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Cover desperately needs advice

Discussion in 'Cover Design' started by Caged Maiden, Mar 16, 2014.

  1. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Hi Scribes. I was only going to talk about my book cover after it was complete, but I came to a point where I'm just not sure.

    My book cover is a brick wall with two large windows and between them, stands a skull sculpture with a plaque. On the right side of the skull plaque, a man is leaning against a wall. Now... here's my question... It occurred to me to place a sword leaning against the wall next to him. But in the book, the character isn't a swordsman. I mean, he knows how to use it, but isn't known for his sword skills. I should mention the front cover will cut off just past the skull plaque and the left window is actually on the back cover.

    Basically... here are my options:

    1. Put the sword in because it might intrigue certain people and give a little more of a clue what the book is about (he's wearing a 1570's Italian doublet, so the sword would match that time period). And not worry that the character only uses a sword a few times.
    2. Leave the sword out of the picture but create it on another piece, thereby allowing it to be digitally added later if need be (still not worrying whether it's really applicable to the character).
    3. Forget the sword entirely and rely on the other elements to intrigue the reader (basically don't mislead the reader into thinking the MC is a swordsman).

    I know this sounds like a petty detail and it IS. But still... I want to understand more about cover art and how best to accomplish my goals before I put too much more work into this. I really don't want to screw it up. I probably will anyways because I really don't know what I'm doing.

    So... if you picked up a book and on the cover, there was a guy standing between two windows, next to a skull plaque... would it be more intriguing with a sword or would it already appear interesting?
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2014
  2. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

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    Hi Caged Maiden, I saw the early stages of your painting on Facebook and I thought it was brilliant. The hero looked very Romantic and it had a Gothic vibe with the ornate windows etc. I just tried to have another look on your page but couldn't find it.

    The bottom line is, of course, that it will be your decision whether to add a sword or not, but I thought it was fine as it was.
    (I don't know if that helps!) :)
     
  3. The Blue Lotus

    The Blue Lotus Auror

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    I have seen it as it goes from the start, to what you have now.
    Honestly, I'd leave it as is. If you really wanted to add a sword later you can, but if you add it now and end up hating it, it will take hours of work to remove it. Won't it?

    Just my two cents.
     
  4. e r i

    e r i Scribe

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    I'm one of those people who really dislike it when there is a mismatch between what is on the cover and what the story is actually about. If the sword was placed prominently on the cover, next to the character, I would feel the implication is that it's an important item for the character. I would go with option 3. (But it would be nice to see this WIP picture here if we are allowed to! Seeing what you mean may sway my opinion, but from what you wrote, I'd say option 3 :) )
     
  5. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I have difficulty comenting without seeing the image. However, given that he's of that time and oes use a sword from timeto time, why not have the sword on his hip? It would seem the logical choice. Having it resting on the wall beside him seems odd and also makes the sword more of an important cover element whereas I think you just want it to be there but not dominate.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  6. The Blue Lotus

    The Blue Lotus Auror

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    The pic is on her author fb pg. :) Just look for A. Howitt.
     
  7. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    Covers should be focused on giving the potential reader a feel for the novel and its contents. Keeping accurate to character where you can is good, but the overall impression is probably more important.

    The cover is a marketing tool more than it is an introduction or accurate portrayal of the contents. Thus, if the sword helps to reflect the novel's contents and overall direction, and would attract potential readers, then keep it.
     
  8. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    [​IMG]
     
  9. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Here's the picture. It's not finished obviously, so please view it as a work in progress. The shadow is the sword and its shadow on the wall, but that is where I thought to put it. Again, the front cover will cut off on the other decide of the skull plaque, the title going above it and my name at the bottom. I didn't want to show you guys an unfinished painting, but I guess there's no way to avoid it at this point. A picture really does say more than my description.

    Thank you for all the responses, I hope the picture will help solidify the image in your minds at least. My concern is mostly over things like the sword leaning against the wall. Maybe it's because I'm a fencer and we often store our swords like that, but will a reader wonder why it isn't in his hand? I added it because I didn't want it seen as an aggressive cover, but I think the element of showing a weapon not in use tells that there will be some swordplay in the novel.

    Now, is it enough to have a broody guy on the cover, or does it take it a step further to hint there is violence? I'm not sure. In fact, i'm not even sure this type of cover would be eyecatching or even satisfy a reader in any way. Any and all comments are welcome. I'm perfectly happy scrapping this 15 hours of work and starting over, really. But I'll probably save it because I like it. Just it doesn't have to ever be seen if it's awful.

    Please help me, I have never done this before.
     
  10. The Blue Lotus

    The Blue Lotus Auror

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    Again I say I like it. Not so much the sword, but we talked about that and it really is your call.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2014
  11. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    How well will the back of the cover book teaser and any blurbs show with the trellis window covering a good portion of that side?
     
