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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
Registration date : 2010-05-11
Location : Florida

Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptySun Dec 19, 2010 7:55 am

CBS Sunday Morning addressed this morning the topic of book cover design. They interviewed two established book cover designers and discussed the effect that e-books can have on the future of the artform. (In 2010 e-books represented 9% of book purchases, a substantial gain over previous years, and several new e-readers came out.) They also discussed the role that cover design plays in attracting readers. They used as examples some of the classic successes: Jaws, the Godfather, Jurassic Park, etc.

Here's a link to a transcript of the feature:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/12/19/sunday/main7164979.shtml?tag=contentBody;featuredPost-PE

Mostly what the show did was make me realize how lame my cover layouts are. To whit:

http://www.theshadowonthegrassyknoll.com

Not fishing for compliments. Comparing that one to the work of the pros gives me pause.

How about you folks? What do you use for cover design? A pro? DIY? Lulu's website?
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Shelagh
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptySun Dec 19, 2010 9:46 am

Since you are not looking for compliments, I will admit that my first impression of your cover was that it is too minimalistic. It leaves the viewer having to do a great deal of the work with perspective. The lack of depth to the cover is in sharp contrast to the multi-layered story-line.

About covers for the web: they are best designed on a computer. I designed the cover for Mr. Planemaker's Flying Machine on the computer screen (I loaded scanned drawings to work on to speed up the drawing process). The cover design uses copy & paste which works really well on a computer. Since the book would not be on bookstore shelves, I decided that it would have to look attractive on the screen. This is the cover:

Cover Design Mpfm12

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Cover Design 81KU-cLOw3L._SX110_ Cover Design 41C9GeFDNWL._SX110_ Cover Design 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SX110_ Cover Design 51eDGllZXhL._SX115_ Cover Design 41y7VHKoszL._SX115_ Cover Design 51Zs4N4T4eL._SX115_
Amazon Author Central: Shelagh Watkins
I shall never be old. It doesn't suit me -- ©️Shelagh Watkins
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Al Stevens
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyWed Dec 22, 2010 8:37 am

I agree with you that the cover design is inadequate, and I've been mulling it over for several days and looking at covers until I'm cover-weary.

Now I need to bore down into the details of your comments. When you say it lacks perspective, do you mean figuratively or that its artwork is literally too two-dimensional or that the skyline and other components do not depict a realistic scene? Or something else?

Can you describe a cover that would more adequately describe the multidimensional nature of the book? Or point to examples? Would you need to read the book in order to do that? Or would a synopsis suffice?
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PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyWed Dec 22, 2010 8:56 am

I'll try to answer your questions. Everyone knows about the assasination and the grassy knoll. Consequently, they know that the green area in your cover is supposed to be a raised area of land. Would they know this from the cover itself? To me, it looks too flat.

The shadow has no depth, accurately so but neither does the Kennedy Silhouette, airplane and skyline.

About the shadow on the fence: would it improve the appearance to show a shadow on bended knee with a gun aimed at the cavalcade? In this simulation, the marksman is actually seated on the higher ground:

http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/jfk-inside-the-target-car-grassy-knoll-field-test.html

You might get some inspiration from this cover for "Beyond the Fence Line"

Cover Design Hoffmancover

You can download a royalty-free image of the grassy knoll here:

http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-6187681-dallas-texas-dealey-plaza.php

and here:

http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-6187341-dallas-texas-dealey-plaza.php

_________________
Cover Design 81KU-cLOw3L._SX110_ Cover Design 41C9GeFDNWL._SX110_ Cover Design 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SX110_ Cover Design 51eDGllZXhL._SX115_ Cover Design 41y7VHKoszL._SX115_ Cover Design 51Zs4N4T4eL._SX115_
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LC
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyWed Dec 22, 2010 10:51 am

The artwork is poor because it lacks value, chroma, depth, and all the other things that art students are taught make a drawing "pop." It looks like what it is: a computer generated cartoon. Even the text is poor; too big, too plain, and no depth.

I got into this with Lin awhile back. He kept yelling that making a cover easy and just a function knowing how Photoshop works. It's not.
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Al Stevens
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyWed Dec 22, 2010 1:00 pm

Thanks. I understand what you mean, now, and agree with it.

I don't think the kneeling figure would help. The trailer depicts that. A prototype effort, too. I think I showed this before.

http://www.theshadowonthegrassyknoll.com/trailer.wmv

When I started this design, I had the James Bond sillouhette figure in the gun barrel in mind. Whatever it turns out to be, it needs to be darker than what I came up with.

