Friday, June 20, 2014

Writing: Book Cover Design

In my last "writing" post graphic designer Ken Raney talked about the elements that go into a "comp"--the initial design of a book cover. Here's a bit more about the process of cover development.

I've had books published by three different houses. I thought the publisher, Kregel, did a nice job designing the cover of my first book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse.  The imprints in the sand of the hands, one male, one female, conjured up an image of both the togetherness and the impermanence of a life together. I had no real input into this--and was too much of a rookie writer to know better--but I couldn't be more pleased. Someone took the time to read (or at least scan) the book and came up with the idea.

My first four novels were published by Abingdon Press, the next three from Thomas Nelson (later to become part of Harper Collins Christian Fiction), and my next three will come from Abingdon. Each of these publishing houses approaches cover design somewhat differently, but in every case the author must provide a good bit of information. This includes a brief synopsis of the plot, a description of the main characters (including sometimes an actor they resemble and what clothes and setting are appropriate for them), suggested titles (not just your working title), and the mood or emotion you'd like the cover image to evoke. At times the cover artist or graphic designer gets it right on the first pass, in others it takes several tries. The first design of my debut novel, Code Blue, required several passes, and to the credit of the publisher, they stayed with it until they got it right, setting the tone for the entire series.

Thomas Nelson Publishers (Harper Collins Christian Fiction) put a lot of time and effort into the design for the covers of my most recent novels. I especially like this one for my latest novel, Critical Condition, although it's different from what one usually sees with Christian fiction. What do you think about it?

I had no idea about all this when I began writing. Did you? I'd love to hear your thoughts on book covers. Do you ever buy a book based solely on the cover image? Do some images turn you off? I look forward to reading your comments.


Martha W. Rogers said...

My publisher also wants info on my characters, the plot, and the setting. To me that makes a big difference. I've liked all your covers so far, but to be honest, I'd buy your books no matter what cover is on them. :) If I like an author, the cover won't make a big difference for me.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it's the cover that appeals, but that's if I don't know the author. If I like the author, it doesn't matter what the cover art looks like. For instance, there is one author I really enjoy. She has gone to an independent publisher, and I think she does her own editing, which isn't the greatest. It bothers me a good bit, but I still enjoy her stories. They have a good plot, so I endure the poor covers and editing. I do love a good-looking cover though, and something that is in tune with what I read inside the covers! It's annoying to read the book & find that the cover is no match! It's like watching a movie after you've read the book & there are no similarities.

The cover on your new book is very modern & sleek. I like it. Hope to have access to reading your book soon!

Patricia Bradley said...

I will come nearer "not" buying a book based on the cover--like low cleavage and a bare chested man.
I do like all of your the bullets in the latest one.

J Smith said...

Hi Richard,

Yes, I do pay a lot of attention to the covers and have been giving it considerable thought as of late (before your blog post even arrived). I like generic images like your books have used, as opposed to pictures of real people that are obviously staged. Since I like to imagine what the characters look like for myself, I prefer covers that don't lead me in a specific direction.


Kris M said...

The cover does grab my attention - but then I flip the book over and read the story line. At that point I decided if I want to read or not. And some authors I will read no matter what the cover is because I know I like their books or vice-versa. I know I'll get a good book when I read one of yours!

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks to each of you for your comments. I've read them all and appreciate it.
I would have responded sooner, but I've been on a golfing weekend with three other men about my age--this is an annual pilgrimage to East Texas where we play golf each day, eat too much each evening, and stay in a lakeside cabin one of the men owns.
Back now (showered and sweet-smelling once again). Thanks to all my readers.