Bad Covers

Discussion in 'Writing' started by kmtolan, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    kshRox -- LOL, the point was that publishers use the color green in book covers on a regular basis and it's not discreetly hidden either. So I don't know where the rumor that they hated green got started, but it's incorrect. Anything someone tells you that all editors want or don't want or all agents or all publishers -- unless it's talking about a readable ms. that doesn't have a lot of typos, it is automatically incorrect. You can just toss it out right there.

    As for covers, artwork does vary a lot in cost. But if you have someone in your family who uses PowerPoint all the time, you might be able to come up with something more cheaply. Just be careful about using graphics that you can buy or are free for use and then use as you please, and be even more careful with stock photos and the credit owners therein.
     
  2. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    You can shop around on guru.com for an artist and / or graphic design company. Australia is on the expensive side. China, India, and France are more affordable.

    You can get good art for $400 to $500.

    A company I worked with over the Internet in France has a great portfolio of science fiction book covers they have done for publishers around the world.

    Obviously, the bigger the budget, the better the work they will deliver.
     
  3. Laer Carroll

    Laer Carroll LaerCarroll.com

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    For a group of people who are interested in writing, many of the posts in this thread and lots of others in this forum are strangely feeble!

    So what if you like or don't like a cover, or a book, or whatever? Your opinion is worthless if you don't give at least a short reason or two why so that the rest of us can understand and benefit from your judgment.

    [​IMG]

    Practicing what I'm preaching: Nila's (tmso's) cover above. I think parts of it work well, others less so.

    The good first. The title is large enough to read from a distance if it was a book cover, or on a Web page if it's being sold online. Súria has an exotic appeal (at least to me) and piques my curiosity. Normally I dislike ornate fonts, but this variation of a capital S (or so I read it) reinforces the exotic feel.

    If you'd make your name larger this would help to establishing you as a brand that I'd remember. I suggest you ditch the initials. Nila White is a terrific name for an author, short and memorable in its combination of the ordinary with the unusual. N. E. White is forgettable.

    If you are going to use a short story in this size font you might want to place it under the title. This would leave your name all by itself, drawing more attention to it. Ditch the by. It's unneeded. Worse, it takes up visual space more useful for your graphic.

    Speaking of which, the image shows too little detail at this size (123 x 200 pixels), not even a mysteriously vague ghostly presence of some kind in a fog hiding (perhaps) dire threat. Amazon uses a 300x300 pixel image on each book's Web page. Show me an image of this size and I might see enough detail to become interested.

    The image would not be important if your name was famous, or if the title had some strong emotional impact, but until you do become famous the image (or title) must carry more emotional or meaningful impact.

    Finally, I want to repeat a point I made earlier. The artistic and technical quality can be absolutely wonderful, but it means NOTHING if the overall design of a cover does not intrigue and inform readers.
    .
    .
    .​
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012
  4. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    Before we walked, we learned to crawl.

    Understand, besides the size of the publisher, this is a business.

    Especially in the case of a large publisher, a high profile writer will be paired up with a high profilefantasy book cover illustrator.

    Martin Caidin got paired up with Boris because Cyborg was already adopted for the TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man.

    Projected sales for the novel warranted an illustrator of the caliber of Boris.

    Good writing also needs a good publicity machine, besides the cover.

    But here, the focus is on good writing.
     
  5. MrBF1V3

    MrBF1V3 aka. Stephen B5 Jones

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    My point exactly, I never believed the green thing.

    At this point I cannot afford Boris, but it's a good idea to find/produce/buy the best cover we can get for what we have published. If a publishing company will do that for us, all the better. (if they do it right.)

    I do have an artistic bent, I know a good website for public domain pictures, occasionally I get by with a little help from my friends (thanks virangelus, and others with opinions.) But I don't think anything I have would be mistaken for something a big publisher would have produced.

    Ms. White, I find myself agreeing with Mr. Carroll about your cover. Interesting picture, nice color palate. The title is good, and somewhat intriguing. Your name and the subtitles could be better. --I'd love to see a full sized picture.

    B5

    Um... We have a -focus- here?
     
  6. Laer Carroll

    Laer Carroll LaerCarroll.com

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    Steve (B5), we're giving "big publishers" too much credit. If you spend some time in the bookstore looking at covers, you'll find that even the biggest often have terrible or at least mediocre covers. And sometimes the smaller publishers have great covers.

    It depends as much on the art director as on the artists s/he hires to do the job. Sometimes the director has several jobs to do and too little time to do them all, and art direction is only one of those - especially since the latest rounds of budget tightening. Sometimes the director has terrific artistic sense, but doesn't realize that cover design is about the whole picture (so to speak!) as well - font design and layout, avoiding cover styles that have become over-used, etc.

