Covers

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.
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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:

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

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And another:

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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.

The Story Behind the Most Haunting Book Cover on the Shelves

6 October 2017

 

From Electric Lit:

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut collection Her Body and Other Parties has been shortlisted for the National Book Award, and readers everywhere are talking about her intricate stories. Machado’s collection is dark, disturbing, sensual and sexy. Her work refuses to fit neatly into a category, and includes elements of psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. In these eight stories, fables and classic fairy tales mix with a meditations on Law and Order: SVU, Girl Scouts lost in the woods, and a liposuction procedure.

The cover for Her Body and Other Parties picks up and intensifies the ambiance of the book. Kimberly Glyder, who has created numerous covers for Graywolf, Scribner, Little Brown, and more, captures Machado’s unique voice with a striking and sinuous image.

. . . .

Liz von Klemperer: What, if any, were your expectations for the cover?

Carmen Maria Machado: I had a Tumblr that I put together of visual inspiration, so when the time came I sent it to Kimberly. I also filled out a questionnaire my publisher gave me that included key words, images, and things I absolutely didn’t want on the cover. I suggested the colors black, white, grey and green because of the green ribbon in the first story, “The Husband Stitch.” In terms of themes, I just wrote “women” and “queer women,” and then I suggested the image be mid-century to modern, but the book isn’t really time period–dependent.

LVK: What were the things you absolutely didn’t want on your cover?

CMM: I said “no dudes!” for obvious reasons. Nothing pink or girly either. I just don’t think it would be appropriate for the tone of the book. I also wanted to avoid women with Spanish fans, or salsa dancers. Nothing like that. I’ve noticed this happens a lot with women of color, and it just wasn’t what the book was about.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

Cover versions: why are UK and US book jackets often so different?

29 September 2017

From The Guardian:

Covers sell books. But in the case of Hillary Clinton’s memoir What Happened, you can’t help thinking that the book’s sales in the UK are despite the jacket treatment, not because of it. Whereas the US jacket oozes the gravitas you expect from the woman who stood up to Donald Trump, the UK jacket has all the power of a shrugged “meh”.

The book is published worldwide by Simon & Schuster, and the company’s US division opted for bold lettering on a white-and-blue background (incorporating the Democrats’ traditional colour). The design screams its serious credentials: this, it tells the reader, is The Book by the woman everyone expected to be a shoo-in for the Oval Office, a woman defined by her service in husband Bill’s and Barack Obama’s administrations.

It is a cover worthy of the memoir that has a place in academic libraries. Weight is given to the title, What Happened. A simple statement, it hangs above Clinton’s name, reflecting the question on the lips of everyone who awoke on 9 November to find Donald Trump was soon to get access to the nuclear codes.

But the UK cover … where do you begin? Any sense that Clinton is laying it on the line, or even offering answers, is washed away by a design so hackneyed it even has a generic politico-at-a-rally headshot, albeit one in which Hillary’s firm-lipped expression is reminiscent of the look your mum gave you the first time you barrelled home drunk. Not only that, but the background colour is as pallid as one of her pant suits, and the title – a question on the lips of everyone in the UK as well as the US – is squirrelled away beneath her name.

When I ask, “What happened?” her publisher responds with a terse refusal to comment. But it raises the question: why did the Americans get it right and the British so wrong when UK book design is supposedly the envy of the world?

. . . .

Traditionally, US design tended towards literal interpretation, driven, Bache believes, by the complexity of the US market: the image that motivates readers in southern California to pick up a copy of a book is likely to be different to what appeals to readers in South Carolina. As a result, US jackets have tended to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and that does not make for good design.

“It’s a complicated [market], so the design becomes simpler and focuses on broader appeal,” Bache says. “However, things have shifted in the last few years,” he adds. “There are a lot more similarities now, particularly in literary novels where the luxury of creating much more elegant, beautiful covers has been afforded to the books.”

The designer and illustrator Neil Gower believes US designers have upped their game because of the explosion in digital books. “I think ebooks and the internet have definitely focused publishers’ attention on making books beautiful, covetable objects again,” he says. Publishers on both sides of the Atlantic realise that to justify the cost of a hardback, a book needs to be more than a container of words. It has to be an object of beauty in its own right, he says.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Here’s the US cover:


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And the UK cover:

Driving Down the Price of Publishing

14 September 2017

From Good Ereader:

Not too long ago, self-published authors were collectively admonished about the need to invest in their work. Hiring quality editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and formatters before attempting to sell a book was the constant mantra of industry experts. While some hapless writers continued to slap their Word docs up on Amazon and hope to snare a few readers, authors who took their careers seriously made the proper investments.

