The Terrible Ripple Effect of Canceled Book Tours

From Publishers Weekly:

The coronavirus outbreak is punishing the economy, but as a debut author, I never imagined the release of my forthcoming anthology would illustrate the impact of economic ripple effects.

In 2017, I published a call for submissions asking women to send their stories of how they’ve been affected by Donald Trump and his policies. I received over 200 essays, spent nine months winnowing that number down to 38, then prepared a proposal for the collection, entitled Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences During the Trump Era.

I celebrated when Pact Press, an imprint of Regal House Publishing, offered me and my coeditor a publishing contract. I celebrated again when I received the ARC by mail, and again when the first glowing review came out. On March 24, I was scheduled to begin a 22-city book tour, complete with voter registration tables at events in swing states and interviews with women for a later podcast. Contributors to the anthology were to join me at various stops along the tour. Then Covid-19 hit.

After learning about what it takes to “flatten the curve” of contagion, I decided I couldn’t in good conscience travel from city to city hosting large gatherings. Nor could I then return home and possibly infect my husband, who falls into a high-risk category. So, with equal parts conviction and despondency, I emailed the bookstores on the tour and asked to reschedule.

. . . .

Personally, I never expected to get rich off book sales. The time and toil I put into Fury was always about political activism and documentation. My financial goals were to earn enough royalties to fund the tour, pay contributors an honorarium, and offset my $925-per-month health insurance premium for the remainder of the year. It looks like even these modest goals may have been too ambitious.

. . . .

For Regal House Publishing, a North Carolina–based, woman-operated indie press, event cancellations mean a high influx of book returns from retailers. These come at significant cost to the press’s bottom line.

Jaynie Royal, publisher and editor-in-chief of Regal House, said the company is already feeling the pinch of the coronavirus. “Print runs for Fury and our other spring catalogue titles were determined by retail preorders in the fall of 2019, long before coronavirus was on anyone’s radar,” Royal explains, “and, like all trade publishers, Regal House relies upon bookstore events to drive buzz and ultimately revenue to recoup invested production and printing costs.”

. . . .

Politics and Prose events coordinator Beth Wang initially offered me assurances that the Washington, D.C., store was taking extra precautions—including rigorously sanitizing all event areas, making hand sanitizer available, placing chairs further apart, announcing to attendees that no physical contact with the author should be initiated, and offering authors latex gloves or a presigning (instead of a signing line) to minimize physical contact with the audience.

Even with assurances like these, however, authors canceled their in-store events due to fear of contracting the virus, a sense of moral obligation, and/or because they anticipated a low turnout. Given the fluid circumstances, Politics and Prose now offers authors a digital option.

. . . .

Finally, there is the book industry as a whole, for which book tours are a fading tradition. Since the Great Recession, publishers have tightened their collective belts and have all but eliminated book tours for debut authors, let alone for anthology editors like myself. Nevertheless, publisher tours for celebrity authors and those with established audiences, whose books are guaranteed to sell well, contribute to propping up an industry with wafer-thin margins.

“The absence of book tour events at independent bookstores will have a profound impact on the industry,” says Jamie Fiocco, president of the ABA and owner of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG is leagues outside of the target audience for this book, but he expects the attitudes of those within the book’s audience to recent events and the President’s response to various critics of the Administration have not transformed the feelings of those who don’t like him.

PG also has to say that the cover of the book looks a bit down-market to him, the photo and, especially, the typography (generic and doesn’t really do much to make the book feel like a quality title).

PG thinks that even his amateur Photoshop talents could have improved the look of the photo – gray overcast skies are the bane of good photographs and mid-day images typically don’t show the subjects – people, buildings, mountains – at their best, but there are easy ways to punch things up a bit. Does the dull gray sky behind the title and sub-title communicate anything useful or make the book stand out on a bookstore shelf?

With respect to basic Photoshop talents, what’s that little piece of something above the roof of the building on the right? And what do flying bird-specks add to the cover’s message? Those are ten-second photoshop fixes.

The Best Book Covers of 2019

From BookRiot:

It’s the season of best of lists, and with the bonus of this being the end of a decade, we’re being treated to double the number of best of lists this year. What shouldn’t be overlooked among those lists are the incredible book covers that graced shelves this year. Works of art in and of themselves, it’s an outdated belief that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The reality is we do and that we should. In honor of that, let’s take a peek at the best book covers of 2019.

 

 

The Ash Family by Molly Dektar

Cover design and illustration by Kimberly Glyder.

This is one of those covers of which I would happily buy a print and hang on my wall in the center of the living room. The shades of blue and orange contrast against each other beautifully. That stark contrast gives off the feeling of turmoil amidst the calm of the forest—imagery that aligns with life in the Ash Family commune.

