Serial to Series, and Self-Pubbing by Accident

The following is a guest post (and part of the blog tour for her self-published novella that I’ll introduce at the end) by my good friend and fellow editor, Cait Spivey. It’s excellent information, as usual, but stay tuned after the post for some special announcements and cool reveals regarding Cait’s non-editorial efforts. I don’t want to take up too much space, so without any more preamble, here’s Cait!

Serial to Series, and Self-Pubbing by Accident

by Cait Spivey


I always considered myself a traditional publishing kind of girl. I figured I’d be happy to do a little marketing, get myself out there to events, and schmooze, but would prefer to have the support of a press to help me along. Self-publishing was fine and dandy, but not my speed.

Fast-forward a year or so into my publishing journey. I’d been querying a high fantasy to agents – -angling for that New York deal — with good interest but no contracts, and working on some other side writing projects. A sci-fi inspired by the “what if the Doctor were female?” question. And a little story about a girl being stalked by spiders.

I liked this little story. I liked the main character, Erin, whose voice came to me so easily. I’d originally planned it to be a full-length novel, but as I wrote, it became clear that this wasn’t a novel. It was the groundwork for something much larger.

So I finished it at almost 17,000 words, and wondered what the hell to do with it: too short to query, too long to be a short story. I thought about cutting it down and sending it to literary magazines, but there was no way to cut 10k  words without completely changing the story. I thought about expanding it, but the ending was utterly fixed to me, and while I could have come up with more to pad the rest, it would have become out of proportion to the climax.

One of the presses for which I edit, Curiosity Quills, offers a few serials through their website, as does Kisa, my gracious host for today, and a number of other writerly friends I’d made. So I got the idea: why not put my spider story on my own blog? Otherwise, it was just going to sit rotting on my hard-drive.

I mocked up a little cover featuring a beautiful spider photographed by my friend Jo (, scheduled all nine posts, and off we went. As the end of the run drew near, I thought it might be nice to have the whole thing available for download, as like a pdf or something. So this past March, I formatted I See the Web, made myself a less spider-rific cover that better represented the story, and uploaded it to Smashwords for free download when the serial run was over.

Then I realized: I’d self-published it.

And I’d done so with barely a scrap of marketing or other pre-launch build-up. Still, the book was downloaded pretty steadily, so after about a month of having the book up for free, I published it to Amazon through KDP and changed the price to $0.99.

I turned away from I See the Web and focused on other projects for a little while, but my little novella was still out there, still trucking along. As those other projects got more serious and as I made definitive decisions about my goals for the future, I decided it was time to come back and give Erin her due. If I wanted the book to do well, and if I wanted to bring attention to the sequel I was writing, I needed to give a proper marketing effort.

The result is this blog tour and cover reveal.

To say it’s been a learning experience would be an understatement, and if I can impart any advice, it would be this: have a plan ahead of time. While my experience with I See the Web has pretty much worked out, the past few months would no doubt have gone a lot better sales-wise if I’d thought ahead, made deliberate choices, and set specific goals.

Another important piece of advice: don’t treat any of your work as a throw-away. The reason I didn’t do much planning with I See the Web is because I thought it was going to be just a one-off, something unconnected to the rest of what I wanted to accomplish. Totally untrue! Not only is it my first published work, a place nothing else can ever supplant, it’s also become the anchor for a far-reaching series of loosely connected books, novellas, and short stories within The Web’s universe. While reading I See the Web won’t be necessary for any of those other stories, it will add to those reading experiences.

There are plenty of publishing paths available to authors these days and, for the most part, one is not better than any other. It may take some time to decide which one is right for you and your project, and that’s okay. But you can’t let publishing sneak up on you.



Pretty sound advice, no? I think a lot of us (myself included) could benefit from her lessons. I know I have a tendency to forget about certain projects, deeming them less worthy than others of time in the limelight and/or love. But she’s right; they’re all part of my writing career and deserve the respect of my attention.

