The care and feeding of your cover artist

26 August 2018

From Romance Rehab:

Authors need to foster a lot of relationships—relationships with their readers, book bloggers, their editorial staff, and their cover artist to name a few. Working well with your cover artist is hugely important, because after all, your cover is the first thing potential readers see.

So, assuming you don’t already have a cover artist you love and adore *bats eyes at my ridiculously patient cover artist* let’s look at how to find a cover artist.

. . . .

If you’re looking at indie publication, you’re gonna need a cover artist. Unless you’re already a Photoshop master. Those authors exist. I can think of three great ones off the top of my head. But, most of us don’t have that skill set.

So, how do you find a cover artist? First of all, get thee to Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or iBooks and start looking at book covers. Make a note of indie book covers you love. You can use the “look inside” function to scan the copyright page. Often, you can find the cover artist info right there. See if you can find at least 5-10 artists’ names you’d like to investigate a little further.

. . . .

Once you have your dream list of artists assembled, visit their business webpage, blog, and/or social media pages. If they have their rates listed, you can find out who’s in your budget and narrow your list accordingly. I’ve seen prices from $50 to $500 and everything in between. Some charge an hourly rate. If prices aren’t listed, you can always email them and ask.

. . . .

What are your rates?
Obviously, it’s best for both parties to know upfront if it’s financially feasible to work together.

Do you charge by the finished image or do you charge by the hour?
This is important to know up front, especially since the search for cover models can be a lengthy and tiresome one. And covers that incorporate a lot of layers to get the desired effect can also be time consuming.

Do you also make print flats, audiobook covers, 3-D images, banners, ads, social media graphics, etc.?
Sometimes, all you need is an ebook cover, but you may discover that you need additional images later on. You can ask if the artist has package prices for any of the above or if it’s more of an ala carte situation. It would also be a good idea to find out if they’d be willing to do any of the following in the future and if it would cost more to make it later than it would to make it now.

How many versions/tweaks of the cover do you allow before there’s an additional charge?
We’ll go into this in more depth a bit later, but authors that constantly want tweaks or complete do-overs can be a giant pain in the ass for cover artists to work with. And it’s important for both of you to know if there’s a limit for these things before beginning the cover art creation process.

. . . .

I’d like to take a minute to talk about talk about a few cover art related things you may not be aware of when you’re envisioning what you’d like to see on your cover.

  • The vast majority of cover artists don’t do their own photoshoots, they use what’s available at royalty-free stock art sites, like Deposit Photos, Shutter Stock, Dreamstime, Period Images for historical cover art and for fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. Heads-up, specialty image sites tend to be pricier, and if you decide on images from a more expensive site, you should expect to be upcharged accordingly. (Links will be included in a list of resources at the end)So if the exact pose of the exact person or people you’re imagining doesn’t exist, your cover artist can’t make it exist. She can probably do wonders with Photoshop and manipulate things about the images you’ve decided on, but she (unless she’s a wizard, Harry) can’t create something from nothing.
  • You know those really fancy, intricate fonts you love? They may become virtually unreadable once they’re shrunk down to thumbnail size on a vendor’s site.
  • Dark colored cover art usually looks fine on the computer, but it doesn’t translate well to print format. It tends to turn out considerably darker and muddier, and often fine details are lost entirely.
  • Cover art is meant convey genre and evoke a mood enticing readers to buy a book. It’s not meant to be an actual representation of the characters or a scene from the book. I think a lot of times, authors get hung up on creating a visual representation on the cover of what they see in their heads.

. . . .

Don’t micromanage your artist’s process. 
Yes, this is your cover, and it’s important that you’re happy with it. But if your artist tells you that the cover will be too busy if you have a winter skating scene, an ambulance, the hero and heroine, Chinese lanterns, a hedgehog, and the series logo, you need to understand that this cover is going to be a train wreck and look amateurish.

Link to the rest at Romance Rehab and thanks to Joel for the tip.

Everyone Judges a Book By Its Cover—So Choose Wisely

8 June 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

We all know how the saying goes: never judge a book by its cover. As broad-stroke life advice, it works. But readers rarely follow it when deciding which books to buy.