 

 

 

 

. . . .

 

 

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Cover Art by Noah Saterstrom.

I saw Patchett speak in Chicago shortly after her new novel’s release. She said: “Book jackets are like your birthday.” A week before, you insist you don’t know what you want to a friend and say you don’t want anything, “and when that person gives you nothing, and you go to bed on your birthday hurt and bitter, it’s only your own fault.” So she fought for her version of the cover. She didn’t want a house—she wanted that to exist in the reader’s imagination—but she thought it would be wonderful to have it feature the portrait of 9-year-old protagonist Maeve, an object that is important within the novel. Her first choice for artist, Noah Saterstrom, delivered the art that would become this gorgeous, richly colored cover.

 

. . . .

 

Medieval Bodies by Jack Hartnell

Cover Design by Peter Dyer.

I found this in a book fair. It was the only copy in show and it caught my eye instantly. It is printed in a silky paperback, with lots of different textures and gold foiling. Plus it is an amazing piece that incorporates both amazing graphic design and medieval art work.

(PG note: Evidently somebody with influence didn’t like the original cover. Here’s a link to the more predictable current cover he found on Amazon.)

 

 

 

Link to the rest, including lots more covers, at BookRiot

PG was struck by the note that Ann Patchett had to fight for her preference for a cover. Ms. Patchett has made a great deal of money for her publisher(s) and PG expects she would be well-connected with the thoughts and feelings of her readers.

PG suspects that an author who hadn’t sold as many books might well have been less successful in a fight for a good cover. It’s not difficult to find a prolific traditionally-published author who has one (or more than one) horror story about being saddled with a terrible cover that doesn’t do anything useful to sell the book.

Absent a quite unusual clause in a traditional publishing contract, the author has no say about what her/his cover looks like.

Indie authors, on the other hand, hire their cover artist, share their ideas and collaborate with the artist to develop a cover the author really likes.

Do all author have great tastes where covers are concerned? Of course not. Do all underpaid editors at traditional publishers (who are almost always dealing with a limited production budget) have greate tastes where covers are concerned? Ditto. If the editors are familiar with the applicable genre (not always the case), they may be more concerned with a cover that fits in rather than stands out on the shelf or Amazon product page.

One additional point PG will make is that it is very, very difficult to persuade a typical publisher to pay for a cover refresh for a book once it has been published. The experience of many authors who are able to wrangle back their rights to a traditionally-published book is that their new cover choices for the indie version can have a very beneficial effect on sales.

What the Heck Is Happening to Book Titles?!

From Publishers Weekly:

Publishers and bookstore owners: do you wonder why sales have dipped and are struggling to catch up to last year’s numbers? Take a moment to review your lists and displays from viewers’ and visitors’ perspective. Dedicated readers, who once considered these resources and destinations a haven, now find some sections equivalent to an assault.

For those of us who enjoy reading publications with book review sections and bestseller lists, the pleasure of discovering a few lyrical works comes to a screeching halt in the presence of titles filled with vulgarities. Similarly, a happily anticipated visit to a local bookstore quickly takes a wrong turn when centrally placed and unavoidable tables prominently showcase stacks of books shouting obscenities with angry venom.

While a well-placed colorful word can pack a punch when used sparingly, resorting to vulgar titles is actually an easy, mindless, and lazy knee-jerk marketing approach. In an attempt to reach and speak to the masses, these word choices continue to dumb down book titles and subjects while discouraging any effort to strengthen thinking, meaning, or purpose—let alone a sense of integrity for authors, marketers, or the industry.

. . . .

Perhaps pejorative and jargon-filled titles are a reflection of competitive markets and desperate efforts to grab attention. However, is the raunchy mangling of language and thought worth the cost?

. . . .

Bad A** and F*** Collections: Bookstore tables overflowing with these popular but unappealing phrases have even started to encroach on the religion section. This serious head-scratcher is a clear sign of mauled language and values, resulting from frantic attempts to increase sales. The asterisks in the titles don’t soften the crass blow or cloaked attempts to veil negative curse words, which have oddly become a compliment. Is this message the one to convey to or shape the next generation of so-called leaders?

Nasty B**** and Slut Titles: Adding to variations of the “baddest” bombs, some proudly self-defined feminists have taken to smearing their work with the big B and S words. These titles are prime-time insults, even when personally professed. In any delivery, they diminish women, who have worked for decades to earn respect, while setting the bar low for young girls struggling to form their identities in a confusing world.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

While nothing prevents indie authors from choosing titles of equivalent offensiveness, PG will note that the author of the OP is talking about books from traditional publishers, the self-appointed curators of our culture.

