Evolution of a Book Cover: ‘The Royal Bounty Hunter’

J.M. Aucoin . Jake Hawking Adventures, Writing about writing 4074 No Comments

The first Evolution of a Book Cover went well, so I’ll keep doing these. I think they’re fun. I always enjoy seeing the behind-the-scenes process of artistic work like this. You see all the time now with movies but drawings? Not so much with drawings. Wonder why? I don’t think a behind-the-scenes look at writing a story would be overly interesting, though. Would be just pictures of this:


For days on end…

Ok… onto the the cover for my short story, The Royal Bounty Hunter, the second Jake Hawking adventure story. Like the first cover, Peter Simeti did the artwork for this one as well.

This was a trickier story since we follow the POV of Hawking’s adversary while he tries to hunt Hawking down, so the focus isn’t really on Hawking. And the cover needed to reflect that.  We had to be careful to not make the cover look too similar to the first one and make sure Hawking and Crowe didn’t look too much alike.

After the jump… more on the cover…

Brain Storming Session

The Royal Bounty Hunter draft cover

We had fewer ideas to start with this cover. With A Pirate’s Honor we had a list almost a mile long, but this one was trickier. I had a couple of ideas that I threw at him:

1) Crowe looking through his spyglass and Hawking reflecting in the lense
2) A picture of the ship-fort looking all menacing on the beach

Pete had two ideas:

1) Crowe looking cocky while standing on his ship
2) Crowe looking a little more menacing while pointing his sword at the reader

We both loved the ship-fort idea, but it was a little out of my budget. Maybe if the stories sell really well I’ll commission Pete to make it anyways. As for my Crowe/spyglass idea, we decided that might end up looking a little too similar to A Pirate’s Honor.

The Royal Bounty Hunter cover draft

Anyways, Pete sent two quick sketches of his ideas, just to give me an idea of placement and body position. The rest of the design would come after.

I was kinda leaning toward the first image with Crowe looking all haughty, but Peter really was selling the second image with Crowe pointing his sword at the reader. His love for the second image outweighed my love for the first image, and I trust Pete’s judgement when it comes to these artistic decisions. So I relented and we went with Door Number Two.

Choosing a Background
Of course, we still needed to figure out what we wanted the rest of the cover to be about. We weren’t sure how similar we wanted the overall layout to be to A Pirate’s Honor. We tossed around a few ideas, mainly a flag in the background. Of course, what flag do we choose? Crowe is British so the Union Jack would fit, but he’s working for the Spanish, so maybe the Spanish flag?

Royal Bounty Hunter backgroundNothing was really feeling right. Fortunately, inspiration comes when you need it. I was busy playing Assassin’s Creed II and part of the game is that the guards and soldiers are looking for you for crimes you’ve committed so there are wanted posters all over the city. So I thought it’d be cool to have the background be a wanted poster of Jake Hawking. Crowe is hunting Hawking after all.

Pete loved the idea and evolved it further to have it look like Captain Crowe is bursting through poster. And since we had a sketch of Hawking from the previous cover there was no extra work for Pete and no extra cash spending for me. A win-win. Peter then added some Wanted Poster text and made it look like old paper, adding in the burst and the author/title info and boom. The background is born.

I kinda want to make Jake Hawking Wanted Posters and hang them up around the city as a marketing campaign…. Hmmm…..

Hhhmmmm, I say….

khevenhuller hatWith the background squared away, attention was put back to Crowe himself. Here’s the description I sent Peter:

I kinda picture something like the attached image, but with a goldish waistcoat underneath (basic shape image attached). Unlike the attached image, Crowe would have his shirt tucked into his pants all civilized like. He’d wear a Khevenhuller cocked tricorn hat (also attached). He might have a plume in there, but nothing gaudy; we can leave that out completely if we want since I’m not married to the idea one way or another. Whatever would look best. 

crowe-pencilsHe wouldn’t have a baldric but just a sword-belt around his waist with maybe a pistol stuffed it in as well. The sword would be simpler and more elegant than Hawking’s, but still a little rugged since it gets a lot of use. The sword in this image is probably a good starting point. The guard wouldn’t be as big as Hawking’s, and would be a bit fancier looking.

As for his face, he’d look something similar to Gerard Butler with the beard and slightly longer hair — http://ll-media.extratv.com/archive/images/news/0224/gerard-butler.jpg. The hair wouldn’t be nearly as long as Hawking’s though. I don’t think I describe eye color at all, but maybe green or grey, or a greenish-grey. Something a little cold and sea like.

And for the most part, that description came to life. We changed the coat from blue to grey since we didn’t want people confusing Crowe for Hawking. You can’t see the waistcoat so that color doesn’t matter. And Peter made Crowe’s beard a bit thicker which was A+ work. He also decided no plume and he made the angles of the hat a little more extreme. I really dug it. The hat is amazing.

Inks & Colors

Crowe-inksI didn’t really have any notes for Peter after seeing that pencil sketch. It was great. I loved the look and feel of it, so it was really just a matter of Peter penning in the details and such.

I was amazed at the detail Peter put into this cover. I loved the cover for A Pirate’s Honor so much, but Peter really amped it up for The Royal Bounty Hunter. You can basically see the individual curls in Crowe’s long hair and individual strands of his thick, black beard. I’m pretty sure that if you zoom in you’d be able to see Crowe’s pores…. not that you would want to… that’s the level of detail Pete put into this character drawing.

And it was cool, once again, to see a character I had dreamt up and wrote about come to life in a drawing. I hope that never gets old.

crowe-colorsFrom there, Peter added in the colors to the black and white Crowe. Really made it pop. We opted for a red waistcoat to pop a little form the grey and blue… help it stand out more.

Putting it All Together
With the drawing done and the background already sitting in the wings, Peter just had to combine the two images together and blend them. Pretty straightforward process.

And there you have it. Captain Thomas E. Crowe bursting through the Jake Hawking wanted poster, sword drawn and ready to kick some ass (yes, he’s all out of bubble gum).

Let me know what you think of the cover and the story itself. If you haven’t yet, you can pick up a copy of the short story on Amazon for your KIndle device, Kindle App, or read it on your computer via Amazon’s free Cloud Reader.

The Royal Bounty Hunter by J.M. Aucoin

J.M. Aucoin

Author. Fencer. Sometimes actor. Full-time nerd. I write swashbucklers & historical adventure novels.

Leave a comment