Monday, October 24, 2011

Cover Points by Angela Anderson

Everyone, yes EVERYONE, judges a book by its cover. Even when the book is written by your favorite author, you still check it out. Why? Most readers are visual and detail oriented. The cover helps complete the image in their head of what they "think" the story is about. It is then up to the written page to either fulfill or disappoint.

So what should authors be thinking about when the consider their "perfect" cover? Believe it or not, this thought process should begin as soon as you begin sketching out the storyline and your characters. If you want a cover that is not just an honest reflection of your story but also one that will help it sell, consider the following:

Scenes/locations: Can the cover artist find an acceptable representation, regardless of whether your story is set in Colonial New England, the depths of space, or contemporary Manhattan? Depending on the stock art site, this might be a challenge, offering you the choice of something that isn't "historically" accurate or a background that must be pieced together. Collages have their place in cover design, but too much is NOT a good thing and rarely looks realistic. So make it easy for your artist--stay true to your concept but offer a simplistic backdrop that can be easily replicated.

Time: Period pieces are a big draw for many readers because it puts us in a time and place we've never experienced. However, be aware that due to photo stock limitations, you may not always get an authentic representation. So, again, keep your settings general to give the artist more latitude with the images. The final product will stay truer to your vision and the reader will have an easier time buying into the idea.

Characters: Here's a challenge for you...go to your favorite stock photo site and find a voluptuous redhead with violet eyes in a white laced "pirate-style" shirt being held by a 6 foot 6 inch muscle-bound man wearing leather pants with long black hair and a shock of white just over his left eye. Nothing...yeah, I thought so. Cover artists have just as hard a time finding that "perfect" couple shot, and the job can be made even more difficult if your sexy duo is so specifically detailed. Offer good descriptions, but understand that some "people" just don't exist in the real world.

Level of heat: Asking for a barely clothed couple in an embrace so hot that it melts the screen will get you exactly that. It's vivid, eye catching, and bound to draw in the reader. For many publishers and authors, heat sells. Ensure that the cover you request can keep pace with the sensuality of the content. Otherwise, the whole package becomes a lie that the content can't live up to.

Angela Anderson
Editor/cover artist

38 comments:

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Great remeinder that while we are not limited by our imaginations, we are limited in the pictures available for coverart. I think TWRP does a great job on covers, btw.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Angela! All great points. That being said, I can't wait to see my next cover. :)

I love the cover for One for the Road, too.

Lynne

S.G. Rogers said...

Is it a trade secret to ask where you shop for your stock photos? I'm familiar with places such as Dreamstime, but it would be useful for me to see what's available before I fill out my art sheet.

Thanks for the post. Good info!

Marie Tuhart said...

Great post, Angela. You do a great job on covers, I love mine :)

Jannine Gallant said...

Just curious - are covers ever drawn by artists, or are they always created with stock art?

Rebecca J. Clark said...

Very useful information. :) TWRP artists do great work, by the way. I'm anxiously awaiting the cover on my upcoming release. Can't wait to see it.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

WhenI fill out the information sheet for the covers, I try to keep in mind all those elements listed in the blog. For me, looking forward to getting covers for each of my new TWRP releases is like looking forward to Christmas; and I've never been disappointed.

Donna L Bolk said...

I LOVE the covers that TWRP created for my books. I did have a bad experience with another publisher who shall remain nameless. My story was about 4 women, the cover they created was four cartoon bouncing heads. It in no way reflected the story. The next cover they came up with was a wooded scene. The murders in the story took place in the woods. I wasn't over the moon about the cover but it worked. Until, a few months later when I saw my cover on another book (by the same publisher). UGH!! Thank you TWRP for being so great at all you do. I think our artists are TERRIFIC.

Jerrie Alexander said...

Thanks for the information. The books I've purchased written by TWRP authors have had beautiful covers.

Like Rebecca, I'm waiting to see the cover on my upcoming release. Exciting times for a new author.

Caroline Clemmons said...

How true. I hate a cover that doesn't give an indication of the time period or hint at the plot. I believe TWRP has beautiful covers. The few I haven't liked were, I learned, composed to the author's specifications and adored by the author. Thank goodness TWRP gives authors input to the cover.

Vonnie Davis said...

Very informative post. I'm always impressed by the covers TWRP cover artists design. Walk into any bookstore and peruse the covers for romance books. Almost all of them from the big pubs have the naked male torso with the air-brushed abs. After a while it gets comical. I'm so glad our covers reflect what's inside verses the current follow-the-leader trend.

Babette James said...

Very good points. I adore the cover TWRP created for Clear As Day. I've received many compliments on it already. It's eye catching and it captures the atmosphere of the story.

Calisa Rhose said...