Why Do So Many Book Covers Look the Same? Blame Getty Images.

From AIGA Eye on Design:

If you’re caught in Los Angeles traffic or awaiting a New York subway, odds are good that one of Matthias Clamer’s images is right there with you. Clamer photographs the promotional stills for a ton of network, studio, and streaming platform productions, from Fargo and Atlanta to Shadows and Glow. At any given moment, three or four posters featuring his photography dominate skylines and tunnels. For Clamer, the novelty of seeing them has understandably worn off a bit.

“In L.A. and New York, you see the same poster, like 30 times,” he said from his home in Los Angeles. “They plaster all the subway stations and buses. If it’s something you love, then you’re proud.”

But until I reached out to him, Clamer wasn’t aware that an image he took 15 years ago was ubiquitous in a different, perhaps more permanent, universe. It’s titled, “Naked Woman Sleeping on Gravel,” and can be found on the Getty Images website, along with 1,612 other Clamer images available for rights-managed exclusive usage. It also serves as the dominant art on the cover of at least 11 books.

The book cover design world, it turns out, has something of an all-star squad of stock and archival image that show up on book covers time and time again. James Morrison, an editor, designer, and avid reader who lives in Adelaide, Australia, has been tracking the squad for about two decades. “I think the first one I spotted was a photo called, ‘Man in Fog,’ from 1935, by Arthur Tanner,” Morrison says.

. . . .

“Man in Fog” delivers exactly what the title promises—a shadowy figure, noir to the grayscale bone, smoking a pipe in the inky foreground. It does not take a decoder ring to figure out why such a mysterious man would land on the cover of a slew of sleuth novels by the likes of Agatha Christie, Alan Furst, Somerset Maugham, and Georges Simeon. Some of Simeon’s series of Inspector Maigret tales feature a cropped “Man in Fog” as a logo in the upper left hand corner, which is where Morrison first spied him. An image like “Man in Fog” can be quite evocative, Morrison said, until you start seeing it everywhere. “And the more I looked, the more books featuring it I found,” he said. “This would have been around 20 years ago. It was only when I started blogging, very late in the day, that I had an outlet to inflict this on other people.”

Link to the rest at AIGA Eye on Design

You CAN Tell an (e)Book by Its Cover

From The Book Designer:

While the truism “You can’t tell a book by its cover” holds true in most of our lives, one place where it doesn’t, ironically, is in publishing.

Oh, it’s still true — the cover doesn’t necessarily communicate what’s inside (though it should). But potential readers ignore it almost universally — especially when it comes to ebooks.

The cover is the first and (in many cases) most important piece of information those readers get about a title. This time out, I’m going to look at what should go into designing a cover that works for, rather than against, your ebook.

. . . .

Whatever format a book is in (print, audio, or ebook), the cover has a very important job — apart from and in addition to being visually attractive. As readers of TheBookDesigner.com probably already know, that job falls into several very important parts. It must communicate:

  • The genre/subgenre of the book
  • The tone of the book
  • The subject matter of the book

A cover makes a promise. It tells the reader very clearly — through words, but also through design — exactly what they’re going to read.

. . . .

There’s no mistaking a Harlequin Romance book. The covers regularly feature virile, bare-chested men and beautiful women, themselves often less than fully clothed. Harlequin’s Historical imprint features similar characters, but with clothing from the English Regency, the Middle Ages, or Hollywood’s Golden Era. The colors will be bright and running toward the warm side of the color wheel.

It’s easy for non-fans (and non-authors) to make fun of such covers, but they’re an important part of Harlequin’s huge success. They communicate to the potential reader with great efficiency exactly what kind of book it is they’re going to be getting if they purchase it. The promise they’re making is extremely clear.

. . . .

There is one major distinction between ebook and print covers, however, that you really should bear in mind as you are creating your own cover (whether you are the designer yourself, or you’ve hired someone else to do the work for you). It’s kind of an obvious distinction, but it’s an important one, nonetheless.

Print covers are designed to be seen person on a book shelf or table — whether at a book store, a library, or a friend’s living room.

They are designed to be seen at full size, up close. Whether it’s a 6″x9″ trade paperback or a 8″x10″ picture book, it’s meant to be picked up and examined in detail.

Ebook covers, on the other hand, are largely seen at thumbnail size in a list of other ebooks, or at best at fairly small scale.

. . . .

So, an ebook cover should be clean, attractive and easy to read at thumbnail size. Even at that small scale, it should promise the correct genre, tone, and subject matter, so your reader won’t be disappointed.

You may decide to use higher contrast (though I think that might help sell your print book as well). To fit the online bookstores’ thumbnail image slot, its dimensions should be 1.6:1, with a long side of at least 2400 pixels — which means that an ideal size would be 1500 pixels by 2400 pixels (or larger).

