Monthly Archives

July 2017

Fantasy Cover Art: Again with the Cliches…

A rather amusing post on this subject was recommended to me this week, (seeing that I’m thinking hard about covers). The blogger, in this case the clever Nicola Alter, sat down and put together all the well-known cliches that should appear in the Next Great Fantasy Book Cover….and I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry on seeing the final product:

Click on the photo or below to read the article and see her process.

How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover

 

 

I am still pursuing my quest to learn how to make covers and graphics, and so I’ve started up a sample cover.  Not the above, but…it does have some similarities:

Part 1: The image

(Image via Deposit Photos)

My next step was to edit the photo some, toning down her collarbones, getting rid of her hair clip, and cleaning up her dress. I used Paint.net (with a little help from Paint) to do all that. I toyed with some options (like subbing in a closed-front version of the dress from another photo), but ended up creating a fichu to make her less…exposed.)

Ta-Da!  Now on to the next big step!

 

Part 2: The Words

In order to make an actual book cover, I had to have a title, an author, and some sort of fantasy element.

  1. Emily Wilde and the Greenleaf School of Magic
  2. Cordelia Ellsmere
  3. letters flying around the book.

I gave myself 1 hour to do this, on the same photo editing software…that I’ve never used for text before. This was a BIG MISTAKE.

I ended up with this monstrosity:

Unfortunately, this software turns out to be one where you can’t go back and alter the text once you’ve put it down. That means that I could either delete it all, or stick it out.  In this case, I decided to stick it out, but…it’s pretty bad.

So today’s hour will be spent redoing this whole thing in a layout software rather than an image editing software.

(Image Editor is good for the change between version 1 and 2, but lousy for what I needed for version 3.)

 

Live and learn.

 

Will Emily ever get the book cover she deserves?

Stay tuned next week to see what Layout Software can do for poor Emily!

SpecFic Book Covers: Mostly Words. Is this the New Thing?

I’ve been looking at book covers a LOT lately, and I have thoughts. So many thoughts.

And one of them is this: A lot of book covers are mostly title now.

Not all. A percentage, of course. But in this post, I’ll include a bunch that I found solely in looking at my ‘Also Boughts’ on Amazon.  I didn’t really go hunting for these…they were just there.

Now the most extreme example I ran across was this: 

(All of these covers today came VIA Amazon.)

The above book (YA SF) takes this to an extreme, but it does seem to be out there a lot.  Let me stick in another image:

Ah, there we are.  Now all of these (as noted above) came out of my also boughts, so these are covers that people who’ve purchased books somewhat similar to mine have bought. While most of them have some sort of fantastic elements (crowns, skulls, swords), these covers are really about the titles.

(FWIW, I didn’t check these to be sure, but I think most of them are from major publishers. Also, some are YA, some not.)

So I toyed very briefly with coming up with a cover that’s words: 

 

Meh. For a fast job, I shouldn’t expect much. (That took me about fifteen minutes to assemble online, using elements I’d previous uploaded. If I were serious about it, I would agonize over the elements and fonts for days.)

But it does make me wonder whether this is a tack I should pursue. It’s a decent enough idea, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a lot of book covers head this direction (instead of the main character cover).

We shall see, I suppose…

 

 

Fantasy Book Cover Design: What’s Going On???

Last week I started talking about how fantasy book covers seem to be changing. Not all of them, but a certain percentage have been, and that’s most notably the biggest sellers.

Have you seen the new Harry Potter Covers?

This image comes from Pottermore: Click on it to read about Olly Moss’ new covers!

Yes, they’re clearly still fantasy, but…not the wild and colorful covers of our youth.  (Okay, early middle age, not youth.) Each still has a clear fantasy element, but they’re not what we’re used to. They’re different.

How about this: the UK covers of GOT

 

This photo is via Fantasy Faction, who have a great article about the evolution of the GOT covers from 2014. Click on the picture to read it!

The point being, these are not your old 1980s fantasy novel covers, done by an illustrator with the main character in some action pose on the front. I suspect these covers cost a lot less money to produce, and took far less time. (I think the article quotes 4 months for the whole set.)

But these writers are big enough names that readers don’t need to be ‘told’ it’s fantasy.

So I’m putting this down as…

POSSIBLE REASON NUMBER 1:

Big Name Authors don’t need the traditional covers

Not only do their readers know their names already, but the non-traditional cover also gives the books a chance to attract a reader who might be leery about being caught with a book with a Frank Frazetta* cover on it. (Yes, that reader is out there.)

So could there be any other reason?

Well, another possibility cropped up immediately after last week’s post.  Someone on another forum looked at my splash of covers, and commented that one of them looked like an indie cover.

…AN INDIE COVER.  ::delicate shudder::

Interestingly, it was a cover from one of the Big Five? Big Four? publishers on what I suspect is an excellent book. (I’ve read this author’s work, which never fails to hit it out of the park.)

