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Graphic Design.

Graphic Design., Inspiration., Projects., Ramblings., REUTS., Writing.

Some New Things…

June 28, 2016

Since the blog has been experiencing some radio silence lately, I figured I might update you with what’s going on in Ashley land, and what to expect in the future (read: it’s a lot).

Cover Art Tutorial

After all the interest I received from my previous cover art tutorial for REUTS Publications, I’m excited to revive it and offer a new cover art tutorial based on a dear friend’s manuscript. You can expect weekly (or bi-weekly, let’s be real… my summer is p-a-c-k-e-d) posts, from start to finish documenting how a cover design goes from an idea to an advertisement on a Barnes and Noble bookshelf. I’m super excited, so don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list (form below in the footer) to follow along!

From Dill to Dracula

Did I mention I’m busy? From Dill to Dracula is the source for a lot of my daily efforts. Honestly, it started as a joke. I tweeted about how Romanian recipes tend to be unhealthy, and how I should try to create a cookbook of interpreting Romanian recipes with a healthy twist. Playing off this joke-of-a-concept, I tweeted the hypothetical name of my cookbook:

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And then… I fell in love.

I secured the domain name and got to work. From Dill to Dracula has transformed a bit. I dub it A Romanian Food and Folklore Blog where I’m planning on sharing both my family’s Romanian recipes, as well as different cultural tidbits you might not be aware of. There’s already a recipe posted, with a few in queue awaiting release. For the first few months, I’m going to try and be ambitious, posting every week. Then, once there are enough posts in the blog, I’ll be cutting that down to every other week.

If you’re interested in following along, please be sure to sign up for my mailing list. It’s different from the one I use for Eventide & Barley, so you’ll need to make sure you’re signed up for both 😉

A New Writing Project

That’s right. I started writing another book. Except, this time, I already have 15k words written, and (almost) a full plot ready for execution! I can’t explain much about said book, other than the tentative title’s acronym ends up being OTSaON. Any ideas? It’s my first true attempt at Young Adult. Not New Adult. Not Adult. Straight-up Young Adult. And, you know how I feel about Happily Ever Afters, but I’m happy to say OTSaON features a happily ever after… for most everyone 😉

Cardboard Monet, Graphic Design., Writing.

An Argument Against Designing for Thumbnail

May 5, 2016

I’ve worked with many publishers and independent authors on their book covers, and there’s a common request made amongst them: to make sure the title is legible in thumbnail view. I push back at the start, but if the client is adamant I’ll concede and create what they’re looking for. But, whole-heartedly, I stand by my belief:

You shouldn’t design your cover for thumbnail view.

That’s not to say it isn’t important, but I’m also arguing that it doesn’t make or break your book sales, either. The logic behind making sure things are legible at thumbnail view has blossomed from the rise of online sales, where in the sea that is an search result, you’re but one minnow, striving to catch the attention of a reader. But there’s one thing some people might forget: You don’t have just a cover to go off of, on any of these sites. They’re always coupled with the title, author, price, etc… in text form beside the image because that’s what helps facilitate a sale.

And so, again, I argue: You shouldn’t design your cover for thumbnail view.

But, still, a lot of people don’t believe me and insist the title is blown up, unobstructed, etc… so that people can read what it says in thumbnail view, even though that might not look best for the design. What you should be designing for is the actual cover—what it’ll look like in print or eReader format. This is never a thumbnail size. People don’t really care about the thumbnail, but an attractive cover at full size can and will help sell your book. People judge books by their covers, not their thumbnail.

Don’t believe me? You be the judge. Check out the covers below from a few of the Big 5 publishers. Does it look like thumbnail view has dictated what their full cover looks like? (You can click on the cover to visit its Amazon page.)

Seven-Brief-Lessons-design-Coralie-Bickford-Smith i-am-sorry1  Written-in-the-Blood-design-by-Alex-Merto Dont-Lets-Go-To-The-Dogs-Tonight-design-Justine-Anweiler Witches-of-America-design-Rachel-Willey  Only-Street-in-Paris-design-by-StrickWilliams  Safekeeping-design-StrickWilliams  Racism-design-by-Daniel-Gray   why-information-grows-design-richard-green

What my argument comes down to is a book cover can be compelling without the need to read every letter. Pigeon-holing your designer to make a cover that can be read at thumbnail view might cause you to miss out on a truly spectacular design.


Graphic Design.

What The Stock? Edition 41116

April 11, 2016

I’m bringing it back! I had to. Some of the stock images I found while perusing for book covers were just too good (or too bad) to pass up. So, I hope you enjoy the revived What The Stock:



There are so many things going on here. Cupid? Check. Cheesy Wedding Singer? Check. Gun? Absolutely. Overacted feud? You betcha. I . . . I have so many words, and so few at the same time. What sort of company or advertisement would require such an image? Maybe a twisted anti-Valentine’s Day / anti-Wedding Singer ad? I mean, you’re pretty limited by that pink background, so I’m definitely thinking this has ties to Valentine’s Day. But, in the end, I guess we’ll never know.