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

The OP includes good illustrations of the difference between the design of the ebook cover and the pbook cover of the same title.

 

Animated Ebook Cover

Amazon Publishing has created an animated cover for its listing of Patricia Cornwell’s Quantum.

The book description includes the following:

Kindle in Motion

This book can be read on any device, including Kindle E-readers. It may include art, animation, or video features that can be viewed on certain Fire tablets and the free Kindle app for iOS and Android. You can switch features on or off at any time.

Here’s a link to the book page for Quantum and here’s a link to other examples of Kindle in Motion.

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Should Authors Have More Control over Their Covers?

From Nathan Bransford:

It often comes as a surprise to people that authors in the traditional book world don’t have that much control over their book cover.

Approval is rare. Consultation is more common, but how meaningful and sincere that consultation is vary greatly. (I liked to joke when I was an agent that authors are often consulted on a scale of love to simply adore).

So bestselling author Daniel José Older caused a stir when, in a thread urging authors to not take what they’re offered at face value, he urged authors to fight for approval over their cover:

. . . .

. . . .

Should authors have control over their covers?

I’m somewhat split on this one.

On the one hand, publishers really do have a great deal of expertise on covers. They have a sense of what’s worked in the past, they know the tastes of key accounts (for instance, if Target or Barnes & Noble doesn’t like your cover, guess what, your cover is getting changed), and the people who source and design the covers are enormously talented.

On the other hand… in my opinion it’s still more art than science, and I don’t know that publishers are quite rigorous enough in the way they bring data and A/B testing to bear with covers (I’d love to be corrected on this if I’m wrong). I’ve also seen authors get pigeonholed with their covers in seriously unfortunate ways.

And fundamentally, even if publishers did bring more data and objectivity to bear, that expertise still skews toward looking backward rather than forward. What’s worked in the past isn’t necessarily an indicator of what will work in the future. Some of the most iconic cover designs in history were marked departures from what came before and were simply great design and true to the book.

To me, it’s authors who are most in tune with what note their book is trying to strike. Authors may not be graphic design or product marketing experts and they should be humble about that, but they are in tune with some ineffable cultural chords.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

PG says those who fall into the “let the publisher decide on the cover” side of this argument are operating from an unstated assumption that publishers are good at what they do. They know their business.

PG can respond with confidence, “This is not always the case.”

Sometimes, publishers do a terrible job with a book. From editing to proofing to marketing to accounting, sometimes publishers perform in a horribly inept manner.

Large publishers, small publishers, established publishers, new publishers can and do make idiotic decisions and stupid mistakes. The more such decisions are challenged and mistakes exposed, the more vigorously the idiots defend them.

PG found a nice comparison of Malpractice vs. Negligence in lay terms at a site called Diffen:

Negligence is a failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances. In tort law, negligence applies to harm caused by carelessness, not intentional harm.

Malpractice is a type of negligence; it is often called “professional negligence”. It occurs when a licensed professional (like a doctor, lawyer or accountant) fails to provide services as per the standards set by the governing body (“standard of care”), subsequently causing harm to the plaintiff.

Link to the rest at Diffen

When a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, an engineer, etc., fails to act in accordance with the standards of her/his profession, they are subject to being sued for malpractice.

When anyone acts in a negligent manner and someone is harmed, generally, they may be sued to obtain compensation for the consequences of their negligence.

Publishers are not licensed to be in the publishing business by any government authority (at least in the US), so, technically, there is no such thing as publishing malpractice right now.

However, publishers hold themselves out to be knowledgeable professionals operating in the publishing business. Why else would an author ever approach a publisher with a manuscript if not to have the manuscript professionally published in a competent manner?

If we apply the Negligence definition above to someone (or a group of someones) who says, “I am a publisher,” what do we get?

PG suggests the following definition for negligence by a publisher:

Failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances when the person is representing her/him/itself to be a publisher and entering into contracts to publish manuscripts owned by others.

Given that standard of care, PG suggests that publishers large and small regularly act in a negligent manner, thereby harming authors.

Back to the OP – A book’s cover design is perhaps the single most important element in the marketing and selling of a book.

The cover design stops (or doesn’t stop) someone browsing through the world’s largest bookstore, Amazon. In an online or a physical bookstore, instead of seeing a single book, a potential purchaser is usually presented with a group of books to choose from, and, hominids being primarily visual creatures, the cover design – color, artwork, formatting of title, etc. – is the most eye-catching element of the book. If the cover is off-putting or bland, the potential purchaser is likely to move on to something that looks more interesting at first glance.

