A Cowboy Western Book Cover Design

I’ve been working on what I think is my first really cowboy-western book cover design: Beyond the Crazy Mountains by Charles Hackenberry.

I was stuck for awhile, because the author has a really specific idea for what he wants on the cover design:

Three figures on horseback in front of this: the lead
figure (who looks like a cross between Brad Pitt and
a younger Jeff Bridges) is looking back at the second
figure, so we see him nearly full face. The second
figure is a woman with long blonde hair, mens’ garb,
looking straight ahead, so we see her in profile. The
third figure, a little ways back, looks like a cross
between Ernest Borgnine and Chevy Chase. Figure three is
looking toward the other two figures in front of him.
All figures are riding toward the left.

I dutifully spent a couple weeks trying to find the perfect images to make this happen, but ultimately gave up.

Even if I had found the right faces, in the right poses, and clothes, I would have had to cut and paste them together, strip out the background, and try to fix all the lighting (nearly impossible if the lights in the originals were coming from different angles.)

I hate saying “no, this can’t be done”, and I actually got surprisingly close with a few of these, but this is probably one of the times I should have stressed that a simple, emotive cover is stronger and more powerful than a busy cover that accurately portrays the author’s view of his characters.

Still, although these are very rough samples, we should be able to clean one of these up into a winning book cover design.

Elusive: An International Thriller Book Cover Design

Tonight I’m working on an update/makeover for Sara Rosett’s International Thriller “Elusive”.

Here is the original cover.

Some things I don’t like about it: the original background image (street) has no styling, same with the gun/money. I would have run a filtered action once I put them both together to make the colors more cohesive and a little more dark and mysterious. Doesn’t look like a thriller book cover to me.

Not loving the Red text ( a little hard to read). The title is transparent, and has a white stroke and a black stroke/drop shadow… there’s too much going on.

Here are some of my samples:


Another dark, supernatural fantasy book cover for a paranormal romance

Today I’m working on a prequel to Gwen Ellery’s “Miss Hyde Series: SIMMER”. We spent a long, long time on the first one, but it’s awesome. For this short-story companion novelette, Gwen wanted to use a combination of these Dreamstime photos for the lovesick hero.

After a few hours of hard work, we’ve got this. I love it. What do you think?


We decided to lose the jacket, add some fog, and put a girl in the back.


Before passion simmers, first it smites …

In Smitten, the prequel to Simmer, nineteen-year-old Andor dreams of fleeing Vienna with his is young lady love to escape violence at the hands of the revolutionaries whose meetings he and his girl used to attend. But can he trust her not to reveal their plans? She’s so changeable. Is this love, or is she using him in a dangerous game?  For more about the Miss Hyde Series, visit http://www.gwenellery.com:


Creative Book Covers: Special Summer Deals!

This spring my book cover service exploded, as the word spread and my book covers got out there in the real world of book publishing.

I was having a hard time keeping up, so I closed this site for a couple of months to think about where I want this business to go.

I’m finally back open: I’ve kept my book design services affordable, and added some rules (number of revisions, etc) that should make the process smoother and faster for everyone.

If you’re thinking about getting a book cover later this summer, I’d appreciate it if you put in your order early: I’d rather book orders in advance so I know how much work is coming, so I can plan and organize my time.

Otherwise, if I suddenly get swamped with orders, I’ll have to close the site again and you might miss your window.

During the summer only, if you order a cover I’ll throw in a web site review, and a couple of ads if you need them (for Facebook, Google, etc).

Just remind me and say the secret password: “templeton.”

After a hard, sweaty summer in Taipei filled with book cover work, I plan to be back in Oregon for the winter holidays, possibly with trips to Hawaii and Mexico thrown in. So I’ll be taking on less work in the fall of 2012.




Carol Kilgore’s “In Name Only” Mystery Crime Book Cover Design

Working on a book cover design for Carol Kilgore’s “In Name Only”. Based on the description (pink building that catches on fire, handsome firefighter, protected witness always relocating, some danger/intrigue) I came up with these samples. Some of them are pretty good, and finally we ended up choosing the last one below).




















