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.