Bad Covers

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

  1. Laer Carroll

    Laer Carroll LaerCarroll.com

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    Here are my two contributions to the Green Discussion: a book and a short story on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I tried to create a cover which would complement the title. Also all of the Shapechanger Tales covers have a similar design to increase recognition of them as going together.

    [​IMG]__[​IMG]

    The background images are digital photos I took in Ireland when I spent two weeks there and a week in London double-checking research I'd done on locations in several of my books.

    The "ghost" or "demon" in the short story cover is actually a NASA image of the south polar icecap, stretched vertically.

    When I begin putting up my YA books I'll want a similar commonality among all of them. Here's an image I'll use to as inspiration for those covers. Notice the red and pink color palette.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Laer Carroll

    Laer Carroll LaerCarroll.com

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    If you're a do-it-yourselfer it's a good idea to use software that lets you be very flexible. I chose to spend $70 for Photoshop Express, the consumer version of the professional Photoshop CSS which costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars (depending on the specific version).

    A big consideration was the documentation. Since PsE is sold in the many thousands, there are several dozen texts for it. Many of them are in public libraries. Much of them are written very clearly and organized so you can find just what you want without reading the entire manual. I purchased two for $45 total so I could have them all the time, and could highlight sections and tape post-it notes on pages I'd need to consult often.

    If you get a free software package which does the important parts of PsE make sure the manuals are also very clear. There're few things more worse than owning an Indy500 racer and not even knowing how to start the engine! In my case, when my photo of a place in Ireland turned out to have a sky that was too light it took just a few minutes to find how to fix it, step by step and with clear screenshots.

    That was the case in the photo above for "Sea Monster's Revenge." I created a "neutral density filter" layer which overlay the bayside photo and gradually darkened the sky from about mid-photo.

    Layers are an essential feature of any Photoshop-type software. In "Revenge" I had separate layers for the title, subtitle, and author text. This meant I could slide them around the cover independently of each other and quickly position them. I could also change fonts, font sizes, and font colors independently and see instantly if I liked the result.

    I also had layers for the figure, the background, and the filter. And finally a second filter layer for my were-seamonster's feet so my author byline would stand out from the water in which she is standing.

    If that sounds like a lot of work, it was, though not as much as you might think. A talented art student with solid commercial courses behind her could have done the same. But it would cost. Worse, you might have to consult her a dozen or two times to get what suited your cover, with delays between each. And if a year down the line I needed to make cover changes I could do so because I own the photoshop files and software and know how to make the changes.
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    .​
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2012
  3. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    If you self publish, you need Photoshop Elements, Microsoft Office (with Word of course, but Ecel makes a great tool for the business end), and Quark Xpress to work with printers. Also, a full version of Adobe Acrobat to turn any type of image, scanned image, or document into a pdf or ebook is advisable.

    Quark will make your manuscript and book contents "camera ready" with crop marks and in a native format all printers use.
     
  4. goldhawk

    goldhawk aurea plectro

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    Or you can use GIMP, LibreOffice, and Scribus for it, which are all free. :)
     
  5. Window Bar

    Window Bar We Read for Light

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    You are ever the gentlemen, V.

    The cover was prepared three years ago, and the components, though probably still in existence, are alive in file archives that would take some time to dig through. Also, after deciding that a greenish skin (at least as my unpracticed hand could render it) served my cover poorly, I changed the wording within the book so that the green tone is no longer relevant.

    I therefore decline your kind offer, but not out of negativity I simply don't care to put either you or me through our paces in an unproductive fashion.

    That much said, I'll certainly peruse your work, and I may call on you in the future.

    Thanks, and take care -- WB
     
  6. Modern Day Myth

    Modern Day Myth Registered User

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    In regards to book covers, I'd like to share a story.

    I attended an ASJA Conference one year and attended a seminar by a self publisher whose book got picked up and reprinted by Random House.

    The whole book looked home made right down to the cover art and design. And yet, it sold copies. The book covered a nitch market for something to do with mothers with school children.

    Random House put their resources behind the reprinting to bring the book up to their standards. Big difference from the self published version to the Random House version.

    That is evidence the contents of a book is more important than the cover.
     
  7. Taramoc

    Taramoc Author and Game Designer

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    I don't think that anybody in this thread questioned that the content of a book is more important than the cover. That's kind of obvious.

    The cover of a book is a factor, though, in deciding if to buy a book by an author you don't know. And a professional looking cover, with an interesting concept, will attract my attention every time over a one not as good. To prove this, I have a little story too.

    I stopped reading fantasy in the early nineties, bored by the endless plots about an apparently defenceless main character rising to conquer the world/kill the dark lord with the help of a diverse group of allies (before someone tells me that there were other types of fantasy novels back then, I know, but I got tired to look for the few that didn't use that plot).

