Tag Archives: book covers

Book Cover Design Tips from Dave Walker

Posted by June 23rd, 2014

Book Covers Designed By Dave Walker

Book covers designed by Dave Walker.

We live in an entertainment universe where we are constantly over-stimulated with hi-def images and sound. As a freelance art director and book cover designer for the past 15 years, I’ve had to remind clients—and sometimes myself—that books are the opposite of that. A book cover is not a video or an animated GIF. It cannot move or make noise. We can’t try to force it to sing and dance. Books sit there patiently waiting for us to discover them. The cover is your vehicle to pull someone in, to give the potential reader a little sneak peak inside the book and to set the tone for what’s inside. You don’t have to tell the whole story—actually, as I’ll explain later, you shouldn’t even try.

When I first started designing covers I spent a lot of time in bookstores simply looking at books—15 years later I still make time to visit my local bookshops to see what other designers are doing, and to find inspiration. Outside of the broad categories of fiction and nonfiction there are myriad kinds of books and they all have a general feel and style—self-help, memoir, biography, cookbook, how-to, etc. Just like shoes and clothes, book cover designs have popular styles that come and go and evolve over time. You can feel an older design the same way you can feel an older model of car. This is part of the reason why publishers will repackage books after they start to look dated. Head down to your local bookseller (or, not as good, but still effective: browse online) and see what books in your particular category look like. They won’t all be the same, but you’ll start to get an idea of what publishers have found to be successful and, more importantly, what readers currently expect to see on a cover. Here I should state that you are not there looking to rip-off someone else’s design (although it goes on quite a bit, I’m sure you’re better than that). Inspiration good; stealing bad.

Whenever I design a cover—no matter what the subject—I ultimately want it to say one simple thing: “pick me.” I want to compel someone browsing online to click the cover and give the book a chance. You can’t always pinpoint what it is, but some books you just want to see what’s inside. Many times in print this is accomplished with fancy production effects like embossing, glossy varnish, or an unusual paper stock. But it can also be accomplished with a great typeface and just the right image. Maybe it’s a unique color combination, a contrast in type styles, an enticing title or subtitle.

A Few Book Cover Design Tips:

Keep your type simple and readable. Unless you have a real flair for type design you should just stick to basic, strong, readable fonts. A really cool font that is tough to read does more harm than good. Think carefully about colors and composition. Light type on a light background is tough to read. Small type placed on an image can disappear. Continue reading

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Why I Love My Book Cover by Elizabeth Andrews

Posted by June 18th, 2014

HuntingMedusa cover.jpgThis is going to sound just terrible, but as a reader, I rarely shop for books by the cover art.  When I go shopping for books, I almost always have a list of books I’ve culled from favorite authors’ websites, or recommendations from readers I trust. I can appreciate all of the lovely covers on the shelves in the store–though I will profess a bit of a bias against all the copy-cat covers on erotic romances these days–fruit and flowers?  Those do not scream “hot romance” to me.  Give me a hot, shirtless hero on the cover, whether he’s alone or with his heroine. I am, after all, a romance fanatic.

That is one big reason why the cover for my book HUNTING MEDUSA makes me so happy when I look at it. (And, okay, I might have petted it a few thousand times.) But it isn’t just the mostly-naked hunk looking all broody and dangerous. No, the talented artist who worked on my cover art managed to work a bit of the setting into the background, and there’s the heroine, defiant and still vulnerable. Plus there’s a nifty little symbol tucked into the corner that will continue throughout the trilogy, and that makes me smile. The first time I saw it absolutely thrilled me, seeing all those little touches put together after all the work I’d put into the book. Plus, seeing the cover art made the book feel even more real than everything leading up to that point. Continue reading

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The Magic of Book Cover Design with Larry Rostant

Posted by October 23rd, 2013

When I saw the cover reveal for Book Country member Kerry Schafer‘s WAKEWORLD (which comes out from Ace in January), it literally took my breath away.

