and I wanted to go with a new cover. The publisher said it read like sci-fi, and talked me into going with a more sci-fi cover. It's sold well, I've gotten plenty of feedback, and the more horror/thriller guys (an the artist types) tend to like it alot, while the sci-fi audience seems evenly split. Those into the more surreal, introspective stuff (like Blade Runner) love it, while the guys who want space opera tend to want more aliens and nonstop action. Here is the current cover, and a rough draft of the cover I originally wanted, and am thinking of using on the expanded edition.
The space cover is already in use http://www.amazon.com/The-Black-Seas...1883623&sr=8-1
I was going for a bit of a pulp feel, like all the books that came out as reissues in the '70s and had obscure lettering and fantastical paintings. I originally wanted to use the "girl pouring blood on herself" image, but my publisher talked me into using something sci-fi based instead. For a reissue, I think I'll go back to the image I liked, and although I still want a funky cheap paperback font, I feel the old one no longer flows with the new image, so i'm looking through mockups. Here's the latest version. I think the title font should be a little bigger, and moved closer to the top.
You see thats part of the problem, it took me ages to work out what was happening in that image.
You've placed the text over the necessary information (the hands and cups) - at first I thought she'd been shot or was exploding.
The way the figure blends into the background and the blood splatter makes it incredibly hard to read and thats at 2 feet, let alone from a bookshelf.
i feel partly responsible for this
a previous thread covering this topic:
Partially responsible for what? I received alot of feedback, and the space cover is only what it is due to that feedback. I've gotten a huge volume of responses to the book since it's release, and all seem to like the cover. The only problem is, the cover is not really representative of the interior.
The other painting is for a future edition, and is still in the planning stages. I already asked the graphic designer to move the text up a bit. He could probably make it smaller as well, so the hands are more visible. Here's the image without any text.
"Partially responsible for what? I received alot of feedback, and the space cover is only what it is due to that feedback. I've gotten a huge volume of responses to the book since it's release, and all seem to like the cover."
What I mean is last time the feedback was the title and image are clashing making both hard to see, and that was exactly what you kept ignoring last time.
heres what you had
heres a quick paintover i did to illustrate my thoughts
to which you said
"That does look very dynamic. A little too clean and sterile in a 2001 sort of way,"
fair enough, but this was what you asked your graphic designer to do. its exactly the same writing, but again its clashing with the image. and then you then put the text back where it was where it clashed with the picture even more as it had before.
it was like you missed the exact point of the feedback, and all the other people who posted in the thread had similar things to say.
"I like the painting, but the layout isn't so hot. The title is too close to the spaceship, making it hard to see. I had a hard time figuring out what was going on for a minute. "
": the painting is great, the text doesn't match it though, and it seems a shame to have it ontop of your good work"
"I aggree with all of the comments. [the examples from the internet posted in the thread] all have very clear and readable titles without detracting from the illustration.
"Definitely clashes. Unfortunately that tilted text ain't workin' either, gives the cover no center. It seems that you want the ship as the focal point?"
which is the same as
"You see thats part of the problem, it took me ages to work out what was happening in that image.
You've placed the text over the necessary information "
"Alright, I have a new guy working on it,and this is his first draft. I thought the letters were too low, a little to pink, and maybe a little to big as well. I wanted a little more of the "Emptiness of Space" to show"
"Alright, thanks for everybody's input, this is the cover I am going with."
So eventually it ended up exactly as it had before, but with the same font I bashed in in 2 seconds just as a placeholder. Thats why i feel responsible, for not making myself cleaer before.
Would I be right in saying you told your graphic designer very strictly what he was allowed to do, rather than let him use his judgement?
Either way, you need to start isolating the title from the image to make it clearer whats going on (or letting your designer use the tricks he knows to succesfully locate the text) because it has the same problems as the space one; very nice image, real bad graphic design.
Last edited by Velocity Kendall; March 16th, 2012 at 03:04 PM.
Actually, the post directly after I put up the cover I wanted to use was very complimentary. I didn't stranglehold my designer, but I was fairly specific. A lot of those early 70s pulp and sci-fi books that I grew up on had twisty, very creative scripts. I hear the thing about the girl's hands being integral to understanding the image, and I just got off the phone with my designer about it. I haven't settled on an image, that's why I'm posting up samples and asking for opinions. Just because I don't follow every bit of advice, doesn't mean I don't listen to it and take it all into account.
Last edited by Dan Henk; March 16th, 2012 at 04:03 PM.
