CreateSpace and Lesser Gods

Front cover of Lesser Gods science fiction novel

The paperback version of my science fiction novel Lesser Gods is now available, with additional artwork not found in the ebook version — and more interesting typefaces and layout. (Yes, eBooks are nice and handy to read, but print still can be a bit more refined if not prettier.)

Many of my clients have been using CreateSpace to print their books, so I thought I’d try this myself. It has been a few years since I last used this POD (Print On Demand) service, and I was very pleasantly surprised to see how it had improved.

CreateSpace is easy to use and — perhaps more importantly for self-publishers — feeds directly into its parent company, so books produced through CreateSpace automatically get listed in the Amazon catalog. To make the process even more tempting, CreateSpace offers a free catalog number so publishers don’t have to buy an ISBN for the book (while also allowing customers to use their own ISBN if they wish). Basically a self publisher can create his own virtual press, putting his logo and address on the back cover.

Cover and inner layout files are best uploaded as print-ready PDFs. The cover and inner text are uploaded separately (and CreateSpace offers detailed instructions on all this). The spine width is about the only tricky part; it’s determined by the number of pages and the type of paper the publisher chooses. By multiplying the number of pages by the thickness figures supplied by CreateSpace, the spine width is arrived at. (Don’t over-think this and divide the page number by two to get the number of sheets; the CreateSpace calculation is made by the number of pages not sheets of paper.)

When the PDFs are uploaded to CreateSpace, they go through an automated “flight check” to be sure there’s nothing seriously wrong with the layouts and dimensions. CreateSpace generated a number of false alerts during this process — but that was because of some odd design tricks I use. I suspect most users will only have actual problems flagged in this process. This system does add an extra layer of proofing and likely catches a lot of disastrous problems before they go to print and create major headaches.

The next step is producing a “proof copy” (or copies). The is the first book that’s printed from the PDFs submitted. Traditionally this is mailed out to the author and/or editor to be examined for errors or changes that may be needed. A proof print costs a very nominal amount and is always wise to use.

CreateSpace now also offers “virtual proofing” which produces an onscreen representation of the book for examination. While this isn’t quite as secure as a physical proof, it comes mighty close and has the advantage of being much quicker and cheaper since there’s no actual print or shipping involved. I suspect this is the wave of the future, and that print proofs will soon become a thing of the past for many book projects.

The virtual proof front cover (shown above) and back cover (below) as well as the spine can also be viewed as a 3D representation. The cover can be rotated on screen in real time for a variety of perspectives and the shadowing (and the cover even has a “reflection” from the virtual surface it’s over) make the cover seem very real.

Virtual Proof Cover at Create Space -- inner pages of Lesser Gods science fiction novel

The inner pages in the virtual proof are also quite realistic as well and pages can be “flipped.” Here’s the screen that appears (with the upper right corner of the page in the process of a new “page turn”). About the only oddity is the dotted line around the space that the text and pictures should fall into; it is useful, but I found myself wishing I could remove it for a more realistic view of the cover (and that’s my ONLY beef about this system).

Virtual Proof at Create Space -- inner pages of Lesser Gods science fiction novel

Want to start self-publishing? CreateSpace makes it pretty easy. If you run into problems, there’s a forum that you can ask questions in (and it’s searchable so you can often discover answers from questions folks have asked earlier). If you run into something that can’t easily be answered, you can also contact the staff at CreateSpace to get help. I found it all a very satisfying experience.

And, of course, I now have a new paperback edition of Lesser Gods available via as well as CreateSpace’s own virtual store. If you’re looking for a great science fiction adventure set in a near singularity yet dystopian future, check out Lesser Gods.

If you’re thinking about self-publishing a print edition of your book manuscript, CreateSpace is a very easy way to do this.

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A Few Thoughts About the Creative Mind

Creative minds see in creative ways

The “extra wiring” in the brain of a creative person (and, yes, science can now “see” these extra connections in brain cells) often allows them to feel highs of joy and lows of sorrow that others may never experience, and perhaps could not even handle if they did.