A good argument can be made that the author’s name and reputation is even more important than the cover design, but PG suggests this standard only applies to books written by authors whose names are recognized by a reasonably large number of readers, a number large enough to constitute a commercially useful target market.

A commercially useful target market must be much larger for an author who is commercially published (many mouths demanding to be fed at the publisher) than it is for an indie author.

So, generally speaking, other than for a relatively small number of authors, a book’s cover design is the single most important element in the marketing and selling of a book that is commercially published.

Perhaps an author is independently wealthy and writes as a hobby.

That person does not need to worry about covers.

Every other author has a cogent business requirement for a good cover. Just as the author should be consulted about recommended changes in the manuscript (and have ultimate veto power), the author should be consulted and have veto power about the cover.

We’re getting down to the bottom of the list of rational reasons a publisher might not want to give an author any say about the cover of the author’s book.

This last reason is:

“What if the author is a crazy person?”

PG turns to one of the fundamental business principles that govern his legal practice:

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How Does Color Affect Your Potential Customers?

From ReadWrite:

Color design can be an effective marketing tool if used correctly. Acting directly on the subconscious of the site visitor, the color in web design can form a positive attitude to the product, trust, and positive emotions that cause a person to make a purchase and believe your brand.

When a person first enters the site, he intuitively perceives the picture as a whole. Within the next 1-2 seconds, the client decides to stay and explore the resource or to close the tab and go back to the search results. If the color design of the online business is chosen and implemented correctly, the user will more likely remain on the page.

. . . .

The principles of color combinations originate from Newton’s color ring. Of the three primary colors, intermediary ones are produced by mixing, which is located in the adjacent ring segments. To choose colors, use one of the following seven schemes:

Monochromatic – for design creation, one primary color is chosen, and additional colors are formed from its hues (saturation and brightness are adjusted).
Complementary – in this case, the color selection for the web site begins with the choice of two contrasting tones, which are complemented by several more derived shades.
Split – this scheme is similar to the complementary one, but one of the contrasting colors is replaced by two similar ones from the adjacent segments.
Analog – according to this scheme, 3 colors are chosen from the neighboring segments: one is used as the main one, and the other two play the role of additional accents.
Triad – the designer takes three colors that are equally distant from each other, and on the basis of them forms a color palette.
Rectangle – here, four colors are used, and each pair is chosen according to the principle of contrast.
Quadrate – the scheme resembles the previous one, but all colors are equally distant from each other.

. . . .

In developing the color scheme of the site you should not be guided solely by your own preferences. After all, the site is created, first of all, for the user. How to choose the right color for a site is a question of understanding the psychological aspect of the influence of colors and using this knowledge in accordance to your goals. There are three methods for choosing the color of the site which we will discuss in detail below.

. . . .

Colors for website design should correspond to its theme or product/services to which it is dedicated. For example, purple is the traditionally chosen shade for perfume sites, a site about auto lease deals is difficult to imagine without the use of dark blue or gray colors in the design.

. . . .

The site, designed with a large variety of colors, is hard and even repulsive: getting to it, the user wants to quickly close this tab. If there are few colors, the site may look monotonous, and the user’s attention will be dispersed. The optimal working palette for the designer is 3-4 colors:

Main. The basic color in the design, which highlights the main content on the pages.

Additional. Color to highlight background information, which is advantageously combined with the main color, complementing it.

Background. Calm shade on which the main and additional colors are not lost.

Accentuating. Contrast primary color that attracts the visitor’s attention to key elements of the site.

. . . .

Color perception is not constant. How a person responds to the same color depends on many factors. But still, before choosing a color for a site, you need to examine the typical associations for each color that are specific for most people.

Link to the rest at ReadWrite

PG says authors should be color conscious in all of an author’s marketing activities.

These will include:

  • Website
  • Book Covers
    • Individual Books
    • Series
  • Email Newsletters/Announcements
  • Online and Meatspace Advertising
  • Online Product Listings – Amazon, Nook, etc.

Here are some tools that might help with your color choices:

  • Colorpick Eyedropper – Have you ever been online and found an image, website, etc., etc., that includes colors you absolutely love? Here’s an app that lets you determine exactly what colors are being used and provides the necessary color codes to let you reproduce those colors in your own marketing. https://go.shr.lc/2QNwQEp

On the left below is the color of the font PG uses for The Passive Voice title at the top of the blog and also the background of the post section. Its hex color code is #f9eacc. If you put that color code into your browser, you’ll see the same color. On the right is the brown color PG uses for the headlines of each blog post – #723419

 


 

  • Palette Creator is another Chrome app that will pull all the colors out of a photo and save them. https://go.shr.lc/2WKFYPn

Here’s an example of Palette Creator in action:

Here’s a photo:

Here’s the 16-color palette that Palette Creator pulled from the photo:

You can use some or all of the palette colors to create a Macaw-like image.