But I promised goodies and reveals, and since I don’t have any for my own work that you don’t already know about, I’m happy to introduce you to Cait’s. First, here’s the information and buy links for I See the Web:

I See the Web by Cait Spivey

Seventeen-year-old Erin has a lot to look forward to, even if it suddenly seems like everywhere she turns there’s a spider staring at her. She’s finally out to her friends and family, surprising exactly no one. When Dawn, the love of her tender teenage dreams, corners her in the library, a whole new world opens up to Erin. From here on out, it’s all make-out sessions with her beautiful girlfriend in rooms stacked high with books.

Until the spiders start whispering.

Turns out the spiders aren’t just stalking her for kicks. They need her to be their voice, their vessel, whatever that means. But their timing is crap, because there’s no way Erin is giving up her human life just when things are starting to get amazing. Too bad the spiders just won’t quit. Like it or not, Erin will have to choose, and it won’t be nearly as easy as she thinks.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

And now, I’m thrilled to help reveal the cover for I See the Web‘s highly anticipated sequeal, A Single Thread:

A Single Thread by Cait Spivey

It’s been two weeks since Morgan Fletcher’s little sister, Erin, disappeared before his eyes in a flurry of spidersilk and blood. Probability says she’s dead; but when Erin comes to him in a dream, Morgan’s eyes are opened to a level of reality where probability doesn’t mean jack. His sister sees the web of time, and she’s got news for him: trouble is coming.

A cryptic riddle and flashing images of the future are all Morgan has to go on in order to save a mystery boy from a gruesome death. That’s if he even believes what’s happened to Erin. Is her spider-whisperer persona for real, or has his grief at losing her caused him to totally crack?

With a life at stake, Morgan isn’t taking any chances. Madness or no madness, he has to solve Erin’s riddle before it’s too late.

Releasing October 31st, 2014

And, because that’s not enough to convince you that Cait’s awesome and you should totally go support her, here’s a ridiculously amazing book trailer for A Single Thread:

How to Judge a Book by Its Cover

After spending the past several weeks learning the ins and outs of cover design, I found myself thinking more about the other side of the fence — the buyer’s side. I tend to browse bookstores rather aimlessly, as I’m sure a lot of us do, waiting for something to pop out and grab me. We’ve always been told, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But that’s exactly what we do. We can’t help it; it’s instinct, a way to filter the walls and walls of choices and prevent information overload. What actually makes a cover design stand out against the others, though? What hidden information are we subconsciously told in a glance? We saw glimpses of it during Ashley Ruggirello’s excellent series, but I wanted an opinion from outside the design world, from someone whose job isn’t necessarily to create the covers, but to judge them.

So I recruited Elizabeth Watson. Some of you may recognize that last name from a post I wrote back in May announcing the release of A Foundation in Wisdom, and you’d be correct. Elizabeth is Robert’s wife. But more importantly, she’s a librarian. She faces the same predicament we do when stepping into a bookstore, just on a much larger (professional) scale. So stick around, listen to her tips for deciphering the subtle language of book covers, and then be sure to check out A Foundation in Wisdom!

How to Judge a Book by Its Cover


By Elizabeth Watson

As Kisa mentioned, I’m a librarian for a small, rural library. My job duties include purchasing books (monthly) for the library and recommending titles to our patrons. As a librarian, I feel it’s important to know your community and what they like/want to read. But obviously, I don’t have time to read every book out there, and there are some genres that appeal to me more than others. So how can I tell whether or not to buy or recommend a title? By looking at its cover. Publishers put a lot of time and money into the cover design, so take advantage of it.

Here are some things I tend to look at while making my decisions:

The Title and Cover Art:

The cover will let you know the genre. For example:
The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn
You can tell this is a romance. (And, by the way, a good rule of thumb is: the more skin showing on the cover, the more sex scenes you’ll find inside.)

Whereas this:

The Last Alibi by David Ellis

…clearly isn’t. Based on the endorsement from James Patterson and the imagery, it’s safe to say The Last Alibi is a suspense novel.