If a book’s cover art involves human models, the author may be on especially slippery ground. The perfect-looking people speak to someone, but to whom? Common wisdom advises authors to broadcast genre and win new readers through halting visuals. Yet the fact that we are not all intrigued by the same kinds of people makes the use of humans on covers problematic. If cover models alienate me, I won’t buy the book.

I’m not kidding. I don’t care how many people are talking about a book. I don’t care about five-star reviews. I don’t care if I love the blurbs, or how badly I’m dying for a great romance read—I won’t buy it.

I swear, I’m not a narcissist. It’s not about needing to see some mirror image of me. It’s not about me being black and wanting to find more African-American fiction. I dislike full-face images of humans on covers, no matter their ethnicities, genders, or body types. Stories hold greater appeal if I’m given the leeway to interpret characters through my own imagination. Seeing cover images that are highly specific limit a story’s potential for me.

. . . .

I’ll stop long enough to acknowledge that there’s a market for model-heavy covers, and for stories with correspondingly idealized worlds. Among a certain demographic, these books are popular. But how many more copies could be sold without fully visible cover models? How many readers care more about compelling characters who form in their minds than about defined, idealized character images?

. . . .

Even in my genre (romance), in which cover models are pervasive, some of the most iconic books avoid full faces, and people, altogether. Christina Lauren’s Beautiful Bastard, Alice Clayton’s Wallbanger, and even E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey signal genre without being overly specific.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Why are middle-aged women invisible on book covers?

25 May 2018

From The Guardian:

Here’s a challenge for you: find a book jacket that features an image of a woman over 40.

My own hunt – as yet unsuccessful – was prompted by the actor and novelist Barbara Ewing, whose novel about a drama-school reunion, The Actresses, has just been reissued. Ewing says she cried when she first saw the cover of the 1997 edition – although it focuses on women over 50, the jacket image was a close up of a young woman’s face. This time around, she and publisher Head of Zeus have gone for an elegant photograph of a silver-haired woman that measures up perfectly to the book’s protagonists. But Ewing says bookshops aren’t interested.

It seems the book world doesn’t think readers want to see women of a certain age on their novels – even if that is precisely what the books are about. Take a look at some literary novels about older women – Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, Elena Ferrante’s The Story of the Lost Child, Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread, Carol Shields’ Unless – and you’ll see a lighthouse, two children wearing fairy wings, a young couple in a car and a child standing on her head.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG says this is yet another reason for becoming an indie author.

Sell More Books With These Critical Cover Rules

28 February 2018

From Author Marketing Experts:

Almost every author that reaches out to me wants to sell more books, so you’re not alone. But surprisingly, aside from doing no marketing, the number one hurdle is often the book cover design.

Unfortunately this is a much more common problem for indie authors because we’re left to our own devices, we don’t have a publishing house making expert recommendations  to a team of in-house professional designers.

. . . .

Your book cover needs to be clear, concise, and easy to read.

Yes, you may have a great review and you may think slapping it on the cover will help you sell more books. But if you can’t incorporate it in an visually appealing way, it will just detract from your book marketing efforts.

Same goes for photographs. I’ve worked with a lot of authors that bring some great personal photographs to the table, but they don’t translate into a powerful book cover.

. . . .

This is a great example of a clear, concise, easy to read cover:

. . . .

Book marketing in this day and age is about being savvy online, and your book cover is no exception.

So if you want to sell more books you need a book cover that’s been designed for online shopping.

Yes, your original design may look good as a full sized PDF on your computer, but shrink it down to an Amazon-sized thumbnail before making final decisions.

Link to the rest at Author Marketing Experts

Fantasy Author Terry Goodkind Wants Everyone to Know How Much He Hates His New Novel’s Cover Art

27 February 2018

From i09:

Terry Goodkind—best known for The Sword of Truth series—has publicly apologized after posting scathing criticism of the cover art for his latest book, Shroud of Eternity. The author eventually laid the blame on his publisher, Tor Books, but the artist who created the cover says it’s not good enough.

Goodkind recently wrote a post on Facebook calling his latest fantasy novel, “a great book with a very bad cover. Laughably bad.” In the post, Goodkind invited his readers to share their thoughts about the cover in a poll (which currently has almost 14,000 responses), saying he’d pick 10 random commenters to receive a signed copy.

