Another possible cover for Coding Hour

135

Comments

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    Skoob_ym said:

    I think that the principal problem in showing my genre on my book covers is that I try to escape the confines of genres. I know, everyone says that - but honestly, if you could read a science fiction story that wasn't just another Western set in Space (Cowboys and Indigenous North Americans, for those of you who are not North Americans), wouldn't you prefer that to a standard shoot-em-up bang?

    Not that there's anything wrong with the old Zane Grey / Louis L'Amour / Max Brand staples, but what if it could be more than that? A new take, a new twist, a bit of old and new... I'm thinking of a Sherlock Holmes take-off where the detective is a self-aware software program, for example... Would you make a cover based on Sherlock Holmes, or on Computers, or on something that made proponents of both scratch their heads a bit? A deerstalker cap and a pipe drawn in zeros and ones, maybe?  

    So I try (not that I achieve, but I try) to bend genres a bit. Cross-over, color outside the lines, pull the wagon out of the ruts. I'll confess: I'm a writer first and an artist second. I like to think that I've got a photographer's eye for composition, but I may flatter myself; nonetheless, my true craft is the written word.



    That being said, you do want to get across something significant and meaningful about your book, whatever that might be. But at the same time you also don't want to (ever!) mislead or misinform a potential reader, either. A reader should be intrigued...but never puzzled or confused.

    By the way, your idea about a profile of Sherlock Holmes in zeros and ones would be a striking image. Done well, that would exactly fit the criteria of "intriguing but not mystifying."

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • I think that the principal problem in showing my genre on my book covers is that I try to escape the confines of genres. I know, everyone says that - but honestly, if you could read a science fiction story that wasn't just another Western set in Space (Cowboys and Indigenous North Americans, for those of you who are not North Americans), wouldn't you prefer that to a standard shoot-em-up bang?

    When you think about it, all stories or more or less the same, and it's almost impossible to get away from it, because they are written and read by humans.
    It has been argued that there are as few as seven or eight basic plots or plot-types in all writing, everywhere, and that every story is a variant of these. In the broadest sense, that is probably true. But it's not the whole truth. Otherwise, we wouldn't prefer one book to another. We would just say, "Plot #3," and that would be that.

    But there is a difference, even in very similar stories. Compare the Zeferelli Hamlet movie (with Gibson) to the version starring Laurence Olivier. You will prefer one and like the other less -- for whatever reason -- even though both are saying the exact same words. So there's more to storytelling than the words themselves, or the plot itself, or the plot-type itself, or the genre.

    If we were to take a story of -- let's call it the #1 type -- and blend it with a story of the #2 type, and reach a conclusion that is normally only found in the #3 type, then we'll have done something new and different. Maybe readers will like it, and maybe not. But it will not fit nicely into the #1, #2, or #3 pigeon-holes.
  • Skoob_ym said:

    I think that the principal problem ... ? A new take, a new twist, a bit of old and new... I'm thinking of a Sherlock Holmes take-off where the detective is a self-aware software program, for example... Would you make a cover based on Sherlock Holmes, or on Computers, or on something that made proponents of both scratch their heads a bit? A deerstalker cap and a pipe drawn in zeros and ones, maybe?  

    So I try (...

    That being said, you do want to get across something significant and meaningful about your book, whatever that might be. But at the same time you also don't want to (ever!) mislead or misinform a potential reader, either. A reader should be intrigued...but never puzzled or confused.

    By the way, your idea about a profile of Sherlock Holmes in zeros and ones would be a striking image. Done well, that would exactly fit the criteria of "intriguing but not mystifying."

    Intriguing but not mystifying. A worthy goal, in writing as well as cover art.

    The thing about "Significant and meaningful" is that the author cannot judge the significance to someone who has not read the book. The author knows fully and completely what is significant, and must somehow blind himself to that knowledge in order to see the cover as a reader would.
  • oncewasoncewas Librarian
    I have seen loads of books, including some very successful ones, whose cover gives no clues as to genre or what the book is about. Each author has to trust his or her own instincts. There is no way that I will take what Ron says as gospel because it simply isn't. It is all subjective anyway; what might give you a clue might leave me baffled. I might be able to identify a genre while you might be left scratching your head. There are seven billion people on this planet, and we all see the world differently.

    Design your covers to the best of your ability, and find your own truths to believe. The most beautiful, eye-catching covers are still to be found on books that have not sold a single copy. Just have a good look through an online bookstore to find eveidence of this.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    But there is a difference, even in very similar stories. Compare the Zeferelli Hamlet movie (with Gibson) to the version starring Laurence Olivier. You will prefer one and like the other less -- for whatever reason -- even though both are saying the exact same words. So there's more to storytelling than the words themselves, or the plot itself, or the plot-type itself, or the genre.

