Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Word Witch Wednesday - the mad science of book covers (part 2)


Welcome to part two of the mad science of book covers, class! If you need to review what we talked about in part one, or borrow a few notes, please feel free to do so.

Now that you know the basic elements of your genre's book covers, it's time to take the next step and come up with a general concept for your own.

Do you have an image in your head of what you want the cover to look like? If yes, forget about it. Don't go into this with an idealized version in your head. You'll never be satisfied. Trust me, I know.

The basic elements I need for my urban fantasy covers are: mood creating background, silhouetted villain, unsmiling protagonist, and something to tie all covers together for the series. Possibly the shifter's animal.

I left out the villain. Why? It was just too much. Go as simple as possible. You want to hook a reader with your cover and capture their attention so they read the blurb. If the cover is too busy, they'll just be confused.

Background: my Totem series takes place in Alaska. Thankfully there isn't a lack of beautiful and mystical images of the northernmost state. But you need to be more specific than just a general area. Where does the most intense scene(s) of your story take place? Or, if you don't want to give that bit away, where does the majority of the story take place?

Totem book #1 - late summer forest.
Totem book #2 - base of a mountain.
Totem book #3 - tiny Native village.

Unsmiling protagonist: Do you have detailed descriptions of your protagonists? Good. Keep the notes stash them away, and make a very generalized profile about them. If you're very lucky, you'll find an image of a model that looks exactly how you imagined your character, but that's unlikely, and it's okay.

One of the things I learned from the marvelous cover artist who designed the cover to Of Blood and Sorrow was that covers aren't exact representations of the story inside. Readers are going to picture the characters in their heads totally different than you and from each other. What the model on the cover needs to do is portray certain characteristics like strength, sass, or vulnerability.

Write down the main characteristics of your character. If you aren't going to use a person on your cover, the place, animal, or object you do use should portray certain aspects that represent your story. Make these clear.

Something to tie all covers in a series together: You can do this in several ways. The same character on all covers, the same background with different characters on each cover, a theme like the four elements or pet loving ogres, different color washes for the same cover, etc.

As you've done your research, you will have seen how other authors in your genre tie the book covers in their series together. What do you like best? What would work with your series best?

For me, I created a partial frost border that will be the same on all of the covers along with a Totem logo which will contain the book number.

The final extra bit. The shifter animal: The Totem series features three sisters who are polar bear shifters. I considered putting a bear in the background on each cover, but it felt like too many bears. Instead, I went with totem animals since in each book, the heroes are seeking a different one.

These are all just pieces at the moment. Again, don't get an idea in your head of how it's going to look. You must collect each element first. How they fit together or don't fit together may surprise you.

Next class will be about finding the right images.

37 comments:

  1. Some great tips there, Christine. Thanks so much. I'm finding these posts really helpful as I plan for the cover of my début novel.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I imagine finding the exact match for one's main character would be impossible.
    The artist who did my covers took a moment from the story and expanded upon it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Creating covers as far harder than creating the book, I think. I know I've struggled with the images myself. Great tutorial!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Interesting point about the cover not looking exactly like the character but focusing instead on portraying aspects of that character.

    I went in with loose ideas for the covers but after brainstorming and working with the artist, I like the results even better. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I spend more time I think on the cover than I do the novel. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  6. More good advice. I was just talking with someone about a cover that was too busy and it gave us the impression the book would be to busy. It's amazing what those covers do!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nicola, you're welcome. I hope they help! Good luck.

    Alex, it totally is.

    Libby, thanks!

    Madeline, good cover artists amaze me. The one that did my book was absolutely fantastic. I was left in awe.

    Mac, I know that feeling!

    Holly, thank you! I don't like busy covers either.

    ReplyDelete
  8. So at the end of this series of posts are you going to show off any of the covers? I've seen the mock ups, so I can't wait to see the final product.

    ReplyDelete
  9. M, thank you!

    Patricia, yup! Though the series is extending longer than I anticipated. It seems I have a lot to say on this!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great tips! I will say, though, that we always get an exact visual in our heads of what we want it to look like, and it always ends up looking exactly as imagined. I think being able to draw it or photograph it ourselves has something to do with that. To go along with that, we've never used and never will use models on the cover, because we'd never find a model that looked like one of our characters. For example, I don't think they have any photos of models who are dressed up as homeless writers, sleeping on a park bench in the middle of the day.

