Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Making covers

make all the covers for my books from start to finish. With a background in digital publishing and as a graphic designer I was never truly in doubt that I wanted to do it, to continue on my stated desire to do virtually everything on a book myself. I decided early on a minimalist design, a deliberate deviation from the flashy, impersonal and repetitive images of mainstream books. My covers aren’t advertising, but descriptions of what the book is about, and they are often planned years in advance, in some cases before the novel has been completed or even started on.

When I took the picture of South Platte River in Denver in 2002 I knew it would be used to illustrate The Defenseless. The river is almost a character in the book, the deep and dark and boiling water being a kind of mirror image to the two dark and deep brothers and their boiling blood. It was taken in bright daylight. I darkened it significantly to get the mood right. It turned out exactly the way I pictured it in my mind.

The photograph of the Los Angeles skyline, also taken in 2002 fit Your Own Fate perfectly, showing Jeremy Zahn’s final destination, the place where his fate would be played out. The branches down in the right corner is a deliberate inclusion, a kind of opposite to the sinister skyline, a bit of green and freshness in all the gray death.

The two above are single pictures, doctored in Adobe Photoshop, in the electronic darkroom to the desired result.

The covers to ShadowWalk, Night on Earth and The Slaves are composite images, a mix of several photos. The Slaves continues the theme of water, adding a crowd of an enslaved population to that of the deep sea. The Night on Earth cover is a mix of a woman with fangs on a cemetery and the front of the New Scotland Yard building in London. ShadowWalk is wild, unfettered wilderness and mystery on the front and a witch walking down the stairs at the imagined Ravenscourt castle on the back.

Covers to most of my upcoming books, even those not written yet are practically ready already. Sometimes ideas to stories have come from photos and not the other way around.

It always feels great witnessing how different angles of creativity and art augment each other and come together.


Michael Boxwell said...

Very few authors have the ability to produce good covers, and a bad cover can sink an otherwise excellent book.

You're the exception, but then with your background, I'm not surprised.

However, can I please ask one thing? Your book cover needs both a title and a sub-title. The title captures your prospective reader's attention and you need the sub-title to draw them in.

This is so important because readers genuinely judge a book by its cover: you've got five seconds to convince somebody that they want to read your book.

To do this, you need a great title, a sub-title that delivers a promise (i.e. what the reader will learn about by reading your book) and a great cover design.

Why is this so important? There are millions of books out there. You have seconds to make an impression. Good luck.

You can follow me on Twitter at @MakeAnEbook

Amos Keppler said...

Hi, Mike and thank you.

I considered this from the start and rejected it, with several other common approaches, in favor of a minimalistic approach. I might try it at some point, though.