    I have not seen either, but I would suggest it can depend on which star is liked, or even known.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    I can be attracted to the cover of a book I have not heard of, also often by a writer I have not heard of, but if the blurb does not appeal to me I put it down. I have to admit I often go for writers I have read before  and enjoyed, regardless of the covers on the ones I have not read, yet.
  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    Creating a cover picture that reflects the contents of the text is very difficult. Quite often, the best is to forget it, and opt for a picture that will intrigue the potential buyer. At a time, French publishers preferred the blow-up of a small section from a classical painting, often a minor detail. In my case, I just pick what pleases my fancy. It must be the right thing to do because every average person says my covers are beautiful, artistic and original.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    As I know my works intimately, I just take a 'mind-photo' of a scene and create that as a picture. A 'Visualisation' is the usual term. I find it much harder to write the blurb, without giving too much away.


    http://www.lulu.com/shop/kevin-lomas/lilium-saffron-dewbell-part-six-thoughts-provoked/paperback/product-24115631.html
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    Skoob_ym said:
    Skoob_ym said:

    I think that the principal problem ... ? A new take, a new twist, a bit of old and new... I'm thinking of a Sherlock Holmes take-off where the detective is a self-aware software program, for example... Would you make a cover based on Sherlock Holmes, or on Computers, or on something that made proponents of both scratch their heads a bit? A deerstalker cap and a pipe drawn in zeros and ones, maybe?  

    So I try (...

    That being said, you do want to get across something significant and meaningful about your book, whatever that might be. But at the same time you also don't want to (ever!) mislead or misinform a potential reader, either. A reader should be intrigued...but never puzzled or confused.

    By the way, your idea about a profile of Sherlock Holmes in zeros and ones would be a striking image. Done well, that would exactly fit the criteria of "intriguing but not mystifying."

    Intriguing but not mystifying. A worthy goal, in writing as well as cover art.

    The thing about "Significant and meaningful" is that the author cannot judge the significance to someone who has not read the book. The author knows fully and completely what is significant, and must somehow blind himself to that knowledge in order to see the cover as a reader would.

    This is why an author needs to think twice before attempting to create their own cover.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited August 27
    oncewas said:
    I have seen loads of books, including some very successful ones, whose cover gives no clues as to genre or what the book is about. Each author has to trust his or her own instincts. There is no way that I will take what Ron says as gospel because it simply isn't. It is all subjective anyway; what might give you a clue might leave me baffled. I might be able to identify a genre while you might be left scratching your head. There are seven billion people on this planet, and we all see the world differently.

    Design your covers to the best of your ability, and find your own truths to believe. The most beautiful, eye-catching covers are still to be found on books that have not sold a single copy. Just have a good look through an online bookstore to find eveidence of this.


    It sound very egalitarian to say "it's all subjective," but this really isn't true. And using examples such as "what might give you a clue might leave me baffled" is disingenuous.  

    I see from your comment that "each author has to trust his or her own instincts" that you are talking about DIY book covers, not commercial ones. In this case, I very much disagree with you. It is not a matter solely of "instinct" but training and experience as well. Just as being any sort of successful professional, from plumber to doctor is not entirely the result of ingrained talent. Everyone, I am sure, would like to think that their work is equal in every way to Norman Rockwell's---after all, quality is entirely subjective! While in their minds this may be but, sadly, the truth may be harder to face.

    It's really no different than someone writing a book who not only has absolutely no talent for writing, but is utterly ignorant of grammar, spelling and punctuation. It sounds very generous and fair to say that this is all OK, they are only "writing to the best of their ability, finding their own truths" and that the quality of their work is completely subjective (and there just may be one person out there who really likes it)---which would be all well and good if they weren't putting their book out onto the market for sale. If you are going to sell anything it behooves you to make your product of equal quality to something competently created that is being sold at the same price. It is also doing this writer no favor at all by suggesting that whatever they do is just fine, that there is no need for them to improve their craft.

    I know it's very nice to think that everyone is absolutely equal when it comes to creating artwork---including book covers---but this is unfortunately not true. It's why blog sites such as "Lousy Book Covers" exist.

    The bottom line is that book covers aren't meant to be fine art. They are not meant to be outlets for someone's expressiveness and "truths." Book covers are packaging, meant to serve one purpose and one purpose only: to help sell a book.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    I can be attracted to the cover of a book I have not heard of, also often by a writer I have not heard of, but if the blurb does not appeal to me I put it down. I have to admit I often go for writers I have read before  and enjoyed, regardless of the covers on the ones I have not read, yet.

