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Thread: Bad Covers
August 26th, 2012, 08:23 AM #61
*Blinks* They look like a pair of hands to me, not a boy's hand and a girl's hand. The skin texture and colour is too similar for them to be different, and the thumbs have very similar nail shapes.
August 26th, 2012, 03:39 PM #62
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DOUBLE BLINK. I still see the image as two different hands. No amount of argument and measuring with rulers and micrometers will convince me. I SEE two different hands.
Which brings up a useful point, far more important than who is right or wrong. Ambiguity is a useful tool for the image creator. If you can create a cover that puzzles people, and better yet covers about which they will argue, your cover is more likely to get them to investigate and maybe buy the book.
So a photographically accurate and convincing image may not be the best one to select for your cover. Something unusual, something symbolic, may be more effective.
Depending on the book, of course. A fan of action-adventure books might be turned off by a symbolic cover.
August 26th, 2012, 11:04 PM #63
First off, Red, colors are like young children. Each one has it's own unique personality, and it's unique joys and quirks.
Second off, Dragonbone Chair
This time I kept the font on the boards (so everybody can happily read). As you can see from the posterized image at right, there are more warm colors in the image then meets the eye (just a reminder, warm colors are red, orange, yellow; cool colors are blue, green, purple, and these tend to "recede").
- In this image, there is a little bit of "true" green, but it is outnumbered by a mix of yellows. These yellows help it "pop."
- The yellow mixed in to the various shades of green (resulting in a somewhat olive green here or there) keeps it from being boring.
- Keep in mind: this image cuts on action. There is a remorseful look to this person's face, a sort of longing forged in despair. If you use green, try to show something action-filled because this will make things interesting(but again, be weary of what this says about your story, and consider how it will compete against others)
- (Subnote to the above: If you remember what KatG posted earlier featuring the woman and the apples, she was standing in a somewhat action filled pose.)
- The character in the center is also thrown in as the focus of the image because he is wearing orange, which helps us focus on him. Orange is the most aggressive color in the image, even next to the yellow, which is somewhat pale.
- This same color of orange is used in Tad Williams name. This is a very clever, and great way to show off the author's name, without the name being too different than the rest of the image
Here are some more tips to consider (though these are unrelated to the Dragonbone Chair image)
- Cutting close to people's face is incredibly endearing. In movie-making, the headshot cut is often known as the "payoff moment." So many movies are truly "made" because of the expressions that an actor creates.
- Female faces are generally accepted as the more "pleasing" face between genders (I've got a source cited around here somewhere....) So yes, feel free to cut close to ladies faces and feel that it is a confident move.
August 26th, 2012, 11:36 PM #64
Given so much versatility in red, it is no wonder that people feel drawn to use it for their own self-publishing venues.
That being said, I do not recommend "cloning" your cover off of current trends. This sentiment is coming from the fact that I am seeing some covers that seem strangely reminiscent to The Hunger Games, but I do not have any examples handy.
Depending on the red shade you are using, red is a very comforting color. We expect humans to have a somewhat ruddy complexion, otherwise they look sick or alien (see green conversations above )
I'll keep more coming. Send more covers.
August 26th, 2012, 11:40 PM #65
FYI: I'm going to begin the process of scanning the ol' portfolio tomorrow, and I'll be sending results your way. I need practice, so do send me challenges via PM. It would be my dream job to design covers for books all day (no, really, it would be).
That being said, I am a little flakey thanks to school, which starts tomorrow (lol ask B5 :P )
August 27th, 2012, 12:05 AM #66
For the below image, you can see where purple swings between the warm and cool spectrum. See below, where I've showcased the subtle gradient that is featured in this image. It swings from more purple to more violet.
Yet, the moon provides a great contrast against the otherwise dark picture. It keeps itself closely merged with the rest of the elements of the image by also using a shade of purple (a cool shade, which I showcased as a circle on the gradient). The moon ALSO serves a frame to the most important element, the head of the figure. The moon helps create a circular motion in the image. (Note, this is why I put the green squiggles on the right hand side). The artist here took great care to make sure we did not forget to focus on that face because the tree branch points RIGHT back to her face, again.
As a design artist, my job is to ensure you keep your face on the cover and that it moves no where else. This is something amateurs may not understand, and they may direct the viewer's eye right off the page. This is something a designer abhors. We want you to keep your eye on our lovely work, and by that regard, keep the focus on the product at hand.
August 27th, 2012, 03:16 AM #67
Might want to get your eyes checked
Ambiguity is both a curse and a boon. If you make a cover too ambiguous, you can confuse the person looking at it. I'll be honest and say the cover for Leviathan Wakes makes my eyes go funny. I like it, but I can't make much sense of it. If you remove all ambiguity, though, you can risk confusing the reader as it may contradict their own personal 'view' of the book's contents.