The cover can also give you a hint about location. For example:

Discretion by Allison Leotta
If you recognize the building on the cover of Discretion, you can tell it takes place in Washington, D.C.
The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell
The Litigators by John Grisham
Also, pay attention to the presentation of the author’s name; the more real estate it takes up, the more likely you are to be looking at a famous, established author (as illustrated above).

Author Recommendations:

Getting endorsements from established writers can really help sell your book.  If the book you’re looking at has author recommendations and you’re familiar with that author, you can probably safely say the book in your hand will be similar to those written by the endorser. For example:
Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
Charlaine Harris writes paranormal romance, so you can guess that Iron Kissed is probably a paranormal romance, too.  (I would say it’s also safe to guess that the main character isn’t very quiet and conservative based on the tattoo.)  But if you don’t have a famous author to provide you with a quote, quotes from reviewers are helpful, too.  I just recommend making sure the quote tells the reader or purchaser what to expect from the book — should they expect a lot of action? Courtroom drama? Vampires? Fantasy?

Awards or Prizes:

The Replacement Child by Christine Barber
As a reader/purchaser, I definitely pay attention if a book has received a prize. A few examples of awards given to authors are the Edgar award for mysteries, the Christy award for Christian fiction, and the RITA award for romances. Being nominated is impressive even if you didn’t win, so you should brag up your nomination on the cover, too.

Additional Things that Factor into Purchasing:


  • Patron requests — if one of our patrons asks for it, I try to buy it.
  • Variety and diversity — I try to get something for everybody, something to represent all the genres. And, of course, I try to buy the big-name, bestselling authors when they come out with a new book.
  • Local authors.
  • Reviews — the Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, newspapers, and other print sources are helpful. I also look at online reviews at Goodreads, Amazon, and Fantastic Fiction, as well as BookPage, and BookReporter. And I buy the Oprah’s Book Club selections and books that get reviewed in O: The Oprah Magazine.
  • If we have some books in a series, I will try to complete it.
  • Impressive covers with good reviews or endorsements from famous authors.
  • Local Book Club Requests — book clubs often tell me what title they’re planning to read next, and I’ll buy copies of their selection for the library.

Well, those are my thoughts. I hope you find them interesting and useful. The world of cover design is an intricate thing from start to finish. A lot goes into the design side, but nearly as much goes into the decision to buy. If you keep some of these key elements in mind while you create, I’m sure you’ll be able to wow the world with your covers.

Designing a Book Cover: Conclusion

Welcome to the 7th and final installment of Ashley Ruggirello’s guest post series on cover design.

For those just joining us, meet Ashley, Creative Director/Founder of REUTS Publications, and owner of freelance design company, Cardboard Monet. She’s been sharing her design expertise, taking us through the process behind designing a book cover. From inception to finished product, she’s illustrated the collaborative steps authors and designers go through, using my nemesis WIP as the guinea pig. And today, we’ve reached the end.

Know what that means? That’s right, next week I’ll be revealing the announcement I’ve been teasing you with since the beginning. I’m pretty excited about it, and hope you will be too. So follow along as Ashley walks you through the finishing touches on Unmoving‘s design and get ready for next week’s surprise! 😉

Chapter 7: Unmoving Tutorial Finale


By Ashley Ruggirello

The end is near. We’ve entered the closing chapter of our Book Cover Art Series! We started the series with an idea, something abstract and intangible. After playing around with that idea, and different forms of representation, the final cover was revealed. And, if you’re interested in how the cover was created, Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 have documented that process. But now, the time has come to put the finishing touches on the Unmoving cover, and close the book on the wonderful journey we’ve taken together.

Last, but not least . . . the necklace.