Thing is, those covers with the crazy script have a lot of negative space for the designer to work with. You don't have much space at all that isn't integral to the illustration. Making both the image and the text readable is going to be enough of a challenge that I wouldn't prioritize emulating those scripts. Save the idea for the next cover and plan your text during the preliminary stages of the illustration.
I think your current layout and type design needs to be re-evaluated. The impact of the cover is severely weakened by the lack of contrast between the type and the background. The color, size, style, spacing and warping applied to the type also negatively affects legibility. As Grunler mentioned, the examples you posted had adequate negative space to allow the type to 'breathe' and thus more risks could be taken with the typography. Also none of the examples you posted are book covers. I think you'll find that many of the covers from the 70's empasized simplicity, clarity and legibility most of all.
I made a quick mock-up of a cover in what, I think, is indicative of the pulp style. I applied a gradient (white to black) to the image, set to overlay, to make the 'ground easier to work with, and to punch up the image a bit. The blurb at the top is from amazon. The font style itself may not be 100% adequate as far as authenticity, but I hope it gets the point across.
I think that in the future you should keep the type design in mind from the beginning, when composing the illustration. This makes things easier, but it also results in stronger, more compelling covers. Good type design is every bit as deep and challenging as painting or drawing and should not be taken lightly. Your current efforts seem to be making the type subbordinate to the image, and this makes the message weaker and unclear. It is important to remember that the image and letters on the cover need to work in concert with each other for the best result. I hope this helps in some way.
That's good advice, and I hear what you are saying. I've done CD and magazine art, and had to be very careful to leave room for any script or lettering. I am trying to see if I can use the image of the girl, use a slightly funky lettering, and make it all work. This is the latest version the designer has sent me.
javiers looks proper, like youd see on a book stand. the fine text is the correct size for the review.
dan youve got to take that advice it makes the image really work and the text pops out too
get your designer to knock that up in vector and your laughing.
what about the back and spine?
The designer didn't come up with it per se. I'm going through ideas and ran "using the Star Wars script" by him. Nothing was set in stone, it's just a in a theoretical stage right now, and I'm posting up samples and asking for opinions.
Javiar, I was hoping you had just the the logo you just showed me separate from the art, so I could send it to my designer.
I have to say, I think the new cover is terrible regardless. I still can't really parse what I'm looking at with the woman tossing the blood over herself. In one instance, the text covers the hands and it's not clear what's happening, and in the other, the text covers the legs and it's not clear on first glance that that's a woman at all.
Speaking as an actual graphic designer, Velocity's paintover is by far the superior cover. It's representative while still keeping the title clear and readable at scale. Javier's cover is an improvement but it can't disguise the fact that there's no place to put the text there that doesn't cover up some needed identifying element.
My recommendation is to forget using that image at all. It's too muddled to work at scale and I can't find anything in your Amazon listing that mentions or even hints at a female character. This isn't even pulp at all - just google 'pulp covers' and you'll see they trend towards a bright, well defined palette and a kind of '50s pinup style.
Calireayn, what are you a graphic designer for? Not being an ass, and you do have a good point with the viability of the image, but I would like to know. Different designers look for different things.
Little bit of everything, really. I'm an ex-marketing director turned web designer, so I've worn a lot of hats. I tend to judge design on a few different qualities, mostly based on experience seeing as I'm entirely self-taught:
- is it recognisable and coherent at different sizes
- is it readable at different sizes
- does it reflect whatever it's supposed to represent accurately
- does it translate well into different mediums
and most importantly
- does it catch the eye and do all of the above at first glance, without any extra deciphering by the viewer.
Bottom line in all this, you know where and how this cover is going to be seen. You know the sizes for Amazon listings, which should also translate into a rough guideline for how it would look on a shelf at a comfortable browsing distance. As that is how it'll be seen most often by new readers, that is the size that is most important for marketing purposes. I would also argue that it needs to work well in black and white because most e-readers don't have colour screens. And your design does none of this - it's not instantly readable, it doesn't work at scale, it's an indistinguishable wash of grey if you desaturate it, and it doesn't even represent anything in the book by all accounts.
So here's an example of doing it right.
The best designs do everything I've said and then reveal other, hidden layers on examination. Take a look at the one below - The Interrogative Mood, by Padgett Powell.
On first glance, it's a simple, distinctive and eye-catching cover. The title sits well and is easily readable at scale. The image, that of a man wrestling with a question mark, is both representative and easy to distinguish at scale if you look at it on an Amazon listing. It will work in black and white just as easily as in colour.
