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Thread: Bad Covers
August 29th, 2012, 10:49 PM #76
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I could not find the exact article regarding confusion in UK vs. America (it was an article on a UK commercial that featured a man suddenly appearing in the kitchen of an unknowing family, if anybody knows what this is from, drop me a line), Kleppner's Advertising Procedure (17th Edition) does list, as an example, that Americans like sarcasm and dark sardonic humor much more than the UK. The ethnic research in Kleppner's Advertising Procedure evidently comes from multiple agencies, though I am see Advertising Age providing the bulk of the research.
That being said, I do have in-depth considerations regarding American Non-White Hispanics, African-Americans, and other American ethnicity, should anybody want to know. The focus in these articles, however, is less on cultural tropes, however, and more on what forms of media reach these ethnic groups.
September 10th, 2012, 12:37 PM #77
I haven't studied this as it relates to cover art, but different colors, postures, and a variety of other things mean different things to different cultures. If you are going to design an image for different markets, you have to keep things in mind. That said, most of the time the different US and UK covers are because they are different publishers and therefore different designers and artists.
September 10th, 2012, 02:31 PM #78
And you ask: Is there, in fact, a laser-shooting spaceship in Agent to the Stars? And the answer is, why, no, no there is not. But apparently at some point it was decided that all my covers in Germany are required to have laser-shooting spaceships, and who am I to argue. That said, this will present a challenge if thereís ever a German edition of my next book, which I am calling Earthbound Laserphobic Pacifists. But thatís a worry for the future, I suppose.
September 11th, 2012, 08:28 PM #79
For a different angle on this topic, today I ran across thebookdesigner.com and a post from a print designer's perspective on things going wrong in thumbnail versions of ebook covers.
I think even this short tour of the Kindle store shows me that the most common mistake publishers are making is simply dumping the cover of the print books into a tiny file to use online. It’s easy to see how some of these covers could have been rescued, doing much better duty as product packaging for their authors and publishers.
Perhaps as more books move to “straight to digital” we’ll start seeing covers specifically designed for this environment. The books that seem to translate best are ones with simple shapes, typography and colors, although the ability to design these covers is not so simple.
Edit: The same site has a monthly award for e-book/indie book covers. I am fascinated.
Last edited by NicoleDreadful; September 11th, 2012 at 09:23 PM.
September 12th, 2012, 01:01 AM #80
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Thanks, Nicole. (Or should I say, Bonnie?) Excellent examples and commentary!
On one point I have to disagree: that the problem Book Designer cites is exclusive to ebook covers.
Printed book covers ALSO have to work even when reduced to small sizes. In a book store (or other places, such as at a party in someone's home) a full-size book viewed from a distance is the same visual size as the same cover digitally reduced in size viewed from a couple of feet. I can think of at least one printed book cover which captured my attention from all the way across a room and drew me to the book as if by a magnet. Many of us here can likely say the same.
BD's other statement that The books that ... translate best are ones with simple shapes, typography and colors deserves more discussion.
A complex full-size cover can have subtle colors and textures and artistic sophistication which works in large sizes close up. Yet IF PROPERLY DESIGNED when reduced by distance or digital affects appear simple, making the most important features stand out. So ebook covers need not be Bowdlerized.
Here's an example I have ready at hand. I intended it to work both in large sizes and smaller ones. (Whether I was perfectly successful is not important. What is important is the intent.)
As I hold this book in my hand I can see all sorts of subtle and (to me at least!) beautiful detail - which you cannot see fully even in this medium size, reduced so it does not take up so much Web bandwidth. My heroine's hair, for instance, is clearly not made up of separate strands. Instead it is more like a frog's foot or a plant's leaf: several flat ribbons. It brands her as an alien or monster of some kind.
Yet when you see the same cover in Amazon & B&N thumbnail size the hair looks different: mere human hair dyed green. Or is it artificial hair coloring? Is the color natural to the woman? Is she, perhaps, non-human?
Notice another detail of the thumbnail size: the title and byline text is readable, even if just barely. And, since I'm not famous, my byline is in the secondary position at the bottom of the cover. The title (hopefully intriguing) is at the most important position, the top.
This effect is known as perceptual polymorphism. Many illusions have this quality, such as these paintings which appears to be a crone or a girl, or a vase or face (foreground-background optical illusion).
And here is the same image on Amazon's Web page of my book, one step up from thumbnail size. Notice that at this level you see two additional details.
The text Shapechanger Tales identifies this as one book in a series. Also you see that her spread hands suggest menace -ambiguous menace. Are those red claws,or red blood dripping from some luckless soul who got in the way of the sea monster and her revenge?
Finally, look at the color combinations. Bright primary colors of green hair and red claws brand this ordinary if pretty girl with subtle skin textures as non-human.
(Or a Comic-Con attendee with a good cosplay costume!)
September 12th, 2012, 07:32 AM #81
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NicoleDreadful, interesting résumé you have at LikedIn. Including marine conservationist.
My Sea Monster's Revenge you might find fun, with that background. Send me a PM with an address where you can get mail and I'll send you a printed copy. Or look on Amazon or B&N under my name and get an ebook or pbook.
My main character is a were-seamonster, a sort of feminine version of Creature From the Black Lagoon. Undersea scenes play a big part in the story. So do dolphins and dolphin society. Who call her (their version of) Shark Killer, because she is the most fearsome creature in the sea and has a taste for raw shark.
My Sylvia Canaro is a marine biologist, who in her sea monster form can talk to dolphins. At one point (with the help of an engineer friend) she creates a dolphin translator so that ordinary humans can converse with them.
Which brings us back to covers. I spent an enormous time trying to craft her sea monster form true to its description in the book. In the end I gave up and used a human form with green hair and red claws. And facing away so that readers could not see her eyes and fangs, thus avoiding drawing them.
This image below is a movie poster image. It has the same need to be intriguing from a distance and close up.
September 21st, 2012, 01:27 AM #82
Thanks for the offer. I'm trying to cut down on physical books, but I will put yours on my to-eread list.
Although I work in the field of marine conservation, I've always been a translator, rather than a scientific researcher. I do the social media, write and design brochures and tell restoration biologists that we're not going to use phrases like "a high volume of gravel sediment aggraded the stream". I also tell the policy wonks that a powerpoint presentation cannot have a full paragraph of text on a slide, not can it be only graphs. A lot of (science) communication ends up being visual - we can use the graph if it's easily interpretable - which leads to my interest in this thread and the ways that book covers communicate, or don't.
Another place I've found that looks specifically at covers that do not work, and provides some discussion of why, is the blog "Why Isn't My Book Selling".
September 26th, 2012, 02:58 PM #83
They say never to judge a book by its cover. While true, I can't help but think the author was lazy when I see one of the many horrible book covers.
And I don't like corny images of the characters, it's pretty much just saying not to take that book out in public. Also it takes away from imagining what they look like through the descriptions given. Many books I've read and thought of such inspiration characters, but when I see the book printed with another cover, that consists of the characters drawn poorly, it's kind of uninspiring and hard to shake out of your head.
September 26th, 2012, 04:11 PM #84
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A good example of what you are talking about, Yjar, can be seen in Roger Zelazny's "Chronicles of Amber," which has multiple renditions of the series' protagonist Corwin
Two of the official artworks I cannot seem to take seriously. The smaller cover, with the red letters, came to define what I thought Corwin should look like and he's been that way in my mind ever since.
Unlike others, I really like to know what my characters look like. That is the one thing I dislike about Piers' Anthony's work, I wish he'd describe his characters. But then again, I'm obsessed with characters.