Deadly Flowers & Cover Art

homo sapienHomo sapiens adhere to the adage, “You taste with your eyes first.”  It probably wasn’t always so.  I like to imagine there was some trial and error involved.  The kind of trial and error that left bodies in its wake.

Imagine Homo habilis in his natural environment two million years ago.  Two of these majestic half-man/half-ape bipedals prance along the countryside, frolic as they dodge danger, and gather delicious snacks to fill their bellies.  One of our hairy predecessors picks a flower and looks at it – it’s beautiful.  He throws it into his mouth and chews.

His friend sees this and his sloped forehead wrinkles.  He says, “Ugh oog errgl aggg uc chocow bop?”

flower.jpgFor those of you rusty in this forgotten form of communication, this roughly translates into, “Is that safe to eat dear friend?”

Chewing, the questioned man-ape looks over at his concerned companion and shrugs.  A tickle springs up in his throat, his windpipe closes, and he falls over dead.

The survivor looks down at his fallen friend and makes an important realization.  I went ahead and translated it ahead of time.

He thinks, “I saw Krul eat pretty flower. Krul choked and died.  Pretty flower not pretty.  Pretty flower bad.  I crush bad flower.”

We’ve come a long way since then.  At least we like to think we have.  Even though a couple million years separate us from Krul and his unnamed friend, we share a lot in common.

reading ouside.jpgFor us writers and bookworms, the countrysides we frolic in are bookstores – both real and cyber.  The pretty flowers have been replaced by cover art.  Those all-important artistic creations are our first impressions.

While there is still potential we pick a pretty flower and it kills us after eat it, we often decide to taste based on what we see.  Unless our prior knowledge of the flower overrides our survival instinct (i.e. we like the flowers creator, we enjoy flowers of this genus, a friend ate the flower and didn’t die).

So what makes for a pretty flower?  This is a hard one for me, and something I’ve been spending a ton of time thinking about and researching.  As I’m wrapping up my first book, Wastelander, and getting ready to start the companion novella, my eyes are already drifting to the horizon.  I’m thinking about re-writes, editing, more editing, cover art, illustrations, and type setting.

The Road.jpgIn regards to cover art, what is important?  Do you focus on a particular scene from the book?  Do you take the main character and make them the central component?  Do you go with abstraction, surrealism, minimalism, or some other technique?

Take The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, for example.  It’s a far cry from most of the post-apocalyptic genre covers you will see.  With that being said, there is a subtle beauty in the simplicity of it.  Most importantly, in my view, there is a whole story in the image.

Much like studying great writing makes you a better writer, studying a wealth of cover art is a good place to start generating ideas.  Here are some places I’ve been visiting to study the the pretty flowers.  I haven’t eaten one yet that’s killed me.  But a few have left a bitter taste in my mouth.

From ShortList is this article, The 50 Coolest Book Covers.

Here’s one from Flavorwire, The 20 Most Iconic Book Covers Ever.

A glimpse at more recent covers comes from The Casual Optimist, 50 Memorable Cover from the Last Four Years.

Gloria Hanlon (a fellow WordPress Wizard) wrote the post, Book Cover Design Tools and Inspirationthe same day I wrote this article.  In it, she offers some amazing insights and tools.  One example she provides looks at 9,999 pieces of cover art and examines how even the color of the cover could have some subconscious impact on the reader.  It’s a very interesting read.

email waiting.jpgI‘m still playing email tag with a couple artists for my cover.  I already have a concept in mind, but the more I research cover artwork, the less confident I feel.

Also, there are some issues with explaining the requirements (size dimensions, dots per inch for print, pixels per inch for digital, the list continues) to an artist that doesn’t specialize in creating cover art.  But hey, that’s a topic for another day.

What pretty flowers appeal to you?  What is about them you enjoy?  Are your desires based more on context or feeling?  I’m very curious, and honestly, a bit in the weeds.  That’s it for today.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

21 responses

  1. Entertaining! Xp I will agree, we see with our eyes and often what you see on a cover of a book electronically or otherwise can make your decision on whether you even take a 2nd glance at the book itself.

    I try to look past the cover and see if a book interests me what it tells me on the back or inside flap if hardcover, however I must admit, I quite often (definitely when in a hurry) will skip over a book if it’s cover doesn’t appeal to me.

    It happens to the best of us. I suppose I like the cover to grab me as much as the book should. It is the first step to grabbing the reader (the cover). That being said, that isn’t to say I never pick up a book with a less than appealing cover, just I’m honest when it comes to what I like and am not afraid to admit what many do as well.

    I do on occasion, judge a book by its cover, or at the very least, judge if it is worth my time to check out.

    Love your posts as always.

    Cheers! ^_^

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s the headline I should have went with, “Judge a book by it’s cover.” Hah! Brilliant.

      I agree with you though. When I’m in a store, unless I’m targeting specific books, the flora and fauna tend to pull me one way or the other.

