Category Archives: cover artwork

Pegasus Falling’s new look

It is with great pleasure I present to you all the new cover of Pegasus Falling.

Pegasus Falling's new cover artwork

I’m really pleased with this new look for the first part of the Cypress Branches trilogy. It has taken a long time to get to this point, this being the fifth (and hopefully final!) version of the cover.

The previous four covers were all very similar, with small changes to the original picture of Lesley holding Sammy’s Paratrooper’s cap in her hands. Although I liked the image, and readers kept telling me they liked it too, I was never entirely happy with it as a cover. There was a certain something lacking which I couldn’t put my finger on.

For a while I had had the idea of using the image within a wider context. When I created the cover for The Bridge (William’s short story available to download for free), I considered using the haunting image of falling paratroopers on the cover of Pegasus Falling as well. I had a play around, but didn’t come up with anything satisfactory and left things as they were.

However, a few months ago, I opened up Photoshop again and had another play. This time, inspiration must have struck and I was much happier with the result. The original image of Lesley holding the red beret (captured brilliantly by photographer Dewi Clough) remains, but as part of a much more dynamic whole.

With the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem coming up next month, I’m really pleased that I have been able to include two bold key images portraying the British Parachute Regiment on the cover. The regiment, then newly formed, played an important part in the infamous and controversial operation which forms the backdrop for the opening scenes of the book. Even more poignantly, the author was a witness to those appalling scenes he describes so vividly – he was 18 when he fought on the front line at Arnhem, and used his experiences to tell his story.

I’d love to know what readers think of the new cover, so please do leave a comment or get in touch.

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COVER REVEAL: It Never Was You

It is with great pleasure, and a lot of excitement, that I can reveal the front cover image of It Never Was You, part two of the Cypress Branches trilogy.

I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s a very powerful image and captures the essence of what It Never Was You is all about – a powerful love story set against the backdrop of post-war Liverpool.

Remember the images this cover has been derived from (click here for the post)? It’s taken a lot of hard work (and steep learning curves!) to turn those images into this cover. Thanks again to our wonderful actors/models, Mark and Geri, the photographer Dewi, stylist Becky, Katie our host for the day, and everyone else who helped with the photo shoot. It was a great day and I hope you agree when I say I think it was well worth the effort.

“Yeah, yeah, but when do we get to read it?!” I hear you all crying. Well, there’s not long to wait now. The book is being proofread at the moment, and the finishing touches will be made to the paperback and the ebook in the coming weeks.

There’s no exact launch date yet, but I’m hoping that advance copies will be available by early February with a full-blown launch in March. I’m doing things a bit differently this time, and I’ll be posting more information about our launch campaign and how to get hold of your copy in the next couple of weeks.

This blog is the best place for news and updates which I’ll be posting throughout January and February, so why not subscribe to get the latest updates directly in your in-box the minute they’re posted? (Click on one of the “subscribe” options in the panel on the right.)

So what do you think? Feel free to comment below and let me know your thoughts.

Happy reading!

Mike

FIRST LOOK – It Never Was You cover images

Saturday was a very exciting day. It was the photo shoot for the images which will be used to create the cover of book two of the Cypress Branches trilogy – It Never Was You.

The day followed the same format as the previous shoot for Pegasus Falling‘s cover, gathering family and friends on a shoestring budget and having some fun with actors, period costumes and a camera. I am lucky enough to know some very skilled, very generous (and very patient) people who agreed to help me out, and must thank Geraldine Allen and Mark Godfrey for allowing themselves to be transformed into Mary and Harry (the two main characters in the second book) for the day, and once again to Rebecca Potter for her wonderful hair, make-up and 1940s styling prowess and to Dewi Clough for taking these very evocative shots.

There is a very simple theme running through the Cypress Branches covers – strong women. There is a series of strong female characters at the heart of the novels, and I thought it would be appropriate to highlight them on the covers. Lesley is depicted on the first cover, holding Sammy’s red paratrooper’s beret. The vivacious and charismatic Mary will adorn book two. I already know who will appear on book three, but I won’t spill the beans just yet.

It was a fun day and I think we’ve ended up with some very powerful images which we’ll be able to coax into a great cover artwork. Of course, the finished cover will look very different to these images (please ignore the backgrounds – they’ll be painted out). There’s a lot of work to do, but in the mean time, here’s a taster of the shots we managed to get in the can.

MARY

HARRY & MARY EMBRACE

Ignore the backgrounds in these two pictures – they’ll be edited out!