Once you start to examine it, though, several other elements reveal themselves that show the designer really knew their stuff. Observe the sight lines that form an elongated triangle from the point of the man's elbow sticking up to the bottom two corners of the image. This was not an accident; the designer wants to draw the eye from the title to the author's name. Observe the change in font type for the actual question mark that is so different from the title; again, not an accident. The designer wants to suggest elegance and introspection by using what looks like a serif font instead of the monospaced sans-serif title font.
Okay, let's take a look at Velocity's paintover. I don't like the choice of font and position for the author's name - it's not quite readable - or the choice of color for the title, but if we look at the title itself, it does read much better than the others and the sight lines are excellent. The title slant and the contrails from the spaceships draw the eye into the blackest part of the picture - literally into the 'black seas of infinity'.
In summary: you can't just take an artwork, put some text on it, and call it a design. Graphic design itself is art, but it's art with a clear purpose; to use the language of visual cues to convey information to the viewer. Your cover does not convey information effectively. Hence, it needs to be changed.
Here is the latest design, but I might be better off just painting a new image for the new cover. The picture in the painting is actually very relevant. It's a distinct scene right in the middle of the book, and was done just for that. But it might be better as promotional material, and not as a cover.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Dan, but who cares that it's a distinct scene in the middle of the book?
I'm sure it's important to you, and pivotal to the plot and all that, but this is marketing. This is advertising for the book. You have got to be mercenary about it and not get attached to any one image. If it's not communicating a sense of what the book as a whole is about, then it's a waste of your time and it will cost you sales. A cover has to represent the entire work, not just one part of it.
As far as I can see, and this is somewhat of a guess because the main character isn't even named on the product description on Amazon, this is a story about a tech nerd trying to survive in some kind of post apocalyptic setting that has something to do with aliens. Frankly, neither cover has much to do with that, although the book suggests that there's some space stuff later on.
The cover you've got there is nothing to do with that basic one-line description. That cover looks like it belongs on some kind of voodoo horror story. It is not pulp. It is not representative. At Amazon list scale (height of 300px, if anyone is curious), your name is blurred and the woman looks like she's got no head. At first glance it just looks like a blob of red because too much detail is lost.
Again, this is not a good cover. Keep it as promo art if you want but please, please get something that's representative of the book and preferably get an actual graphic designer to do the cover.
Believe it or not, I'm writing a book on marketing for authors, particularly self-published ones, and I'm nearly thinking of including a chapter on covers alone because I keep seeing stuff like this.
I have to agree as marvi as this image is, to be a poster it needs more white space same as you'd need if used for a cover and I do think you could do better if you start again (also its not likely in my opinion that this cover would be displayed due to the nature of the image...just a thought). But... if you added a couple inches to the sides and top of your image (enlarge your canvas area to scale) and fill it in with more of whatever the background is suppose to be, you might be able to save it. If you do start again perhaps try to start with the layout of the text first, then do your illustration around/under it so that it all fits/balances together as a cohesive image/cover. Do keep in mind though that your image should include a few things.
1) relevance to the title (blood over a woman's breasts is fine, but what has it to do with the title? I see no parallel to "The Black Sea's of Infinity".
2) pose a visual question ('s) to the viewer (creating interest) and answer/explain some of it not all of it, cliff hanger kinda thing (if you tell the story on the cover why would I buy it if I already know how it ends etc)
3) when all else fails sex sells...... and your closest drug or grocery store has a great selection of book and mag covers of stuff that is currently selling ...all this of course is jmho..........but I hope it helps!
When I first saw the image of the woman pouring blood on herself I actually thought she was ripping her breasts out o:
Quite sometime ago there was a thread about book covers on the Art Discussion forum, I said I prefered illustrated covers, I guess I take that statement back. It's all about the design regardless of illustration or photograph.
I think you should take the advice given to you here, it does look very convoluted. If you still want to use the image you have, notice how in Javier's version the values where leveled up, it looks nicer than the one you have since it doesn't clash so much with the white lettering.
I don't know why you would think she was tearing her breasts off-the image might be less readable with lettering over it, but nothing hints at that.
I think everyone's advice is good. I'll have an entirely new cover for the reissue, an illustration that opens up at the top so lettering can be cleanly inserted.
"At least I'm not boring!" "Yes you are. And you're completely ordinary. And you know it."
The Princess Bride’s bizarrely NSFW cover from the 1970s
thought this was cool