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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Arts and Crafts With Authors: Digital Covers with Meljean Brook + giveaway

Thank you so much for having me today! It’s been a crazy week, and I think I’ve talked everyone’s ear off about THE KRAKEN KING, my steampunk romance serial novel (the first part is now available!). The pimping Force is not strong within me – a few days of promo and I’m ready to crawl back into my cave, crying.

But dorkery and Photoshop? Oh, I can do that forever. So let’s talk about covers and kraken!

The very best thing about writing a serial novel is that my publisher creates EIGHT covers to go along with it. Okay, and I’ll admit – I was a little afraid that the covers wouldn’t be super awesome, because photo shoots are expensive, and it always seems that all of the good stock photos for steampunk have been used on other covers. But then my editor sent me the first two and I think I cried. In a good way.

Check these babies out:
(And that’s not the hero in Part IV! He resembles the villain far more.)

So the funny thing about these covers is that, aside from the first cover (with the exploding airship) they don’t really accurately reflect the characters or setting of the book. Yet I don’t care a bit! They are so fun, and the colors are so gorgeous – and it’s clear that these are steampunk novels – I just love them like crazy.

But I also thought they could be even more fun … because an exploding airship is all and good, but when you can actually make it look like it’s on fire? That’s a million times better. Right?

So I decided that when each part of the serial was released, I’d post a little animated version of the cover along with it. I’ve got the first four here with me today.

(This is kind of an Arts & Crafts post, but I won’t include a long-winded tutorial about animating a cover -- mostly because on YouTube you can find much, much, much better tutorials than I could ever give. I just like to play with Photoshop; I’m definitely not a guru.)

Mostly I just want to share the pretties!

The first thing that I had to decide was HOW MUCH should I animate? For covers, I think it’s always best just to highlight one little aspect of the artwork, or add one little thing. Too much and it just becomes a distracting mess.

So for each cover, I let myself pick one thing. For Cover #1 (my personal favorite) this was harder than it should have been. I couldn’t decide whether to mess with the airship or the tentacle!

Eventually though, the airship won out, because the fire is a bit more eye-catching. Animating this one ended up being super easy after I found a looping series of fire images online. All I had to do was position the flames. 

For Cover #2, obviously I had to make the balloon fly around, right? Here the tricky part was tracking down the right balloon at stock photo sites so that I could get a larger, better image to use in the animation. My publisher’s cover artists often uses the same sites that everyone else does, and luckily it didn’t take long after searching for “balloon” and “vintage” to hit upon the right one.

This one ended up with the most frames – and at one point, I thought about tweening the different balloon layers (you can see that at the beginning of the animation, because I forgot to delete a few of the tweened frames) but then abandoned the idea.

For Covers #3 and #4, I turned to my readers and asked them for ideas. Both covers have windows, of a sort, so I thought it would be fun to put something outside those windows. They gave me a ton of awesome and funny suggestions – rubber duckies, airships, a clip from the movie The Shining, when Jack Nicholson burst through the door with an ax, and so many more. 

In the end, I decided on two that would be simple enough for me to do and that also related to the book in some way. (Though I’m still tempted by that rubber ducky!) So for Cover #3, I went with a zombie:

And in Cover #4, I finally got my tentacle.

The tentacle was by far the most difficult one – I’m still not happy with it on a technical level (although I still think it’s a lot of fun on a visual level.) I’d hoped to be able to make it seem to curl into the porthole, rather than just behind it, but the stock photo I chose didn’t work quite as well as I’d envisioned. 

Of course, now I’ve got four more to do. What would you add to Covers #5 & #6, if you had a chance? Can you think of a favorite cover that would be fun with just a hint of animation? (And here are some others from different genres, if you’d like to see more!

So I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did – and thank you so much again to Sharon for inviting me!

amazon links
About the Author:
Meljean was raised in the middle of the woods, and hid under her blankets at night with fairy tales, comic books, and romances. She left the forest and went on a misguided tour through the world of accounting before focusing on her first loves, reading and writing–and she realized that monsters, superheroes, and happily-ever-afters are easily found between the covers, as well as under them, so she set out to make her own.

Meljean lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter.

one US winner will get a poster of the covers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I loved seeing the covers and liked the motion with them. I would not add anything.

  2. Wow amazing creative Meljean! As I haven't read the books, I don't know what to add to those covers, or make move. But wow, this is so cool!

  3. GReat post love the interactive covers :)

  4. These covers are great. No.5 definitely needs something in the water, a pirate ship or an icky sea creature. How about a jumping megalodon! No.6 needs a dirigible or two.

  5. Totally love the covers...but the animation makes them even better! I would have said a tentacle for Part V, but you've already done it outside the porthole IV. Something in the sky for VI...maybe a glider or one of the marauder's silver bullet flyers?

  6. I'm totally smitten with these covers!

  7. Ahh Im so behind on my TBR but cant wait to read these!

  8. Something in the water or a glider from the air ship for 5. How about a zombie on the very bottom running in the forest for 6? Or maybe a tree harvester? There is a large space for another airship but you already have a couple of those.

  9. I think #5 should be the "ghost gear" in the corner moving and the lights on the airship moving up and down as the inside lights brighten and darken. For #6, I would like to see a walker if you could get one in there, if not, maybe an airship or balloon.

  10. It would be so neat if the actual e-covers were animated like this. Download a moving zombie with your book!. They really are terrific.

  11. Well, I already said this for covers 3 and 4, but I still want an airship, so I will repeat myself for 5 and 6 :D

  12. Hmmm.. the covers are gorgeous :D Maybe a fish or something surprising jumping out of the water -and cover 6 calls for something flying. ;) Bird/horse-pegasus - what not!

  13. Hmmm.. the covers are gorgeous :D Maybe a fish or something surprising jumping out of the water -and cover 6 calls for something flying. ;) Bird/horse-pegasus - what not!

  14. Hmmm.. the covers are gorgeous :D Maybe a fish or something surprising jumping out of the water -and cover 6 calls for something flying. ;) Bird/horse-pegasus - what not!

  15. :D These animated versions just rock my socks. I suck at visual creative endeavors but #5 would be cool if the lanterns flickered or moved as if there was a breeze. #6 is begging for a mechanical butterfly to flit into view and back out.

    As usual, you are too badass for words Meljean! ♥

  16. Seeing the light flickering in book five would be neat and maybe shadows of people walking inside. In six maybe some flying airships.
    Love all the covers, they really do scream steampunk which I love.

  17. A crab could scuttle across the dock in the 5th one, or perhaps have the lights flicker?

  18. any BDB book cover would be cool animated

  19. Love the covers! They are striking! What program do you use?

  20. For Number 5, maybe a pirate leaping from the dock and trying to swing through the porthole? Number 6 needs a giant mechanical predatory bird. Awesome covers!

  21. Very impressive covers. They look fantastic!