The added “emotional depth” many creative people feel may cause them to deeply mourn the loss of animals, a magnificent tree, or even the passing of a sunset. The progress that transforms empty fields into apartments with manicured, chemical laden lawn resembling AstroTurf surrounded by concrete drives and walks will seem tragic to many creative minds and perhaps bring a tear to the eye.

Many creative people are able to operate in brief spurts of “hypomania” — a controlled mania that isn’t quite madness but not quite normal, either. A few psychologists have explored this “high gear” creative folks use to their advantage. One excellent book dealing with this is The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America by John D. Gartner. You can read a bit of it online in the free preview at Amazon. If you are creative (or know someone who is), this might be a worthwhile book to read.

A creative mind with its additional “wiring” between brain cells often makes connections and creates “meanings” where there may be none. That inventiveness and willingness to suspend immediate judgment is key to creativity and also often leads to playful rearrangements of the ideas and objects surrounding a creative person.

Little wonder many outside the creative world mistake (or dismiss) the seemingly eccentric responses of the creative spirit as weakness or mental illness.

Sadly these dismissive souls will never know what it is to be moved by tears by the beauty of a rose or brought to joy by sunlight filtering through the leaves of spring or autumn. Creative people soon come to realize that those outside their community don’t see colors as intensely, or feel emotions as deeply. That doesn’t make one group better than the other. It does make them different in their views and outlooks and responses.

The creative trod in glades invisible to those outside their realm.

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Work for Hire

I’m no lawyer. But I have signed at least a thousand publishing contracts of one sort or another over the decades I’ve been working in the publishing business. And during that time I’ve dodged a few potential pitfalls that writers and artists can face in contracts. (Up front, let me say that before you sign any contract, it’s wise to spend a few bucks and have a lawyer read it over; this can save you no end of heartache in the long run.)

Sometimes a legal term in a contract can pack a lot of punch while sounding very innocuous.

One such case in US (and most other nations) is the phrase “work for hire” as it applies to copyrights. The phrase sounds innocent. Someone is hiring you to do some work for them, right?

But “work for hire” in a contact has a much different meaning. And put into a contract where it doesn’t places all parties involved at risk of becoming embroiled in an expensive lawsuit.

With writing or artwork, “work for hire” means the person is no longer buying some rights to your work but rather gaining complete ownership of the copyright. He gets every stitch of what you’ve done on the project, and all rights to it — including the right to claim it as his own as if he created it. You can’t even legally show the work in your portfolio or claim it in your resume!

In the case of an artist creating a book cover illustration, rather than just assigning the rights to the picture to the client, if there’s a work-for-hire clause in the contract, it means the illustrator also has to turn over all sketches, paintings created in relation to the project, computer files, etc. Anything used to get to the final picture or its spinoffs, used in the project or not, belongs to the client.

Likewise, a writer has to turn over all notes, rough drafts, and computer files created in writing the book or article.

“Work for hire” used inappropriately can also lead to the whole contract being invalidated or having to be sorted out in court when “work for hire” has been added where it doesn’t belong.

Sadly many people employing this phrase in contracts really do so for no good reason since it’s so easy to simply outline the rights being assigned in a business agreement. A contract that outlines which specific rights are being purchased lets everyone know what is being sold and what is being retained by the creator of the work.

Obviously if you’re a writer or artist, you should treat the “work for hire” in a contract a bit like a landmine in the road. Sadly, less ethical folks do exploit “work for hire” as a way to trick artists or writers into assigning all the rights of their work over to a client without realizing they are doing so.

So when does “work for hire” belong in a contract?

Generally when a client is asking you to create either a part of a greater whole (like an entry in an atlas or encyclopedia), or when the work involves characters or trademarks to which the client owns the rights (say a book cover illustration produced for Disney with one of its characters in the artwork).

Here’s the parameters of where “work for hire” applies (taken from page 110 of the very useful American Institute of Graphic Arts’ STANDARD FORM OF AGREEMENT FOR DESIGN SERVICES):

Discussions with your client about independent contractor status and about ownership and use of project deliverables are sometimes complicated by confusion over the related concept of work-for-hire.

