Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Ebook Tango with Judith Moffett - Step 2

Tiny TangoTo recap Step 1: Last fall I suggested to my friend, the author Judith Moffett, that she publish her Hugo and Nebula award-nominated story Tiny Tango as a Kindle ebook.

Of course, I knew up front that by making this suggestion I would be doing most of the technical heavy lifting on this project. And, for the most part, I thrive on this type of tech stuff, as Judy well knows. Except, that is, on those rare occasions when the hardware and/or software seems to be getting the better of me. Then it comes down to Man (me!) vs. Machine -- and I'm not going to lose to a machine! [And it would probably be best to not be within hearing range of me when such occasions arise.]

At this point in the process we had a full-size (2164 x 1755 pixels) JPG file of the "Tiny Tango" artwork by Janet Aulisio that graced the story's opening pages in the February 1989 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Our task was to somehow fit this two-page illo onto an ebook-sized cover -- with the appropriate typography -- and make it intriguing enough that readers just might want to purchase the ebook itself. So, I needed to find a quality graphic designer.

The first person I thought to contact was author Bradley P. Beaulieu. I worked for Brad on his self-published short fiction collection, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories (which I blogged about here). Brad recommended Jenn Reese, of Tiger Bright Studios: "She has a great eye for covers, charges a reasonable fee, and would have all the answers your friend needs in terms of direction for the cover." I couldn't ask for a better recommendation than that. Plus, when I checked out the Tiger Bright Studios website, I discovered a number of book titles by authors whom I knew personally, so that influenced my decision as well.

I made the initial contact with Jenn Reese, explained our need, and provided her with the b&w JPG file. Shortly thereafter, Judy took over the discussion, since she was the one to agree to terms and make all the final cover decisions.

Jenn first provided us with three options for how we might tackle the cover, keeping in mind that the graphic was much wider than a standard ebook cover. So to fit the entire illo on the cover, the graphic would have to be reduced in size considerably. Here are the three initial mockups that Jenn sent us:

Mockup #1

Mockup #2

Mockup #3

Though we wanted the full illustration on the cover, we certainly couldn't have all the white space that would entail; plus, all the fine detail that Janet Aulisio crafted into the illustration would be lost at this smaller scale. So, Judy opted for mockup #1, but with a change: the cover would feature just the reaper, but needed to include the reaper's scythe in full. And I then suggested that we include the full illustration within the ebook itself, after the title page.

A couple or so days later, Jenn sent us three different cover proofs for our review:

Proof #1

Proof #2

Proof #3
Obviously, since you've seen the ebook cover at the beginning of this blog post, you know we decided on Proof #3. There was no discussion needed. When I first contacted Jenn about this project, and mentioned that the graphic we wanted to use was a black & white illustration, she responded:
I should point out that B/W illustrations are perhaps not the best choice for ebook covers -- unless they are incredibly striking, they won't be as vibrant as the full color covers. And a detailed B/W drawing is a very bad choice, since it will lose impact when shrunk to thumbnail size. But again, I'm speculating wildly without having seen the art!

Well, Jenn took that b&w graphic, added the right touch -- and the right shade -- of red, along with a black border to focus the eyes on the center, and made it stunning; and by featuring just the reaper, no detail was lost. I first contacted Jenn on January 27; and we had our cover art on February 1. So if you are in need of an ebook cover, whether or not you have artwork initially, I highly recommend Jenn Reese and Tiger Bright Studios.

Judy and I now had our cover, with plans to place the full black & white illustration within the ebook. Now, it was up to me to create the ebook itself....

To be continued:

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