    If you're self-publishing, one way to get a cover is to approach a local school of art & design. Sometimes you'll find enormously talented students to do the job for you. Who may have had a number of courses in commercial art, including cover creation. Be ready to pay them what they are worth, not just starving-student wages.

    A niece of one of my friends is just such super-talented and smart artist. When she graduated she had a dozen companies head-hunting her, and she took a job at one of the premier animation companies, passing up a higher-paid job with a large advertising agency because animation is her love.
     
  7. A. Lynn

    A. Lynn Was: "Virangelus"

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    Good morning from the Mountain Time Zone, KatG

    I'm the starter of the "green" rumor mill, but to be precise, it's very specific uses of green. The green I was presented (when I started the alleged "rumor" as you call it) I felt in my trained opinion, would have been doldrum, and boring. It would NOT have caught anybody's eye, and even if it had caught someone's eye, it would have said "I'm a nature book, not a fantasy book." So let's keep my rumor's birth in context. :p Also, I used this exact language when speaking to this person about any of my advice.
    So I did not say it's a hard fast "rule."

    Here's the exact entry/history of why I said what I did. Please see the excerpt from Jame Gurney's "Color and Light," page 82, section "Elements of Color." (Note: I'm going to try to keep it to the point, but if you want to read the whole section, look for the book on Google Books or just buy yourself a copy. James Gurney, author and artist of Dinotopia, is an excellent artist and teacher)

    For all of you do-it-yourself cover-makers, here is how James Gurney recommends for you to "handle" green in your covers.
    • You can banish green pigments from the palette and mix them from various blues and yellows. The resulting mixtures will be weaker and more varied, both qualities that you want.
    • Avoid monotony. Vary your mixtures of greens at both the small scale (leaf to leaf) and the large scale (tree to tree).
    • Mix up a supply of pink or reddish gray on your palette and weave it in and out of the greens. Painter Stapleton Kearns calls this method "smuggling reds."
    • Prime the canveas with pinks or reds, so that they show through here and there to enliven the greens.
    • This one is added by me: feature either some extreme action on your green cover, OR feature some extremely mysterious elements, such as a green fog or glowing toxic waste.

    So here comes the fun part, KatG. Let's re-examine your green colors with the above training in mind. How many times did the very talented cover artists (or maybe not so talented cover artists) smuggle the reds? The first cover you introduced has mysteriously green fogs, and used a red-base for the greens. Also, it dangled red apples in front of the viewer, which is the complimentary color to green (in other words, the two colors set each other off and "vibrate," thus beckoning the viewer to see it). Let's go through the list, I believe someone already noted that a couple of the green colors you introduced were, in fact, boring.

    Furthermore, all of this serves to reinforce the same message to the self-published, DIY artists/writers out there:

    DO NOT HIRE YOUR THIRTEEN YEAR OLD PIMPLE-FACED COUSIN TO PUT YOUR COVER TOGETHER IN PHOTOSHOP/PAINT/DRAW/GIMP.

    (please note: the below portion is addressed to all SFF people, not just KatG)
    We trained Graphic Artists/Animation Artists/Artists in general have been fed very important information that you, the layman, may or may not be aware of. A lot of this is not common-everyday knowledge, unless you're like me and you obsess and train and focus on colors, and because you make a living in Advertising Graphic and Design (which I do, and continue to train and hone my skills in).

    So KatG, I hope I've helped set aside your worries that I'm some babbling fool starting so-called "rumors" (which, I'm not, and I didn't. :p I just told this person that if they are going to make their own cover, avoid green. I also told them the particular snapshot of green they are using, is not very eye catching.).
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2012
  8. A. Lynn

    A. Lynn Was: "Virangelus"

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    Hey, BF, I think I presented very good reasons for not using the cover you introduced :p Thank you. But to each his own of course, it's still a highly subjective and holistic area in the end. Design is not "math." (Unless you're using a Grid and the Golden Ratio)
     
  9. MrBF1V3

    MrBF1V3 aka. Stephen B5 Jones

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    I was in no way dissing you, and of all the reasons for not using some of the covers I've contrived, the color would not be the first one. I was offering an example of what happens when an off-hand comment or more detailed guideline is somehow elevated to inviolable law. As KatG has shown, there are good covers which contain green, even if there are people who don't like them.

    A lot of it is the anxiety thing some of us writers have. We somehow think if we use the right font, the perfect form, have a cover letter that fits into the exact perimeters, if we have a great hook that pulls in even the most skeptical of writers, if we submit at the proper time of day when the moon is in the last quarter on the third Thursday of the month, with a cover that clicks all the boxes, that publication and best seller status is a lock.