This phrase comes from U.S. copyright law. It refers to original work made by an employee within the scope of his or her job, in which copyright ownership automatically belongs to the employer. However, it can also refer to original work made by an independent contractor or a design firm, in which copyright ownership might automatically belong to the client. This is ONLY true if the work meets very specific criteria — it must be specially ordered or commissioned, AND it must fall within one of nine categories:

■ A contribution to a collective work (such as a magazine, an anthology or an encyclopedia)

■ A work that is part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work (such as a website or multimedia project)

■ A translation

■ A supplement prepared as an adjunct to a work created by another author (such as a foreword, an appendix or charts)

■ A compilation (a new arrangement of pre-existing works, such as
a catalog)

■ An instructional text (whether it is literary, pictorial or graphic)

■ A test

■ Answer material for a test

■ An atlas

Also, a written agreement must be signed by both parties saying that it is a work made for hire. If the project doesn’t meet all of these criteria, work-for-hire does not apply. Copyright will belong to you unless you assign it to your client. (More information about copyright is available in the chapter “Guide to Copyright,” page 78, and directly from the U.S. Copyright Office at

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Is Duncan Long the Inventor of Graphic Design?

I was a bit perplexed yesterday when I stumbled upon a new “answer” site called ChaCha that attempts to answer questions put to it (I’d been searching for info about a client and was searching with my name as part of the search parameters, and ended at this page).

Here’s the question posed to the site:

“Q: Who is the first artist that turned fine art into graphic design?”

Well that sounds straight forward enough.

But the answer made me feel like someone had pulled a late April Fools day trick on me.

So who was the artist who turned fine art into graphic design?

ChaCha’s answer: “Although not exact, Duncan Long is often credited with the earliest use of graphic design.”

Well, a nice honor but… Seriously???

Now I suppose my illustration borders on fine art. And I do graphic design work for logos and book covers. So I might (and that’s a mighty “might”) conceivably be in the running.

Or perhaps it is just another April Fools Day escapade gone wrong from someone that has not yet sprung the final trap on me. After all, a few friends have vowed revenge for being mislead by my Inaugural Illustrator Announcement.

History will decide. I am honored by ChaCha’s claim, but I’m not sure the whole jury has come to a decision on this just yet.

I’ll cross my fingers.

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Illustrators, Contracts, and Book Covers

A quality book illustration and cover design can greatly improve book sales. Consequently publishers as well as self-publishing authors often find themselves searching for an artist who help produce a quality book cover.

One of the key tools in nailing down the book cover rights as well as getting a handle on a project is a contract (or “agreement”) between the illustrator and the author or press. As with most other things, there are good contracts and bad ones. The good can protect your rights and make the work progress smoothly; a bad contract can quickly become a nightmare.

I’ve been in the publishing business for several decades, and a whole lot of contracts have come my way for one project or another. That said, I’m no lawyer, so keep that in mind. But that said, there are a few things I’d like to share with new small presses and self-publishing authors that I hope will send them in the right direction as they work on their book cover designs.

1) If you’re hiring a cover artist, you need a good contract. Here’s a good sample contract for hiring an Illustrator. There are samples you can find online that will get you started. Here’s a pretty good one at Illustration Castle and for those wanting to get into the real nitty gritty of contracts, here’s a nice PDF Booklet from AIGA

2) Remember that like a writer, an artist owns the copyright to anything he owns. That means you purchase the rights (or, in legalese, he “assigns the rights” to you). But technically you will never own the rights to the picture (except in a “work for hire” contract which is generally valid only with large corporations — more on this in a moment). You can negotiate for various rights, but remember you can use only the rights you pay for. If you buy the book cover rights, that doesn’t mean you can then print up t-shirts using the artwork, sell copies of the illustration to other parties, etc. (There are exceptions; for example be if you were creating t-shirts of the cover illustration with lettering to promote your book, then with many contracts, that would be a legitimate use.)

3) Because of how rights to an illustration can be divided in a variety of ways, a contract is a must. If you don’t have a contract, most courts side with the artist and give the buyer the absolute minimum possible in a deal. So if you’re buying rights, a contract will be a big plus for you. Most legit illustrators and graphic designers have a contract; steer clear of anyone who doesn’t want to use a contract.