  12. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Thanks for that. I like the graphic but have some issues. First the image is far too broad for its height for a book cover. It needs some serious cropping. Second if he's not a swordsman as in that's not the fous of his story, but he does carry a sword because its fairly much expected, put it on his hip. That way it's there but it's not the focus of the image which is instead him. Also I don't know if it's intended but that's not a fencing sword. It's either a broadsword or a bastard sword though the hilt guard suggests maybe an epee. As for the guy, I suspect you wanted him sort of brooding - which he is - but it also looks as though he's hunched forward which I suspect isn't intended. Lastly I'd up the brightness and colour contrast a bit to give the image more visual impact. Book covers are a type of art where the reader has to be grabbed in a second or two. And while pastel tones look great, they don't have that impact.

    Hope that helps.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
    Caged Maiden likes this.
  13. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Ooh - just reading TWE's post if that's supposed to be the entire front and back cover as one graphic ignore everything I said about it's dimensions.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  14. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    here is a better view of the front and back. I can't get the text to load on these photos, but I'm emailing them to you, Terry. THis will give you a better view of what I intend for the back cover, but yes, it wraps around.

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG][​IMG][/URL][/IMG]
     
  15. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    to address the sword, it has two shadows behind it (making the blade look broad) and it will be an Italian Renaissance appropriate blade, but right now, it's a shadow of gray paint so I can erase it if I hate it. I tried to show the cropped version, but I can't show the actual document because a document can't be pasted. I can only email it, but it shows how the back blurb fits over the window (covering 3 hours of my painting) but it looks good and the window sticks out around it just enough to be interesting background but not overwhelmeing.

    I don't want to do the sword at his hip if it's avoidable, because then I might as well just remove it. Which is really what this thread is about. Sword or no sword? Because I just got a silly notion in my head to have him leaning against the wall with a sword next to him, thinking it might say more about the book. Honestly, I'm totally okay with this being a terrible example of cover art and simply scrapping the whole thing and just using a written-upon parchment maybe stabbed with a dagger and bearing blood droplets. That might be a really good cover, too. I just wanted to give it a go, after finding that photo of that wall.

    So... really, I appreciate your concerns over color, but this has not been digitally altered at all. It's literally a painting as seen from my kitchen table in poor lighting, with my digital camera. I plan to hand it over to photoshop friends next and see how they can improve upon the original painting.

    So yeah... if I've wasted 15 hours of my life painting this... I'm pretty okay with that. But I appreciate all feedback on structure, perspective, composition, and content. That's kinda what I'm trying to get a grasp of. Does the picture look like a cartoon? Is it what someone might see on a cover? Is it simply too amateurish to even consider? These are kinda the things I can't answer at all for myself.

    If anyone would prefer to see it put together, I'm happy to email the test one. I think it looks miles better than just the photo, but I can't post a word doc here unfortunately. I'm trying to learn what makes a good cover and honestly, I'm not deluding myself that I'm qualified to make one. Just wanted to try it and if it sucks, that's okay. But feedback will help me to at least make it as good as possible and have something worth considering in the end hopefully. I'm torn between submitting or self-publishing right now and while i think I'll check out a few agents before throwing in my hat and doing it alone, I want to have my backup plan well sorted before it comes into play.

    Thanks everyone!!
     
  16. e r i

    e r i Scribe

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    Whether or not you want the sword, I still think depends on what precisely you want to flag to the reader. A sword flags many things, and to my mind, having that sword indicates: adventure, danger, violence to come, fighting. And yes, I would infer that he is a swords man.

    When I see this picture, I see "intrigue in a mediterranean-esque city", flagged by the skull, the dark clothes of the character, and his general 'don't come near me' demeanour. The fact that it's a very still picture (i.e. no dynamic movements or ominous shadows) suggests intrigue, and because it's such a still picture, the sword really adds the adventure, fighting etc. I mentioned above. At least this is the way I interpret the image. (I personally love the stillness of the picture, and how it lets you focus on the intricacies of the marble (?) skull feature and window decor etc. I personally like that it looks like he's standing in broad daylight because it adds to the intrigue, and it gives me a sense of the setting's climate. I'm not sure if that's what you're going for though.)

    And maybe it's just me, but you haven't told us what exactly you want to communicate in this cover! What is the key thing and/or vibe you want to communicate? Is showing location and character all you want to do with this cover? What is the purpose of the cover? Did you want to communicate a really clear vibe as well? Because the struggle you're having over the sword suggests to me you haven't quite decided that key concept you want to communicate is. Identifying that and spelling it out really clearly might make your decision re: the sword easier?
     
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  17. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

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    Hi Caged Maiden, first there's no way you've 'wasted 15 hours' of your life painting this. Everything we do in life has an intrinsic value and it's probably helped you envisage the scene and the character. I like to know what my characters look like and always draw them. I wish modern books had illustrations as in centuries ago.