*Chuckle Snort*
Enough said.



I typically wouldn’t have a problem with something like this, but the lack of head really limits the use of this picture. I hate when photographers auto-crop stock for you. If someone really needed a head-less, par-nude man, you can keep the head on and let the designer crop it themselves.


I have very few words for this one other than: punk, meaty, contemplative woman.


Have an image you think deserves a feature in my What The Stock? post?
Contact me by email, or post the image URL in a comment below :)

Tweet About This:

  • What were they thinking? WHAT THE STOCK? by @amruggs #mondayblogs
  • This is the stock they don’t want you to see. WHAT THE STOCK? by #coverartist @amruggs #mondayblogs
Cardboard Monet, Graphic Design., Random., Web Design.

Why Covers Tend to Look the Same

April 5, 2016

I’m a designer across multiple platforms, so I spend a lot of time in different states of creativity. Every time of art has groups of similarities, whether it be pop music featuring a familiar beat, or portfolio websites all featuring parallax scrolling, and everything in between. Since my main focus is book production, I thought I’d take a look at book covers, and why so frequently we see similarities—and sometimes even blatant copies—within the same genres.

We’re all familiar with the old adage “never judge a book by its cover.” But, guess what, we all do it, and not just with books. The entire advertising industry is built upon your first impression, and it being positive enough for you to part with your hard-earned dollars. Same goes for publishing. Recognition is important. If, from across the room, you can determine a book’s key genre, and even it’s intended audience age, the cover artist and publisher have succeeded in their duties. Why? Because a glance can be as quick as a few seconds, sometimes even shorter, and you’ve already been able to analyze and categorize their book—whether it’s up your alley, or not. That’s more powerful and explains a lot more than even a title or tagline (the second elements a reader sees when perusing for a new book).

Same goes for publishing. Recognition is important.

This explains why the YA dystopian genres feature cracks, and concrete, and decrepit cities. Why most contemporary romances are light, bright and sunny, often featuring two or more people. I’ve seen it far too often, virtually the same cover for two different books within the same genre. Or—gasp—two different books using the same stock photography. It happens more than you think!

Sure, there are books that break the mold and are able to stand out from the rest, but they also have to work harder. I’m guilty of it, too. But that’s not always a bad thing. There’s another saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right?


Cardboard Monet, Graphic Design., Ramblings., Random., REUTS., Web Design., Writing.

Why #ILoveTwitter.

March 26, 2016

Twitter recently celebrated a milestone anniversary and, with it, started trending the #ILoveTwitter hashtag. Fitting, really. Now, I’ve only been on Twitter—consistently—for about three years, but I did partake in the hashtaggy goodness because I truly felt obligated. Why? Well, let’s rewind a little bit.

Not many of my IRL friends know I’m on Twitter. It’s actually a social media service that’s more looked down upon than embraced. And, quite frankly, I felt the same way they do about Twitter before I found myself swept up in the community. So, yes, at one point I all but scoffed at the thought of using Twitter, and believed the people who did use it [as frequently as I do, now] were self-absorbed narcissists that only talked about what they had for dinner, or what they were wearing. Hey! Look! I did both of those in one tweet.


As you can see, things have changed. I don’t view Twitter as the sewage of the internet, though you can find those dark alleys, spewing hate and violence, as you might be able to find anywhere online. Instead, Twitter has taken up shop in a very special place in my heart: the writing community. I know I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember, and I’m hoping to make the transition from writer to published author very soon, and, before Twitter, I felt disconnected from a community I so desperately wanted to be a part of. Sure, starting your own publishing company helps, but I really have Twitter to thank for introducing me to other awesome writers, contests and activities to help me hone my writing skill, and exploding my “To Be Read” list beyond anything I can conceivably finish within my lifetime.

That’s why #ILoveTwitter.

I feel like I finally belong in the little niche of the world where I can combine my love for words with my love for design. I feel like I can lament about writer’s block troubles and participate in writing sprints to pull me out of those dark moments. I feel like I have made genuine connections with friends I have never, and may never meet. And, when we do, it’s as if we’ve been best friends our entire life.

#ILoveTwitter. And I’m no longer ashamed to say so because it has enhanced my life in ways I wouldn’t have been able to fathom if I hadn’t fully immersed myself in that community.


Cardboard Monet, Cover Reveal., Graphic Design.