4) If  you’re using your own contract, the phrase “work for hire” is in it, and you’re not someone like Marvel Comics or Disney, one of two things will happen if you’re working for a pro: A) He’ll leave the room never to be seen again or B) he’ll immediately double or triple his prices.


Because the phrase “work for hire” transfers ALL rights to the artwork to the buyer and allows the buyer to claim the work as his own.

Lawyers unfamiliar with the publishing industry may suggest adding “work for hire,” but it’s generally a mistake because A) most artists want credit for their work and find other revenue streams when they retain the rights and B) many crooks and fly-by-night folks exploit “work for hire” as a  way to trick inexperienced artists into giving away all the rights to artwork without realizing they’re doing so.

(And if you like tricking people this way, then there’s a special room for you in the Hell Suite.)

5) If you want more than just cover rights, don’t use the “work for hire” as a catch all to achieve that. Instead, negotiate for the rights and put the understanding in the contract. This is much cheaper than “work for hire” (because you’ll never need most rights if you’re publishing a book, other than the EXCLUSIVE cover rights). Additionally, there is some doubt about the legality of most “work for hire” clauses (which may make lawyers rub their hands together gleefully, but likely won’t be a big plus for you should you have the misfortune to be in the middle of a legal battle over rights).

6) Traditionally you buy only the rights to ONE edition of a book; if you want to use the illustration on your ebook, second edition, audio book, or whatever — that should be spelled out in the contract (I’ve started doing this in my contracts since it this fact is generally misunderstood by small presses and self-publishers, but a lot of illustrators do not so be careful).

7) Pricing: This varies greatly but generally if you are hiring a professional, the cover rights for an illustration will likely run from $900 to $2,000 (and up) depending on the name of the artist and how complex the artwork is. For example an artist asked to create an illustration of a battle unfolding in the distance on a snowy countryside with storm clouds above might charge $2,000 for the work, while the same artist asked to create a portrait of the character might charge $900. (So for the author wishing to have an ebook version of his book, the simpler cover illustration is best — and will also present a savings in expenses.)

8) When you hire an illustrator to work for you, listen to his ideas with the understanding that they have the best feel for both their talent and what will work for a cover. If you have an art director, listen to them and let the art director work with the illustrator.

9) Don’t hire an artist whose style you don’t like and then ask him to do something he doesn’t normally do (I know that sounds too obvious to mention — but it seems to happen from time to time — a word to the wise).

10) Almost anything in a contract is negotiable. Don’t be afraid to make a proposal, and don’t be huffy if the artist makes a counter proposal. A good contract should be satisfactory and fair for both sides.

11) A professional illustrator will expect half up front and half upon completion. If your project falls through, he’ll expect to keep the first payment as a “kill fee.” That’s how it is done by the pros and it is wise to conform if you want to be a pro yourself.

12) Sadly today has a few scam artists posing as illustrators, graphic designers, and publishers. You should be cautious and expect your illustrator to be cautious as well when you first contact him. A contract and business relationship is about trust, and it takes time to build trust.

And a good contract can be the first step in establishing this trust.

13) If an alarm bell goes off in the back of your mind when you’re first contacting someone to do work for you, listen to your gut instinct. Ninety nine times out of a hundred it will be right.

14) The old saw “too good to be true” often applies. If the prices for the art are WAY too low, the artwork probably isn’t exclusive or (worse) is stolen. The exception is when an artist sells older work from other projects which the client decided they didn’t want. Often these can be real bargains IF they fit your needs.

Speaking of which… Check out my Premade Art Page if you want to shop for bargains.

And if you don’t find anything there that works for your cover, then please take a look at my Portfolio and if you like what you see, contact me to discuss the specific illustration you need for your book.

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White House: Duncan Long Is New Inaugural Book Illustrator

You can probably imagine my surprise. And since it was April 1st, I thought I was being pranked. But then the President came on the line to chat for a few minutes.

Here’s: The Story

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Of Smart Quotes, Dashes, and Double Spaces…

Many authors are going the self-publishing route these days (and for many, it makes good sense). Others are going so far as to create their own small presses. The result is an explosion of new books and a wealth of quality writing for readers to choose from.