ABSTRACT

What do you think? Is there a powerful book cover in here somewhere? Do you have a favourite? What do you think we should do with the images? There are plenty of ideas that I’m keen to play around with, but any suggestions or comments are always gratefully received…

Well covered

It’s an obvious point to make really, but an important one. The front cover of a book can make or break it. In the days of old, the cover could mean the difference between picking a particular book up from the shelf and reading it and it languishing on the shelf, unloved, undiscovered and gathering dust.

In today’s world of online retail, it’s probably even more important that the cover stands out. You have to consider how it looks on screen, as well as on the shelf. Not only that, it must look good as a thumbnail as well as full-size.

It doesn’t matter how amazingly brilliant the content is, if the cover doesn’t “speak” to your audience, they won’t take a closer look. And I get the feeling that’s what’s happening with Pegasus Falling. Judging by the reviews, everyone who’s reading it is loving it, but I’ve felt that something is stopping people who are happening upon it by chance from picking it up, and I think it’s the cover.

Although I like the cover of Pegasus Falling, I’ve never felt 100% happy with it. The image, taken last summer by the talented photographer Dewi Clough with the help of a group of family and friends, is powerful and striking. But somehow, I felt that I haven’t been able to do it justice.

Out with the old – the original cover design

I’m no graphic designer – and I’ve never pretended to be. I’m operating on the tightest of budgets and can’t afford to hire one. So, I’ve put the cover together using Photoshop Elements and Publisher. I haven’t just thrown myself in to the project blind, though. At all stages of the design, I consulted book covers – hundreds of them – to see what worked and what didn’t, and have tried to emulate them. 

Oddly, the photo we settled on wasn’t the one we were going for, and was taken right at the end of the day as we were trying other ideas. We took this snap not really knowing what we were aiming for – we felt that we’d already got our shot in the bag and were just playing around, really. But it ended up our best shot, but that lack of planning is what’s lead to the problems with the cover. (A look at some of the other photos we took that day would make a good post – I’ll put one together soon.)

With the release of Pegasus Falling in the US last month, I decided to try and tweak the cover artwork to see if I couldn’t give it that killer “look”. I tried to highlight the text more, and took off a grain effect which was supposed to age the picture, but when printed just looked like it was pixelated.

The new, improved CreateSpace cover…better, but still not quite there

But the more I looked at the proof, the less I liked it. There was still something not quite right about it, and I’ve spent the last two days tinkering further with the design. 

I’ve been looking over other book covers, both mainstream and indie, and noted down what works and what doesn’t, and fixed upon two problems with our cover.

Firstly, the image is too dark. Colours on covers of literary and historical fiction books, I’ve noted, tend to be bleak and washed out wit the occasional splash of a single colour. I wanted to keep the motif of the red beret against the black and white background, but experimented with washing out the colours in photoshop.

Secondly, the text was all wrong. Everything from the font and the colour to the size and its position was all plain wrong. It felt tacky…not the impression I was going for! A problem with this image is that it takes up the entire cover – there aren’t many spaces to fit in the graphics – no dead space to fill with words. If we were taking the photo again, I’d re-frame it to take this in to account, but that’s not an option, so I’ve had to work with what we’ve got.

But the biggest difference has been changing the font. I used Lucida Bright before, a respectable classic typeface, but still too heavy. Now, I’ve gone for Trajan Pro – the graphic designer’s favourite. And there’s a reason for that. It works. Scale down the title and author name, fit both on one line each, place them both within the darker space under the hands at the bottom, remove the gold colour and hey presto, I think we’re on to a winner.

Finally, I think I’m happy with the cover. It may not be a design classic, and a graphic designer undoubtedly could do better, but I like it. It’s more sophisticated, somehow.

In with the new – the sophisticated look

And this time, I’m putting it to bed. It’s time I moved my attention fully over to It Never Was You. You can be sure I’ll have learned a lot of lessons from what I’ve gone through designing this one, and they’ll all be implemented for Part 2. I just hope I can get it right first time, next time. 

Come Monday, the new files will be uploaded to Nielsen, CreateSpace and the ebook retailers and that will be that for Pegasus Falling – no more changes! The paperback will not be available to buy for a day or two while it goes through the review process, so if you want to get hold of a copy with the original artwork, get in there quick (after all, there aren’t too many out there with that artwork, so although its inferior, you may find yourself with a collectable in years to come!)

So, what do you think of the new design? Is it an improvement? Was I right to make the changes? Let me know by leaving your comments below.

Happy reading,
Mike