 

  • If you’re worried about correctly identifying what colors go with other colors, there are several online color palette creators. Here’s Coolorshttps://go.shr.lc/2QPD4U2

PG will pull the dark blue color – #23508D – from the Macaw palette above and use it as the base color of a complete palette. Here’s what Coolors came up with. The original dark blue is the color strip with the lock symbol on it:

Don’t like this one? Hit the spacebar while Cooler is running and see a different palette based on the dark blue.


 

Below is the opening screen – PG has dropped the same dark blue color code into the website – 23508D as a base color for Paletton. You can barely see it at the tip of the white arrow.

Below, you can see the upward arrow pointing to the Monochromatic palette. On the right side of the screen you see a variety of colors that are complementary to the original dark blue color we’ve been working with.

The white arrow below is now pointing toward the Triad setting. You can see the results on the right side of the screen. You can also see three little gray dots on the color wheel over the original blue plus an old gold and a light umber color added to make up the Triad.

Adobe also has a palette design page at https://color.adobe.com/create. It’s easy to use, somewhat like Coolors. If you have a subscription to Creative Cloud, Adobe’s pallet design can be easily imported into other paid Adobe products for use there.

 

The Last Art Nouveau/Art Deco Post for Awhile

PG should, perhaps, clarify that Art Nouveau and Art Deco are related but separate classes of images.

Art Nouveau lasted from about 1890-1910. Here are a few examples:

 

Entrance to the Paris Subway by Iste Praetor – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23491357

 

“Peacock Room 1908”
Peacock Room featuring the Princess in the Land of Porcelain painting by James McNeill Whistler
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M Sackler Gallery [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

 

Cover of Jugend by Otto Eckmann (1896)

 

Front cover of Wren’s City Churches by Mackmurdo, a print from The Hobby Horse (England), published by G. Allen with woodcut, letterpress, mezzotint on steel.

 

Alphonse Mucha, an advertisement for Job cigarette papers

 

Now a bit of Art Deco:

 

By Weimer Pursell, silkscreen print by Neely Printing Co., Chicago – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs divisionunder the digital ID cph.3g11941.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12570100

 

December 1919 Vanity Fair cover by French illustrator Georges Lepape (1887-1971).

 

Curtiss Flying Service Poster, National Air & Space Museum

 

Art Deco/Art Nouveau isn’t limited to old works. Here are a couple of images from modern artists at 99Designs who may be available to create cover designs.

 

“Seductive Vintage Beer Label” ChiChiya at 99Designs https://99designs.com/profiles/3238545

 

From CIN at 99Designs
https://99designs.com/profiles/1242224

 

Another Cover for a Novel Set in the 1920’s

PG claims no great cover expertise but thinks the 20’s-30’s look is both timeless and attractive. To his eye, this cover is an updated derivative referencing that era.

 


Art Deco Period – One of the Most Beautiful Styles in History

From Widewalls:

We have recently explored the movement in decorative arts and architecture called Art Deco. We’ve touched upon the concepts and influences of one of the most beautiful styles in history. But now, we will go further and focus more on the social context of this visually stunning form, discuss its origins, time period and reflect upon its everlasting influence. Where was Art Deco period born? What circumstances led to the development of one of the most beautiful styles of artistic expression? Just how far did this obsession with beauty go? This unique art movement gripped the imagination of nations worldwide, bringing the sleek lines and decorative style to architecture, furniture, jewelry, arts, and many other forms. It has elevated the mass travel to an experience of comfort, glamor and luxury. It influenced our vision of the future and produced timeless landmarks still standing tall today. Art Deco was an eclectic style which drew upon many sources. It reflected the human need for pleasure and escape, providing a modern outlook on life. Art Deco was a celebration of life in its most luxurious form.

. . . .