I recall the discussion between Elsie and Lin as they hammered at one another at cross purposes. Just knowing Photoshop isn't enough. I know Photoshop fairly well. Knowing the tool doesn't bring art to the effort. One needs an eye for this kind of design. Until you can see it in your mind's eye, you can't get it onto a design. Even then, there is technique involved that comes mostly with training and experience.

I don't particularly like the cover for "Beyond the Fence Line," though. Probably because I don't care for lots of photography in that kind of graphic.

The gallery of covers that accompanies the referenced article in my original post has examples of good design, though.

I have most pictures and maps that have been posted of Dealey Plaza, and I've been there. There is an interesting (incomplete) interactive wire-frame 3D model of the plaza that you can virtually walk through. I used it to make sure my measurements and dimensions in the book's narrative were accurate.

http://www.markturner.com/jfk/index.htm

You need to download some software in order to use the model.


Last edited by Al Stevens on Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyWed Dec 22, 2010 2:12 pm

I had something like this in mind for the shadow:

Cover Design Charliesangels...

I like the action portrayed by the figures. The shadow in your cover is lifeless.

This is the image that you had in mind:

Cover Design James-bond-logo-poster-c100534671

Less action but still more than in your cover.

_________________
Cover Design 81KU-cLOw3L._SX110_ Cover Design 41C9GeFDNWL._SX110_ Cover Design 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SX110_ Cover Design 51eDGllZXhL._SX115_ Cover Design 41y7VHKoszL._SX115_ Cover Design 51Zs4N4T4eL._SX115_
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I shall never be old. It doesn't suit me -- ©️Shelagh Watkins
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Al Stevens
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyWed Dec 22, 2010 3:04 pm

Showing the weapon in the graphic would be confusing. Look at the shadow of the kneeling figure in the trailer. That doesn't look like a rifle and it shouldn't. The difference is critical to the plot.

I'm going to cruise the spy/suspense listings on amazon and study covers. Of course, knowing what I want is not everything. I have to know how to compose and portray a graphic. Oh, well, that's another quest.

Here's a graphic I like.

Cover Design Theame10
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Al Stevens
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyWed Dec 22, 2010 3:47 pm

I found a dozen covers with shadows. They all seem to have depth and sometimes action but more often intrique. Just the elements you pointed out that my cover lacks. Here are a few examples.

Cover Design Unquie10

Cover Design Forgot10

Cover Design Root10

Cover Design Oiwerd10

Observe the backlighting effects.
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dkchristi
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyWed Dec 22, 2010 4:49 pm

My publisher has a cover artist with a business on the side who makes very affordable covers. She makes all the covers for L & L Dreamspell (some better than others, but some spectacular). Take a look. If you want to contact her (I used her for my ebook cover AMOUR: Stories of Love and Friendship after pulling my hair out for several months), let me know and I'll send it to your email. It was worth every penny to just let it go.

Her covers are found at http://www.lldreamspell.com
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Shelagh
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyThu Dec 23, 2010 2:25 am

This is a L & L Dreamspell cover:

Cover Design 417jmvlR2sL._SS500_

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Cover Design 81KU-cLOw3L._SX110_ Cover Design 41C9GeFDNWL._SX110_ Cover Design 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SX110_ Cover Design 51eDGllZXhL._SX115_ Cover Design 41y7VHKoszL._SX115_ Cover Design 51Zs4N4T4eL._SX115_
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I shall never be old. It doesn't suit me -- ©️Shelagh Watkins
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Al Stevens
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyThu Dec 23, 2010 7:58 am

Dark. I like it.

Let me ask more opinions. Setting aside the flat, non-dimensional nature of the components of my cover, is the general composition okay? Would the cover work effectively with those components in those positions if they were more artistically and less starkly portrayed? And if the theme was darker?
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyThu Dec 23, 2010 8:17 am

Yes. I worked on a mock up for your cover out of interest. My husband asked me about the cover I was working on. I explained. I showed him your cover. "What's wrong with that? I like it." he said.

We had a short conversation and he still liked the cover (he was viewing it at distance which probably helped with perspective). He said that you could see all the main ingredients of the story: the grassy knoll, the wooden fence, the shadow, JFK, the plane and the skyline). Apparently, the ingredients are all there so it just needs polishing. The text needs to be re-done (new font and colours) and the cover given more depth. Go to it!