As I’ve noted previously (perhaps the phrase “ad nauseam” comes to mind for some readers of this blog), the new gate-keeper that determines whether a reader buys and reads a self-published title is the quality of the layout and illustration on the book cover, and after that, the quality of the layout inside the book. In other words, no matter how good the writing may be, many readers will never take the time to check it out if the cover and layout screams “amateur.”

Here are four important layout “tricks” that often separate the pros from the wannabes:

1) Use of a single space after a period, exclamation point, colon, or question mark.
2) Use of an emdash (a dash the width of an “m”) or endash (dash the width of an “n”) in the proper places rather than a single or repeated hyphen.(Here’s a nice overview on these.)
3) Use of smart quotes and hyphens.
4) Proper capitalization of letters in titles.

Do these right and you’ll make your book look more attractive to a potential buyer. The reader may not realize why your books looks professional; but subconsciously, these little flourishes to the layout have a positive effect.

Of course you still need to be a good writer to succeed. The best cover and layout won’t save your bacon if you’re a poor story teller. That means rewriting, proofing, polishing, and editing are also keys for success. But a good cover illustration and quality layout on the cover and inside text will do a lot to give your book the professional appearance it deserves and gain you the positive attention you want.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that none of the “good layout” rules listed above are set in stone. For example, the single space after punctuation rule has changed over time, as noted in this fascinating article by Dave Bricker: “How Many Spaces After a Period? Ending the Debate.”

Styles change. The key is to use the styles most often seen in the work of professionals.

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The Spider Magus and The Bunny Lord

The Last Druid Apocalypse - Book Cover artwork picture

I recently had the pleasure of seeing my artwork chosen for the front cover picture for Blake Patterson’s action/fantasy novel The Spider Magus and The Bunny Lord.

This is one of my illustrations that I sold through my “PreMade Book Cover Artwork” page, which offers bargains on illustrations I’ve created for my own amusement without a client in mind, as well as spin-off concepts from projects where the idea didn’t work out — but is so good I am pretty sure someone else will likely buy it. As an added incentive, I offer low prices with these pieces of artwork so those needing a book cover can afford to buy those rights and be set to go.

That said, the author purchased the book cover rights to this artwork and then laid out the cover himself, to produce this:

Blake Patterson book cover picture by Duncan Long

It is always a joy to have my artwork used on a book like this, as it is one entertaining tale. Here’s the blurb for this delightful story:

“Joshua is invited to join The Guard…a group that protects all the human worlds they can find from the orcs, except he’s not allowed to leave. Ever. And it wasn’t exactly an invitation.”

If you crossed Alice In Wonderland with a Die Hard movie — this is pretty much what you’d get. Excitement, thought, and some very interesting characters that are well developed as the story unfolds — and characters which a reader is going to care about (if not fall in love with).

The Spider Magus and The Bunny Lord is available both in print as well as Kindle formats — with a “sneak peek” of the text at the Amazon site.

In the meantime (shameless plug alert), if you’re a self-publishing author with a limited budget and in need of a cover, you’d do well to check out my Premade Book Cover Pages to see if there’s a picture there that would be just right for you book. And if not, you can bet that I’d be happy to create a new picture for you.

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Some More Useful Links for Authors

Into all blogs some miscellany must fall…  So a few links to articles I suspect will be of help and interest to those working in the publishing industry — and especially authors.

First, a publishing horror story — and just one more reason more and more authors are self-publishing: O’Reilly Media Has Lost Its Soul

Some useful tools for Book Promotion: Ten Tips For Self-Published Authors

Five Tips for Improving Your Writing

Four Big Lessons for Authors

Gutenberg and How Typography Is Like Music

Book Cover Typefaces and Cover Design Horror Stories

And finally, some thoughts about the pitfalls of designing your own book cover: Sewing Your Own Parachute.

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The Best Typefaces for Your Book Layouts

What typeface is best for laying out the text in a book?

Like spices, the ideal typeface for text adds a little flavor but not so much as to overwhelm. Some of the best picks are older types that have stood the test of time: Baskerville, some flavor of Garamond, or a modern version of Janson are all good choices for text.

