So far, I have been blessed to be able to work exclusively with book cover artist extraordinaire, Debi Warford of Debi Warford Design. I have learned a lot along the way. Each series of books must have elements of a unifying theme and the general layout should draw the reader into a visual “blurb” of the story.
To create this, book cover artists rely upon branding, unifying thematic elements, the “Z” principle, the Thumbnail principle, and the author’s vision for the story.
For an author, the book is the brand. I made some conscious decisions about fonts and placements consistent with branding all my book covers. The branding principle is one that is best explained visually.
When readers see an original Nicholas Sparks book cover (not the movie poster that follows), readers can expect that there are usually no human beings on the cover, usually there is some elemental scene involving sunlight, moonlight, sand, or water, and most significantly, that in a rectangular box about 2/3 of the way up the cover with about a 1 inch margin left-right-and-top they will find the very large author’s name in a very specific serif font above a flourish followed by that book’s two to three word title.
Once these novels are made into major motion pictures, the book covers transform into a couple staring soulfully into each others’ eyes. These actors sign away all rights to their appearance (photographed image) so now we can get away with legally putting people on the cover and there is that all important film tie-in. But the author name is still nearly always depicted in that particular serif font (on the paperbacks, anyway).
Here are some other obvious branding done by authors:
Coble’s covers are nearly textbook examples of good design from elemental scenes to the Z principle (more on that later) extending even to her titles.
So, I made some conscious decisions about my covers. When readers see that slightly taller than usual “Hallee Bridgeman” name at the bottom and the florencsans tagline where the lowercase letter “T” looks like a cross, and the “Precious” script font somewhere in the title, with the careful placement of all of these elements in a consistent manner, my aim is to
Unifying thematic elements
Think of Sue Grafton with her A is for B is for and so on novels. Nora Roberts with her (fill in the blank) Death books (Naked in Death, Calculated in Death, etc.) penned under her J.D. Robb pseudonym. The “Prey” novels. The bottom line is, for the books in a series, there is typically a unifying theme that extends throughout the entire storyline. Important unifying thematic elements should somehow be depicted graphically on the cover.
In The Jewel Series, I wanted each cover to contain specific unifying thematic elements. I wanted each jewel depicted in the upper third of the cover like a dream cloud. I wanted some famous scene or cityscape of Boston in the background since that is the primary setting for the story. I wanted each male protagonist depicted in typical black and white silhouette with each of my heroine’s silhouette colored to mimic the “jewel” for which she was named.
These are all unifying thematic elements for that series.
The “Z” Principle
People who read in English read from left to right then swoop down left and read left to right again in a visual path that resembles a big letter “Z.”
Well executed book printed covers follow this principle as well.
The THUMBNAIL View
With so many book covers compressed to thumbnail size in online and printed catalogs, a good book cover will “size” well and typically is going to have a 1:6 ratio being 1 wide and 6 tall. Too many fine elements will get lost. Low resolution imagery will always pixelate losing visual appeal. An image that is too light (white book cover) will get lost on a white page.
The book cover should not only look great for print, it should also “size down” to a thumbnail and still look fantastic with all major branded elements, unifying thematic elements, Z principle intact, and stand out against a white page.
By the time I got around to A Melody for James, we were an old pros at drafting what I envisioned and executing that vision. You are about to have insight into the development of that book cover. This was the original draft created in power point.
Starting a new series, I decided to keep a lot of the same branding elements while changing the style of the series:
You can see what elements stayed the same as The Jewel Series.
This is a good example of the look and feel for all of my future works of fiction.
In addition to writing fiction, I have a pretty wide following as Hallee the Homemaker. My cookbooks are more closely associated with that following so they follow a slightly different design principle.
Since the cookbooks are always a parody of some popular cultural phenomenon, I have some latitude when it comes to license and copyright. Parody has a different status under the law which is a good thing in a country that allegedly admires freedom of expression.
I decided that the title and a catchy zinger of a tagline will always appear as the top of the “Z” and my name and “other brand” (Hallee the Homemaker) will always make up the foot of the “Z.” The look and feel of the title will be consistent with whatever pop cultural phenomenon happens to be the subject of the parody but the remainder will more closely reflect my personal tastes.
You can see the brand marks, unifying thematic elements, and other design principles depicted here:
What kind of covers do you find lure you in? Do you recognize any of these elements in the covers you like? How do you design your cover? What kind of cover do you just avoid at all costs?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on book covers! One commenter will receive the Jewel Anthology, which is a collection of all four Jewel Series books in e-book format. Another commenter will receive A Melody for James, Book 1 of the Song of Suspense Series, my most recent release, in paperback.
About my brilliant cover artist:
Debi Warford graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and a Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing. Debi is quite adept with employing the most modern technology to the most fundamental artisan methods to create her visual messages. In addition to publishing industry specific designs, Debi also works with commercial arts, graphics, and signage work. She is also a disciplined calligrapher and her illuminated Scripture manuscripts hang in many homes. Her hobbies include designing jewelry and firing timeless pottery.
You can view her portfolio of book design and other graphic design work at http://www.debiwarford.com/. Browse even more book covers designed by Debi at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=debi+warford.
You can contact Debi on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DebiWarfordDesign or Twitter @debiwarford.
Hallee Bridgeman lives with her husband and their three children in small town Kentucky. When she's not writing Christian romance novels, she blogs about all things cooking and homemaking at Hallee the Homemaker (http://www.halleethehomemaker.com).
Hallee started writing when her oldest child and only daughter was a baby, but a busy professional career and being the wife of a deployed soldier had her shelve her books for another time. Two more children, a cross country move, and God's perfect timing brought the books off of the shelf to be dusted off and presented to you now.
Hallee loves coffee, campy action movies, and regular date nights with her husband. Above all else, she loves God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength; has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ; and relies on the presence of the Holy Spirit. She prays her books are a blessing to you and would love to hear back from you. You can reach Hallee at firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember..leave a comment today as Hallee is giving away two great book gifts. One commenter will receive the Jewel Anthology, which is a collection of all four Jewel Series books in e-book format. Another commenter will receive A Melody for James, Book 1 of the Song of Suspense Series, her most recent release, in paperback.
One commenter will receive the Jewel Anthology, which is a collection of all four Jewel Series books in e-book format. Another commenter will receive A Melody for James, Book 1 of the Song of Suspense Series, her most recent release, in paperback. - See more at: http://www.seekerville.blogspot.com/#sthash.7NNGvPPO.dpuf
Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.