Covers to Color: The Final Product

•April 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment

MM_CoversToColor_page01For the past weeks, I’ve shared the journey to creating a coloring book from my book covers – from the idea’s origins to the legal aspects to how April created the illustrations and laid out the book. This blog is about the final product.

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After all the initial work, the coloring book still had to be printed and assembled. So?  Do I have a printer do all the work?  OR Do I run the copies and assemble it myself?  This is totally a matter of personal choice and I don’t mind repetitive collation and stapling for the final 100 coloring books.

Just to give you a ballpark idea of what it would’ve cost me to have OfficeMax’s printing facility to run the copies and then collate and staple them — 100 finished coloring books would’ve cost around $500.  That included using card stock with double-sided color printing for the front and back cover, single-sided B&W interior pages on a 24# paper, collation and stapling.

I decided to eliminate the collation and stapling labor costs and ended up paying 45% less for the covers and interior pages printing.  I then assembled them while watching the Food Network — my best mindless activity time. Below, you can see the materials for assembly.  Would I do this project again?  Sure. The fans who have received the coloring books so far said they liked them and thought it was a cool idea.  I’ll be bringing some with me to Lori Foster’s Reader Author Get-Together in June and will be handing them out at the book signing on Friday, June 10th from 3-5 pm.  The book signing is open to the public and is at the Cincinnati Marriott — North in West Chester.  Come see me and get a copy.

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Covers to Color: Laying Out the Coloring Book

•April 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

MM_CoversToColor_page01In the previous weeks in this series, we’ve covered how and why we came up with the idea to create a coloring book of cover art, the legal aspects of creating such coloring pages from existing art, and the actual method to create the coloring page. This week, Guest Blogger April Martinez of Graphicfantastic will walk us through how she laid out the final coloring book.

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There are two parts to creating a coloring book. The first involves the illustrations. The second involves putting all those illustrations together. These do not necessarily involve the same skill set.

As both an illustrator and a print graphic designer, I feel it is important to point that out, especially to anyone who is considering having a coloring book made. There are people who can create artwork but can’t design, and there are people who can design but can’t create artwork.

Illustration can be a very organic and intuitive form of creative expression, whether one does it by hand or with the help of a computer. Design, on the other hand, requires a more technical bent; and good design requires some experience. So, the production of a coloring book might involve the talents of two different people.

Since my skill set is wide enough, I took care of both parts. I’ve already talked about the first part, the illustrations, being done in Illustrator. The second part, the book design, was done in InDesign.

The first thing to consider was how Moni would have the book printed and at what size. She and I agreed on a standard 8.5” x 11” size so she could have it printed anywhere, and since we couldn’t be sure what sort of paper quality she would have available to her, I decided to design the book so that each illustration was on its own sheet — no other illustration on the back of it, just a blank page. This way, if people want to color with markers instead of color pencils, they don’t have to worry about ink bleeding through to the other side, ruining another cover illustration.

My Patterns coloring book was done with a bleed so that the illustrated patterns would go all the way out to the trim (the edge of the page), but for Moni’s book, I decided to have a margin for a simple border. It wasn’t just so that the colored illustrations would present better and lend themselves well to being framed if the colorist wished it; this was also because some printers don’t have the capability to print all the way to the edges of the paper, and Moni or whatever print service she decided to use might not have access to a paper trimmer. So the margins were also for ease of production.

For the front and back cover, I created a “halfway colored” version of the illustrations, as this is a shortcut to communicating to anyone looking at the cover that this is a coloring book.

And since this is a *promotional* coloring book, I set aside some space to show Moni’s other titles.

The result is a 12-page booklet in high resolution PDF form, something that would print out nice and sharp in detail. Normally, such a PDF with this many images at such a large dimension would have a huge file size, but because the illustrations are in vector format (done in Illustrator), it came out to just 9.6 MB, not much bigger than a print book cover flat might be.MM_CoversToColor_page12

After that, it’s up to Moni how to print and produce the physical book.

Can I just say “I love the coloring book April created for me.”  Next week, I’ll share what I did and why in producing the final product.

Covers to Color: Creating Illustrations by April Martinez

•April 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

MM_CoversToColor_page01The last two weeks I covered how this idea of making a coloring book of my book covers came about and the legal issues all authors must address in order to do such a project.  This week and next, April Martinez, my fabulous cover artist and the person who created my coloring book, will talk about her process.

Creating the Illustrations

When Moni came to me about a coloring book for her, I’d already been mulling over the best way to convert existing cover art into coloring book line art.