In Name Only by Carol Kilgore, full SYNOPSIS

Rookie server SUMMER NEWCOMBE is doing her best to remain inconspicuous when fire breaks out during her shift at the Pink Tortilla on Padre Island. She shepherds her customers to the door and returns to retrieve the cash register a few steps away. The next thing she knows, she’s flat on her back in the parking lot exposed to the world. The media will show up, and they’re the last thing someone in the Federal Witness Security Program needs. Though she’s in the program because of her dad’s testimony against a crime boss, she learned there’s no statute of limitations on revenge.

For the past five years, she’s assumed one identity after another, and in two separate incidents she watched her parents die from the vendetta. Her hope died with them. She has no one except the U.S. Marshals.

Corpus Christi Fire Captain GABRIEL DURAN knows something is special about the woman he rescues from his father’s eatery. When she comes to and he sees her eyes shining in her sooty face, he falls hard for her. But important problems weigh on his mind. An arsonist has destroyed his dad’s eatery and the last physical link to his mother. Since her death, he and his father have been at war. He is resolved not to become involved in another relationship until he and his dad get back on track. Otherwise, both relationships will die.

Mere hours after the fire, a man shines a bright light into Summer’s home as she’s going to sleep. She watches him, and the next morning breaks into the condo she saw him enter. Hundreds of photos of her are plastered inside his closet. His name is JIM PACKETT. Besides stalking her, he’s conning a local energy venture out of millions by selling stolen data about their new project. He’s a real winner, but creepy as the photos are, nothing indicates someone sent him to kill her, which is both her biggest fear and part of her criteria for notifying the marshals.

Later that morning, Gabe checks on Summer and finds her more provocative than the night before. It’s all he can do to keep his hands to himself when she kisses his cheek. Then he talks to his dad about the arson investigation. He approaches him about their lack of a personal relationship and is rebuffed. By that evening, Gabe decides it’s time to lay everything on the line. Either they agree to work through their differences or agree to forget they were once members of a vibrant family. With the emotions brought to the forefront by the destruction of the Pink Tortilla, he knows he can’t continue with their feud.

He shows up at his dad’s with a six-pack and a strong will. It takes all night, but they hammer out an imperfect understanding and decide to celebrate with a fish fry the following night. Because they’re on the road back to father and son, Gabe feels confident in taking the first step to a relationship with Summer and asks her to the fish fry. She accepts.

The following morning Summer arranges to meet with one of the partners of the energy venture. She hopes by providing them with the information she found, they’ll contact the police, Packett will be arrested, and she’ll keep her low profile. On her way out, a marshal stops her. They arrested a computer administrator in D.C. for selling protectee information. It’s likely the unknown man who’s been trying to kill her is in the area and knows where to find her. Worse, they can’t relocate her because all clean identities have been compromised. Nor do they have enough manpower to give her full 24/7 cover.

After all her years in the program, she’s tired of running, tired of hiding. She’s happy not to have full-time babysitters, even if it ups her risk. Determined to live her life with as much normalcy as possible, she continues to the meeting. The partner assures her they will handle the problem with Jim Packett. She hurries home to get ready for the fish fry. Gabe never arrives or calls, and both she and his dad are upset. Although she’s known Gabe only two days, she felt an instant connection the first time they met. She’s disappointed.

The next morning, Gabe shows up at Summer’s door holding the latest kinky gift from Packett. He couldn’t make the fish fry because the arsonist torched the energy venture’s lab. She says she believes the arsonist is her stalker, Jim Packett, because the energy partners were at the eatery the night of the fire and Packett was causing them trouble. Gabe validates her suspicions.

Before Gabe leaves, he kisses Summer and asks her to dinner. She accepts. But when her lips stop tingling, she kicks herself. No matter what her heart says, she can’t get involved. She could vanish from his life at any time. Besides, she’s killed one man and caused the death of a second in order to stay alive. Her track record is world class, in a bad way. Dinner is out of the question. She runs to tell him she can’t go, but he’s nowhere to be found.

