Cover Fun: A Series/Brand Look

I just finished up a fun little project. The ever irrepressible Larry Block decided to put up eight more of his short stories as singles on Amazon. Cool. Doing the interiors was a snap. The real fun came from doing the ebook covers.

blockmontageI don’t know about the rest of you, but I love how they turned out. My intent from the beginning was to make a distinctive series look, for the author name to be prominent, and for the tone to say ‘retro but fresh.’

Mondrian_CompRYBMy inspiration came from Mondrian, a Dutch painter. Not only is his style distinctive and appealing, Mondrian is also featured in a Block novel, The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian, which I real several years ago and loved, and is also mentioned in LB’s latest, The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons. So Mondrian was on my mind and when it came time to come up with a concept for the covers, off to Google I did go and spent about an hour pondering why lines and blocks of primary colors are so compelling.

Now, I’m not an artist and I’m not trained in the graphic arts. But I do love playing with my favorite graphics program–Paint.net–and I have learned over time to:

  • Keep it simple
  • Find a focus and stick to it
  • Identity

By identity I mean that the most effective ebook covers identify either the author or the genre, and sometimes both. LB is well known, so his name has clout, which basically means that his name is going to have far more effect on a shopper’s decision making than would any image. If he were not so well known, I would have put the emphasis on genre. Seriously, that is the biggest flaw I see in ebook covers–there is no clue as to what kind of book it is. Or the clues are too subtle or misleading. Online shoppers are swift beasties. You have only seconds to convince them you’re selling what they are looking for.

For really good advice on designing ebook covers, hop over to Joel Friedlander’s blog–the bookdesigner.com–and especially pay attention to the monthly cover awards. Merely looking at the cover awards will imbue you with tons of information.

The best advice of all, though, came not from a cover designer or a graphic artist, but from one of my favorite TV shows, What Not To Wear. It’s on Netflix if you want to catch it. Stacy and Clinton tell this to people who are baffled by style and putting outfits together. They say, find one element you absolutely love and build around it. Can’t go wrong with that.

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14 thoughts on “Cover Fun: A Series/Brand Look

  1. Well, I love the covers. You know that. But it’s interesting to know how they got there.
    And I have to say they inspired me when I wrote the book descriptions for the Amazon listings. They sent me wandering down Memory Lane. Have a peek and you’ll see what I mean…

    • LB has been self-publishing far longer than most. He self-published books for writers when he needed them for his seminars. The attitude is the important thing to pay heed to. I don’t presume to speak for him, but seems to me that with every project he makes a thoughtful business decision about how to go about getting what he wants for that particular project. Whether that is a publishing contract, self-publishing, or a hybrid combo of the two, HE is the one who decides what is best for himself and his readers. If every writer did that (instead of hoping for someone, anyone to pay attention to them) writers everywhere would earn new respect.

  2. I really like the retro look of these covers, they make me think of the sixties. The bold colours are eye-catching too and of course, the visual pun of blocks for Block. It’s funny because I don’t really like Mondrian, but I think it’s because you’ve used more colours than he does.
    I love reading the monthly book awards, but I’m always taken aback by the people who get very insulted when their covers are criticized. The point of submitting them is to get feedback, but I guess we get attached to our covers. I know exactly what’s wrong with my covers (they lack the genre identification you mentioned) but I love them, so I haven’t changed them.
    Would you submit these to the cover awards?

    • I hadn’t thought about submitting them. Maybe I will. Public criticism is tough to take. Hell, private criticism can be hard. But Joel’s criticisms offer much valuable food for thought for everybody. Even when I disagree with him (and I often do because our tastes are very, very different) I learn a lot from the reasoning behind his criticisms.

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