    A good example! If the cover at least gets you to pick up a book, it will have served its purpose.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited August 27


    I know what you mean, Kevin. Few, if any, of the covers I have done for my own books have depicted a specific scene or event in the book. Instead, I have tried to invent an image that suggests the basic theme or idea of the book. This may evolve from a visual set piece of some sort but I make no special effort to depict it with strict accuracy. If including characters who don't actually appear in the scene, or combining characters who may never actually meet face to face, helps make the cover work better, that's fine.

    For instance, nothing really occurs in either of the two books below exactly as they are depicted on their covers, but neither are they inaccurate so far as the impression they give.

    While no one, least of all myself, can be wholly objective about their own work, my experience probably gives me an advantage in being able to distance myself at least a little way from my books, and look at them perhaps a little more objectively than I might have otherwise. In the left-hand example, there is a battle and there is a heroine---but she certainly never stopped in the middle of a fight to pose like that. (Nor do the two characters in the background, on the right and left, ever appear together this way). In the other cover, the heroine is in fact only half-conscious when confronted by the fairy. She never greets him with a sword---but I felt that to be literal would make a cover that was too passive and less engaging. The idea for both was to convey a single idea about the book that was true to the nature of the book. Creating an illustration that was accurate in every detail was not the goal. So long as I was not being misleading or suggesting that the books were something other than what they are, I felt no need to be literal.   

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    I can be attracted to the cover of a book I have not heard of, also often by a writer I have not heard of, but if the blurb does not appeal to me I put it down. I have to admit I often go for writers I have read before  and enjoyed, regardless of the covers on the ones I have not read, yet.

    A good example! If the cover at least gets you to pick up a book, it will have served its purpose.

    But it is not also an example of my claim that it's not just front covers that sell books? In many instances not even the blurb.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    I know what you mean, Kevin. Few, if any, of the covers I have done for my own books have depicted a specific scene or event in the book. Instead, I have tried to invent an image that suggests the basic theme or idea of the book.

    Well, indeed. I try to pick a scene from the book/s that generalise the content, if you see what I mean? While I write I see the story in my mind as if its a film, so because of that I also have 'stills' in my head.

     This may evolve from a visual set piece of some sort but I make no special effort to depict it with strict accuracy. If including characters who don't actually appear in the scene, or combining characters who may never actually meet face to face, helps make the cover work better, that's fine.


    Each to their own I suppose.  :)
  • A_A_CainA_A_Cain Oz Creator

    For instance, nothing really occurs in either of the two books ... exactly as they are depicted on their covers, but neither are they inaccurate so far as the impression they give.

    The genre is obvious too.

    Although you've got a bit of a nineteen-thirties vibe going on with your women - they might have wandered in from an Agatha Christie murder mystery set in Lower Slaughter (which is the best ever English name for a village - just down the road from Upper Slaughter). 

    My genre is obvious, too - you don't need blurb to figure it out. Sometimes, all you need is a relevant, simple image and a few key words (shameless self promotion) :).

     

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited August 28
    I know what you mean, Kevin. Few, if any, of the covers I have done for my own books have depicted a specific scene or event in the book. Instead, I have tried to invent an image that suggests the basic theme or idea of the book.

    Well, indeed. I try to pick a scene from the book/s that generalise the content, if you see what I mean? While I write I see the story in my mind as if its a film, so because of that I also have 'stills' in my head.

     This may evolve from a visual set piece of some sort but I make no special effort to depict it with strict accuracy. If including characters who don't actually appear in the scene, or combining characters who may never actually meet face to face, helps make the cover work better, that's fine.


    Each to their own I suppose.  :)


    Indeed! I think that an unforgivable sin is to mislead (or outright lie) to a potential reader. You do not ever want to suggest one sort of book and have the reader discover it is something entirely different. You can play around with details---such as combining scenes and things like that---but to make a book appear to be, say, a contemporary Mennonite romance and have it really be postapocalyptic lesbian vampire erotica...well, that would be just plain wrong.

    I know what you mean about picking scenes that either generalize or represent the story. It's what I will do when doing a book for a commercial publisher: I scan through the text looking for visual set pieces--images that both get across the nature of the story while at the same time being visually attractive and interesting.  Sometimes this might mean fudging a little bit---for instance, as I suggested, combining characters and scenes. Occasionally it's sometimes best to symbolize the nature of a book rather than try to illustrate anything in it literally. But so long as the reader is not being mislead I have no compunctions about doing these things.