WAKEWORLD book cover design

The WAKEWORLD cover is just one of many iconic book jackets designed by UK cover designer Larry Rostant, whose work also includes the well-known covers for George R.R. Martin’s books, used by Martin’s publishers around the world. He’s designed covers for every kind of book, from Romance to Literary Fiction to Science Fiction. Larry says, “My job is to get the reader to choose that book and to lift it off the shelf.” Continue reading

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Member Spotlight: Meet YA Writer Rachel Marks

Posted by August 19th, 2013

RACHEL_MARKSRachel Marks is an award-winning writer and professional artist who has been on Book Country since 2012. Her dystopian YA book about a teen assassin, GOLDEN, is currently features as an editor’s pick. It also won the winner of the CODEX novel contest. Rachel is the illustrator of the upcoming How to Draw Grimm’s Dark Tales, Fables & Folklore artist guide. On top of all that, Rachel has been voted “Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse!”.

Nevena: We really loved GOLDEN. Tell us more about the book and how you came up with the idea for it—the concept is so fascinating.

Rachel: GOLDEN has had a very long road. I started writing it during a time when I wasn’t feeling at all well physically. When I was half way through the first version of the manuscript, I was diagnosed with cancer: Large B-Cell Lymphoma. And after a whole lot of poking and scanning, and a year of chemo, I was released with a bill of health they titled “remission.” And there was GOLDEN, just sitting there. Waiting. But when I went back to it, the book didn’t feel right—Aryana, my heroine, wasn’t the same anymore, in my mind. I wasn’t the same anymore.

Continue reading

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Meet Writer Rebecca Blain

Posted by May 13th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

rjblain_theeyeofgod_author

“I like the idea of leaving behind the mundane for other worlds.”

Rebecca Blain is a fantasy writer from Montreal, Canada; she’s also a speed-reader, freelance editor, artist, and fantasy fan girl. Rebecca has been a Book Country member since we launched, and we always recommend her wonderful how-to guide for new members. We wanted to catch up with Rebecca and find about her debut novelThe Eye of God.

Nevena: Thanks for joining us, Rebecca. The Eye of God will be released in July. Congrats! Tell us more about the story.

Rebecca: Thanks for having me.

The Eye of God is the story of Terin and Blaise. Terin’s a slave in a world that’s reminiscent of ancient Rome, and Blaise is someone—something—that has been watching over the world and a few of its more interesting denizens for a long, long time. When the balance of power in the empire is shattered, it falls to the two of them to restore order before everyone close to them has their souls devoured.

Nevena: How has the novel evolved over time? What was it like working with an editor and a cover designer? (The cover is gorgeous, by the way.)

RebeccaThe Eye of God is the novel in which I really figured out how to write. “Showing versus telling” clicked for me, and I got a much better grasp of immediacy and limited third point of view. My developmental editor loved the story—the characters, the plot, and the general arcs, but it didn’t have the base writing of my other WIP, Storm without End.

My marching orders were simple: Rewrite the book from the ground up, but recapture the same plot and characters.

Working with my editor is a lot of fun. She’s a great sounding board for me, and she isn’t afraid to tell me when something just isn’t working. And, she deals very well with me when I’m bullheaded and don’t want to make changes I need to make, which is exactly what I need in an editor.

As for the cover art, this was my favorite bit of the process. I met the cover artist, Chris Howard, through one of my editorial clients. We hit it off right away, and I hired him. I told him a little about the world and about Terin, and he started sketching over his lunch break.

The sketch of the cover came back almost perfect; I asked him to change the style of shirt and make Terin’s hair a bit longer. The rest is history. A very short time later, I had cover art that I am really, really proud to have on my book.

TheEyeOfGodCover_rjblain_bc

Nevena: So you have a great team helping you! The book you’re currently working on, Songbird, is a romantic fantasy, which is a new direction for you as a writer. What’s been the most challenging part of the writing process so far?

Rebecca: Writing the female perspective. The vast majority of my books have male points of view. Writing Kara has been a huge challenge. Ranik, the main male character, comes a lot more naturally to me than Kara.

Nevena: To say that you’re a huge fantasy buff wouldn’t be an overstatement. What draws you to it?

Rebecca: I like the idea of leaving behind the mundane for other worlds, for things that make me ask questions, and that make me see a little bit of magic in our own world.

Nevena: That’s quite poetic. Are there any fantasy conventions or clichés you’d like to see disappear?

No. Even the most boring cliché can be turned to magic in the hands of a skilled writer. When I encounter a cliché in my clients’ works, I don’t tell them to remove it—I tell them to enhance it so that it becomes original to them. If they can’t do that, then they should consider cutting it out.

