Tag Archives: book cover design

Friday Link Pack 12/18/2015

Friday Link Pack 12/18/2015

It’s Friday! That means it’s time for the Friday Link Pack, my weekly post covering topics such as writing, art, current events, and random weirdness. Some of these links I mentioned on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! If you missed the post, please be aware, the Friday Link Pack is being sunsetted at the end of this year.

All right, business done, let’s get to it.


WRITING:

Top 10 Grammar Myths
From using the passive voice, to irregardless’ existence, and the infamous act of splitting infinitives. I think a lot of folks will be surprised at these ten myths. [Thanks to Will for sharing!]

Amazon Reworking Rules For Product Reviews
It was bound to happen sooner or later. False reviews made to push political or social agendas are getting the ax and the Amazon enforcement is coming. Also, Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists are apparently a thing, so… add that to the list of reasons to be disappointed in humanity.

Gifts For Writers, 2015 [NSFW]
‘Tis the season of gifting. Chuck Wendig, in all his profanity-laced style, compiles a list of gifts for us scribes. Featuring coloring books, neat portable lamps, and even houseplants, it’s a fun little list. If nothing here is your style, then consider perusing the Lovecraft-inspired Gift Guide I compiled a few weeks back.

52 YA Covers For 2015
Dan Wagstaff, over at The Casual Optimist has put together a list of some of the best YA book covers this year. Some of my favs from this list: Hannah Moskowitz’s A History of Glitter and Blood, David Almond’s A Song for Ella Gray, and Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. It was tough to pick favorites.


ART:

Chef Jacques La Merde
Fancy food made from less-than-fancy ingredients photographed beautifully and described oh so perfectly. This goes from joke to art and then back to joke. It’s great.

Winners of the First Annual ‘Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards’
There’s wildlife photography, and then there is wild wildlife photography. This is certainly the latter. What’s your favorite?

Galimatias
In their recent show at Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles, the Polish duo Etam Cru presented their latest body of work. It’s amazing. Blending traditional approaches with a bold illustrative style this series combines subject matter the same way the duo blends styles. Beautiful work, it’s no wonder their show sold out. (I used a detailed version of their piece, Henryk Nowak, for today’s featured image.)


RANDOM:

Star Wars: The Force Accounted
The Force is often used throughout the Star Wars movies, but by whom, and how often, and what do they do? There’s a lot to answer within that question. Thankfully, Bloomberg steps in to give us the lowdown on the usage of the Force from within the film, complete with interactive graphs and charts. A full (and quite thorough) breakdown.

Model Railroad of HP Lovecraft’s ‘Arkham’
A highly detailed and amazingly crafted version of Arkham at HO-scale. This really could have gone in the art section as well. I love the night shots. So cool. [Thanks to August for sending this my way.]

Get Rich Or Die Vlogging: The Sad Economics Of Internet Fame
The reality of the internet is likes, views, and RTs don’t pay the bills. (Even thousands and thousands of them.) I appreciate Gaby Dunn’s willingness and bravery to open up and put herself out there like this. Support the creators who’s work entertains you: buy their products, donate via Patreon, show your support with more than just clicks.

Telephone Repairman Follows His Dream: Designing Women’s Shoes
Chris Donovan spent 25 years at the phone company before he quit and jumped into something new and strange. A wonderful video about following dreams and never settling. If you are interested in more content like this, make sure you check out the documentary short on Kari-Lise: Overlooked Details, An Artist’s Journey.


WEIRD WIKIPEDIA:

Ten Cent Beer Night
“Ten Cent Beer Night was a promotion held by Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians during a game against the Texas Rangers at Cleveland Stadium on Tuesday, June 4, 1974. The idea behind the promotion was to attract more fans to the game by offering 12 U.S. fl oz (354.9 ml) cups of 3.2% beer for just 10 cents each (regular price was 65 cents) with a limit of six per purchase, but with no limit on the number of purchases made during the game. During the game, fans became heavily intoxicated, culminating in a riot in the ninth inning which caused the game to be forfeited due to the crowd’s uncontrollable rowdiness and because the game could not be resumed in a timely manner.”


H.P. LOVECRAFT STORY OF THE WEEK:

The Horror in the Museum
Wax museums are creepy already and Lovecraft is bound and determined to make them even creepier.