Picking up from last week:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.17.54 PM

And again, the basic design elements



Part III: Step-By-Step Tutorial for the Unmoving Book Cover

Open the Necklace inspiration image in a new browser tab. You don’t need to pull it into Photoshop, just have it easily accessible to reference. In a new layer, above all the background/bench layers, zoom in and draw with the brush tool (“B” on your keyboard to bring it up). It doesn’t matter what color you use, but remember to keep the brush sharp:
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.31.17 PM
Before I show how it looks on my screen, we’ll have to add some FX to the necklace base. Remember the button? Make sure you have the necklace layer selected, and from the toolbar at the bottom of your layer window, click the FX icon and select “Drop Shadow”: (We’ll start with Drop Shadow, but we’ll be adding a couple different effects in one swoop.)
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.40.00 PM
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.09.34 PM
This’ll open the effects window, where you can change the Distance to “3″, Spread to “0″, Size to “38″ and Angle to “150″:
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.35.01 PM
Then, from the left-hand column, click “Outer Glow” (as you see from the above screen shot). You’ll change these options to Blend Mode of “Hard Light”, Opacity of “100%”, Spread to “29%”, Size to “90px”, Range to “50%” and Color to “#c0c9cc” :
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.36.02 PM
Then hit OK. And, while keeping that layer selected, set it to Multiply, Opacity “48%” and Fill “0%”:
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.37.35 PM
It should look something like this (zoomed in):
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.39.05 PM
Duplicate the layer by either clicking CTRL/command + J or right-clicking the layer and selecting Duplicate Layer:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.36.22 PM
On your new layer, open up the FX window again. You’ll notice the previous effects have already been applied to this duplicate layer:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.40.00 PM
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.09.34 PM
We’ll be adding a Gradient Overlay, so select that option from the left side bar. Set Blend Mode to “Mulitply”, Opacity to “100%”, Style to “Linear”, and Angle to “90”:
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.42.26 PM
The gradient colors themselves look like this:
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.44.01 PM
From left to right the colors are “#262626”, “#575757”, “#8a8a8a” and “#262626”. Hit OK and OK, then look back at your layer. Make sure you change your layer Opacity to “87%” and you should see something like this:
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.47.59 PM
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.45.33 PM
In a new layer below the necklace, using a soft-edged brush with a black color (#000000), add a slight drop shadow to the bottom edge of the necklace:
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.50.46 PM
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.49.46 PM
I want to apologize for this next step, which I forgot to document: the gem image and coloring. For this, you can either play around and come up with your own gem, or use the following image (taken directly from my design file) and add it as a new layer below your necklace, but above the drop shadow layer:
With the gem in place, you should have something that looks like this:
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.54.28 PM
Zooming back out, the last thing we need to add is the chain. Zooming out allows you to better see how it’ll fall off the bench in relation to the design as a whole. This step was as simple as using the brush tool with a hard brush to draw out a chain:
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.57.57 PM
To add a little bit of realism, we’ll add a Gradient Overlay to the layer, so open the FX and select Gradient Overlay:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.40.00 PM
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.59.32 PM
Set your options to Blend Mode at “Normal”, Opacity at “100%”, Style to “Linear” and Angle to “90%”:
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.59.55 PM
With the gradient colors from left to right at “#262626”, “#575757”, “#000000” and “#262626”.
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 8.01.44 PM
Hit OK and OK one final time, and you’re done! Take a moment to bask in your new cover, and the new techniques, tips and tricks you’ve learned.
Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 7.19.12 PM
Thank you for participating and following our Book Cover Art Series! REUTS would love to showcase the work you come up with based on our series, so email them to, and we’ll display them on our blog! Happy designing, reading and writing!

Designing a Book Cover: Tutorial Part 2

Welcome to week 6 of Ashley Ruggirello’s guest post series and part 2 of her guided walk-through.

For those just joining us, meet Ashley, Creative Director/Founder of REUTS Publications, and owner of freelance design company, Cardboard Monet. Over the past weeks, she’s been sharing her design expertise, taking us through the process behind designing a book cover. From inception to finished product, she’s illustrated the collaborative steps authors and designers go through, using my nemesis WIP as the guinea pig. But it’s not over yet!