    You know more about it than I do, and your opinion is extremely valuable.

    Have I backed down enough?

    B5
     
  10. A. Lynn

    A. Lynn Was: "Virangelus"

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    ^^ Yeah I see what you mean, my apologies. Good ol' text reduces 75% communication, and I do need to remember that.

    Yeah, again, people what a mathematical formula, or so it seems to me. They want the assurance that 4+4 always equals 8, but this industry is too holistic. Everything is a case by case basis, right?

    Though I do know one tip that is always true: Never write in fully caps-locked cursive characters, it's HORRIBLE! I think that's the only irrefutable rule. Try it: you'll see what I mean!
     
  11. Window Bar

    Window Bar We Read for Light

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    Back to the green-cover thing: All colors carry certain emotions, and we experience the emotions at a profound level. To me, at least, green has two meanings:

    1) The color of healthy nature. The first of the covers that KatG posted, above, has a forest-cum-elf-huntress look to it, therefore the cover is quite fetching, at least to those who go in for that sort of fantasy. As I mentioned in my previous post, I find the cover compelling.

    2) The pallor of illness, even death. Almost the polar opposite of #1, a greenish tinge to an otherwise-beautiful face might, at a subconscious level, dissuade us from wanting to move too close, just as we avoid the proximity of coughing and sneezing passengers on the train.

    These are opinions of course, and I have no figures to back them up. I would, however, trust the figures that have been compiled by market researchers... then I would make up my own mind regarding when they apply and when they do not. When I was working on the cover of S.T., I tried again and again to give a greenish shade to the photo of the cover model. In every rendition (out of about a dozen), she looked sick, so I moved on.

    ***************

    (As a tangential thought, there is solid research to suggest that in the world of athletics, red-uniformed teams win more games than those wearing other colors. What is the psychology at work here? Does the blood color spur us to superior effort? Or is it simply that red is so easy to see that one is more aware of one's teammates?)

    -- WB
     
  12. A. Lynn

    A. Lynn Was: "Virangelus"

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    That sounds like a fun challenge Window! I understand you're probably through with the project, but I'd like to see if I could try to render your cover with green whilst still retaining a type of liveliness to it.

    Just for practice of course: Could you send me the materials?
     
  13. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    The rumor that was presented was not that artists find it hard to use green. It was that publishers hate green, have banished it and artists have to sneak it in to not upset the publishers. Which is not correct. I've never heard in over twenty years in the business the saying that "green covers don't sell." If I had to guess, I'd suspect that it comes from the comics industry, not book publishing and that it is a really, really old saying that has long been discarded. Green is a very popular color in non-fiction covers, especially obviously the environmental books. In fiction, green shows up frequently. It is popular for horror -- because of that biliousness of certain shades of green. It's very good for light or fog effect, in part because it's not as luminous as non-dark blues and spookier because we associate it with mold and moss. It's popular in fantasy covers because they are often doing trees. Do the greens come in different underlying tints of red, blue, yellow primary colors? Since green is made up of blue and yellow, I would assume so. Green jewels pop up along with red and blue ones on covers. Green tints on the darker side are sometimes used for shadows, though purple is obviously better.

    But the point was, green has not been banned from book covers by publishers nor must be carefully hidden therefore. That's a whole different kettle of fish from saying that green is a tricky color to use so if you're trying to make a simple book cover, you might want to go with more primary shades, etc. My objection was to the statement about the publishing industry, not the artistic value of green.

    As for making book covers, obviously having a professional artist do one is going to be better. (Although I have been involved in some battles for authors over horrendous covers designed by book art departments and artists over the years.) But a professional artist is expensive. Not outrageously so for the work, but nonetheless, a sizable cost for a good one, even if it's graphic art with models or photos rather than a painting. And most of the people who are self-pubbing, putting an e-book for sale on Amazon and a few sites, can't afford it. They can't even afford to hire an art student who might do it cheaper. The pimply teenagers are doing some rather amazing things with art, so if you've got one who can come up with something, it therefore may be better than trying to do it yourself. And if you really feel at a loss, there are thousands of book covers that have no actual art. You could just do colors and fonts, or get a stock, public domain photo/image of a sword or something and stick it in with a good background color and fonts again. That can still be a good cover. Although virangelus recommends not using green, apparently.

    Some more famous cover greens (and Virangelus will tell us the tints!):

    [​IMG]

    Wait, I got that one! It's yellow! And a green cover for a bestselling novel that's been in print for thirty years.