It was a time of Industrial Revolution and progress, people were becoming wealthy, different generations with different prioritieswere coming to conquer the scene. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the face of the western world was changing dramatically. Known as the ‘lost generation’, those who came of age during World War I and the 1920’s wanted more from life. They were clamoring for glamour, filled with Joie de vivre, they craved the very best that life could offer. They were dubbed as the ‘lost generation’ because they rashly spent the flower of their youth, either dying before or during World War II. In between the two global conflicts, something beautiful blossomed, found its way through the prevailing mixed feelings of relief and joy, anxiety and trepidation. Art Deco was born. The style reached the apex of its popularity right in the 1920s and 1930s, with the ultimate celebration of the new designs displayed in an exhibition held in 1925 in Paris. Many international exhibitions promoted Art Deco and developed its influence, but none was more important than the one in Paris entitled the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Thousands of designs from all over Europe and beyond were brought together, gathering more than staggering 16 million visitors. This event was a pivotal one for Art Deco, marking the high point of its first phase. The show aimed to establish the pre-eminence of French taste and luxury goods. This celebration of life and taste marked Paris as one of the most fashionable cities. Paris transformed into an arts mecca. Major manufacturers, department stores, designers, avenues of boutiques and other enticing venues and happenings would draw countless visitors during the day. At night, Paris would earn its very deserving title of ‘the city of light’. Bridges, fountains, monumental gates and major landmarks would become illuminated and breathe life into the streets of the heart of France, making the entire city a blazing spectacle. Art Deco began to attain its character, the themes and formal repertoire were being established and the exhibition made an immediate impact throughout the global scene.

Link to the rest at Widewalls

Here is some of the art accompanying the OP:

 

Vogue Magazine cover (USA 1926)

 

Travel Poster

 

Architectural Detail, Lobby of The Chicago Board of Trade, built in 1930

Link to the rest at Widewalls

The Art of Book Covers (1820–1914)

For some time, PG has enjoyed viewing images from a website called The Public Domain Review.

The website describes itself as follows:

Founded in 2011, The Public Domain Review is an online journal and not-for-profit project dedicated to the exploration of curious and compelling works from the history of art, literature, and ideas.

In particular, as our name suggests, the focus is on works which have now fallen into the public domain, that vast commons of out-of-copyright material that everyone is free to enjoy, share, and build upon without restriction. Our aim is to promote and celebrate the public domain in all its abundance and variety, and help our readers explore its rich terrain – like a small exhibition gallery at the entrance to an immense network of archives and storage rooms that lie beyond.

With a focus on the surprising, the strange, and the beautiful, we hope to provide an ever-growing cabinet of curiosities for the digital age, a kind of hyperlinked Wunderkammer – an archive of content which truly celebrates the breadth and diversity of our shared cultural commons and the minds that have made it.

Link to the rest at About The Public Domain Review

From Public Domain Review, some lovely old book covers:

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Link to more old book covers at Public Domain Review

Ideas for Book Covers

Covers are a recurring topic for indie authors.

Perhaps the most important means of stopping a reader browsing on Amazon and persuading them to look more closely at a book is the cover.

PG has noted that in some genres, many of the covers look the same.

There can be a perfectly good reason for this. Nothing says Zombie! like a decaying hand.


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or someone enjoying a light snack.
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However, it can be easy to get into a visual rut.

In PG’s experience, many people don’t know that Adobe has a website to help people who use its software show their accomplishments to the world.

PG searched Bēhance for book covers and discovered far more original cover designs than he ever sees on Amazon.

Following is a small sample. Click on the image for a larger version.

You can all of the images are subject to the artist’s copyright.

PG has inserted a link to the artist’s page on Bēhance above each image.

Artist

. . . .

 Artist

Artist

Artist

Artist

Artist

 

Link to the rest at Bēhance

US Book Covers vs. UK Book Covers for 2018

From The Literary Hub:

Over any given year, those of us in the literary media see hundreds of books pass by. Some of their covers are great, some mediocre, some simply odd, but the ones we remember from the pack tend to be either the most unusual or the most repeated. So one of my favorite exercises after a year of covering and reading about books is to shake up my memory and see how the covers I’m familiar with looked in other countries. Since big books are often published concurrently (or at least closely together) in the US and the UK, I thought I would compare some of my favorites here, and even dare to choose which one I like better.

On that note, please bear in mind that I am an American writer and reader, and therefore US book covers are made for people like me—but also bear in mind that I may have gotten bored with the American covers, and the UK ones have that sparkly new quality that makes me like them better.

. . . .

Winner: These covers are so different in tone that it’s really hard to choose. I love the audacity of the UK cover, especially with the backward text, which is something I could easily see an over-cautious publicity department nixing. But as far as which one has the potential to make me cross the room to pick it up? I suppose that would have to be the US cover—though I’m a devoted Mendelsund fan, so take it with a grain of salt.

. . . .


Winner: Ditto above. The office was split—lots found the UK cover more interesting, complex and compelling, but I always go in for simplicity, and the purity of that juicy yellow on the US cover… Can’t beat it.

. . . .