This is the idea I was working on (my husband wanted to know where the grassy knoll was!)

Cover Design Pbucket

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Cover Design 81KU-cLOw3L._SX110_ Cover Design 41C9GeFDNWL._SX110_ Cover Design 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SX110_ Cover Design 51eDGllZXhL._SX115_ Cover Design 41y7VHKoszL._SX115_ Cover Design 51Zs4N4T4eL._SX115_
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I shall never be old. It doesn't suit me -- ©️Shelagh Watkins


Last edited by Shelagh on Thu Dec 23, 2010 8:44 am; edited 1 time in total
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Al Stevens
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyThu Dec 23, 2010 8:43 am

Thank you. And thank your husband, too. Obviously a man with good taste. Smile I'm intrigued (obsessed?) with dark covers. One problem is that the deed occured at 12:30 pm on a sunny day, and everyone knows it.

Perhaps I should show my hacked-together cover to a real artist and see where it goes.

And maybe this is all academic. We're shopping the manuscript now. Do dead tree publishers even care about projects with cover design already done? I know that in my non-fiction titles, I never had any input into cover design decisions.

This is a constructive and helpful thread. I hope others benefit from it, too.
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Al Stevens
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyFri Dec 24, 2010 9:48 am

Still trying...

Cover Design Newcav10
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Shelagh
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyFri Dec 24, 2010 11:00 am

Cover Design Pbucket

_________________
Cover Design 81KU-cLOw3L._SX110_ Cover Design 41C9GeFDNWL._SX110_ Cover Design 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SX110_ Cover Design 51eDGllZXhL._SX115_ Cover Design 41y7VHKoszL._SX115_ Cover Design 51Zs4N4T4eL._SX115_
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Al Stevens
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyFri Dec 24, 2010 11:21 am

Yes. That makes a big difference. How'd you do that so fast without the Photoshop file? Or have your elves hacked my PC? santa
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptyFri Dec 24, 2010 11:42 am

I downloaded your jpeg file and wrote over the title -- it isn't a perfect fit but it was easier to do than describe.

_________________
Cover Design 81KU-cLOw3L._SX110_ Cover Design 41C9GeFDNWL._SX110_ Cover Design 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SX110_ Cover Design 51eDGllZXhL._SX115_ Cover Design 41y7VHKoszL._SX115_ Cover Design 51Zs4N4T4eL._SX115_
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Al Stevens
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptySat Dec 25, 2010 9:02 am

Moving along. Now, what should I do about the font, size, and color for the author name?

Cover Design Covera10
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dkchristi
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptySat Dec 25, 2010 9:16 am

I recently read an article by some of those publishing experts on getting a book to the New York Times Best Seller list - and cover was a major issue. I'd get a cover artist to provide advice. Your friends won't tell you and it's hard to see our own cover for our own story since it is so intimate to us.
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Al Stevens
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptySat Dec 25, 2010 9:46 am

I think there have been good suggestions here. A pro's advice would indeed be helpful--particularly if the pro has some best-selling covers out there.
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Al Stevens
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PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptySat Dec 25, 2010 9:51 am

I made the tree with Windows Paint. Mostly using the airbrush tool to spray patterns that suggest a tree. I remember how Bob Ross ("The Joy of Painting") did it by dabbing colors with the darker ones going on first and using light colors to suggest hightlights on the sunward side.
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Al Stevens
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PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptySat Dec 25, 2010 12:21 pm

Cover Design Covera11

I have a few more ideas. Maybe more foliage.
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dkchristi
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptySat Dec 25, 2010 12:33 pm

Here's my two cents. When I look at the books by top selling authors, the name is the thing - the title is secondary. Thus, many of the big name authors have their name all over the top and small script for the title of the book. A few reverse that, with their big name at the bottom.

You have your name in big letters at the bottom, so that fits. I still think you need to have a cover artist look at it. Is the shadow correct? Probably those technical details don't matter.

A friend of mine has a cover and title that are grrrrrreat...but few sales.
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Al Stevens
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Cover Design Empty
PostSubject: Re: Cover Design   Cover Design EmptySat Dec 25, 2010 12:42 pm

Here it is with another tree. If I get together with a publisher, large or small, I expect they will vet the cover with their staff artist. Maybe use my work as a template for something more professional. I plan to do something with that shadow. I might have to photograph a real shadow to get it to look better.

Cover Design Covera12

It still looks too cheery for me. Nice day for an assassination.
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