But the publisher had taken three photo images and worked them together into a cover, and that particular method has been used so much by indie publishers (of which I’m one, I’ll remind you), that there’s a certain look that one associates with indie covers. I knew exactly what that person meant. And…I agreed with them a little bit.

Publishers have been cutting corners lately. It’s an expensive world out there, and they’ve been experimenting with using stock photos just like the little guys. It’s cheaper.

What’s the drawback? Well, it could pass for an indie cover, and that carries the stigma of looking ‘less professional.’ But using stock photos also has a danger:

Again, this one’s via Fantasy Faction “Books Do Not Sell without Covers” from earlier this year. Click on the pick to read the AWESOME article.

Here’s another humorous link, via a romance writer whose publisher used a stock photo…that was used by everyone else, too. 

The truth is, there’s a limited number of stock photos and models out there, and getting the right photo is pretty tough. Sometimes it turns out to be the right photo for everyone else as well.  ARGH!

So publishers are struggling to find was to both A) Make covers less expensive and B) Differentiate them from Indie Covers.

In my eye, that would mean getting away from stock photos if at all possible.

 

POSSIBLE REASON NUMBER 2:

Differentiating the covers from Indie Covers

You want to look different.  

A couple of recent genre covers that I find particularly smashing:

Now, these are absolutely amazing books, but the covers don’t quite have the traditional ‘fantasy/scifi’ look either. (A friend of mine felt that the coloration of the Jemisin cover made it fantasy, while another said it was the font. I am willing to accept either as accurate since I don’t know.)

I’m still working my way through this, and looking at forthcoming covers at a lot of publishers has shown me that this is only a small part of what’s out there. (Angry Robot, for example, has a bunch of awesome covers coming out that don’t fall under this umbrella.) So I’ll keep looking and see whether this is an ongoing trend…or a flash in the pan.

 

Added bit:

Here are a couple more articles that I’m still parsing my way through:

23 Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Covers That are Out of this World

Judging a Book by It’s Cover

*Don’t get me wrong. Frank Frazetta did some amazing covers, but they were a bit…over the top.

 

 

Fantasy Cover Art: Is it Changing?

Over on one of the forums I’m on, a few of us were discussing (at my instigation) whether or not fantasy/sci-fi cover art is changing.

Here’s one of the things that makes this seem the case for me:  these are the covers of the books for Kirkus Reviews’ “Best Bets for Fascinating Fantasy SciFi Horror reads in July.” 

No space ship, no alien, no elves or swords, no men in hoods or glowy sparkles. These are alternate history, future dystopia, superpowers…and yet nothing about these covers says that. These covers look pretty…well, mainstream. Literary.

What was more interesting? These are the covers from the same list that Kirkus DIDN’T SHOW.

Tentacles? Alien life forms? Fantasy worlds? Space city?

Why were these the covers left out?

Frankly, I don’t know the answer, but I thought it was a very interesting thing to have a page recommending genre fiction…with covers that did not really look like ‘genre fiction.’

(Now, for full disclosure, I should say that a) there is one more novel cover (at the top), but it also doesn’t look ‘genre’. b) there is a horror short story collection at the bottom, which DOES look like a horror cover. and c) Sand has more than one cover, and the other one I’ve seen looks slightly less genre, but still fairly dystopia.)

The whole reason that I’m discussing this at all because I’m considering what I want for my next three book covers, and I want to go to my artist with some firm ideas.  These books will be sequels to Dreaming Death, and maybe instead of a clearly ‘fantasy’ cover:

Maybe I should go with something more mainstream:

I’m not really serious with these…I just threw them together using Canva templates…but is there something here?

I can put in some glowy magic (like the first), but I have to admit, I actually like the clean ‘literary’ covers a bit better. They’re not as fussy. They’re simple.

The question then becomes, how do readers find them? How would using covers like this affect my ‘brand’?  Will they know it’s a fantasy-ish novel?

In fact, how does that work for the five authors at the top? Can one look at the cover of the new Carrie Vaughn novel and know that it’s a dystopian mystery?

I suspect I’ll be rattling on about this for  a while, a debate that I’m having mainly with myself.  But I have some theories:

Possible influences for this:

  1. Indie books (and thus their covers) are becoming more prevalent.*
  2. Customers are relying more on category and ‘also boughts’ to tell them what to look at. (Not the same as browsing at a book store.)
  3. Publishers are trying to reach out to non-fantasy readers by having more ‘mainstream’ covers.

So over the next few Wednesdays, I’ll be looking at the trends of cover art in F&SF. If you know of a pertinent (RECENT) article, I’d love it if you would leave me a link. I’m curious to see what people are saying out there.

 

*I’ll talk about why that matters at all, later.