Winner: This is an interesting one: I like all the elements of the US cover better—the hand painted lettering, the impressionistic face—but I think the overall impression of the UK cover is more striking. It looks more like a Big Serious Novel, but more importantly, it invites the viewer to pick apart all of its patchwork slices to find meaning.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

 

Welcome to the Bold and Blocky Instagram Era of Book Covers


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From Vulture:

If you’re looking for the most anticipated books of 2019, chances are your search will start with Google and end at Amazon. Chances are even better that one book cover will consistently jump off the screen: Marlon James’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf, its graphic white title entwining with a writhing, jewel-toned print of a shape-shifting beast. This first book in the Booker Prize–winning author’s Dark Star trilogy, a queer, Afrofuturist fantasy series, has already been called the “African Game of Thrones.” (Another tagline: the literary Black Panther.) It’s clearly being positioned by publishers and booksellers as a cultural icon, with a blazing cover to match.

Scroll on through the best-of lists and other titles will pop just as loudly: The title of Pitchaya Sudbanthad’s Bangkok Wakes to Rain gleams in gold letters over a drippy green abstraction of leaves. Helen Oyeyemi’s Ginger Bread shouts in bold yellow against a lightly ombré coral backdrop, its plane broken by a black crow grasping a gleaming tangerine. And Kristen Arnett’s Mostly Dead Things features a twisted, hand-drawn flamingo on a field of avocado green, with the title scrawled over it in what appears to be a fat white sharpie.

None of these titles is available yet, but anywhere you find them online will likely direct you to preorder on Amazon. [Ed.: Guilty.] In fact, their covers are designed to ensure that you will. At a time when half of all book purchases in the U.S. are made on Amazon — and many of those on mobile — the first job of a book cover, after gesturing at the content inside, is to look great in miniature. That means that where fine details once thrived, splashyprints have taken over, grounding text that’s sturdy enough to be deciphered on screens ranging from medium to miniscule.

If books have design eras, we’re in an age of statement wallpaper and fatty text. We have the internet to thank — and not just the interface but the economy that’s evolved around it. From the leather-bound volumes of old to lurid mass-market paperbacks, book covers were never designed in a vacuum. Their presentation had everything to do with the way books were made, where and how and to whom they were sold. And when you look at book covers right now, what you’ll see blaring back at you, bold and dazzling, is a highly competitive marketing landscape dominated by online retail, social media, and their curiously symbiotic rival, the resurgent independent bookstore.

Link to the rest at Vulture and thanks to DaveMich for the tip.

The care and feeding of your cover artist

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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?

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:


.
And the UK cover:

Driving Down the Price of Publishing

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

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

When Your Favorite Writer Does Not Like Your Initial Cover Designs

From The Literary Hub:

Making personal work has always been a part of my practice. In fact, until a few years ago, my only job was being a bartender, and my personal illustration work was my single source of visual output. With a little luck and a lot of help, I stumbled into my career as a book cover designer. With so much to learn in design, I had to organize my time wisely. As a result, the time I spend on my personal work has diminished, but the occasional selfish urge will compel me to make something. It’s a way of practicing my skills and exercising my ego—a task I think is necessary in order to thrive as an artist.

My foray into book cover design has brought many perks, one of which is working for authors I’ve long admired. Lo and behold, I was recently assigned with a new collection of short stories by one of my favorite writers, Jeffrey Eugenides. Hell yes. Furthermore, he wanted an illustrated cover. Jackpot.

I read the manuscript overnight. I couldn’t believe how good it was. I poured all of myself into designing this cover for the following week and hit “send.” As I eagerly awaited approval, I enjoyed a rare moment of satisfaction.

. . . .

The following morning, I was not met with the reaction I expected. The author, whom I planned on wowing with my ingenious designs, did not write me a personal email saying, “It is more beautiful than I could possibly have imagined. Whatever the book’s success is will rest in significant part with your work on it; I’m so grateful!” Instead, due to the mercy of my editor, much of the author’s response was redacted and summed down to, “I’m afraid I’m bearing bad news . . .” I did not pass go, and I certainly did not collect $200.

Let the spiraling commence.

What started weeks ago as a sure winner had turned into a hundred-page InDesign document. Embittered, I started bargaining with myself through cheap edits. Surely, italicizing the subtitle will do the trick. No? How about making it sans serif? Two more weeks dragged on, and I was no closer to an approved jacket. People started getting impatient, and the aforementioned mercy of my editor was nowhere to be found. Quiet threats of assigning a freelancer to finish the job began floating around. The anxiety trickled down and spread through me like a pox; manifesting itself at 3am as a recurring nightmare in one act.

. . . .

It’s happened before, and it’s liable to happen again. My instincts as a designer had unwittingly betrayed me. I wanted to make a beautiful book jacket, but had forgotten why. I reminded myself that a well-designed book jacket ultimately serves the book it’s made for. Like a neon sign, a three-letter word switched on in my head: J O BThis is a job. I closed all the tabs and windows on my screen. A fresh start would do me good.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

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