. . . .

Part of the Sister of Darkness: The Nicci Chronicles seriesthe cover art Goodkind criticized shares a similar look to the series debut, Death’s Mistress—no surprise, as they both share the same artist, Bastien Lecouffe Deharme. He’s a notable artist known for his work on Magic: The Gathering, but he’s also created book covers for several publishing houses, including Tor Books, Random House, Del Rey, and Orbit Books. Deharme said he was shocked when he found out what Goodkind had said about his latest work.

“[A friend] sent me a message that I found in the morning when I woke up, telling me that Terry Goodkind was using bad words to describe my artwork,” Deharme told io9. “I am a very confident person. I have had a long career, long enough for me to be able to take that… but this behavior is just not acceptable. Not only for me, but for all the artists that could be in the same situation.”

Link to the rest at i09 and thanks to R. for the tip.

Here’s the cover mentioned in the OP.

Here’s the cover for the first book in the series.

With Romance Novels Booming, Beefcake Sells, but It Doesn’t Pay

11 January 2018

From The New York Times:

Jason Aaron Baca is good-looking, not handsome like the Ryans (Gosling and Reynolds) or rugged like Daniel Craig, who is fetching in a tailored Tom Ford suit. But when Mr. Baca, 42, slipped on a pair of dark aviator glasses recently, he looked remarkably like Tom Cruise in “Top Gun.”

He was dressed for work in a khaki military jumpsuit. And even though it was barely noon, he had already stopped by the gym to make sure his biceps and legs looked combat-strong. His assignment: To be a military helicopter pilot saved in a crash by a female rescuer with whom he once had a torrid affair. Now that they’re reunited, their passions have flared.

Mr. Baca is a cover model for romance novels. He has been on nearly 500 book covers, by his own account — one of scores of men like him vying to be heroic heartthrobs. Not since the flaxen-haired Fabio Lanzoni dominated drugstore book racks in the 1980s and 1990s, with his lion’s mane and bulging biceps, have cover models been in such demand.

“Look at me like you are really mad at me,” cooed Portia Shao, his photographer that day. “Show me your good side.”

. . . .

After a few more clicks of the shutter, he and Ms. Shao paused to examine his work on a 2-by-4-foot television screen. “It looks good because it has everything,” Mr. Baca said. The smoldering gaze. A glimpse of his six-pack abs. Mr. Baca had even thrust his pelvis forward, a trick he learned to make his stomach appear flatter and ensure the ladies looked, well, you know, there.

Romance writers and publishers, as it happens, are among publishing’s most innovative participants. They were early to digital serialization. Booksellers, too, now crowdsource ideas to find fresh writers. And if you want to explore a virtual relationship, you can try a romance-novel app.

. . . .

“I never thought I would say this,” said Liz Pelletier, the chief executive of the romance novel company Entangled Publishing. “But I am so tired of looking at men’s abs. I don’t know if these ones are sexier than those other ones.”

“It used to be that everyone wanted Fabio,” she added. Today, though, individualism prevails. “Readers don’t want every book to have the same face.”

. . . .

Sexy still sells. At Brazen, Entangled’s more risqué fiction line, Ms. Pelletier said book covers with male models sold three times as much as with a woman alone. And for new authors in particular, “the cover is really critical,” said Dianne Moggy, vice president for romance fiction at Harlequin.

. . . .

Unlike the Fabio era, when covers were painted by hand, today they are more assembly line than art. Consider Daemon Black, a space alien with dark curls and emerald green eyes who is the hero of Entangled’s Lux series, written by the New York Times best-selling author Jennifer L. Armentrout. In 2011, Pepe Toth saw a photograph of himself and his then model girlfriend, Sztella Tziotziosz, on the cover of “Obsidian,” the first in the Lux series, published that December.

Mr. Toth, 26, then living in his native Hungary, had been transformed into Daemon Black without his knowledge. “I thought, what kind of book is this?” he said in a recent interview.

. . . .

 If covers were hand-painted in acrylic back in the Fabio era, the tool of the trade today is Photoshop. Heads are cut off midface if a model is overexposed. Parts of different photos can be pieced together like a Picasso portrait. Toes, too, are deleted if they clash with the book’s title.