Last year, my fellow cover artists and I were discussing how the popularity of coloring books has worked its way even into the romance industry — one New York publisher had already turned their cover art into black and white illustrations that their readers could color, and smaller publishers were considering doing the same. So, when the topic of Photoshop tips and tricks came up, we cover artists began to look for a quick and easy way to turn photo-manipulated cover designs into simpler line drawings. We shared among ourselves links to videos and how-to blogs, debating over the best way to do this.

I was skeptical of all the methods, though, even of the ones I’d shared or developed myself.

See … the thing is, there is no quick and easy way to turn a photo-based image into line art that a colorist would actually want to color.

The best you might be able to create with a few Photoshop tricks is something that looks like a realistic pencil drawing or a textured and artfully done pen and ink illustration. It is not, however, something a coloring book enthusiast would necessarily want to color.

 

Amazon Reviews on Gray Scale Coloring Books

Some Amazon Reviews on Gray Scale Coloring Books

Why is this?

Well … if you look at a coloring book illustration, especially in a popular coloring book, the artwork is fairly simple and spartan. By “simple,” I don’t mean anything like stick figures and children’s drawings; I mean that the artwork is typically uncluttered by textures, highlights, shadows, and details that might add depth to the drawing. It is crisp black ink on clean white paper, no gradations of color such as grays to add shading or 3D shape to the representation on the page. If you think about it, a coloring book illustration is actually quite an abstract version of whatever it’s supposed to be. It’s almost a written language, the world laid down in symbols of black markings, a simple line drawing meant to communicate with uncomplicated brevity a universe of much deeper meaning.

The colorists, mind you, are meant to add all that texture and meaning to the illustration themselves. It is their purpose to give shape and color to the line art, like adding muscles, fat, and skin to a skeletal framework.

So … using a Photoshop trick to turn something into line art doesn’t necessarily work because a Photoshop trick will merely take all the detail in a photo-based image and translate it into black or gray pixels — i.e., turn it into a grayscale image. If there is a lot of texture and grain, or a lot of gradations of color and shadow, Photoshop won’t know how to translate that into its barest form — i.e., solid outlines, the most basic language that a human colorist can understand and work with. It just won’t know what to keep and what to throw out, at least not as well as a human mind could.

This is especially the case when the artwork you want to convert is a beautifully textured image, artfully lit, fading one element into another in a pleasing montage-like collage. In fact, the result is often just too finished or too busy to do anything more with it. It might be utterly beautiful in its detail, but a colorist looks at that and thinks, “That’s not something I can color.” They may not even want to. Why bother? There’s no room for their own interpretation.

So, when Moni came to me, not only had I already weighed the pros and cons of each Photoshop trick I’d come across or developed, but I had also already seen some Amazon reviews on coloring books created in this quick and easy way (see above) — and I had already learned a few things in creating my own coloring book, which I’d created from scratch with no Photoshop filters. I decided then that Moni’s coloring book would be a good opportunity for me to really test my own theories on this.

And here is what I did:

1. The quick-and-easy Photoshop conversion

Moni gave me four titles to work with, the first being Prime Imperative. This being my first attempt at converting one of my covers into a coloring book illustration, I decided to give some Photoshop methods a good college try.

False modesty aside, I have “mad skills” in Photoshop — über-mad skills — and I’ve written the tutorials to prove it. None of the YouTube videos people recommended were revelations to me; I already knew most of the tricks. Yet … I couldn’t find a single way in Photoshop to turn Prime Imperative into simple line art that someone would want to color.

Not only did I try multiple ways, but I also combined a number of different ways to try to get the best result. Parts and pieces of the image that already had good contrast and large expanses of color, I did in one way. Other parts and pieces that had a complex gradation of colors and a lot of detail, I did in another way. I did a lot of versions. I did them in layers. I did them in stages, and I did them with the different settings and options tweaked. It was one giant trial-and-error session that proved to me that the “quick-and-easy” way was far from quick and far from easy.

The very best I could come up with was this:

 

converted

PhotoShop Method, (c) 2016, Graphicfantastic, All Rights Reserved.

 

2. The time-consuming hand-drawn method

By this point, I’d figured drawing the illustration by hand would take less time and yield better results. I was wrong about the time, but I was right about the results.

