Monday, 25 July 2016

Missed that Saturday post!

Last Saturday, 23rd July 2016, was so busy that I missed publishing a reference to my Writing Wranglers and Warriors post for that day. 

It was my son-in-laws 40th birthday celebrations and time was at a premium...and I suppose if honest I just got too tied up in preparations that I didn't have time to mention it here.  It's an important post for me so I'm now doing a quick REBLOG of it here.  My Monday Moments post will follow...

What’s in a cover?

Some people say that book cover design is the make or break aspect of a novel that ensures success. It’s that ‘will the prospective buyer choose this book over another because it ‘calls’ to them more than the one further along the shelf’? - Literally on a bookstore bookshelf, or in a line of books available from an on-line bookstore.

I do think the cover design is very important but there are many other marketing factors which clearly lead to the success of a book. However, in this post I’m sticking to covers.

As the author, I’ve been asked to give my two different publishers the general gist of the book and the genre tone but I’ve actually found that very tricky. Because I’ve been published by small independent publishers I’ve had some say in what goes on my cover via a choice of options given to me. Those initial images have mostly been selected by my publishers-though not all. 

I, personally, prefer a book cover design to reflect the content of what’s inside the story and I’ve been known to be disappointed in the past when a reading of the novel doesn’t live up to its cover. I find it annoying to see a design with a woman wearing what’s clearly a medieval garment but then find on reading the blurb that it’s a Regency novel. Or another example was looking at the iconic image of the Taj Mahal and then finding that the story was completely set in darkest Africa. Mmm. Nope. I didn’t buy it.
partial view of old cover

My first New York State (romance only) publisher came up with a Scottish Castle for my fun mystery Take Me Now. The main male character does live in a restored castle on a Scottish island so that aspect was very good for the cover. The floatplane was also great as was the couple image at the top of the cover (I can't show the full image here as it's out of copyright- at least I think I can't.) The main drawback was that they used an image of Eilean Donan Castle which is probably the most iconic castle in Scotland. When I told the publisher it wasn’t suitable they disagreed and went ahead and used it – telling me that no one would know. They don’t live in Scotland! Many times a customer came to me at my signing/ selling table at Craft Fairs saying they’d love to read a story set in Eilean Donan. The RESULT- no sale when I was honest enough to say it wasn’t set in Eilean Donan. I guess I could have kept my mouth shut and deceived the potential customer, but I couldn’t.

Now I love my current cover for Take Me Now. It's a different and less heated romance driven version of the story that’s currently published by Crooked Cat, my Edinburgh publisher, possible since the initial contract with the US one was only for 2 years.  Crooked Cat haven’t used a photograph of a castle at all but have got the gist of the story in a different way.

Crooked Cat didn’t initially have a large budget for design so the earliest covers tended to be fairly minimalist- leaning towards ‘a little means more’. That has changed slightly now and some of their titles are being recovered, including one of mine.

Having had the negative experience of Eilean Donan Castle, I was very wary of what should go on to my cover for my more complex mystery Topaz Eyes when Crooked Cat launched it in late 2012. They suggested a montage of the European cities my protagonists travel to but since they travel to quite a few- the potential cover design looked like a travel guide. Instead, I asked for a very simple cover and got this one with these 2 jewels on it that I had seen on an image site. 

I still love this cover for my AWARD FINALIST novel but it has maybe proved to be a mistake on my part since the minimalism is perhaps just too much. If I’m honest, sales of the novel could be a lot better and I think perhaps the cover design had a lot to do with it- though another main factor is the amount of time I've spent marketing it. 

 When Crooked Cat said they'd re-cover Topaz Eyes they asked me to look at a bundle of images with possible designs. I still find that quite difficult when it should now be an easier process since I've done it a few times now. 

Crooked Cat have come up with one that I love. The lady in the image is clearly wearing pearls and not emeralds or topaz but on a reading of the story you’ll see why those jewels are still fine! The essence of the story is in the image. 

Jewellery is at the centre of the novel. The female projects a sense of mystery. The darkened background, sepia like finish, gives it a hint of a time gone past and although it’s a contemporary mystery what happened in the past is central to the whole story.  There’s a hint of malice, a gist of the unknown as the female looks back over her shoulder and that’s also appropriate for the thriller aspects of the story.

I love my new cover!

So far I’ve learned the hard way that a cover needs:

  • An image that portrays the essence of the story, the subject matter - in this case a woman with jewels
  • Something in the image which might give a feeling of the era/s of the story – there’s a timeless quality about the woman below (at least I think so)
  • Some aspect that will give a potential reader an idea of the genre and ambience of the story– there’s a mystery thriller in there as she subtly looks over he shoulder rather than being overtly scared.
  • The fonts are simple and clear on the page – The word mystery is highlighted (It fits the covers of other Crooked Cat mysteries so although not a branding for me personally, it’s a sort of in-house style)
  • There isn’t an abundance of colour – in fact the sepia like choice enhances the time aspects of the story.

Useful techniques: change to image size to a very low resolution to see how it fares on a book selling site which shows very small images. Try changing the image to black and white to see how it stands out should it end up on a black and white newsprint page.

What traumas and travails have you had with cover design, and with personal choices for your own book covers? 

I'm now about to update all my sites with my new Topaz Eyes Cover! 


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for reading my blog. Please pop your thoughts about this post in the comment box. :-)