    I find your painting beautiful and I'm very intrigued by the pose and stance of your central character. When I look at the painting I wonder who he is and what's worrying him. (Btw who is he and what's troubling him? :) )

    I looked at the painting again yesterday on your Facebook page and I wasn't sure about the sword. Putting it where you have makes it the focal point of the picture: whereas previously I looked at the man, now my eye was drawn to the sword. Of course, this may be what you intended.

    If I saw this cover, I would want to read the book!
     
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  18. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Wow... that's an awesome observation! Thank you so much for taking such a close look.

    Okay, let me try to answer your questions. I really appreciate insight into this because those are exactly the questions I (as the writer and now the painter) can't answer for myself... how it makes me feel.

    So... I was actually going to put a prostitute and her male counterpart mercenary on the cover because I thought they had an interesting dynamic. But I have five main characters to this book and one of my friends said, "Oh, you HAVE to put this one guy on the cover." so I did. Her justification was that he was the glue that held the story together, and really... she's right. That this story is about two separate groups of people, and he's the thing in the middle.

    The story is set in a parallel to 1576 Venice. The wall is an actual wall from Venice and the skull plaque is a celebration of the Day of the Dead there. Wish I was more original, but after seeing that photo... all my previous notions about maybe showing canals or the doge's palace in the background, went out the window and all I could think about was the skull wall. So in my city, the government and Church are at odds, and the MC on the cover is trying to enact social reform by playing both sides and basically exposing church corruption to get the government's laws to change. The book doesn't contain any soldiers or armies, this is a battle fought in the senate house and back rooms of opium dens. My MCs are criminals and deviants, each with their own reason to want to see the antagonist's downfall. Most of the story is about their struggle to get along, with the main plot moving slower, as they try to gain the upper hand and all the while, have their eyes on each other. There's a rat in their organization and people are in danger.

    So... I'm not really that in love with showing a piece of Venice, but I felt the chunk I stole was small enough most people wouldn't notice it's connection. Also, I used his clothing to convey the time period. I'm a fencer and I've done a bit of sword research... I could use the sword to also convey his time period.

    I don't really have words to describe what I'm trying to convey, but I can try to make sense of my feeling. First and foremost, the MC shown is a normal guy. He's not brawny, or handsome, or special in any way. He's a lawyer and a pawn for the corrupt church official and to say he's upset is an understatement. He's cornered, threatened, paranoid, and afraid. One part of him wants to do whatever it takes to keep people happy and remain breathing, and another part of him wants to rebel against his perceived helplessness and gut the man who has him backed into a corner. But he can't... or two years of planning goes down the drain. I want to convey a normal guy... not a half-dressed stud muffin (which I considered because this book has a fair amount of romance in it) or something specifically character-based like say, four of the characters overlapping in a collage of sorts, but not interacting.

    My main character is actually the wife of the guy on the cover, but I didn't want to put a woman on the cover, lest the book be viewed as too much of a romance novel (which is tough because I have a love story central to the book, but there's a lot more than just that one thing). So I picked this character because I only have three male Mcs and the other two are more minor roles. The swordsman one doesn't make sense on the cover (unless I showed him being hung on the gallows because that's the only way a reader might identify him as the guy on the cover) and the other doesn't make sense without the prostitute with him. So that's how I chose who to put on the cover, then I had to think about how I wanted him to look and other than always being afraid my people look cartoony, I'm pretty happy with his image.

    The architecture is important in that the city is based off a real one and I don't want iconic buildings in it, but I think Venice offered a lot of good shots that aren't too recognizable. I fell in love with the wall though. It also sort of matches the gritty, dismal tone of the city in the book.

    I want to convey that the city isn't important in it's peaks and spires, but in the gritty day-to-day elements (which affect my characters). I also want to convey a sort of "Don't mess with me" feeling from the character. Because basically, that's how he feels. But not like a crazy person.. just like someone being made to do things that he hates.

    I wanted the background bright and yes, if you look at the shadows, it's noon. I thought even though it was bright, the effect was dramatic, in that the character is really dismal.. his dress somber... standing next to a skull plaque (in a gritty city) in the middle of the day... scowling. But i'm not really an artist and composition was never my strong suit even when I was in art class. I'm much better at the actual brush strokes and layering paint than I am planning a painting. I really just threw some crap together, so I could try something.

    Other than those few goals listed above, I would have to say I'm not sure what else I'm trying to convey. I tend to look at this project differently. For instance, I found the wall and loved it. Then I looked at what I could do with it. I debated which character to put with it, and began painting him as I see him... in all his moody, somber glory. Just the reality of what "is" rather than creating a piece of art with a specific goal or focus. I just made something I thought was true to the character and story.

    Does any of that help? Thanks!
     
  19. The Blue Lotus

    The Blue Lotus Auror

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    Caged I can rip the emailed version from the doc and resend it to you as a jpeg sometime tomorrow. If you want that is?
     
  20. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    Got the email. The method used to block for the text, there seems little point in even having the wrap around. It may also affect how the title/author and even the imprint logo, is placed/viewed on the spine if the book is going to be available in print as well.
     
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