Tag Archives: book cover

Red Litten World Cover Reveal

Red Litten World Cover Reveal Is Coming June 4th

The date has been set, the stars have aligned, and it is time. The cover reveal for Red Litten World, book three of The Bell Forging Cycle, is coming June 4th, 2015. One again the incredibly talented Jon Contino is back with some beautiful hand lettering. After seeing his incredible work for the covers of The Stars Were Right and Old Broken Road, you’ve probably detected a theme beginning to form for the series. I’d wager you can sorta guess what this cover will look like… or can you. [Cue dramatic music.]

“…legend said that it had come from a mysterious inner realm beneath the red-litten world—a black realm of peculiar-sensed beings which had no light at all, but which had great civilisations and mighty gods…”

H. P. Lovecraft & Zealia Bishop, The Mound

As with all big announcements and cover reveals, folks who subscribe to my newsletter will be the first people who get a glimpse at the new cover. Why not join those brave and noble few and… sign up today →.

Visual Inspiration: Kuldar Leement

Crusaders (Detail) by Kuldar Leement
Crusaders (Detail) by Kuldar Leement

It’s been a while since I have posted a visual inspiration post, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been inspired! Those of you who follow me on Pinterest see me post things almost daily, but I know there a lot of you who just read my blog. So I am overdue.

My friend Ryan O’Nan—who is a marvelous illustrator in his own right (and available for hire!)—shared the work of Kuldar Leement. Ethereal landscapes, strange figures, and gorgeously rendered city scenes dominate his work. Each telling a story of their own. His use of space is what really stands out, in many pieces he creates a vastness that is somehow also very intimate. My favorites below:

Golden Witch Doctor by Kuldar Leement
Golden Witch Doctor by Kuldar Leement
Euphoria by Kuldar Leement
Euphoria by Kuldar Leement
Brofist From God by Kuldar Leement
Brofist From God by Kuldar Leement
Never Quiet by Kuldar Leement
Never Quiet by Kuldar Leement

Amazing work, right? I could post so much more of his work, but you should really just check it out for yourself. See more of Kuldar’s illustrations at his site: http://www.kuldarleement.eu/ —  good stuff. I hope you found it as inspiring as I did.

Friday Link Pack 05/16/2014

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It’s time to share a few interesting links I have found throughout the week. Some of these I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Let me know!

Writing:

The reason every book about Africa has the same cover
“We’re comfortable with this visual image of Africa because it’s safe. It presents ‘otherness’ in a way that’s easy to understand.” True, but also disappointing.

The all-new monthly literary prize – for self-published authors
With more and more established authors joining the fray The Guardian and Legend Times has decided to start a monthly indie award. Yay! Honestly, it’s about time something like this happened.

Famous Novelists on Symbolism in Their Work 
Some of the greats weigh in on symbolism in their work and if it was intentional or not. Very much worth a read.

Book Three Has a Name!
Since I am nearing completion on my rough draft I figured it was time to announce the title for book three. I also launched a Pinterest board filled with imagery that inspired the story.

Random:

Why Do We Never See Baby Pigeons?
It wasn’t until I saw the question asked that I needed to know the answer. Luckily, the Audubon Magazine steps in to give us the skinny on the babies of the dirty birds of the city.

How do you communicate with people 10,000 years in the future.
Great article from 99% Invisible on how the WIPP designed a system of communication for the folks that will come after us.

The Great Idaho Debate Supercut
“You have your choice folks: a cowboy, a curmudgeon, a biker, or a normal guy.” Whatever you choose, you should choose to watch this. It’s hilarious.

Lovecraft Story of the Week:

The Evil Clergyman
Published posthumously this tale—a recounting of a dream—is taken from Lovecraft’s letter to his friend Bernard Austin Dwyer. The story is short and super creepy.

Farewell Gif of the Week:

Getting Rad!

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.

“The Stars Were Right” Cover Revealed!

The Stars Were Right and Morning Coffee

As promised here it is: the final cover design for The Stars Were Right!

Dark, foreboding, mysterious, the cover design really captures the mood I wanted conveyed while giving subtle hints at the books themes and it works great on an ereader. I couldn’t be more pleased. Check out the larger more detailed version below (click if you want to see it even bigger.)

The Stars Were Right Cover (small)

The 1866 etching that serves as the background is “The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones” by Gustave Dore. The amazing hand lettering was created by master hand-letterer and illustrator Jon Contino. In the end it was Jon’s work that really locked everything together. Thank you Jon, seriously.

The Stars Were Right is due out later this year and will be available on most if not all ereader devices. (Actual printed version coming soon after.) Let me know what you think of the cover in the comments!