At dinner, the man who changed a flat tire for her the day after the Pink Tortilla fire stops to see if she got the tire fixed. That day on the highway, she’d been so tense she almost pulled her Beretta on him. He makes her creep alarms go off because except for a nod at her introduction, he ignores Gabe.

After dinner, she and Gabe go for a walk on the beach. Holding hands under a full moon, they talk, kiss, and make silly plans for the next few days. Her guard is down. She wants more than anything to get to know this man who makes her laugh and quiver at the same time. And who promises to teach her the two-step.

A man approaches. Packett–and he has a gun. Together they outwit him and take his Glock. During the scuffle, her wrist is broken. Gabe restrains him while Summer calls the marshals for help. She tells them that by the time they arrive, Gabe will know about her life. She’s fallen in love with Padre Island. And with Gabe, but she wants no secrets. He needs to know the truth. Even if he wasn’t in the business of saving lives, what man would want anything to do with a killer?

With Packett’s gun aimed at his back, she tells Gabe how she became part of the program. When she gets to the part about killing a man, she plunges ahead, certain he’ll run screaming into the night, though she’s vowed never to kill again.

As Gabe listens to her story, the mystery that surrounds her makes sense. His feelings for her deepen. Not only does she turn him on so much it hurts, he understands how someone would kill to protect a loved one.

While they talk, Packett slumps to the ground. Summer checks–he’s dead, shot through the heart. Gabe calls her name. The man from the restaurant who changed her tire is holding Gabe by the arm with a silenced pistol to his side. She fires Packett’s Glock without thinking until the man hits the sand.

A bullet has grazed Gabe’s rib, and she fears it’s hers until he tells her it came from the man’s gun. The marshals arrive and one shows her a just-emailed photo–it’s the face of the man on the sand. The man they’ve protected her from the past five years.

She and Gabe get patched up, and the marshals tell her the worst should be over but to remain alert. She will always be a member of the program unless she opts out.

Summer tells Gabe he’s free to leave at any time, that she understands he doesn’t want to be tied to a killer or someone who might be gone when he gets home. Her heart melts when he doesn’t have a problem with any of her fears and tells her he thinks she’s braver than he will ever be. He’s not going anywhere.

Baby Matrix: a non-fiction book cover design

Here are some of the designs I’ve made for Laura Carroll’s The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds from Outmoded Thinking About Parenthood & Reproduction will Create a Better World.

It’s a fascinating research project, and the title references the totalizing paradigm shift of the Matrix Movies, so we needed something that referenced the red pill and the sci-fi element – not easy to do in a book about babies! I really like the cute repetitive colorful colors below, but they don’t really capture the spirit of the book.



The two finalists are these:

I really like the black, with the the red pill/baby. Strong and bold, but we’re still cleaning up some of the design aspects and fonts.

States of Air: Political Satire Book Cover

United States of Air is a political satire; the author wanted to use a US flag with the stars forming a swastika, and it’s about (on the surface) a power-hungry government convincing people that they don’t need food to survive and can live on eating air only… based on that, I started with these samples:

Round One Book Cover Designs




Not bad, but those didn’t have the punch/obvious satire/patriotism that was needed, so we kept working on round two, which led to some of these finalists

Round Two Book Cover Designs





There are some good things going on in these, we’ll pick one and tighten it up.


A thriller book cover design: how to make an exciting book cover

I just started working on the book cover  design for Blake Eccles “EXTRACTED”.The description I have to go from is this:

A global investigative team follows leads on the strange
disappearances of citizens from every country
worldwide. These missing and exploited persons
have been subjected to government hit teams, sex-slave
traffickers, alien abductions, etc., etc. A world-government
team of investigators are selected to solve the mystery
and/or recover the missing.
This is happening on an ever increasing scale and is
bordering on hysteria in the news media.

So, I need to get a) international b) thriller c) kidnap/capture d) investigators/government. Although these samples are pretty messy, I think the excitement is already there and one of these can be cleaned up into a powerful cover.