I imported the cover art into, not Photoshop, but Illustrator, and I imported it as a template. I then used the pen or pencil tool — anything with a 1pt. stroke, really — and actually traced the lines in the artwork. Given the detail in the artwork, it was as time-consuming as one might expect it to be, probably more than a full day’s work, maybe 8-10 hours with a Wacom pen and tablet, simply laying down line by line, using my human brain to decide what to outline and what to leave out.

For an artist like me more accustomed to working with stock photos and Photoshop tools, the work seemed overly slow and tedious. Despite my early experience with hand-drawn art, I’d gotten way too used to the instant gratification of photo-manipulated work. So I was practically brain-dead by the time I finished.

But I was relieved to finally be able to send Moni the two experiments — the Photoshop-converted version and this hand-drawn version:

 

handdrawn

Hand-drawn Method (c) 2016, Graphicfantastic, All Rights Reserved.

 

Which of these two would you color? If you’re anything like me, you’d prefer the second one; there’s just more room for interpretation.

This made me cringe as an artist trying to make a living, though. Creating a coloring book illustration by hand is just so much work. I would have to charge a full day’s pay for each drawing, at least, and who would want to pay that? Oy.

But the hand-drawn version really did end up being the better one, so I did the other three by hand as well.

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I loved the results April produced with the hand-drawn method. 

Next week, April will be back and discuss the laying out of the coloring book, which includes the amazing front and back covers.

Covers to Color: Legal Stuff

•April 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

MM_CoversToColor_page01Last Wednesday, I told you a bit about how the coloring book of covers project began and introduced my cover artist April Martinez of Graphicfantastic.  This week, I will go into the legal aspects of converting an already existing piece of graphic art into a coloring page.

Yes, this is a great idea for promo, BUT BE AWARE: There are copyright issues that must be addressed if you as author are not the copyright holder of your cover art – and I would venture to guess, most of you are not. Just as an author has all sorts of rights under copyright law for their written words, visual artists have similar rights in their creations.

Now I had an easy time with the legal issues since my cover art was created by the graphic artist I approached to create the coloring page illustrations.  April is the sole copyright holder of my covers.  Thus, our agreement to create the coloring book included hiring her to alter her original artwork to make coloring pages (a new form of artwork) and to do the layout with front and back covers. This process protected her rights of reproduction in her original art work.

The main copyright issue in converting your cover art to a coloring page illustration centers on whether you, or your publisher, merely licensed the right to use the cover to promote your book OR whether the work was “for hire.”

Just a note, most of the e-publishers I have worked with merely have licenses to use the artwork created for their authors’ covers.  It is much less expensive for the publisher (thus lower outlay of capital up front) to license the rights for the life of the publishing contract.  I would also suspect that most self-published authors merely have licenses to use also.

Basic rule of thumb for cover art:

Licensed cover art work – the artist is both the creator and the copyright holder for the original cover art and/or design (some cover art contains other licensed elements such as photos which the cover artist manipulates with permission of the licensing agreement for the photos). The author or publisher requesting/contracting for the cover art will have paid a licensing fee and have restricted usage of the cover art.

“For Hire” cover art work – the artist is the creator, but the author or publisher (contractor) requesting/contracting for the cover art owns all rights and holds the complete copyright in the cover art.  The contractor will have paid for all those rights. At that point, the contractor may reproduce, alter, manipulate, sell, etc the cover art as they wish.

A word about cover art licensing agreements — The terms of the licensing agreement (contract) should spell out the length of the contract and any restrictions on usage of the cover art.  Most licensing agreements between graphic artists and publishers set the term of the agreement for as long as the book is published with that specific publisher and restricts the usage of the cover to promotional and marketing uses only. As many authors whose publishers have shut their doors have found out- – if they loved their covers, they must renegotiate the license to use the covers if they wish to keep using them on a re-publication of the book.

Authors’ rights in a cover — What you, as an author, DO own from the cover art is your name and your brand. This ownership right is recognized under the Lanham Act and has more to do with common law trademark about protection of reputation than copyright. Your book title is not copyrightable by you or the artist.

Visual/Graphic Artists’ reproduction rights — An artist who creates an original piece of art, be it an oil painting, a photograph, cover art, or whatever, may sell the “original” work, but still owns all the other rights to reproduce it. A person buying original art does not have the right to reproduce the art work in any way, shape, or form, or they would violate the artist’s right of reproduction.

Rights of reproduction in visual art include such processes as making print plates from an original piece of art and then issuing prints, and in this particular example, changing/altering the original cover art into an illustration to be colored.