For Mr. Baca’s helicopter-pilot shoot in Santa Cruz, Eileen Nauman, a writer better known by her pseudonym, Lindsay McKenna, emailed a series of guidelines. She wanted to see him looking alert, with a “slight, playful, teasing smile” and, she wrote, with his “flight suit open to sternum, showing off your great body, but nothing too flagrant or obvious.”

. . . .

 Few romance models, if any, make enough money to eke out a living. Mr. Baca, for example, works at the Housing Authority of the Santa Clara County, Calif., as a customer-service clerk. And although he has an agent, he said he earned only $20,000 in his best year. This, despite the fact that he is a tireless self-promoter who fancies himself the next Fabio. Industry executives say it will be difficult to topple the king. “Nobody did it better than Fabio,” said Allison Kelley, executive director of the romance writers group. “He really did create the brand.”

Link to the rest (yes, with pictures) at The New York Times

A colorful history of judging books by their covers

20 December 2017

From the Washington Post:

We are cautioned to avoid judging a book by its cover, yet that is precisely what publishers hope we will do. Dust jacket illustration, which came into its own in the 1920s, has long deserved recognition as a serious art form. If any doubt remains, Martin Salisbury’s splendid survey, “The Illustrated Dust Jacket, 1920-1970 ,” should dispel it. In these pages, he describes how utilitarian commercial designs became an “important branch of the applied arts” and gave rise to manuals, guilds and exhibitions by those who saw not only artistic possibilities but also a new avenue of work for illustrators who relied on freelance commissions.

Book jackets are, admittedly,a peculiar art. The most memorable ones usually approach a book indirectly. In fact, Salisbury says that “visual metaphor is often more effective than explicit representation in the distillation of the text into image.” At its best, a classic jacket, joining hand-rendered lettering with traditional portraiture and landscape painting, became an appealing glimpse into a book, welcoming readers inside.

. . . .

Leading art movements wound up on display in bookstore windows. A lively Bloomsbury sensibility can be appreciated in Vanessa Bell’s designs for her sister Virginia Woolf’s books, published by the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press. In the 1920s and ’30s, dynamic Art Deco styles, such as Aubrey Hammond’s, thrived alongside rosy-cheeked knights and pioneers of Brandywine School artist N.C. Wyeth. Editor Maxwell Perkins enlisted Cleonike Damianakes to appeal to female readers when publishing Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

Link to the rest at the Washington Post

Here are three of Vanessa Bell’s covers:






PG took the liberty of experimenting with one of Ms. Bell’s cover designs.



And another:


Secrets of The Book Designer: Creating Something from Nothing

4 November 2017

From The Literary Hub:

In designing a book cover, the how is more important than the what. The way something is visually rendered—in the form of typography, image, shape, pattern, color, etc.— is more important than what it symbolically represents. While content and meaning are obviously valuable, they come second to emotion and execution. First, the book has to be picked up. If the design does not get you there, the fact that the cover may perfectly encapsulate the text is irrelevant. It’s what the cover feels like that matters.

This is especially true for contemporary fiction, where more often than not a jacket simply needs to look big, important, and “warm”—this last term being a catch-all for “approachable,” “human,” and “covetable.” Something that is “warm” feels good and real. Conceptually straightforward, this can be tricky to achieve.

. . . .

The problem is always how to start.

So instead of waiting until the end of a design process I can’t begin to add this feeling of reality, I use a physical process to initiate and influence my design. Rather than seek out a library of visual references to copy and modify (endlessly and helplessly scrolling through Pinterest), I look through the manuscript to find material and procedural references. On the most basic level, this means if the book is about water, I play with water.

. . . .

Physically experimenting makes me feel productive, even if nothing immediately comes of it. I can either stare anxiously at a blank computer screen, or I can assign myself a task. Given the choice, I’d rather spend a day carving type out of a block of foam, ripping up paper, or playing with layers of transparency on a light box.

Sometimes the process is successful. Sometimes it’s not. But if I physically make something, I can look at it from different angles, pinch it, twist it, crumple it up. Occasionally this will produce unexpected and exciting results. I’ll end up with a design I did not plan for.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

Somehow, PG believes not all cover designers work in this way.

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