A cliché or convention exists because many people love the same thing. It isn’t that you use them that matters it’s how you use them.

A perfect example is Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris. I didn’t realize it included zombies until he told me when we met at World Fantasy Con. That is skill, and turning something old into something new.

Nevena: Let’s switch gears. Tell us more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Rebecca: Me? I’m boring—okay, well, maybe not. I am a natural-born punster. (You got off the hook this time.) I have a spouse and four cats. I turn thirty on the 16th, and I’m really excited about it!

As for what started me wanting to be a writer, I blame Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. The Black Gryphon nailed the coffin closed for me. Valdemar just ensured I’d never leave the Science Fiction / Fantasy section of the bookstore ever again…

Nevena: Happy birthday! You work as a freelance editor and writer. How do you manage to fit your own writing into the mix?

Rebecca: A lot of dedication, discipline, effort, and heartbreak. That, plus 12-14 hour days.

Nevena: What’s your Book Country story? How has it helped you grow as a writer?

Rebecca: I came to Book Country with one of the waves of beta fishes. I’d followed Colleen because I wanted to query her when I was ready, but then she upped and changed career paths! Still, it worked out for the better. I think Book Country has been a huge influence on me in terms of honing my writing skills.

I regret nothing!

Nevena: That’s awesome! You’ve written a couple of amazing pieces—on the forums and on your website—about how to use Book Country. What is the #1 thing you think new members should know about the peer review process?

Rebecca: Thank you!

All I can say is this: pour your heart and soul into the peer review process. Sure, your help doesn’t make your book immediately better, but it’ll help you open your eyes to your own writing with time. The more you help others with their writing, the more you will be helped. It’s true—it’s really, really true.

Let me say this again: Give your honesty, your integrity, and your professionalism to others. Pour everything you have into it. Give it your absolute all. Sure, you may not get a review out of it, or a publishing contract, or a job as an editor, or even a thank you, or some form of gratification, but you will learn. That learning will help you find the problems in your own writing.

Nevena: Amen. Is there anything else you want to share with the community?

Rebecca: Writing is hard. Don’t give up—good things happen to those who put in the effort and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and their fingers bloodied making their stories come to life.

Nevena: Thanks for chatting with me, Rebecca. Good luck with The Eye of God!

Connect with Rebecca on Book Country and follow her on Twitter at @rebeccablain. Visit her on the web at her website. Oh, and Rebecca has graciously invited everybody to help themselves to a copy of the wallpaper of The Eye of God’s cover art.

*Cover art by Chris Howard

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Collaborating to Make a Great Book Cover

Posted by December 3rd, 2011

A freelance designer advises on how to approach the make a great book cover.

“It’s your book, your baby, and you have every right to have input into what the cover looks like.”

ROOM_feature placement

Whether you’re publishing an eBook, paperback, or hardcover book – a custom cover designed specifically for your book is always your best option. So, what I’ve cobbled together here are a few guidelines for working with a cover designer, because unless you are very experienced with sophisticated image manipulation software – such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator – and have professional design experience yourself, you really need to work with someone who does. The keywords here are “work with someone.”

 

sample2

1. COVER DESIGN SHOULD BE A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT BETWEEN THE DESIGNER AND THE AUTHOR. Nobody knows your book as well as you do. In fact, it’s highly unlikely the designer will have read it or will have the time to do so. I ask my clients to fill out a questionnaire that gets us started on this collaborative process and then follow up with phone discussions and numerous email exchanges along the way. If your designer is not a collaborative type – find someone else. Period. It’s your book, your baby that you’ve sweated blood over, and you have every right to have input into what the cover looks like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deadly Voyage

2. LISTEN TO YOUR DESIGNER. Now that you’ve read #1, I must point out that you work with a designer for a reason – to help you put out an eye-catching cover that will attract buyers/readers. You may have your heart set on 72 pt. puce-colored type for the title, but if you’ve got a decent designer who says, “Uh, no…I don’t think so, and here’s why….” you need to listen. Keep an open mind.

3. BE HONEST. As an avid reader myself, few things tick me off more than buying a book based on a snazzy cover (lots of buyers/readers do this) only to discover that the cover has little or nothing to do with the content of the book. It’s dishonest and I will dump a client rather than do this.