By the way, a print and a coloring page would be considered new pieces of art since there is actual creative activity in etching the plates and creating an illustration.  Thus, if an artist doesn’t claim ALL RIGHTS RESERVED in their original art work, they could lose out if a person who bought the original work decided to make a print.  Most artists understand this — and the language, All Rights Reserved,  is usually found with most art work and sales of such art work. Note: Under U.S. law it is understood all rights are reserved unless otherwise said, the specific language is more crucial for international law. I would still urge all artists (and authors, too) to use the specific terminology in relation to their work, just to be cover all bases in protecting all their rights.

Bottom-line:

If the cover artist has merely licensed the cover art to an author or publisher and holds the copyright, all rights reserved, then only the cover artist has the right to make the coloring page OR give permission for such a coloring page to be made.

Therefore — if your cover art was not made under a “for hire” contract, then you had better seek out your cover artist and get permission to use the covers before you create coloring pages or a coloring book from the cover art.

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Next blog in the Covers to Color series will be by guest blogger April Martinez of Graphicfantastic.com and she will share her technique for making a cover into a coloring page.

Covers to Color: An Introduction

•March 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment
Front Cover

Front Cover

Covers?  Coloring?

Putting them together for book promotion?

A super idea hatched by my author friend and former PR guru KaLyn Cooper.  We Liquid Silver Books’ authors wanted a joint promotion for this year’s Lori Foster’s Reader Author Get Together which would surpass the Charming Author Hunt we did in 2015.

KaLyn suggested a coloring book featuring one cover from each of the attending LSB authors.  Colorful Liquid Silver Authors! What a great idea! All of us jumped on board immediately.  For those who are lucky enough to be attending Lori’s RAGT this year, I’ve seen a draft of the finished product and you are in for a treat (and some other fun with the coloring books besides coloring).

Then … I was thinking … as I often do.:) Why not do a small coloring book of my own with just a few of my covers? Use it as a free promo at book signings and as a give-away during FaceBook promotions. See the fabulous front and back cover April created for my special coloring book above and to the left and at the end of this blog post.

Since the majority of my covers have been designed by the talented April Martinez (http://Graphicfantastic.com), I approached her about the concept and she was excited and immediately went about deciding how to get the best picture to color from the covers I suggested.  I am totally fascinated with how she did it and with the end result. She is the best.

Since there are legal/copyright implications in using cover art and differing approaches on how to create a coloring image from an existing artwork image, I asked April to join me on a series of blog posts about those very issues. She enthusiastically agreed (didn’t I say she was the best?). We hope you will enjoy seeing how we approached this project and benefit from our experiences.

Schedule of Up-Coming Covers to Color blog posts:

April 6th:  Copyright and Legal Issues in Converting Covers to Coloring Pages — Monette Michaels

April 13th:  Creating Illustrations — April Martinez

April 20th:  Laying Out Illustrations — April Martinez

April 27th:  Printing and Assembly:  Costs — Monette Michaels

 

Please join me next Wednesday for the legal issues in creating coloring pages from cover images.  Just a hint — there are copyright issues and most authors only have the right to use their book cover “as is” and for restricted uses.

Back Cover

Back Cover

Eye of the Storm is FREE @iBooks

•October 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

eyecover_240_x_349Yes, the first book in my Security Specialists International is now FREE at iBooks for a limited time only.  So, if you have been putting off buying it, now is your chance to step into the world of my super hot alpha males and their kick-ass women.

Blurb:
Keely Walsh has three doctorates, five older brothers and has never met a situation she couldn’t handle. While consulting with the NSA, she discovers sensitive government information indicating her brother, a private security operative, is in danger. Keely travels to the dangerous Triple Frontier in South America to warn him and his colleagues and finds the last thing she expects–a man who sends icy shivers down her spine even as he lights every one of her fires.
Ren Maddox, co-owner of Security Specialists International, a security firm that works for large corporations and governments, is on an intelligence-gathering mission for the US government when a petite strawberry blonde armed with a Bren Ten and an attitude ten feet tall pops out of the Argentine jungle with a warning of imminent danger. The fact she is one hundred percent correct shocks him to his socks. The fact she is Tweeter Walsh’s baby sister and can fight like the fiercest Marine is beside the point. No one who looks like Keely should ever be in danger. And once he gets her out of the current situation, he’ll make it his life’s work to protect the feisty, sexy, little woman from any and all danger.
One alpha male. One determined and independent female. One hot, tumultuous relationship.

