Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Word Witch Wednesday - the mad science of book covers (part 1)

I've spent a lot of time creating book covers this year. I put as many hours into them as I did writing the first drafts! Maybe I'm a little bit of a perfectionist, but readers do judge books by their covers. It is the first thing that needs to grab their attention.

I'm going to share with you my process over the next few months, and end with the reveal of the first three Totem covers.

The first important thing you need to do before you start creating is know your genre. This is vital. The cover will need to declare where your book fits. If it has a sub-genre, be aware of that too.

My genre: the Totem series is urban fantasy. My sub-genres: there is a strong element of romance, and the protagonists are shifters.

Once you have your genre, it's research time. Google makes it very easy. Do an image search and compare several covers of books in your genre. What are the common elements? What makes some covers stand out from the others? What makes you want to pick up a book?

Urban fantasy cover common elements:
- urban background at night. Usually cityscape or forest.
- protagonist the central feature. Typically ready to fight. And nobody smiles. (Seriously. It's like smiling is against the law on urban fantasy covers!)
- dark colors, sometimes misty, to create an ominous atmosphere.
- books in a series need to share a common look.

Sub-genre common elements:
- a little bit of sexiness for the romance. But not the oh-la-la type!
- the animal or a hint of the animal the protagonist can shift into.

- silhouetted villain/danger lurking in the background.
- silhouetted love interest lurking being protective in the background. In human or animal form.

What makes me want to pick up a book? A protagonist that looks unusual. Not your typical beauty with a sword or tattooed beefcake. A background that tells a story as much as the character featured. A hint of brilliant color along with the dark and mysterious colors.

A big order, but I'm determined to fill it.

Next post on the mad science of book covers: your general concept.

P.S. I'm calling this the "mad science" of book covers because piecing the elements together is science. Yet there is something magical in making it all come together as a whole. An awesome cover artist is a little mad with the magic, and that's what makes their art stand out.


  1. Hi Christine - a fascinating read and from your knowledge and research we'll be able to glean lots of helpful ideas. Thanks - and good luck, then I look forward to more posts etc and the final reveal - cheers Hilary

  2. Great tips! Covers can be so tricky to pull off, for sure. And LOL at smiling being illegal for urban fantasy covers. That does seem to be the case, a lot of the time!

  3. Even knowing what you need, that must take a long time to research images.

  4. Totally love the "mad science" angle!

    I don't know that I'd have the patience - or talent! - to do the covers myself. For my two collections, I had a general idea of what I wanted then worked with the artist, who had great ideas of his own.

  5. That's a lot of research! I'd never feel confident in designing my own cover, because I know how much they influence my own buying habits. I'm looking forward to learning more :-)

  6. Knowing what sells in the genre is key. Sometimes an out-of-the-box cover design can work, but that's rare. It's best if a person can look at the cover and know whereabouts it is in genre.

  7. SQUEE! Given that I've seen the first drafts of the covers, I'm excited for this. =D

  8. Great information here, Christine. You know what you're doing. I'm glad I joined your blog and look forward to learning more about book covers. Thanks for sharing this info with your followers.

  9. We're big fans of mad science, and of piecing together book covers. For us, our goal is always, "What's so unique that people will want to pick it up simply because they've never seen anything like it before?" Also, like you, no beefcakes. Never beefcakes.

  10. Hilary, thank you!

    Heather, thanks. While finding unsmiling models isn't difficult, finding one that isn't smiling with the right expression is hard!

    Alex, much longer than I expected!

    Madeline, sometimes I question my patience!

    Annalisa, thank you. Me too. And that's where my perfectionism gets a little out of hand!

    Cherie, I totally agree.

    Patricia, I'm sure you're relieved my ramblings are finished with these covers. Well, until I start finalizing the final three!

    Victoria, thanks so much!

    ABFTS, I like unique ones that make themselves stand out, but they have to do something with the story! And I will give a sigh that I might not be able to avoid beefcakes totally.

  11. Excellent summary! I like the research you put into it for you covers. I know I've been looking at making my own book covers. I made Thanmir War and I'm in the process of updating This World Bites for better title treatment. It's been trial and error, but I think I have a solid plan now.

  12. I suspect the uniqueness of the background might make all the difference. Everything else you mention looks pretty similar on most of the books I've seen in your sub-genre. So make that background stand out!

  13. Ah yes, no smiling is allowed on those UF covers. :) I am glad the women get to wear clothes now. A, um, few (or so) years back they were all scantily clad on the covers even though the MC wore jeans and a baggy t-shirt throughout the novel.

  14. Loni, awesome! Can't wait to see the new covers. :)

    Ken, it has a big effect, I think.

    Holly, I'm happy they do wear clothes too. My women are dressed and not standing in sexy or weird poses!

  15. Ooh, I didn't know most of these.
    Good job in what you do. I believe the cover is the make or break of a book. Well, at least for me.

  16. Great tips, Christine. Looking forward to reading more and following your progress. Thanks for sharing. So helpful! :)

  17. Covers are important.
    Great list of tips!

  18. Hi Christine,

    What a fascinating read, Christine. You most certainly put a lot of thought, time and effort into your writing process. You have covered it all so very well. Good grief, I have no particular genre. This is the sort of "mad science", that was brilliant.

    Thank you,

    Gary :)

  19. I'm a big fan of illustrated covers, or hybrids combining digital design with hand-drawing. I also like silhouettism, a good color scheme, abstract art, a good typeface, and a nice background. There are so many books I've immediately lost interest in because the cover is overused and cliché, like a headless, hairless bare chest, a headless person, or a generic-looking couple in an almost-kiss. I still need to find someone to revamp the two covers I'd hoped to take care of last year, after finally discovering (not even from the artist herself!) she's not taking any new commissions at the moment. It's a shame, since I really liked her artwork.

  20. You always make amazing covers! I would say thanks for the tips, but I know if I tried them it would be a complete disaster so there's no point LOL. I am hopeless. But it was interesting to read about your process and I can't wait to see the Totem covers.

  21. Great information, something I really need to learn, I'm like Julie, hopeless when it comes to covers. So I'll be paying for help in the future.
    Still I look forward to learning more!

  22. Fantastic post and you've done so amazingly with your new covers:)

  23. I have to get bookmarks and banners designed for each book, but I have a cover to hand over that they can get graphics from. I just can't imagine what it's like to manage the cover design process myself. I'm in awe of those of you who do all that!

  24. Good book cover designs is quite an art, too. Sounds like you've got your system in place. Thanks for telling us about it here today.


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