ROOM_feature placement

4. WHAT ABOUT TYPE-ONLY COVERS? Unless your name is Tom Clancy, it probably isn’t a good idea. And even Clancy covers usually have some sort of art element on them along with the big type – a chopper, blood splatters, weapon, etc… Clancy has a huge following of slavishly loyal readers. Do you? If the answer is “No,” you need more than type on your cover. There are very rare exceptions to this rule and here is one of them – the U.S. and Canadian cover for the New York TimesBestseller ROOM by Emma Donoghue. I don’t know who designed this cover, but it’s a good job. Why is it an eye-catching exception?

a. The super-short title allows for a huge point size in the type – easily readable from a distance (for book store browsers);

b. The font chosen is an unusual, childish (HONESTY!) one and is presented in a different bright color for each letter;

c. Colorful letters against a stark white background make for high contrast that attracts the eye.

5. CHOOSING STOCK ART.  I suppose Nora Roberts might be able to command a pricey photo shoot with models of her choice (think several thousand dollars), but don’t fantasize that you’ll have the same option. Most covers are designed with stock art. Stock photography can be expensive, or it can be free (see the Deadly Voyage cover above), and everything in between. The quality can also vary wildly. Lean on your designer here. From decades of experience, I can spot a lousy photograph with limited possibilities at a glance; chances are the author can’t. Things I look for in a photo, other than whether it is context-appropriate for the book, are: sharp focus, sufficient contrast, adequate foreground and background (for placement of the title, author name, and additional art elements as needed), appropriate color, and that indefinable quality that I call JAZZ (it’s got to turn me on).

golden cover

6. YOUR COVER ART CAN – AND SHOULD – DO MORE FOR YOU.  The most wonderful book in the world (even with a terrific cover) may well remain inadequately sold and read without promotion. Successful authors learn this lesson early on and live it. Can the art elements on your cover be easily used promotionally on items such as: book trading cards, bookmarks, ads, website banners, merchandise (mouse pads, coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc…)? There is no reason why you should have to purchase additional stock art bannerWEBgoldenor promotional purposes if you’re smart about it from the start. Discuss this with your designer (hopefully your designer offers these services as well) and let her/him guide you to wise choices that can easily be re-used in marketing your book.

7. WHAT ABOUT USING A PRE-MADE COVER?  The trick to using a pre-made cover is finding one that suits your book. Not all designers offer them because they really aren’t good money-makers. I do because I have a weak spot for fledgling authors with skimpy purses. You can see my current stock of pre-made eBook covers here.  If you must go the pre-made route, look for two things: the best fit for your book; and, a designer who will insert the title and author name for you at no additional charge (the designer will have a wide selection of fonts to choose from – I have hundreds – and a good eye for the best placement, size, color, etc…).

Turquoise Sea WEBFarm Boy WEBDream Catcher WEB

 

I asked a Twitter pal of mine, Robin Bradford (aka @Tuphlos on Twitter), who is very savvy about book covers to choose a few she’s seen recently that really grabbed her attention. Robin is the Collection Development Librarian at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library and doubtless sees thousands of covers every year – so she should know! Here are her selections and insightful comments:

the watchtower (1)

“[The Watchtower cover is] a very menacing image that tells the reader a little of what they may get on the inside. It looks like a genre fantasy book, you wouldn’t open this book and expect space ships or a police procedural or a cozy mystery.  It tells you what to expect without gimmicks or tricks.  It’s a tower with some swirls and color and a bird but it looks slick and professional. You CAN do more with less!”

 

 

 

 

 

hereafter

“[The Hereafter cover] also telegraphs the story a bit; you get the ghostly angle right away. Even though it tells you, it’s still mysterious and draws the potential reader/purchaser closer.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hell

 

“[Maps of Hell is] another one that seems almost tactile. I look at this cover and it almost hurts. I don’t think the pages inside are going to be soft and fuzzy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn Charles - logo bio photoAbout Dawn

After a long career as a journalist – newspaper, magazine, and public relations – Dawn has taken the leap into creative writing. She currently has three books in the works – two novels and a cookbook. As the editor of a professional magazine for educators, she did her own design work and won numerous awards for cover design. Early in 2011, Dawn applied those skills to design eBook covers for some author friends and several web and print ads as well. Now she offers a freelance design service specifically for authors: Book Graphics. Find her on Twitter at @bridgemama, on Facebook as Book Graphics, and on Book Country as snurf.

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