GIF OF THE WEEK:

The Impossible Cool

Building A Better Book Cover

Let’s Talk About Your Book Cover.
Along with being a writer I am also a designer. I’ve been designing for 15 years now, having done everything from posters, logos, email campaigns, web sites, before eventually settling into user experience design. I mention my pedigree such as it is, only because I want to talk about some concerns I have over design advice  given to indie authors who are diving into self-publishing.

There seems to be a great many folks out there who claim you can make a well designed book cover with a cheap stock photo and a bit of text. I have seen these articles pop up on blogs all over. Every single time I just get frustrated. Why? Well, frankly… they’re totally wrong.

A Short Design Lesson

A well designed cover is so much more. It’s clever. It’s engaging. It’s attractive. It’s enticing. Chip Kidd—arguably one of the best cover designers in the world today—is quoted as saying:

“A book cover is a distillation.
It is a haiku of the story.”

The primary essence of a haiku is the Japanese word きる or kiru, which means to cut or slice. In a good haiku everything is removed but the perfect words to formulate the perfect line. A good book cover should also strive for that same perfection. Just like a haiku, it should reduce thousands and thousands of your words into a few simple elements. These elements should work together to do one thing: engage the viewer.

Staying simple is key. One of my favorite sayings comes from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who said:

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

What does that mean? Let’s take a look at one of my favorite covers from last year, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch:

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

There is so much going yet it’s so simple and clever. Excess distraction has been stripped away and it still oozes intrigue. The choice of hand lettering. The tear and the peeling back of the paper to reveal the titular goldfinch. It’s compelling. It’s engaging. It’s clever. It leaves the viewer wanting to know more. It makes me want to read the book.

Often stock photography tends to be the most cliché take on a subject. Cleverness rarely comes from cliché. To get past the cliché I think you need to go beyond visual imagery, sure…a piece of stock photography might show up, and yes a typeface choice will be a part of the final design, but just slapping together a few things that are “close enough” won’t do your story justice. A good cover goes beyond all of that, it becomes that perfect line.

Creating A Better Cover

Okay, my lesson on book cover design theory is over. You want to make a simple engaging cover. So how do you go about doing that? I get that not everyone is a designer. So what can you do as a writer to really make your book cover stand out and look professional? Here’s a few suggestions.

If you are willing to spend some money:
  • Hire a designer
    Seriously. A designer will help your final work look it’s best. Make sure you have them read your book and approach you with a few concepts. If you have a few ideas throw them out there, but be willing to bend a little. It’s their job to distill your story down into that perfect haiku, that is what they are good at, let them be good at their job.
If you are going in alone:
  • Study well-designed covers
    There are numerous resources out there for you to browse award winning covers. One fantastic place to start is The Book Cover Archive, a site I have mentioned before. But there are other collections all over the web. Use them as a resource, see what works and learn to recognize what doesn’t.
  • Learn from the masters
    Chip Kidd had a great TED talk I suggest you go watch. There are also a ton of books out there as well with instructions on how to get started.
  • Sketch out ideas
    Sit down and start sketching out ideas. You don’t have to be a good artist. Just get a feel for what you want. Does it involve people? Does it need to even have a photograph? Is there something representational you could use instead?
  • Get messy
    Look back at The Goldfinch‘s cover. A lovely (and I believe in the public domain) painting by Carel Fabritius. Some paper. Some rough handwriting. It’s all laid out and photographed. It looks great. Don’t be afraid to try some weird crafty things to capture that cover you want for your book.

A Few Final Thoughts

So does the cover even matter? Some would say in our post-bookstore eBook-flooded-world a cover isn’t anything more than a thumbnail—if even that. Some would say the interior is what matters and cover design is a waste of time. Both stances are probably right on some level and sure, a well designed cover means nothing if your book isn’t up to snuff, and yes a cover is rarely seen in an eBook but I don’t think those are good arguments for bad cover design.

If you can put in a little effort into making your book look that much more professional thus making it more appealing to readers…why wouldn’t you? Quality sells. People look at covers before they buy a book (yes, even with eBooks.) There’s a reason why folks like Chip Kidd, David Pelham, and Barbara Dewilde can make careers designing some of the most iconic and recognizable covers on the market. It’s the same reason why people are drawn to smartly designed book covers, and why readers remember their favorites.

Imagery resonates. You have spent all this time writing a pretty amazing book. Spend a bit more time and give it a pretty amazing cover.