The Evolution of Cover Art Text

Yesterday, I gushed about the cover art creation process. Today, I took the mock up from Chris Howard and gave it to my texting lady, who also happens to be an author and one of my best friends. Go meet Brooke Johnson! Seriously, she's awesome.

Here is what we started with:

The way I work with Brooke Johnson is quite a bit different than how I work with Chris Howard. Chris and I work exclusively by email. Brooke and I rarely email; the only thing we email is final image files. The rest is done via instant messaging.

Brooke Johnson loves playing with cover art; she is pretty skilled at graphics arts in general, and has the education to back her interest. We fell together a long time ago when I was struggling with the typography for my first novel.

She started doing my texting with my second novel and we've been working together ever since.

This post will show the progression of the typography mock up for Rider of the Sun Horse. All conversations have been used with permission. Because we can get quite rowdy, BLEEPS! will be used to hide certain details.

I'm not an expert on typography. I'm an author who likes pretty covers. If you want an expert on typography, hire a graphic artist.

RJ: /giggle
Okay, for RotSH.
I am torn between a fancy schmancy fantasy style font with all those… fancy things
or the rugged eroded font I use for SWE and co. Or something inbetween

This is all of the instruction I gave to Brooke. That's it. I know nothing about graphic design, and it shows. I mean, I'm all like fancy things, right?

She is such a good sport.

Brooke: i have a font in mind that i think would look good

At this point, I'm giggling like a maniac. I wait a while, working eagerly on Storm Surge so I'm not annoying my friend while she's hard at work playing in Photoshop.

Time passes. I'm drinking coffee. My tension levels are through the ceiling. I'm also still giggling.

Then, it comes… the moment I've been waiting for.

Brooke: playing more with font locations right now

font is changeable

but want to see what you think of layout

My instant messenger window explodes with images! The font is the same across the board, but we're looking at the layout at this point.

I quickly decide that #4 is my favorite. I like the silver of my name, and I like how the text spans the top of the cover and uses that space really well. There's not much discussion at this point. Mostly, I'm flailing and gibbering while she's laughing at me.

Then, I have a question for Brooke:

RJ: Okay, so, here's my question for you–do you think using a mixed font in the titling might work?

I've seen some fantasy covers where the actual title uses two fonts

She replies it could, and that she'd play with it.

Here is the next bit of our conversation. At this point, Brooke is the one who has to ask questions. I know nothing about graphics or typography. She has to nudge me along and start asking me the right questions so I can tell her the right things for what I want.

Disclaimer: The novels I link are ones I picked because I like the texting on the covers. I'm including the links because that's really how the conversation went–and I do not believe there is anything wrong with looking at other covers for quality, style, and inspiration. As you can see, the work we did on this cover is our effort. We just looked to see what sort of fonts were being used.

Brooke: so what are you thinking?

more script? blocky? distressed?


RJ: Hmm… I wonder if maybe of the could remain in that font but maybe more scripty

While it's not an oozy love story, Lars is definitely motivated through the entire story by his affection for a certain lady

But I'm not sure. o_o

But at the same time, I don't want it TOO girly

It's supposed to be a book for either gender

I am browsing fantasy covers for font ideas

sigh heheh

Ir eally like this style of font

It has some scripty flair but isn't over the top

I also like this style of font

And this one is plainer but really nice

Publishers seem to be currently favoring classier fonts with only small amount of flair

so maybe we should see if we can find something along those lines

A few minutes later, I receive this message and two images:

Brooke: just playing with a masculine look

and then the script cap

RJ: Oh BLEEP this got a lot harder


I really like both of those with some tweaks

Bleep Bleep!!

Time passes. Brain matter is being forced to do some work.

RJ: Okay, let's play with the bottom one first, the one with the scripty R

Can we change the R to a font that has the R come down the bottom than at the top in the script? Like the top example's R

I really like the rest of the font selection on that, but maybe TOO scripty on that R

And I really like how the r tucks down on the upper example


Brooke: i see what you're saying


RJ: But I really like the rest of that font–I think the only thing I might even want to look at is how the words are spaced a tiny bit.

Like the H in horse bigger, and the Sun a bit more predominant (but not by much)

I really like how Sun settles over Horse


Brooke: i'm going to have to do some font hunting

so, less swirly bits

longer R tail



RJ: Yar!

I shall see if I can help find an R




Maybe Try that one?

It has a flick at the end of it hmm

Pristina has a flicked R too

Pristina actually matches the font really well eyeballing it

(I think it's from dafont but I have no idea)


Brooke: let me try that


RJ: You're aweeessoommme, have I told you this?

By this point, you're getting the idea of how the back and forth of this is going. I'm going to spare you the details and the nitpicking we're tossing at each other–it's much of the same as what is above. Here is a gallery of what we were tossing back and forth to each other.

Essentially, we spent about an hour discussing the letter R.

In order to get the R as I wanted, ultimately, Brooke had to photoshop the letter from the original font and distress it to match the rest of the titling. We had to create the letter because it simply didn't exist in any font directory we had.

Here's just a tiny peek at the dark path we strode down during the discussion of the letter R:

RJ: I have a love hate relationship with that R


Brooke: haha


RJ: I really do, it's terrible


Brooke: what don't you like about it?


RJ: It looks like the poor thing got BLEEPED and it's sore >.>

If the R had a rightward drift on the lower part of the letter, I'd Bleeping love it

But it's kinda afraid to go out and curl that way

like its scared

of whatever is to the right of it lol


Brooke: hm



RJ: Since the lower right leg of the R tucks in on itself, it makes it look top heavy. If only the creator of the font hadn't made it tuck in

I'd probably love the Bleep out of it

This is the ‘final' mock up of the cover with texting. (This is subject to change depending on the final artwork.)

RotSHfinalFrom start to finish, it took us two hours to get from the starting versions of the cover to the final version of the mock up.

This is one of the fastest progressions through the typography we have done together. In some ways, I am convinced the typography is the hardest part of the cover creation process. But the text can make or break a cover, and there's one thing I've learned about this process as a self-published author: I have no business attempting typography. I'll leave it to those with knowledge and experience.

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