Around that time, a number of startups emerged, all billing themselves as eBay-like marketplaces for author services. Many of those startups have shuttered their virtual doors, while a few that produced meaningful connections between authors and publishing service providers have managed to thrive. But that hasn’t stopped newcomers to the game from trying to continually undercut the concept of paying for quality work.

“When I first began finding clients through online freelance postings, the self-publishing industry was a different place,” stated one editor who did not wished to be named. “Authors who had done their homework not only knew how much editing might cost, but they also knew enough to have sent their work to their writing group for critiques or even beta readers before declaring it ‘ready’ for editing. Now, I find new job postings almost daily requesting full edits of an 80,000-word book for $100.”

That’s one of the double-edged swords of self-publishing, of course. An indie author without a solid backlist and sales to go with it may not be able to invest thousands of dollars for a full suite of services, but that doesn’t change the income needs of those who are expected to do the work.

“I love spending time with other local authors, but conversations about finding editors and cover designers have become heartbreaking,” said Andrea Patten, award-winning author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head. “Poor quality isn’t good for any of us. If we don’t support talented, experienced editors and designers, all that will be left are those who are willing to be the lowest bidder.”

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

Designing for Human Attention

13 September 2017

PG thought this item had relevance to author promo, website and cover design decisions.

From UX Planet:

I have always been fascinated by the way the human mind works. I am also convinced that being familiar with cognitive sciences is one of the key skills of any designer. To better myself professionally and perhaps to help other people learn something new, I decided to write about the cognitive topics I am interested in.

. . . .

Although the design is perceived by our senses (vision, touch, hearing), it is immediately processed by our brain. As designers, we have to understand how to create experiences that go hand in hand with how the human brain evaluates them. While being a designer, you have the power to control the human mind during and even beyond the interaction with the product.

. . . .

Attention = working memory

Everything we see, hear, touch or smell is processed by our brain and affects our memory system. This system is divided into:

  • working memory
  • short-term memory
  • long-term memory

Working memory contains information about the focus of our attention. As the capacity of our working memory is rather small (research shows the capacity can range between 5–7 unrelated concepts), our attention is considerably selective. Our brain is simply not able to process all that is happening around us at once. It is instead narrowing down its focus to the most relevant pieces of information. The relevancy is determined by our own objectives.

Our brains receive about 11 million bits of data per second, but we’re only able to process roughly 50 bits per second.

Information from the working memory can be lost very easily if the focus shifts. Many of us can relate to a situation like this one:

In the middle of counting someone suddenly interrupts you. Afterwards you have to start all over again, because you don’t remember exactly where you left off.

You walk into a room, suddenly realising you have forgotten the reason you went there in the first place.

. . . .

While using the search function on a website, users enter the search terms and then review the results. The attention shifts from the input to the results. That means the users often forget what the initially typed search parameters were. Sites with a search function should have the input parameters displayed prominently even when already showing the search results.

. . . .

Nowadays, our brain gets most of its information through the eye. Our eyes play an important role in how we perceive design. The structure of the human eye is complex, but the most important finding is that there is a part of the eye called an “eye fovea” in the central part of the eye. It is a small circle (1.5 mm wide) and it is the part through which our brain gets most of its information. There are 3 reasons for this:

  1. This small part of the eye has a significantly bigger resolution than the rest of it.
  2. The cells in the fovea are also connected 1:1 to the ganglial nerve (which transfers information to the brain), which is why they don’t have any data compression — in contrast with other parts of the eye.
  3. The fovea is only about 1% the size of the entire eye, but the visual cortex of our brain devotes 50% of its resources to it.

All of this results in humans having a very narrow focus.

. . . .

These findings are easily applicable to design. Users are not able to see the whole website at once. They can merely scan the page. That means their eyes jump very fast from one part to another. The most attractive usually is the part of the website that is in contrast or involves any kind of motion.

. . . .

Important, mutually related information has to be shown in a compact way, so that users can perceive these elements together. Use the gestalt principle of proximity that says:

Objects or shapes that are close to one another appear to form groups.

Link to the rest at UX Planet

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