Tools of the Trade – Photoshop

Magic and a Little Mayhem

Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

I discovered Adobe Photoshop around fifteen years ago. It was overwhelming the first time that I attempted to actually use it. Photoshop is not for the faint of heart and certainly not for a novice. While I did learn enough to actually design things for myself and my first handful of paying clients, I realized that I needed to learn a great deal more to actually become a graphic designer. The best decision I ever made was going to college and learning the ins and outs of the Adobe Creative Suite of programs. I utilize not only Photoshop, but also Illustrator and InDesign every time I develop a new book cover design, logo, and/or series branding for a client.

Photoshop is vastly complex

“Just because you have access to Photoshop does not mean that you should use Photoshop.” In other words, get some training. Graphic designers are one of the most underrated specialist in the publishing business…that much I have experienced first-hand.

PSDbox gallery

I continue to learn new ways to create my art almost every day. Never stop learning and exploring different ways to create unique artwork using these powerful programs. While it may look easy to some, design is anything but.

Three of my Pre-Made Book Cover Designs. More info on my professional website Avalon Graphics as they are available for licensing.

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The Necessity of Coffee

Image by Angela Yuriko Smith from Pixabay

Ahhh….that strong cup of dark magic that I consume each and every morning. I can’t imagine sitting down at my computer to face my email inboxes without it.

Seriously, I’d frighten off every client and potential client if I even attempted to respond to inquiries without first consuming a copious amount of coffee. And nobody had better try and tell me that fairy tales do not exist – I find mine every morning as I stare down at the steaming swirl of liquid magic in my cup each and every day.

The next step to my day is finding my creativity…my mojo…in order to develop designs for my clients. However…..design isn’t something that can be pushed, rushed or forced. Non-designers had best learn that. Do NOT make the mistake of trying to push a designer into ‘cranking’ out anything quickly. Sometimes we can (and do) create a design in short order – but that is not the norm and should not be expected of us creatives. And I have spent years learning my trade, and I have a very hard earned degree in graphic design. Design is ever evolving as well. But there are rules we professional graphic designers do follow….other than when a few hardheaded clients insist on using jpegs that they found on Google that are just perfect for their print project (billboard, catalog and so on)…..but I digress. I do not play at it when it comes to my commercial projects. I take design seriously. I’ve been working as a professional designer for over a decade now. I’ve earned my street cred. Seriously. And so below are a handful of quotes by smart people in the design world….for when I need a little kick in the arse to get going…

Design is…..

…intelligence made visible.” — Alina Wheeler, author

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou, author, poet, civil rights activist
“Design adds value faster than it adds costs.” — Joel Spolsky, web programmer, writer, and creator of Trello
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, Inc.
“The more I deal with the work as something that is my own, as something that is personal, the more successful it is.” — Marian Bantjes, designer and author
“Design is not a single object or dimension. Design is messy and complex.” — Natasha Jen, designer and educator
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou, author, poet, civil rights activist
“Design adds value faster than it adds costs.” — Joel Spolsky, web programmer, writer, and creator of Trello

…and finally:

graphic design
The true value of a professional designer.

Blogging…do I have time for it?

Full Moon Banner

I’ve often hear that I should blog.

Let’s see if I can find time for doing a bit of blogging. I have a busy schedule as both a book cover designer and as one managing a chronic illness (Diabetes, etc.), but I do want to get back into writing again as well. I miss writing fiction.

For the time being, I’ll attempt to post about my design process and preview a little more of my work.

Once and Future King Snow
A graphic of Jon Snow from Game of Thrones

I designed the above graphic a few months ago as the TV series Game of Thrones was wrapping up their run on HBO. There was a time when I would design many graphics like this on a regular basis. However, I seem to never find the time – especially this year – as commissioned work has been steady. But I do need to push myself to learn regularly as Photoshop is a very powerful design program, and no one knows every trick and effect it is capable of. I have learned a few new ways to make my designs pop even more. I’m implementing them as opportunities arise.

Timing is Everything in the Publishing Business

So you have written a book, or formed a new company, or want to revamp your identity/brand as an author…fantastic! Congratulations on writing your masterpiece. No doubt it took you several laborious months (or even years) to write, edit and edit again until now you are ready to share your literature with the world. So what now? You need some professional help if you want your book to look its best, right?