As an example, the UK editions of Jordan's The Wheel of Time:
Ambiguous, generic, pretty dull. They don't tell you what's in the book, what it's about or anything. You could probably deduce that they're fantasy, but that's about it.
If you look at the cover for the Del Rey edition of Elizabeth Moon's Marque and Reprisal, however, it's an example of a perfect cover:
It shows a scene from the book (near the end, actually), but sums it up. Kylara is shown in her spacesuit, you can see the second ship behind her, and you can tell that there's been some fighting.
August 27th, 2012, 05:13 AM #68
They tried to do something similar with the Prachett covers (lots of black with a single object highlighted) So very dull compared to the Kidby covers, which suited the books fantastically. In my local shop at least they've gone back to Kidby for the early books at least. The later ones, while not quite the same, aren't so dull as to have black + object. .
The difference between US and UK covers is very striking at times...odd even. Are we really that different?
Here's a cover I liked (it made me pick up the book, which after all is what they are for) US on the left, UK on the right
The UK one seems, to me, to fit the book much better (and the title too!) The one on the left seems more 'Ho hum, another UF with fireballs'
Last edited by kissmequick; August 27th, 2012 at 05:17 AM.
August 27th, 2012, 07:14 AM #69
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Sometimes the image is unimportant. It can even take away from the effectiveness of the cover as a whole.
Such was the case of the Robert Jordan book, at least in the UK publisher's eyes. The huge title and byline were the parts they thought sold the book. That plus the top-of-cover notice Book One of THE WHEEL OF TIME. And its bottom-of-cover notice The International No. 1 Bestseller. The three-part image with its wheel is deliberately small and frail so as be almost unnoticed.
The black background served to make the text pop out. It's deliberately dull, so that it does not take attention away from the much more important text.
A similar case is the Rivers of London cover.
The dull black and white jumble of a map makes the huge red text and river pop out. The font is effective. It suggests the meandering of a river, and its red suggests blood. Together suggesting rivers of blood.
To the Brits, especially those who live in London, this red loop of the Thames river is significant. It's just to the east of Buckingham Palace and the famous gardens near it. The elbow is the Victoria Embankment. Lots of historic locations are near the elbow, including Covent Garden Market and the Royal Opera House.
Last edited by Laer Carroll; August 27th, 2012 at 08:06 AM.
August 27th, 2012, 08:04 AM #70
I don't think RJ's cover is dull. Some people like minimalistic designs.
As a kid, I used to pay more attention to detailed art, now so much less.
In general, I can't say what really makes it for me in a design.
It can be sometimes simple and sometimes gaudy or flashy.
It can be just abstract art of near photography.
August 27th, 2012, 08:33 AM #71
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Once you have a front cover, you're close to having a back cover. You can reuse the front or part of it for the back. For more discussion of this I've started a Back Covers thread.
You should use software that lets you create the cover in layers. This makes it much easier to edit and move parts of those layers around to better fit the overall look you want. Or remove layers entirely, which is what I did to create the back cover.
August 27th, 2012, 09:41 AM #72
Now this is coming from memory, and I will check the article again later, but I recall that Americans hate being confused. They even react in unmistakable anger if they are confused even for a little bit by advertising. The UK audience, not so much. Again I will check the article to make sure my memory is not fuzzing this up.
Here is some nice discovery work for you if you get a chance. If you live in the U.S., watch the American version of "The Office." Then go watch the original UK "The Office." If you live in UK, watch in the opposite order.
The difference is astounding.
August 27th, 2012, 01:29 PM #73
Interesting - I mean I know we're different to a large extent culturally, but it didn't occur to me we'd react to visuals in such a different manner (or that the image was at all confusing!)
Btw, the loop of the river meant nothing to me. But the 'dull black and white jumble' is what drew me in after the splurge of the red (Blood? Excellent!)- it is in fact a really detailed hand drawn map of London which I wanted to peruse at my leisure.
August 27th, 2012, 01:30 PM #74
It's more a matter of history and size. Britain never had the vast mass market paperback market and not as much of the magazines. They were involved in comics, but again the market was smaller and the main focus of the business was in the U.S. And the U.S. also had a huge, wholesale magazine market which made use extensively of photography and illustrative art and not just for advertising. So artistic traditions developed in the U.S., not so much that people would know exactly what something was, but so that they were visually stopped at the newsstands. And in SFFH, that art developed from magazines that were competing with comics and also owned and operated along with comics, and from the art used for early paperbacks. The convention system and the intercommunication between fans then meant that in the U.S., the artists doing illustrations for books, comics, magazines, and cartoons were as important as the authors. The cover art wasn't simply to tell you what sort of a magazine it was -- it was an additional thing you were buying along with the stories inside. The pictures were valued as art. Some of the authors of stories were also artists illustrating them. Children's books, also, which developed the whole picture book market further into the powerhouse of a children's category for a long time.