Here is the link to iBooks:

iBooks First in a Series Promotion

Look for Eye of the Storm in the Suspense Category.
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Muse Wednesday: Cynthia Sax

•October 14, 2015 • 3 Comments

Lord Of ScoundrelsI am thrilled to have author Cynthia Sax sharing her muse with us today.  It’s so much fun to find other authors who like the same books — Lord of Scoundrels is one of my favorite Loretta Chase books and is a go-to, re-read, comfort book for me. So please join me in welcoming Cynthia to the blog as she shares why she chose this particular book as an inspiration for her writing. — Monette

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I’ve been inspired by a zillion different authors. Barbara Cartland was my first introduction to romance. Christine d’Abo was my first introduction to erotic romance. Laurann Dohner was my first introduction to both SciFi erotic romance and stories with cyborg heroes (which is the niche Releasing Rage falls into).

But there’s one romance novel that I reach for whenever I feel a fit of the lazies, whenever I think ‘this story is tight enough’, and that’s Loretta Chase’s Lord Of Scoundrels.

Lord Of Scoundrels, a Regency romance, is a tight book. There’s not one throwaway scene in the story. Every scene is important. Every scene has multiple meanings. There are motifs and symbolism and very few wasted words.

The prologue is a flashback of the hero’s early life, specifically his hellion days at school. He’s not a teenager. He’s a very naughty little boy. Then, in the first chapter, we meet the heroine. She’s confronting her much larger brother, taking him to task for his behavior. He responds as a naughty little boy might and we KNOW she’s someone who won’t take any backchat from the hero (foreshadowing). She not only will challenge the hero but she’ll understand him.

And yes, I said prologue. Many editors hate prologues. I’ve never had one survive to final copy. Not having a prologue is one of those unspoken writer ‘rules’ yet here is one in the book I use as a benchmark for writing. It is needed. It adds value to the story. It proves that every rule can be broken if we do it well enough.

Lord Of Scoundrels also shows that every action can be acceptable as long as the character’s motivation is strong enough. Dain, the hero, is a terrible person. He doesn’t miraculously improve by the end of the story either. He stays true to his rather difficult nature. But we understand why he’s a terrible person and we understand why Jess grows to love him.

Shocking things happen in this story. They have a reason for happening. They aren’t merely a means to surprise the reader. But Loretta Chase ‘goes there’. She didn’t soften the story to be more marketable.

Lord Of Scoundrels is circular storytelling (which is one reason why the prologue is so important). It starts with a very naughty little boy and ends with a very different naughty little boy. Circular storytelling is a favorite construct of mine. It’s extremely powerful and I often use it.

This book is a basis for my mental revision checklist. I ask myself ‘Is this scene necessary? Can this scene do more? Can I use symbolism effectively here? How can I make this object or phrase or article of clothing mean something in my story? Can I make this character more intense? Is he or she true to his or her nature? Am I being authentic or am I making him or her ‘nicer’ in hopes that the book will be more marketable? Do I ‘go there’ and do I ‘go there’ for a storytelling reason, not simply to shock readers?”

Have you read Lord Of Scoundrels? What did you love about it?

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Releasing Rage_CompressedReleasing Rage-Cynthia Sax

Half Man. Half Machine. All Hers.

Rage, the Humanoid Alliance’s most primitive cyborg, has two goals–kill all of the humans on his battle station and escape to the Homeland. The warrior has seen the darkness in others and in himself. He believes that’s all he’s been programmed to experience.

Until he meets Joan.

Joan, the battle station’s first female engineer, has one goal–survive long enough to help the big sexy cyborg plotting to kill her. Rage might not trust her but he wants her. She sees the passion in his eyes, the caring in his battle-worn hands, the gruff emotion in his voice.

When Joan survives the unthinkable, Rage’s priorities are tested. Is there enough room in this cyborg’s heart for both love and revenge?

Buy Now:

On Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Releasing-Rage-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B00ZOL1DRO

On Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00ZOL1DRO/

On ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-releasingrage-1850041-340.html

On B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/releasing-rage-cynthia-sax/1122455646

 

About Cynthia Sax:

USA Today bestselling author Cynthia Sax writes contemporary, SciFi and paranormal erotic romances. Her stories have been featured in Star Magazine, Real Time With Bill Maher, and numerous best of erotic romance top ten lists.

Sign up for her dirty-joke-filled release day newsletter and visit her on the web at www.CynthiaSax.com

Website: http://cynthiasax.com/

Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Facebook: facebook.com/cynthia.sax

Twitter: @CynthiaSax

Blog: http://tasteofcyn.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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