Some of my other favorites are Caslon, Bodoni, and Bembo. I love Palatino, even though it seems to be used a lot, perhaps making it less of a first choice than it once was. (And, sadly MS Word ran the beautiful New Times Roman right into the ground, making it less than ideal for any project needing to feel a little different from the run of the mill).

In theory Verdana, Georgia, and Trebuchet were designed for the screen, not print, and therefore aren’t good choices for a layout headed for ink and paper. But I’ve seen folks using them for print with pretty good results so perhaps that’s a rule made to be broken (though I am not yet this adventurous as of yet).

Another rule that can be broken is that you must never use a sans typeface for text. Although for years folks have claimed serif type guides the eye from one letter to the next, in reality science has found our eyes bump along, often taking in whole words as a single unit, so the notion that the little curls and additions to serif type somehow aids the eye is pretty much bogus. And actual testing shows that modern readers have no trouble reading text laid out with a clean sans typeface, and do so at the same speed as they do with serif text.

So if you’re wanting a very modern look to a science fiction tome or a trendy magazine, a sans font like Frutiger or Century Gothic might work quite well.

Finally, if you’ve purchased Word or any of a number of art software programs, or even have an OS from Apple or Microsoft, chances are you already own some or perhaps all of these typefaces mentioned above — or a cloned version of them. Because typefaces can’t be copyrighted in many nations (including the US), that means there are many “cloned” versions of typefaces that are nearly identical to the originals except for the name of the typeface.

So even if you don’t happen to have, say, Palatino in your typeface collection, you may have Bitstream’s “Zapf Calligraphic 801 BT” which is nearly identical. Of course finding what typeface is what other one is no easy task since companies making clones of their rivals’ products don’t advertise these borrowed ideas too openly.

Fortunately there are web sites that can tell you what the various cloned typefaces are. One excellent list is at Lookalike Fonts. (One caveat here: Arial, while often described as being very similar to Hevetica, is a poor substitute with some of its kerning out of wack especially in print — so I would advise to avoid it for print projects.)

Also, be sure you actually own the rights to the typefaces you employ for your layout projects. A lot of the fonts that can be freely downloaded from the web are stolen and posted without the permission of the companies owning the rights to them (and US and other courts have ruled that fonts are like software and can not be pirated or shared without legal ramifications).

And another trap comes from “free” fonts are free only for non-commercial use; that means once you get even a penny for your work, or your book or magazine is sold (or even given away free for promotional purposes), you’ve opened yourself to a lawsuit if you’ve used a “free for noncommercial use” typeface.

Yes, lawsuits by type foundries is rare. But do you want to be one of those rare cases? Best to play it safe and use only a typeface you’ve purchased or which came with some software or an OS you’ve bought. (Such lawsuits can run into the millions of dollars as with the case recently brought against NBC Univeral for misuse of a typeface.)

If you want to build up a collection of quality typefaces, my advice is to buy a “family” of one of those mentioned above and then employ them for most of your print projects. While it is possible to build up a collection of thousands of typefaces (been there, done that), I have found that I generally only use a handful for almost all my graphic design projects. (Just be sure before purchasing fonts you don’t already have the clones of the classics you need in the font collections that come with OSs and software. Often there’s a wealth of gems in the dross if you sort through them and double check for the various clones in the collections.)

In theory you can employ a decorative typeface for the title and headlines of a project, in practice fancy, weird, or stressed types tend to call too much attention to themselves (the possible exception being with genre cover layouts where these can sometimes set the tone and reflect the genre of the book).

Consequently the old trick of using a clean sans for titles, picture captions, and headlines with a classic serif for your text is not only a safe practice, but will generally yield the most professional results. Another excellent route is to get a family of serifs which includes “Black,” thin, and condensed versions; this allows you to use the heavier/lighter versions for contrasting headings or titling, the condensed with photo captions, and the standard version as the text.

Pairing sans/serif types is an art in itself and space doesn’t permit launching into that here. Some of the “tried and true” pairings are Hevetica and Geramond; Univers and Caslon; Futura/Bodoni; Franklin Gothic/Baskerville. I’d direct readers to: Combining Fonts, Mastering Font Combinations; and — of course — articles Type Pairig Articles Via Google.

Duncan Long is a book cover designer and illustrator. You can see samples of his work in his Online Gallery.

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