. Yes, I wrote a series of cozy spy novels/novellas, as in novels about a pair of spies that focuses on their lives and relationship and does not have a lot of graphic sex or violence. Okay, there is plenty of sex, but it all happens off-screen, so to speak.
The novel is Fugue in a Minor Key. My characters, Sid Hackbirn and Lisa Wycherly, bring Lisa’s nephew Darby to live at their place because Darby’s having some serious problems. Then an old girlfriend of Sid’s surprises him with a son he never knew about. Oh, and there’s a sting they’re trying to run on a bunch of guys stealing secrets from a local defense plant. Yeah, a lot going on.
For this particular series, I hit upon the idea of creating a rubber stamp effect on the title, kind of like a Top Secret stamp on a manila envelope. I used the envelope for the background of the second book in the series, Stopleak, and featured a box and strapping tape for the third book, Deceptive Appearances.
In Fugue, apart from the title, Sid and Darby are both musicians and that’s how they bond, so while there were plenty of manilla envelopes flying about, there were also several scenes where Sid and Darby are playing music together. So that’s how I decided to feature the envelope and some sheet music that I, uh, may have played around with. So the cover was mostly getting the text on in a balanced way, then laying out the envelope and the music.
The header was a bit harder. Truth be told, I’m not entirely happy with it, so it might change. But you didn’t hear me say that, right?
Learning how to do all this has not been easy, but it has been fun. And it’s also helped with how I see my writing. Beginning on January 18, I’ll be starting a new serial on my blog. Check it out at https://annelouisebannon.com/fiction .
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Anne Louise Bannon is an author and journalist who wrote her first novel at age 15. Her journalistic work has appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Wines and Vines, and in newspapers across the country. She was a TV critic for over 10 years, founded the YourFamilyViewer blog, and created the OddBallGrape.com wine education blog with her husband, Michael Holland. She also writes the romantic fiction serial WhiteHouseRhapsody.com, Book One of which is out now. She is the co-author of Howdunit: Book of Poisons, with Serita Stevens, as well as author of the Freddie and Kathy mystery series, set in the 1920s, and the Operation Quickline series and Tyger, Tyger. She and her husband live in Southern California with an assortment of critters.