Last week, she began a step-by-step breakdown of how she created this beautifully subtle piece of art. Today is part 2, and there’s one more installment scheduled for next week. That means, in two week’s time, I’ll finally reveal the exciting announcement I’ve been hiding. So stick around, learn some of Ashley’s tricks and find out what I’m keeping up my sleeve. We’re almost there, I promise! ;)

Chapter 6: Unmoving Tutorial Continued


By Ashley Ruggirello

If you’re just now joining us on this cover designing adventure, I’d suggest picking up from Chapter 5, where we begin the tutorial, or Chapter 1, to see how far we’ve come. Last week we ended with a good base image of a color-adjusted and textured bench:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.06.52 PM

And again, the basic design elements



Part II: Step-By-Step Tutorial for the Unmoving Book Cover

Bring in the filigree
To start, we’re going to jump right in to the floral filigree, which is — by far — the more difficult part. Bring the floral filigree into your Photoshop document by your preferred method (c+p, drag/drop, etc…) as a new layer, above the work we’ve already done. You’ll want to Transform (CTRL/Command +T) and rotate the image -5.77 degrees to the left, to get it in a similar location as the final. Of course, you can also omit this step.
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.28.41 PM
Set the layer to Lighten and you’ll see a very gray silhouette of the filigree:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.29.54 PM
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.56.23 PM
To get that gold color, we need to mess with the image Hue & Saturation by going to Image > Adjustment > Hue and Saturation:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.31.16 PM
Click the Colorize option. This is where a lot of playing around, and guess/check comes into play. If you select Preview you can see your progress before committing to anything. I set Hue to “45”, Saturation to “24” and Lightness to “+15”.
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.32.11 PM
It’ll give you that gold color on just the filigree element.
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.54.21 PM
But the filigree in the sky is too light, so duplicate the layer by either clicking CTRL/command + J or right-clicking the layer and selecting Duplicate Layer:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.36.22 PM
Set this layer to “49%” Opacity:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.53.47 PM
There, that’s a little better! But now we have all that crap over the bench that we definitely don’t need. Here’s another section that’s guess-and-check. Take those two filigree layers and put them in a group of their own by highlighting them both and hitting CTRL/Command + G or right-clicking and clicking the folder icon at the bottom of your layer window:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.40.00 PM
Your two filigree layers should now be in their own group, easy to edit at the same time, which is what we’re about to do! Using that same icon bar above, hit the icon with the circle in the square to create a mask.
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.41.57 PM
This adds a white box next to your group, which — in essence — allows us to erase any element within the group without truly editing the image itself. That way, if we ever need to go back and make changes, we don’t lose the authenticity of the original:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.42.34 PM

(Disregard that mine says “Group 9”, yours will likely say “Group 1”)


Now, make sure you’re selecting the mask (it should have a the frame around the corners when selected as seen above), and select the Eraser tool. You can hit “E” on your keyboard to pull it up, or find the eraser icon in your left toolbar:


Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.45.17 PM


From the color selection at the bottom of your toolbar, make sure the foreground color is set to white:


Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.46.14 PM


We’re moving all around your screen now. Looking at the top toolbar, select the brush size and shape. Make sure it’s set to a fuzzy circle, at any given size (mine is 300px):


Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.47.17 PM


Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.48.23 PM

Working back on your art board, begin to “erase” the filigree overlapping the bench and surrounding area. You’ll notice your mask on the group layer turn black where you’ve erased:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.50.11 PM
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.52.59 PM
I can’t say exactly how I erased, but you can see my mask on the guide layer as a general idea. The lighter grays were created by changing the opacity of my eraser, so I wasn’t deleting as much.

And there you have it! The filigree has been added to your design.
Typesetting title, author name, and tagline
(Even though I consider this the easiest part of the design, Kisa and I still went through multiple combinations and options before settling on the final._

Let’s start with the tagline…

The fonts used were “Gotham – Light” and “Gotham – Bold”, for the unbolded and bolded words, respectively, at a size of 9pt. (Here’s where you can sub for Century Gothic.) All you really have to do is type out:

“Everyone has a limited supply of good karma. What happens when it’s gone?”