COVER REVEAL // Without Benefits by Nicole Tone

March 18, 2016
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I was fortunate enough to read an early version of Without Benefits as an introduction to the Woman’s Fiction genre. Never having read within that genre before, and starting with Nicole’s has created a fan out of me! Without Benefits is a can’t-put-it-down, heart-wrenching tale of romance, independence and friendship. I’m so excited for my good friend, Nicole, and her story comes out in a little less than three months from now!

I mentioned in the other cover reveal earlier this week that I’ve been focusing on custom photography in my book cover projects. Without Benefits is my next venture into this arena, and what you see below is a 100% custom shoot that I’m super proud of, and I’m so glad Nicole let me experiment like this:

Emma will always be a New Yorker at heart, even though she has a perfect life in Seattle. She has a prestigious job fundraising for the Seattle Symphony, a handsome boyfriend who adores her, and a Belltown apartment with views of the Sound. It should be more than enough to keep her pain from not playing the piano, and her 9/11 nightmares, away.

But when her old college crush, Owen, comes back into her life, it’s more than just spending time with him that’s causing cracks in her picture-perfect life. As she steps back on stage, and back into the spotlight, her connection with Owen and his world, dredges up old memories that Emma worked hard to forget.

Emma’s past comes back to haunt her, forcing her to face the truth about more than just her fears of returning back to New York. As her once perfect life begins to burn down, Emma is forced to figure out what she really wants: her fundraiser and cocktail party-filled life with her boyfriend, or forging a new future with the one thing, and one person, she’s ever loved–even if it means returning to New York.

Without Benefits is a beautiful and moving exploration of modern relationships and family written in the vein of Taylor Jenkins Reid and Renee Carlino.

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Pre-order your copy today!

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Nicole Tone is a freelance editor, MFA student, traveller, pet collector, binge-watcher, and a self-proclaimed coffee snob. She lives in Buffalo, NY with her husband, three cats, and two very large dogs, but spends as much of her time in Seattle as possible.

Facebook //Twitter  //Goodreads  //Pinterest


Cover Reveal., Graphic Design.

COVER REVEAL // Pieced Together by Kelly Moore

March 15, 2016
Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 2.15.45 PM

I love my job. I don’t think I can say that enough. And, ever since I went freelance full-time, I’ve been working on more book covers than ever! When I was introduced to Kelly, she presented her project and an awesome challenge, different from a lot of things I’ve worked on in the past. Recently, I’ve been getting into custom photography for my book covers, opposed to using stock (which I still do, it’s just more fun to do it all yourself). Knowing I wouldn’t find the right stock imagery for her concept, I created my own! I’m so excited to share the first (yes, first. There will be more to come!) cover design with custom photography:



Kyren couldn’t get over killing Brogan’s father, even though he did it to save her. The demons of his own past took control, and he left her when she needed him most. In the aftermath of their agonizing breakup, Kyren and Brogan sought healing on very different paths. She moved to a remote island in Maine and started a new life, while he isolated himself on his yacht, and almost drowned in booze and guilt. After three long years, they’re each in a good place. Neither can forget the intense, passionate love they shared, but they’re both sure it’s over for good. Too much time has passed. There’s too much old hurt.

Fate intervenes, however, and places Kyren on Brogan’s doorstep. For both of them, it’s like they were never apart. His body craves hers, and she immediately longs to submit to his magnetism. Brogan is terrified of giving in to their passion. Can he be the man she needs him to be? Will he break her heart again? She’s not the same person she was back then. She’s stronger, and she has a big secret. Has he learned from his own demons? And most importantly, when she comes clean, will he be able to handle the truth?



Facebook  //  Twitter  //  Add to Goodreads  //  Kelly’s Website


Cardboard Monet, Graphic Design., Web Design.

The Five Stages of Grief, I mean DESIGNING.

February 5, 2016
Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 12.52.49 PM

I’ve touched on these stages on my Facebook page, but thought I’d elaborate on what happens and why they exist. I work on any number of covers at one time, and sometimes inspiration determines the direction I take. For instance, I have covers due next month, but over the weekend I finished covers needed next year. It’s inspirations fault, really. You can’t force a design to be designer, you just have to go with the wind. But, true to process, each of the five stages are almost always dealt with for every cover project.


  • I start every cover project with enthusiasm because I won’t take on a client unless I’m excited about the project and think I can make something out of their ideas and story. I usually have at least one or two concepts to explore, and of course they’re both awesome ideas.

Stage Two // “That execution won’t work—back to the drawing board.”

  • Unfortunately, as with any creative venture, things don’t always go according to plan. There are a lot of different factors involved in designing—inspiration and stock images to name a few.

Stage Three //  “I have no ideas. I’m not going to get this done in time. I’m a complete failure.”

  • At one point in every design project I start to question why I think I can do this as a career.