    [​IMG]

    I see red! And a green cover for a bestselling novel in a bestselling series.

    So green is not banned from book covers, but may if you are doing one yourself, turn on you viciously, like a lizard. We all got that? Good. Now listen to all the interesting things virangelus has to say about graphic arts.
     
  14. A. Lynn

    A. Lynn Was: "Virangelus"

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    Note: Wow, your warning in the other thread made me think this was going to be worse. Maybe you went easy on me :p ?

    Anyhow: I LOVE Graphic Arts (thus I have a degree in it). Ask Virangelus about colors ANYTIME. Because I'm so obsessive with color (that's right, obsessive) I'm going to present a mini-lesson here.

    For the purposes of further illustrating my example of "smuggling the reds," I will be including the RGB codes to the greens as featured on "Moonheart." This is not really a best-recommended practice for measuring color, but it should work for our purposes here. First though, think back to the last time you picked up a gallon of paint at the hardware store. Did you watch the machine put the color in? I picked up would be "moss green" once (ironically enough) and the machine was squirting tan, yellow, red, and other bizarre colors into this would be "green" drum that sure enough, came out green somehow.

    [​IMG]

    There are tints in these greens. There is a lot of yellow and lime than true green, which if we check against the AMAZING James Gurney, DING DING DING - is a winner on eye sensitivity, and yellow-green in fact is one of colors we are most sensitive to (though color fans, keep in mind, too much yellow irritates people, badly , they have science showing yellow kitchens induce arguments, evidently). The other cover, Throne of Jade, has a LOT of green but you can see that the background has quite a bit of yellow in it.

    Green works REALLY well when you add a fluorescent color to it. Especially in airbrushing, fellow artists. I can't tell you how handy fluorescent orange has sneaked up in my work, alongside Cyan, which is in MANY more things than I ever thought possible.

    Now here is where I suppose the game of telephone comes in.

    "Smuggling the Reds." That concept may be where things got confusing. You have to smuggle red hues, or at the least yellow hues, INTO the color pigments just as the two fine covers you presented did. They are NOT pure, raw, undeniably green. Now perhaps where I should have been more clear myself is that when I said you have to "sneak the greens in" etc, and "sneak the reds in," I always make the mistake that I'm talking to fellow Creative Media personnel and that's just me being a bonehead. I can now easily see where that could have been misinterpreted.

    So my bad.

    Send me more covers, send me YOUR covers. I'll break it down :)

    Oh, and FYI KatG: Some of my favorite covers do not feature graphics at all! Neil Stephenson's "Reamde" has to be one of my all-time favorites! So clever! (Though artist: keep in mind, he can afford to have a giant name on his cover, kay? He's Neil Stephenson. Use your name with care. Heck, use your giant fonts with care).
     
  15. RedMage

    RedMage There is no tomorrow

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    How about The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams? There is a post of the cover from Loerwyn on page 35 of the Positivity Cover Art Thread in the Fantasy/Horror forum.

    Also, will you just break down green covers or are there other colors that are similar which you could break down for us, just for comparisons sake?

    EDIT: there is also A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham which is a green cover.

    Sorry, not posting an actual picture of the covers as I don't have them.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2012
  16. NicoleDreadful

    NicoleDreadful learning as fast as I can

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    What a fascinating conversation!
    I dabble in graphic design, but have not gotten to the point of immersion in color theory... I hope you will continue to share your thoughts!

    (The one graphic design rule I've picked up is 'avoid Papyrus'.)
     
  17. N. E. White

    N. E. White tmso Staff Member

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    Wow - Vir. You are awesome. (And hired, I'll PM you this weekend.)

    And thanks Lear and B5 for your feedback on my cover. I'll keep that all in mind for the next one. :)
     
  18. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    I cannot read the tiny print, but I'm sure that it is lovely. If I might make a suggestion, since we've rather derailed Kerry's thread, people making their own covers use red and black a lot. Talk about those maybe.
     
  19. kmtolan

    kmtolan KMTolan

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    official permission given

    derail away

    Kerry
     
  20. Taramoc

    Taramoc Author and Game Designer

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    A bit late at the party, but I enjoyed the whole thread and I'm looking forward to more Viranalysis.

    About bad cover, for me a dead giveaway is the choice and use of the fonts. Typically, if you get rid of the text and your cover looks better, you are doing something wrong. I checked out Wings website, and together with the covers hacked together as in Kerry's example, they have some nice ones, with professional looking drawings (I'm looking at the ones in the middle row of the main page). Except for the fonts. The use of the text is invariably terrible, and screams amateurish.

    Just having a real designer fix their text would go a long way...

    Taramoc