Britain participated in this, but it simply didn't have as extensive a market. The paperbacks began moving into the bookstores in the Great Depression years and were pretty much integrated into them after WWII (and lots of paperbacks shipped to soldiers during the war.) They took the art with them and the illustrated magazines were still a big deal in SFFH. SFFH art was an entire cottage industry, again equally valued by fans and added with calendars, prints and other merchandise. (For instance, 1960's psychedelia. Fantasy art was pretty much standard for U.S. teen bedrooms through the 1970's and 1980's, etc.) British bookstores seem to have been less enthusiastic about this when it came to the mass market paperbacks coming into the bookstores. If you look at the history of say Penguin paperbacks, you'll see that while British publishers borrowed from some non-SFFH magazine graphics -- cartoon line drawings like for Rivers of London -- they were definitely avoiding a lot of the time anything they considered pulp. The comics/magazine art interchange with paperback books of the American market was definitely not there and kept to the newsstands. Artists were not given as much of a cottage industry along with and in concert with authors as in the U.S.
And hardcovers in both countries were relatively sedate until the 1980's, when the U.S. market tied hardcover and paperback editions more closely together by using the same cover art for both. The U.S. was also heavily influenced by film, starting in the late 1960's, because books adapted for film (or t.v.) then got a tie-in cover from the film, which meant movie poster style art or photographs from the film. The gaming industry also influenced fantasy cover art in the 1970's and 1980's for tie-in covers also and the gaming industry drew from the comics. However, the continued belief that this influence dominates fantasy covers now is highly inaccurate. US. design is now a complicated, multi-strand mass well beyond just SFFH.
The U.S. actually puts out thousands of graphic based covers for SFFH titles that greatly resemble British ones. But the category market still uses a lot of the older paperback art tradition, using the artists -- whose work is still valued despite the magazines petering out -- and that is of course what gets all the attention. Britain actually had used more and more cover art from 1960's through the 1990's, but about ten, twelve years ago, British publishers decided to shift to more graphics. British covers still have art frequently, just as U.S. covers use only graphics frequently, but it's easy enough to make comparisons on a lot of covers. This is especially the case because the U.S. will try to distinguish U.S. covers of British imports by giving them more art and tends to change titles and vice versa. With a lot of simultaneous international publishing going on, the split of Britain line graphics and U.S. more comics based photo and paint art works well for them to sell the books together as distinguished entities. (See Joe Abercrombie's covers which do joint art in a historical look, but then pulp part of the American covers to distinguish them. Abercrombie has some interesting posts on his blog about the process of designing the covers.) In the U.S., we still very much like the artists as well as the authors and getting the pictures along with the books, so U.S. fans, having grown up with that, can get angry not because they don't know what something is but because they aren't getting the art with the story in their purchase.
The big issue now is, what are e-books going to do to cover art? Because you don't need cover art for e-books -- they're electronic files. And yet, visually, having art online helps catch people's attention to look at the book, in the same way that the art used to draw people's attention to the newsstands. And the use of electronic models to do new forms of graphic arts has become not only a cottage industry via the Net but a huge cultural wave. And so a lot of really fascinating things are going on in graphics design, as I'm sure virangelus can attest. And we are getting multiple covers -- a different cover for an e-book edition that distinguishes it from the different print covers in different countries, and in fact, multiple e-book covers from multiple countries, different from the print.
This has caused complaints in the U.S. where we have that artist tradition. A lot of U.S. fans don't like photographic covers, or ones that clearly have used graphic models instead of just paint -- a type of cover design used frequently by publishers. They want the art. And they don't like the e-book cover art to be different from the print, because they want the print art if they buy the e-book, or conversely, they like having multiple images. And authors, for promotion, are coming up with all sorts of other art for book trailer, t-shirts and merchandise, wallpapers, etc. It's sort of an art and graphics explosion.
August 27th, 2012, 11:25 PM #75
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An image can work as an artwork or a book cover. Those are two different functions. They may be unrelated. A particular reader may love the art but hate the book. Or vice versa.
A successful book cover must stimulate three actions in a prospective reader.
- Get attention.
- Generate interest.
- Cause sampling of
- the descriptive info
- the story,
- or both.
Every book cover is a promise. In my three self-published novels (and the three still to be added later this year) I promise this with my covers.
- A beautiful woman
- will kill or terrorize bad guys
- in an exotic setting.
I also try to give
- a memorable title,
- a memorable byline,
- tell everyone each book is part of a series.
I care nothing for the artistic beauty OR UGLINESS of the covers. Only how well they work.