    Then in the early 2000s I was in a book store and saw the paperback of the first book of Scott Bakker "The Darkness that came before", drastically different from the other books, typically showing muscular heroes in a fantasy settings. It piqued my curiosity, I read the back blurb and found out with delight that it was more interesting.

    I bought it and after Bakker, I discovered Erikson, Martin, etc. and all the other author that took Fantasy in a different directions in the 10+ years I refused to read it.

    As an aside, I found SFFworld.com thanks to the Acknowledgements by Bakker in the same book :)
     
  8. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Aw come on, be nice to me, I had a hard day. It's my favorite spiel! :) As in, you self-selected books with that plot and then got tired of them. I read dozens and dozens of books that didn't have that plot. They weren't few at all. (Which reminds me, my daughter wants me to find my Tim Powers books for her to read.)

    Also, Kelhus totally conquered the world with a diverse group of allies. So you're still self-selecting the same plot! (But Bakker's books are weird and good and an amazing balancing act, in my view, even if he uses the same plot.)
     
  9. Taramoc

    Taramoc Author and Game Designer

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    Well, let me qualify a bit. At the time I was a broke student in Italy, so my options were whatever was translated and in paperback, since I couldn't afford hard covers, and the books with that storyline was pretty much what I could find (with the exception of Terry Pratchett, but I've never been a fan of comedic fantasy). Probably the Italian publishers playing it safe.

    As per Kellus, he's hardly ever defenseless (except maybe when he deals with the Scilvendi, but he chooses to be so), and it conquers the world piggybacking on a holy war started by someone else. Also, he conquers it despise of his allies, as they detach themselves from him as they discover his true nature, not with them.

    But my main point is that I was attracted by the cover, which brought me to read the back blurb:

    "Two thousand years have passed sinceMog-Pharau, the No-God, last walked among Men. Two thousand years have passed since the Apocalypse.
    In a world wrenched by holy war and devastation, a sorcerer, a concubine, and a warrior find themselves captivated by a mysterious traveller from lands long thought dead, a man who makes weapons of insight and revelation. Unable to distinguish the passion that elevates from the passion that enslaves, they fall ever deeper under his thrall, while what begins as a war of Men against Men threatens to become the first battle of the Second Apocalypse.
    With this stunning debut, R. Scott Bakker is destined to become the next great fantasy writer of his generation. Set in a world of unparalleled detail and authenticity, populated by truly unforgettable characters, and framed by a profound understanding of the human condition, The Darkness That Comes Before proves that epic fantasy can be at once majestic, intelligent, and terrifying."

    Maybe if you peel enough, you get elements of the basic story I mentioned, but there's so much more than that. So I bought it and now here I am, loving fantasy again to the point that I wrote a massive novel inspired by Bakker and his contemporaries.

    Having said that, I always like reading your spiels, KatG, so go ahead. I always feel like I'm learning from them something new about this maddening industry ;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
  10. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    No, no, spiel withdrawn. Special circumstances applied.

    Back to covers -- I think purple actually causes more problems for book covers than green if it's more than an accent color or shading. Purples are rich colors that tend to overwhelm other colors, but also can sink into the background, and are not one of the main nature colors like brown, black, green, gray and blue. Purple is less likely to be the main theme of bookcover art. However, it is used a fair amount in horror, for night stuff and some other covers like this one:

    [​IMG]

    If an author has a series and they vary the background colors for each volume in the series, inevitably there will be a purple one, also, usually.
     
  11. NicoleDreadful

    NicoleDreadful learning as fast as I can

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    Here's what I was playing with today for a book cover image. I share it because I happened to use purple...
    [​IMG]

    and because I thought all y'all might be interested in seeing the same image green-tinted
    [​IMG]

    ...although this may not be the best example to use, since the main hues present in the photo are yellow-reds and purples, shown over saturated here

    [​IMG]

    The original image is from Flickr user Ceclia Chamizo under a creative commons license.
     
  12. Laer Carroll

    Laer Carroll LaerCarroll.com

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    How many of you are creating covers for self-publishing an ebook. For self-pubbing a print-on-demand book? In other words, is this thread more than just an interesting topic? Are you trying to get help for a real situation?

    If so, tell us about it, and specify ebook, "pbook" or both. (Print and electronic publishing offer slightly different challenges.)
     
  13. Sarunus

    Sarunus Registered User

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    Heh, I stepped away for a month and we've got another cover thread. This one is a bit more interesting, given the focus on technical details.

    The point remains the same as what was said in previous threads I've seen. Do-it-yourself at your own risk. People do judge books by their covers and an amateurish looking cover is simply going to turn off potential buyers.

    When it comes to hues and palettes, I tend to not be overly concerned with whether or not a certain color is going to sell. Right or wrong, I'm looking for a compelling image that provides that quick snapshot as to the quality and content between the covers. I've got green in mind for the sequel to my prequel (heh :rolleyes:). It will involve a forest, so it will be going into the natural look and have a realistic photo thing going on.