These are great points to keep in mind. While reading your article I was envisioning what my books might require to feel true to them. I don't mind searching for something that comes close to what I would like, but I may not know what will sell so it definitely takes a collaborative effort on the parts of the artist and the author.

Thanks.

Larry Hammersley said...

Thanks for the information. I know it can be difficult to select a cover but I especially liked the cover for my first story with Wild Rose: Lab Partners. Before a cover is selected I've been asked to give suggestions from whatever site I have access to in order to get the flavor for my story. Do these help or should I cease and desist on this?

Donna Hatch said...

I can appreciate how hard it is to find just the right pictures. I love all my covers at TWRP, especially considering how hard it must be to find historically accurate photos.

Amy said...

Great post and I totally agree about making sure the cover reflects the content. I've bought books where the cover had a comedic feel to it (like a cartoon cover) only to discover the book had a very, very serious tone with no humor at all. :( Thankfully, I haven't seen TWRP make that kind of mistake.
But it is important to make the cover have the same "feel" as the book. :)

Silver James said...

Filling out the cover sheet is always hard for me. This gives me some concrete ideas to work with on my next one! Thanks for an informative (and timely) article.

Sylvie said...

Talking about covers..I just got mine for Honky Tonk Man!!!
Love it, as usual :)

Sherry Gloag said...

An interesting blog. I know I've searched for hours for 'just the right image' when creating a video, and I know my story inside out. Until I began searching I had no idea how difficult it could be to come up with the right image. Great post.

Beth Trissel said...

This is excellent advice and stuff I try to bear in mind when filling in that manuscript information sheet. TWRP has wonderful cover artists. I love all of mine.

Ann Yost said...

Angela -- thank you for the specifics about cover suggestions. I have loved my covers and only wish there was an actual physical picture for my personal pleasure for the ebook covers. Thanks, again.

Leanne Tyler said...

You are right about all of these points. Thanks for reminding us.

Margo Hoornstra said...

All good information to keep in mind. Thank you.

I sometimes tend to forget less really is more.

Randi Alexander said...

Angela - I love the cover you created for me for Chase and Seduction. You and all the other cover artist at TWRP are very talented, and greatly appreciated!

Allie Hawkins said...

I take my hat off to the visual artist who took my sketchy descriptions and vague thoughts for the cover for my romantic suspense title, PRESUMED GUILTY. Like everyone else, I'm very happy with the results. I agree that a cover can make/break a book.

Thanks, for giving me a few ideas for the next cover. What a letdown to learn there are no pictures of bodacious, violet-eyed redheads in stock photos. :)

Linda Banche said...

I love my TWRP covers. The artists listen to what I say and then make up something wonderful.

Susan Macatee said...

I love all my TWRP covers and try to be descriptive without going overboard with specifics on my cover sheets.

Kallie Lane said...

This is great info, Angela. I'm sure I wasn't very helpful to Kim Mendoza when I fill out the info sheet for my first book, Dark Abandon. But, Kim did a super job, and next time I'll have a better idea what I'm looking for. Thanks!

Tricia Jones said...

Interesting insight. Always exciting waiting to see a new cover and so far I've loved every one of mine.

Debra St. John said...

Covers are definitely important. I love that TWRP asks for so much input from us as authors for our covers. I know I often have a vision of a cover in my head as soon as I start writing a story. It's so nice to be able to share those visions with the art department. I love how extensive and detailed our MIS forms are.

All of my TWRP covers are fabulous. (Angela, you've done them all!) I've never been disappointed and I get many, many compliments on them.

DebraStJohn

Desiree Holt said...

Every one of my readers always says it's the cover that attracts them first, whether ebook or print so yes, we as authors need to really think about what we request.

Ursula Whistler said...

Great advice. I love looking for photos, but then I get so worried that the ones I like won't make good covers. Here's to graphic artists all around.

christine warner said...

Great suggestions. I know when I sent in the specs for my first book I hadn't even thought about the cover, so it was a challenge for me. Now working on another book, I've already planned ahead and have in mind what I want. It also seems to help a bit with the writing process. Thanks for the tips!

Jill James said...

I love TWRP covers so much. Great reminders that designing a book cover is an art.

LaVerne Clark said...

I'm eagerly awaiting my next cover. It's a truly exciting time. I feel so lucky to have such talented artists making our covers shine. Thank you for all you do : )

Lelani Black said...

Love all of my covers! Dynamic visual representation of these characters complete the story. I could not ask for more and am so grateful that TWRP authors get to have some input.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Angela,
Very informative blog, I didn't realise covers were so complicated to design.By the way, you designed two of my favourite covers and I have received so many compliments on them.

Since thanks and kind regards

Margaret

Jennifer Johnson said...

I love you! You did my covers for TWRP, and I love them!