    For instance, in this cover I decided to group the three main characters---Captain Marvel, Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper---rather than illustrate a specific scene since I felt that it was this combination of characters that made the book unique and fun.

    While in this cover, all of the different things that are going on do take place...but not all at exactly the same time as I show them. The ray gun-wielding dragon by itself would have been fun, but it needed the inclusion of the girl--which the dragon does save at a different point in the story--to both give the creature scale and to suggest story.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    A_A_Cain said:

    For instance, nothing really occurs in either of the two books ... exactly as they are depicted on their covers, but neither are they inaccurate so far as the impression they give.

    The genre is obvious too.

    Although you've got a bit of a nineteen-thirties vibe going on with your women - they might have wandered in from an Agatha Christie murder mystery set in Lower Slaughter (which is the best ever English name for a village - just down the road from Upper Slaughter). 

    My genre is obvious, too - you don't need blurb to figure it out. Sometimes, all you need is a relevant, simple image and a few key words (shameless self promotion) :).

     

    Indeed! I don't think that anyone would ever confuse your books with young adult Christian romances.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • A_A_CainA_A_Cain Oz Creator
    Indeed! I don't think that anyone would ever confuse your books with young adult Christian romances.

    Correct. Which is entirely the point about covers ;).

    And it probably won't surprise you to know there is an entire sub-genre of erotica about de-flowering good religious girls (all denominations catered for). de Sade began it all with Justine, and it's still popular today. Particularly in the Mid-West, no surprise there, either.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    My genre is obvious, too - you don't need blurb to figure it out. Sometimes, all you need is a relevant, simple image and a few key words (shameless self promotion) 

    Indeed it is, and will attract people who read that sort of stuff I am sure, but do the covers really say what the stories are fully about? Call me fussy but I like to know.
  • A_A_CainA_A_Cain Oz Creator
    My genre is obvious, too - you don't need blurb to figure it out. Sometimes, all you need is a relevant, simple image and a few key words (shameless self promotion) 

    Indeed it is, and will attract people who read that sort of stuff I am sure, but do the covers really say what the stories are fully about? Call me fussy but I like to know.
    There's a code - fluffy romance erotica is like Mills and Boon with more cleavage and bare male chests. There is confusion re the latter, admittedly, as that also signifies gay male, so that's where the blurb comes in handy - or the absence of women on the cover is a clue. Women in boots, tight leather dresses, and a riding crop needs no explanation.

    Mine is consensual, egalitarian stuff - so yes, the young woman turning around could easily be one of my characters, whereas the other cover is more an aesthetic. To be honest, I get tired of the cliche covers - and I don't spoon feed my audiences, so if you wanted a literal cover, I guess you'd be looking somewhere else :).
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    My genre is obvious, too - you don't need blurb to figure it out. Sometimes, all you need is a relevant, simple image and a few key words (shameless self promotion) 

    Indeed it is, and will attract people who read that sort of stuff I am sure, but do the covers really say what the stories are fully about? Call me fussy but I like to know.

    I agree with Kevin. Identifying a genre is just a start. A cover really should say something about the book itself...what sets it apart from the hundreds or thousands of other books in the same class.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • A_A_Cain said:

    For instance, nothing really occurs in either of the two books ... exactly as they are depicted on their covers, but neither are they inaccurate so far as the impression they give.

    The genre is obvious too.

    Although you've got a bit of a nineteen-thirties vibe going on with your women - they might have wandered in from an Agatha Christie murder mystery set in Lower Slaughter (which is the best ever English name for a village - just down the road from Upper Slaughter). 

    My genre is obvious, too - you don't need blurb to figure it out. Sometimes, all you need is a relevant, simple image and a few key words (shameless self promotion) :).

     

    If any genre is easy to cover, I would argue that erotica would be that genre. But if a book with a cover such as these above were to in fact contain programming tips for the AMandA voicemail system as used in urban environments (especially aquatic urban environments) I believe that the readers might be badly disappointed.
  • I know what you mean, Kevin. Few, if any, of the covers I have done for my own books have depicted a specific scene or event in the book. Instead, I have tried to invent an image that suggests the basic theme or idea of the book.

    Well, indeed. I try to pick a scene from the book/s that generalise the content, if you see what I mean? While I write I see the story in my mind as if its a film, so because of that I also have 'stills' in my head.

     This may evolve from a visual set piece of some sort but I make no special effort to depict it with strict accuracy. If including characters who don't actually appear in the scene, or combining characters who may never actually meet face to face, helps make the cover work better, that's fine.