State Four // “Screw it, I’m just going to mess around, see what happens.”

  • This stage is going to be addressed more in a future blog post, but it basically amounts to tinkering, experimenting and trying the most out-of-the-box techniques with a project, and hoping for the best. Some things don’t work out (read: a lot of things don’t work out), and some seem like a stroke of genius, but just the act of messing around can spark inspiration and new directions.

State Five // “Wait—the author loves it? Awesome! Done. Boom.”

  • Self-explanatory. Always an awesome feeling, and even better that the author is proud of their new cover :)


Cardboard Monet, Graphic Design.

5 Essentials to Prepare for your Book Cover Artist

January 29, 2016

There are a slew of blog posts out there telling you how to find a cover artist, and the questions you should ask when searching for one, but what happens after you’ve asked the questions? After the search is over? In order to get the best experience when working with a designer to create your book cover, you should arm yourself with the essentials—it’ll help both you and your designer reach the perfect cover.

5 Essentials to Prepare for your Book Cover Artist


Basic Book information

This should be a given, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen an author just expect me to know. It may seem like we work magic in Photoshop, but we aren’t mind readers. That’s why the first essential you provide is the basic information about your book. Most artists will request this right off the bat, but make their job easier by providing things like: Title, sub-title, author name (if you’re using a pseudonym), genre and audience age, comp titles, and—at the very least—a synopsis or the beginnings of a back cover blurb. All of this information is crucial to creating a cover that fits within the category it will be promoted within. Because, remember: your cover is pure advertising. While you might have a vision of what your book’s “shell” looks like, it means nothing if it doesn’t attract a reader and sell.

Examples of Book Covers You Love

Everyone has their favored aesthetic, and for a designer to understand yours it’s helpful to provide a handful (3 – 5) example covers of published books whose covers you oogle from afar. Make sure you point out the elements you like of each. Sending examples is great, but if you don’t explain your reason for liking it, it’s just as bad as not having sent any to begin with. And, while covers you love are great examples, there are also . . .

Examples of Book Covers You Hate With a Passion Burning like 1,000 Suns

Similar to the book covers you love, the book covers you hate gives a designer an idea of things to steer clear of and avoid like the plague. Don’t like text on an angle, if you’re unable to state that outright (maybe because you don’t exactly know that’s what you don’t like about a cover), by at least providing an example we can deduce what you dislike. Sending another handful of examples in this category are just as important as the covers you like, so even if your designer doesn’t ask for them (shame on them), make sure you send some.

A Description of What Your Ideal Cover Looks Like

This is a question I ask almost immediately for cover art projects both with Cardboard Monet and REUTS Publications. Essentially, if you could have any cover in the entire world—encrusted with jewels, dipped in gold, or even carved out of a stone tablet—let me know. While I can’t promise any of those difficult requests, this at least gives your designer a mark to meet. They may have suggestions about how to improve the concept, or can give you reasons why it’s not the best direction, but it gives us a glimpse into your mind’s eye, how you view your book, and how we can bring it to life.

Your Timeline of Expectations

It may differ from what your designer can provide, though this is likely something discussed before a contract is even signed. Make sure you’re on the same page, and understand some things beyond your control might interfere and cause the timeline to change. On either side of the fence, if something does change, make sure you let your designer know ASAP. Need a cover sooner? That’s important to know for scheduling purposes. Need to change the dimensions of your paperback book? Crucial. Proportions vary greatly between book sizes, and it’s not as easy of a fix as you might thing. Basically, communication throughout the entire process is key, but if you’re able to establish a baseline going forward, it’ll help in the long run. Trust me.


Cardboard Monet, Graphic Design., Web Design., Writing.

Drumroll Please // And The Winner Is…

December 1, 2015

Well, it’s been a long month and a half, and I’m so overwhelmed by the interest generated by my Author/Book Branding Giveaway. It’s exciting to be able to offer one lucky fan (and friend) the opportunity to completely re-vamp their aesthetic, much like I have recently done with my site, Cardboard Monet. If you’ve forgotten what that includes, there should be a blog post below with all the information, or you can just click here.

But, more importantly, this entire giveaway was meant to be a big thank you to everyone out there who has supported me throughout this journey. So, here’s to you: thank you, from the bottom of my heart <3

Sorry, I don’t mean to be stalling. I know why you’re here, and that’s to see who the winner is. Here goes:

Congratulations to the winner, Vivien R.!

Vivien, you’ll be hearing from me within the week about your package, timeline and next steps.

A bit bummed you didn’t win? Don’t worry! In the new year I have something special up my sleeve—a fantastic offer to anyone interested in book cover art. So corral your friends together, and mentally prepare for the awesomeness (seriously, it’ll be a deal you can’t pass up).