    Again, I've gotten some decent feedback on my covers, but even then I'm not sold yet on do-it-yourself. I find it a fun exercise for now that helps to inspire me. As for what I'll do when it comes time to really market the book I recently finished, I'm up in the air.

    YMMV
     
  14. NicoleDreadful

    NicoleDreadful learning as fast as I can

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    I'm not published yet, but because I have some small graphic design skill, and familiarity with the fancy pants Adobe Creative Suite programs, I am intending to create my own covers for ebook self publishing.

    Graphic design is different than drawing though... I am keeping an eye out on etsy, deviantart, etc for artists whose work I like, and am hoping to have enough cash to commission cover illustrations, to which I would add the text.

    I do see quite a few websites of designers offering to make covers for self-pubbed books, and I'm toying with the idea of offering myself up that way.

    Edit: Because of previous discussion about the pitfalls of amateurish attempts, I hope I would have the good sense to ask for assistance if I didn't have the design experience, but I do understand the siren song of "I can do it all myself!"
     
  15. dlawrence

    dlawrence New Member

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    cover designs

    Lots of interesting points made here. I have a long standing love of art, as well as enjoying reading and, more recently, penning my own stories. So the cover art of a book has always been part of the sheer pleasure of owning a quality book. Those Conan stories that got me into the fantasy books way back when I was 14 are a case in point: I not only thoroughly enjoyed the stories, but Frank Frazetta's cover art was just wonderful. It made such an impression on me that I rendered huge versions of them on my bedroom walls with acrylics!

    The cover art is just as important for Kindles and epubs. One of the biggest challenges is creating something that looks pretty ok when vastly reduced for thumbnails...the text is tricky! I spent long hours on the cover of my magazine, trying to create something meaningful to the content and high impact. I can see how it could be quite expensive having a pro design and build your cover...it takes ages! But its an area not to skimp on. The cover is the welcome through the door, best make it inviting.

    Here is my end result, done in adobe fireworks. The actual one used for Kindle was modified to include more info.

    [​IMG]
     
  16. N. E. White

    N. E. White tmso Staff Member

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    That is stunning. I like the fire-pheonix thing, but I'm not completely fan on the title font. I like it, but not sure about it. The model (looking straight at us) is hard to ignore.
     
  17. dlawrence

    dlawrence New Member

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    cover design

    Thanks for the comments tmso :)

    The girl is based upon a character in my story 'Ravenwood', she has taken on an enchantment that gives her certain powers, and that bound her to an ancient forest in a kind of spiritual connection. I named her 'Brenna', which has Gailllic roots and means 'little raven'.

    I uploaded computer desktop wallpapers of the dragon symbol, maybe you would like to pin one up for a bit, it doesn't include the text...

    Mythica Wallpapers
     
  18. A. Lynn

    A. Lynn Was: "Virangelus"

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    Again, where is the "Like" button, vBulletin???

    Anyhow, yes, yes, and more yes. ANY Marketing/Graphic Designer (well, any honest one I should say) will tell you that the first lesson in Marketing is having a worthwhile product. You can and must build a better mousetrap along the way. That is definitely a tenant of Seth Godin, my favorite madman/er... Marketer.

    (Special Note for below: Last time I brought up Meyers, it caused a flame war and devolved the IQ on this board. So if you cannot see Meyer's name without losing your mind, just skip below. I'm bringing it up only as a case-study, despite the fact that I'm not a fan.)

    That being said, let's not ignore the powers of what hype marketing and design can do. I still ponder if a good core marketing/design aspect behind the "Twilight" series was a part of the series undeniable success as a money-maker. Whether you like the prose or not, you cannot deny that the series has a recognizable font and minimalist trend across the covers. Of course, I also lay odds that Meyer road on the success of J.K. Rowling's work, which had quite a hefty hand it putting books in the "trendy" limelight. One more thing to note in terms of Meyer's success (last one) is the fact that women between ages 13-27 are the biggest buying power in the U.S. right now (sorry, I do not have stats on Europe+) and this trend has even helped build up marketing agencies that specialize ONLY in marketing to women of those ages.

    But I digress, back to the covers;
     
  19. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    The Meyers covers were gorgeous. It was very effective in YA because all black backgrounds are rarer in YA. And then you had the apple image. And it's an example of something simple that people can do for cover art -- the image doesn't have to be elaborate.

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Laer Carroll

    Laer Carroll LaerCarroll.com

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    But they do have interest us. And from the very first they did. Each is symbolic and puzzling. At least to me. I looked at the example you included for the longest time when I first saw it.

    [​IMG]

    It shows a girl's and a boy's hand, together holding an apple as if offering it. To whom are they offering? And what? "Forbidden fruit" came to mind. But exactly what fruit? Her blood? His love? Something else?

    So I turned to the blurbs. They were enough to get me to read the first page or two. Then I had to get the book. Though I did that by going to the library rather than buying the book!
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    Last edited: Aug 26, 2012