    Each to their own I suppose.  :)


    Indeed! I think that an unforgivable sin is to mislead (or outright lie) to a potential reader. You do not ever want to suggest one sort of book and have the reader discover it is something entirely different. You can play around with details---such as combining scenes and things like that---but to make a book appear to be, say, a contemporary Mennonite romance and have it really be postapocalyptic lesbian vampire erotica...well, that would be just plain wrong.

    I know what you mean about picking scenes that either generalize or represent the story. It's what I will do when doing a book for a commercial publisher: I scan through the text looking for visual set pieces--images that both get across the nature of the story while at the same time being visually attractive and interesting.  Sometimes this might mean fudging a little bit---for instance, as I suggested, combining characters and scenes. Occasionally it's sometimes best to symbolize the nature of a book rather than try to illustrate anything in it literally. But so long as the reader is not being mislead I have no compunctions about doing these things.

    For instance, in this cover I decided to group the three main characters---Captain Marvel, Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper---rather than illustrate a specific scene since I felt that it was this combination of characters that made the book unique and fun.

    While in this cover, all of the different things that are going on do take place...but not all at exactly the same time as I show them. The ray gun-wielding dragon by itself would have been fun, but it needed the inclusion of the girl--which the dragon does save at a different point in the story--to both give the creature scale and to suggest story.

    And if this story did not include dragons, ray-guns, and girls, I would be disappointed.

    But if the dragon were
    A.) the hero
    B.) the heroine
    C.) a robot
    D.) a trained pet, or
    E.) a cleverly-used pinata full of candy and rayguns

    I would have to say that the cover did not actually mislead me.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    And if this story did not include dragons, ray-guns, and girls, I would be disappointed.

    But if the dragon were
    A.) the hero
    B.) the heroine
    C.) a robot
    D.) a trained pet, or
    E.) a cleverly-used pinata full of candy and rayguns

    I would have to say that the cover did not actually mislead me.

    Well, you are pretty close on every count! The book has a dragon hero, a dauntless heroine and ray guns!

    I can't say anything about the piñata without spoilers.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    I agree with Kevin. Identifying a genre is just a start. A cover really should say something about the book itself...what sets it apart from the hundreds or thousands of other books in the same class.

    Indeed. https://www.rockingbookcovers.com/premade-covers/premade-romance-book-covers/
  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    I recently discovered that some people do not see what my cover picture of Number and Units in Old Tagalog represents despite the title. 
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    potetjp said:
    I recently discovered that some people do not see what my cover picture of Number and Units in Old Tagalog represents despite the title. 

    Well, given that---like I suspect many other people---I have absolutely no pre-knowledge of Tagalog (old or new), let alone the history and culture of the Philippines, the cover was a complete mystery to me, too. If your book is intended solely for people already intimately familiar with its subject, you might not have any problem. But as I don't know what the significance of the imagery is, I can't be any judge of that.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited August 30
    I agree with Kevin. Identifying a genre is just a start. A cover really should say something about the book itself...what sets it apart from the hundreds or thousands of other books in the same class.

    Indeed. https://www.rockingbookcovers.com/premade-covers/premade-romance-book-covers/

    I see that Rocking Book says that its covers are sold to only one person. But since I suspect that they don't do their own unique photography, all of their covers are probably based on stock imagery (just dressed up with overlays and effects)...which, in turn, might be picked up by any number of other pre-made book cover sites who are mining the same sources.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    The basic element for the cover picture of Numbers and Units in Old Tagalog is a slice of carambola, a tropical fruit that has five angles. I used it to represent the number 5. The whole picture is my artistic representation of the series of multiples of five from the unit to its square: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25. That's all. :)
  • potetjp said:
    I recently discovered that some people do not see what my cover picture of Number and Units in Old Tagalog represents despite the title. 

    Well, given that---like I suspect many other people---I have absolutely no pre-knowledge of Tagalog (old or new), let alone the history and culture of the Philippines, the cover was a complete mystery to me, too. If your book is intended solely for people already intimately familiar with its subject, you might not have any problem. But as I don't know what the significance of the imagery is, I can't be any judge of that.
    With the phrase "Numbers and Units" I would assume the circles/spheres to represent sets of things, and the flowers to be numbers of things within the sets. Like Venn diagrams, almost.

    I see a set of one, of two, of three, of four, and of five. I happen to know that these are esa, dalawa, tatlo, anat, and lima in Tagalog, but that does not inform my understanding of the cover art.
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