The greatest advice that anyone can give a new author is to hire professionals to help them best present their manuscript to potential readers. Get your manuscript professionally edited, formatted, and a solid cover design before uploading anything to retailers. A great place for overall self-publishing advice is HERE by Helen Hollick as my area of expertise is book cover design and marketing.

And coming to my main point directed at authors on self-publishing a novel – plan ahead. I cannot stress enough that those of us working as professionals within the publishing business are often carrying multiple jobs within any given week, and we schedule new projects several weeks (sometimes months) into the future. Mainstream publishers often take months (can be a year) to process and release new titles as well – even assisted publishing companies need time to process new submissions.

Please do not assume that when you are ready to get your book on Kindle, you can instantly get it formatted, copy edited, and a cover designed within days. You might get lucky and find a few folks who are willing to do a quick job for you, likely you’ll pay a rush fee, but overall do not count on or expect that. Think of all the other authors who have been patiently waiting to have their manuscripts properly processed for publication – you place the professional in a tight spot when you ask us to rush your job ahead of those who might have been waiting a month or more for their own manuscript to be taken care of.

I recommend contacting publishing professionals up to two months ahead of the time you plan to release your book. Give as much notice as you can so the professionals can work you into their busy schedules without added stress of short notices. While you might have taken months, even years, to write your book, designers and formatters are constantly processing books for numerous authors at the same time to meet demands within the industry.

And if the professional you have contacted is indeed booked up for the next several weeks, this is a good sign that they are in high demand and actually know what they are doing. I would be wary of someone who isn’t busy in this business! Also, look for professionals with a formal education in their field – this especially refers to book cover designers. They should have at least a two-year degree in graphic design to truly understand formatting, typography, and layout: all key elements in designing a successful, balanced, and professional book cover. This does not refer to traditional artists whom you can license artwork to be used for your cover design – you will still need a graphic designer to properly set your typography over the artist’s artwork.

We publishing professionals are your partners in this business and wish to do all that we can to help bring your manuscript to press. All that we ask is for common courtesy and patience as we are busy individuals balancing work and life on an often insane schedule. Coffee usually plays a big part of our days too. *laughs* That and wine! *cheers*

TUESDAY TALK CROSSES THE ATLANTIC TO TALK TO THE TALENTED CATHY HELMS

JO LAMBERT - A WRITER'S JOURNEY

2015-Avalon-Graphics-A5-WebTell us a little about yourself.

I live with my husband of twenty three years in Troutman, North Carolina, USA. I earned a degree in Advertising and Graphic Design in 2008 as what I call my own personal midlife crisis – attempting to embark on a career in a creative field after spending over twenty years working in customer service and billing (which felt like a slow death to me). I grew up with a healthy interest in anything related to the Arthurian legends – thus the inspiration for naming my design business ‘Avalon Graphics’. Fantasizing about castles, knights in shining armour and all that frivolity were (and still are!) my favourite pastime. Also, I have always been fascinated with British history; in particular the Dark Ages. I regularly attend local Renaissance Festivals here in North Carolina, and plan to travel to the UK to explore all of the…

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Technical Difficulties

Greetings Visitors and Friends. During a particularly busy time here at Avalon Graphics, I have suffered a computer failure and thus I am forced to close down production on all work until I can resolve the issue or replace my design computer. Hopefully I’ll be back up to speed within a week, and I apologize for any lag in email responses in the meantime. For those of you whom I’m either currently working with or scheduled to begin working with shortly, I will remain in touch and do my best to keep to promised deadlines.

Thank  you for your patience during this difficult time.

Working with a Book Cover Designer

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Every now and again I am approached by a potential new client who knows exactly what they want and basically how the book cover design process works. But more often than not, authors have written their manuscripts and want an attractive cover designed so they can get their new books listed on Amazon and other online book selling outlets, yet have no idea where to start. And most, especially first time authors, do not have any idea whatsoever as to how the book cover design process works or even where to begin. This is not a bad thing – authors write and designers design! Hopefully I can shed some light on the process by offering a few top tips when contacting book cover designers for the first time.

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