    ReplyDelete
  11. More great tips! I do get an idea in my head of how I want it to look, though it sometimes changes after I start designing. For the Cera Chronicles, I'm aiming for the same model in the same partial face/arm+hand combo. Then I created my little series logo to go with it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wonderful tips! I wish I researched pictures before I published my first in a series. If I had, the protagonist would have had a different color of hair. I found so many pictures that would work for her, if she'd been a blonde instead of a brunette. LOL!

    ReplyDelete
  13. ABFTS, you're lucky to be one of the few that can do that. You could dress up and do a photoshoot in the park! ;)

    Loni, awesome!

    Cherie, thanks! This is why I have images for future covers, so I can make my character descriptions fit them to a tee. Hehehe!

    ReplyDelete
  14. These tips are awesome! When I need a cover, I always include the mood, setting, MC descriptions, and a few important elements for the story.

    The characters on my covers don't look like my characters in my head. You're right that they also won't match the reader's vision. And that their vision will also be different from ours.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It's true. The cover for my debut novel was NOTHING like what I'd imagined. I had all these ideas and my cover designer came back with something completely different--that everyone loved. As it turns out, what he created was a total accident. Some graphics got mangled and when he went to fix them, he stopped, took and good look and then backed away. Best accident, ever!

    ReplyDelete
  16. That's such a great point about readers visually your character the way they want to regardless of how he/she looks on the cover. I think that's one reason I rarely like movies made from books I've loved because I have my own ideas of the characters and it's hard to see actors and actresses who are completely different even if they are good. Never really thought about this from a cover perspective.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I never think about describing a protagonist personality when I send in my artwork sheets. I'm making a note of that.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Chrys, thanks! Your covers are fabulous.

    Crystal, an accident? Wow, those are gorgeous accidents. :)

    Julie, thank you. Movies are a different beast all together.

    Susan, awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Loved this post and the first one!
    My daughter and I were just talking about book covers today and what makes them stand out - it seems like the main character needs to pop out of the cover visually, and have some simple layering in the background to give the appearance of depth. We also talked about how simple images are a fantasy trope that came and now seems to be going out. Anyway, I'm a ways from creating a new cover, but it's good to keep all this in mind. :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Tyrean, thank you! I agree with you about the character needing to pop out. Hopefully I've done that with my covers. Good luck with yours in the future!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'll be following this series. I'm curious about how it's all done. So far I've been a total chicken about trying to do my own covers. Lucky for me I found the perfect artist for my MGs.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Great points! Wouldn't it be amazing to always find a photo that looks exactly like your MC? :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. My mom tried to navigate the world of self-publishing. I think I've talked her into trying for small presses...not that it'll be easy to get in with them at all. But I said, "They handle the book cover and that stuff." They take a HUGE cut in exchange for that, but she's retired and I think that's just the best option for where she is. All of this self-publishing stuff is really like starting and running a business!

    ReplyDelete
  24. These are awesome tips! Your cover ideas for the Totem series sound great. I'd really like to see them.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Great post! I can't wait for your totem series - it sounds SO great. And can't wait to see the covers!

    ReplyDelete
  26. It would be kind of interesting to see how a cover artist would conceive my main character.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Some great tips there, Christine. Thanks so much.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Great blogging/teaching idea, love it!
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I have a very clear idea of my future cover. We shall see if it pans out!

    ReplyDelete
  30. You've shared some pretty helpful tips. When it comes to covers I know what I like when i see it. Never had to make up one on my own. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    ReplyDelete
  31. So many great tips! I agree, simpler is better when it comes to covers. They risk looking way too cluttered otherwise!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Great tips, thanks! I admit I've had an idea of the cover of my first WIP since not long after I started writing it. It will be hard to move past that.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thanks, Christine. I totally agree. I think perhaps we'll call that accident divine intervention. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Great tips for designing covers! Yours always look so good!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Yup, it's best to keep an open mind.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Some great tips there, Christine. Thanks so much.

    ReplyDelete