Break the line between the sentences, center it nicely in the sky, and you’re all set with the tagline:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.01.31 PM
Next, the title. The title is “Proxima Nova Alt Condensed – Light” at font size “64pt”. You can also sub “Collaborate – Thin“. Type out “Unmoving” in all UPPERCASE (the font color doesn’t matter at this point) and place it evenly between the tagline and the top of the bench:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.05.20 PM
Back in your layers window, change the fill to “0%”
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.06.13 PM
You’ll notice the font has disappeared, but that’s okay! That’s what we want. Make sure you have the text layer selected, and from the layer toolbar at the bottom of your window, click the FX icon and select “Drop Shadow”:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.40.00 PM
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.09.34 PMThis will open the Effects window, where you can change the Distance to “5”, Spread to “89”, Size to “1” and Angle to “150”:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.10.57 PM You’ll now see a really cool, shadowed text:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.12.09 PM
And, boom. The title. 🙂

The last piece of text is Kisa’s name. It’s also in  “Proxima Nova Alt Condensed – Light” at size “14pt”. (You can sub “Collaborate – Thin“.) Type out “Kisa Whipkey” in all UPPERCASE, and place it right below the title, centered on the art board.
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.15.42 PM
Similar to the title, open the Drop Shadow Effects window, and set the Blend Mode to “Normal”, Opacity to “75”, Angle at “150”, Distance to “1”, Spread to “0” and Size to “1”:
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.16.37 PM
After hitting “OK”, all the text in the design is complete!
Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.17.54 PM
Last, but certainly not least, we’ll address the necklace sitting on the bench, and finish off the Book Cover Art Series! I hope you’ve enjoyed (and found useful) this step-by-step tutorial. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. That’s what I’m here for!

Designing a Book Cover: The Big Reveal

Welcome to week 5 of Ashley Ruggirello’s guest post series and the big reveal of Unmoving’s official cover!

For those just joining us, meet Ashley, Creative Director and Founder of REUTS Publications, and owner of freelance design company, Cardboard Monet. Over the past weeks, she’s been sharing her design expertise, walking us through the process behind designing a book cover. From inception to finished product, she’s illustrated the collaborative steps authors and designers go through, using my nemesis WIP as the guinea pig. And I couldn’t be more happy with the final result. Elegant and sophisticated, like all of her brilliant designs, this cover perfectly embodies the soul of my story. But we’re not quite done!

Over the next couple of weeks, she’s going to give you the step-by-step breakdown of how she created this beautifully subtle piece of art. And at the end, I’ll reveal the exciting announcement I’ve been hiding. Some of you may think you’ve already guessed what it is, but I can guarantee you haven’t. So stick around, learn some of Ashley’s tricks and find out what I’m keeping up my sleeve. We’re almost there, I promise! 😉

Chapter 5: Cover Reveal & Tutorial


By Ashley Ruggirello

The time has come: the cover reveal for Unmoving. If you’ve followed along from Chapter 1, it’s been a long five weeks as we figured out a starting point, created mock-ups and then some more, until finally, we’re able to debut the final cover. 🙂 Kisa and I have actually been talking about this cover since last Spring, so it’s definitely been a long time coming! No point in delaying any further; it’s my pleasure to reveal Kisa’s cover:

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.10.39 PM
This final design has a nice mix of both original mock-ups. The black and white simplicity from the first version, and the filigree/zoomed out bench from the second.

Let us know what you think in the comments, or on Twitter @REUTSpub.

Requesting Usage Permission

Depending on where you collect your stock, you may or may not need to request permission to use the images. If your stock comes from a stock website library (e.g. IStockPhoto or Veer), you simply have to purchase the image usage rights — just make sure you purchase the image large enough, with a high enough resolution for your needs.

If you prefer to go the route REUTS takes, supporting smaller photographers and interacting with them directly, you always have to request permission, unless otherwise stated. When reaching out to an artist for permission to use their image, you should give a little background on you, and how the image is going to be used:

I’m the Creative Director for an indie publishing company, (LINK), and am interested in using your image (LINK) in one of our new publication’s cover art. We are planning on using it electronically and in print, with credit given inside the book pages.