      I also read the blurb over, but honestly, if the cover just turns me off completely it makes me wonder about the contents. I think in these terms, if the author liked this book cover and approved it, how much do the artist and I share in common – artistically? Perhaps this is a flawed way of thinking, I don’t know.

      Regardless, thanks for swinging in today and for keeping me thinking.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I think in some ways most of us judge a book by its cover at some point or the other. I know it is such a cardinal sin for people to do, most certainly writers, but I agree. If it doesn’t grip you, what does that say about the contents?

        I suppose it could say, maybe they have a lower budget which is neither here nor there, but they ultimately approve the cover and even though people love to say never judge a book by its cover, if we’re being honest, what is the point of the cover on a book, if not to be the first stepping stone to drawing the reader in.

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts and replying. (You always do) Also thank you for the discussion. It is always fun to see the views of all on subjects, especially ones like this.

        Cheers! ^_^

        Liked by 3 people

  2. I have tried to adhere to the adage “don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but like you, if the cover doesn’t attract me, I most likely pass it up. I’ve finally come up with a system that works for me when choosing a book, although it doesn’t necessarily help a writer.
    For me, it’s the cover and then the title. If those two fit into an unexplainable area of acceptance in my brain, then I’m game to pick it up to find out more.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The mystical approach 🙂 It is where I am right now – trying to understand the inexplicable attraction based on the cover elements. It’s partially why I am spending so much time reviewing cover art.

      I’m going to go through all the covers I can find (online) and save those images into a “works for me” folder. Then when I’m done here in a week or so, I’m going to look at them all together. Then I’m going to write down what the reoccurring elements are. This way (when my artists ever get back to me) I can offer stylistic recommendation in addition to content.

      That’s the plan at least. Thanks for swinging in today and leaving a comment.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. If you go with createspace for publishing, just something I know, here’s how they help you with the cover art dimensions

    https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do

    you insert all of that they need and then you receive two files-one jpeg and one pdf. Createspace accepts PDF so you see what it will look like and your illustrator will have all directions in one place.

    https://forums.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1323 Here’s the link for the interior files so you can have an idea on what size to put into the first link in this comment.

    Somewhat of a start. It helped my sister a lot, especially with the extra borders that needed to be done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great information! Thank you for providing it.

      I’ve been slowly compiling a listing for agencies, individuals, and information regarding cover art (I will add this to it). One of these days I will do a blog full of the reference materials – I find the blog is the easiest place to compile information for my own use later on (and if it helps out other people, that’s icing on the cake).

      Thanks again for swinging by and leaving some references materials – you rock!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I love your posts! I’ve been following you since day 1 of your blog and I can’t begin to explain how easily you caught my attention with your unique and profoundly exciting writing style. No matter what you write about I find myself smiling or chuckling through your posts. You write so refreshingly different and it makes me so excited to know you’re writing a book- one I can only imagine is filled with the Quintessential Editor flair that I’ve fallen in love with. You should know no matter what cover art you pick I’m already hooked. I can’t wait to read Wastelander – keep it up!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, I really appreciate the amazingly kind words. Honestly, it’s always a refreshing ego boost to hear people are enjoying my rantings.

      As for Wastelander, I just hope it lives up to expectations. I’ve been working hard on it, as well as the companion novella, The Wasteland Survival Guide. My hope is to get it out there sometimes early next year. I also will likely be offering discounts to my WordPress family.

      Thanks again for reading and for sticking with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. First, my airborne internet was spotty, so I can’t tell if my first attempted comment worked or not.

    Regardless, I’m biased, but I think I have a knack for covers. Collin (cover artist for Bob) and I had a few ideas about the cover, but we both felt pretty solid about what we ended up with from start to finish. I think it’s solid because it stops people in their tracks at conventions. It’s probably responsible for 25% of my sales.

    It was harder to find an artist who shared my vision for the cover to Caught. In truth, the final version isn’t quite what I had in mind, but when I saw it, it was so beautiful I decided to keep it.

    I tend to love covers that depicts the impact scene of a book. That’s a bias that evolved from growing up drooling over Michael Whelan covers. However, I don’t belittle the value of what I call graphic design covers. Some of the best covers I’ve ever seen are pure graphic art.

    I’d be curious to know what readers think of my covers, but I believe in them because of the rubbernecking I get at conventions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you plane didn’t drop out of the sky Matt. I guess the half-naked dancing and chanting I offered to the flight gods panned out – now I don’t feel so silly.

      It’s really interesting to hear you say how much the cover art pulls people to your stand during conventions. Looking at your covers, and others that focus on a main element from the story (instead of abstract concepts), has really made me rethink what I was going to go with.

      As for Michael Whelan, he is on a different level. The Dark Tower artwork is basically cover art porn for book lovers. He has one image he created of Roland with pistols crossed in front of his chest that is just glorious. I’ll just shoot him an email and get him to throw me a bone – no worries. If he doesn’t agree, I’ll just have to get Steve (Stephen King) to talk to him on my behalf. (I wish)

      Thanks for taking the time to read during your travels! Enjoy the heat.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Cover Art: First Cont[r]act « Quintessential Editor

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