This is a good jump-off point because you’ve introduced yourself, and explained exactly what your intentions with their image are. Since REUTS always provides credit to the artist (whether they require it or not), I make sure to include it in my initial message. Next, we typically move into what their compensation request might be:

If you’d be willing/interested, please let me know what form of compensation you’d need.

This allows the artist to set their rates/requests, and opens up the conversation to negotiate. Always remember to show your appreciation within an email, not only for their hard work in creating stock, but for taking the time to answer your questions. Give them an opportunity to respond with questions of their own, and make sure you’re easily accessible if they need to contact you off-site (I always like to provide my email address).

Since each situation is different, we can’t provide a thorough walk-through past this initial point of communication, but at least you’ve now begun the conversation, and potential negotiations.

And, like I said, just to be safe, REUTS always includes credit within the printed or digital book:



The Basic Design Elements



Step-By-Step Tutorial for the Unmoving Book Cover

Create a new Photoshop document with the dimensions 5.5″ x 8.5″ and a resolution of 200:

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.20.32 PM

You’ll notice this art board size does not have a built-in bleed. Because Kisa needed this cover primarily for online purposes, I figured when the time comes for this to be used as a print cover, I’d be able to easily adjust the image to fit the additional bleed. Given the nature of the background image, it won’t be hard to extend off the edge.

Import Your Main Image

Drag and drop, or CTRL+C/CTRL+P the bench background image into your art board:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.42.37 PM
You’ve probably noticed that this raw image looks much different than the one in the final. That means we have some work to do…
Create a New Layer Adjustment – Hue/Saturation
From the top menu bar, navigate to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation…
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.46.33 PM
From the window that opens (mine does so in the right sidebar above my “Layers” tab), set the “Saturation” option all the way to “-100”, which essentially turns your canvas black and white:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.48.14 PM
Then, in your “Layers” tab, set this new adjustment layer to “Soft Light”:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.49.50 PM
Your art board should now look like:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.50.13 PM
There isn’t much of a difference, but colors are more accentuated, and almost have a shine to them.
Create a New Layer Adjustment – Curves
Again, from the top menu bar, navigate to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves…
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.51.59 PM
From the window that opens, create a new point, and set the Output as “128” and the Input as “153”:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.52.55 PM
Your art board should now look a little bit darker:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.53.25 PM

Generate Some Stripes

Head over to the aforementioned Stripe Generator to create a free stripe texture. You have quite a few options here, feel free to play around with them for any future projects. This is intended for web design use (it’ll actually generate a seamless, tile-able image you can assign to website elements), but I’ve found it a good resource for print design, too.

Change the options to:

Stripe size: 1
Spacing: 10
Stripe Color (s): Black (or #000000)
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.57.49 PM
There’s a window to the left of these options that will refresh to show your new stripe based on these selected options:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.58.32 PM
Click the “Open Fullscreen Preview” link at the top to fill your browser window with this striped texture, which you’ll screen grab and pull into your Photoshop art board:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.59.44 PM
(Of course make sure you scroll down so that “Click to Close” is no longer visible before you take your screen shot. The above is meant to show what you’ll see.)

When you pull it into your Photoshop file, feel free to scale and resize to fit the entire window, then set it to “Overlay” and Opacity “38”:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.01.44 PM
And you should see:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.05.46 PM
Create a New Layer Adjustment – Color Balance
Again, from the top menu bar, navigate to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance…
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.02.52 PM
From the window that opens, create a new point. In the “Midtones” option, set Cyan/Red to “+12” and Yellow/Blue to “+9”:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.04.24 PM
Change “Midtones” to “Shadows” and then set Cyan/Red to “-21” and Yellow/Blue to “-5”:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.05.15 PM
“Color Balance” changes the strength of certain colors within the image. You should now be seeing:
Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.06.52 PM
And there you have it! The base to the Unmoving cover, and a good stopping point until next week’s post when we’ll add the fonts and filigree. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions regarding this process. Photoshop has a steep learning curve, but that’s why I’m here. Let me help you!