Another possible cover for Coding Hour


Something about a road sign on the ground makes me think of small towns. Maybe a couple of bullet holes for effect?

This is going with the  Keep It Simple, Silly philosophy of cover design.

Would added elements, apparently "dropped" next to the sign add or detract from it? What elements might be helpful?

For the back cover, I'm thinking of using the same sign as a frame, with the Blurb, Teaser, and Bar Code inside the frame. Possibly a couple other elements to clarify the genre...

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Comments

  • A_A_CainA_A_Cain Oz Creator
    Coding Hour as a title might be problematic. People are going to ask what a road sign has got to do with software. It needs some more clues as to genre.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    Good point. The thumb drive and the badge have to work in there somewhere.

    Or I could change the title to "Crime Drama in a Small Town with Codes and Coding." But that's not gonna fit on the sign. :DB)
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    Well...it's a strikingly simple, graphic idea, which is very good.

    But I am not so sure that seeing a sign laying on a bed of grass is really getting across the idea I think you are after. The arrangement is also a little too tidy, with everything nice and squared up with the cover's margins.

    First, I think I would suggest not placing the sign on the ground. Second, I would suggest not making the cover so neat and symmetrical. At the very least, tip the sign at an angle. This will add a subtle sense of drama and of something being amiss.

    I am not too sure, either, about the title and author name being so equal in size and weight.

    And, yes, some bullet holes would help.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    Thanks, Ron. That gives me some ideas. I might stage the sign at an angle, on a post, with bullet holes, at night, bright red/blue lights in the background.

    Sign / angled / bullet holes for a small town feel; lights out of focus in the background to suggest trouble/police/danger. Welcome to a violent little town.

    Would you keep the title / author square with the cover or square with the sign?
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    Shot a bunch of test photos in a local village last weekend, but none had that feel that I'm looking for.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    Skoob_ym said:
    Thanks, Ron. That gives me some ideas. I might stage the sign at an angle, on a post, with bullet holes, at night, bright red/blue lights in the background.

    Sign / angled / bullet holes for a small town feel; lights out of focus in the background to suggest trouble/police/danger. Welcome to a violent little town.

    Would you keep the title / author square with the cover or square with the sign?

    Square with the sign.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    Maybe there might be something here you could use

    https://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=small+town&fa=displayed%3Aanywhere&sp=1

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    If I had set it in the West, I might use this photo from Lordsburg, New Mexico. But I didn't.

    I might start designing covers and then writing stories that go with them... :smiley:


    The danger, naturally, would be that people might think the title is "REAL MEXICAN FOOD." :)
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    :DSkoob_ym said:
    If I had set it in the West, I might use this photo from Lordsburg, New Mexico. But I didn't.

    I might start designing covers and then writing stories that go with them... :smiley:

    The danger, naturally, would be that people might think the title is "REAL MEXICAN FOOD." :)

    True! :D

    But the cover, conceptually at least, is an improvement. If the sign were hanging cock-eyed on a post and the background town were the sort you wanted, you would really be on the right track.

    By the way, coming up with a great movie poster and then doing a movie to fit it is exactly how Roger Corman worked for a long time!

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    Working on the idea that nothing says small town like a remote rural post office, I took this photo in Carmel Valley Village. It does say "California Hills" but the print on the sign is small and might escape notice. Also, it rules out using the sign for the title and author name, but I might have the title on top of this in an OCR Font (to express the computer aspect).

    Not really fond of this option.

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher

    McNeil general store and post office, McNeil, TX. Flipped the image to disguise the location and to give a more workable layout. Might need the corner of the sign by the letter R. Wish it hadn't been such a gloomy day...

    Not loving this one. More to follow...

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    Also thinking that this is the perfect kind of town, but I can't see using the road sign without covering all the interesting parts of the image...Alpine, TX, as seen from the Amtrak Texas Eagle.

    Maybe I can work around the road sign...


  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    Thinkin' out loud seems to help...
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher

    Okay, based on Alpine Tx and ditching the road sign...


  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    I didn't see it till I printed a copy to show a friend, but apparently I bent the lamp-post when I re-composed to remove the telephone pole. I should be able to go back to the .psd file with no words and fix it, and I probably should lighten the photo a little while keeping contrast high.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    Skoob_ym said:
    Working on the idea that nothing says small town like a remote rural post office, I took this photo in Carmel Valley Village. It does say "California Hills" but the print on the sign is small and might escape notice. Also, it rules out using the sign for the title and author name, but I might have the title on top of this in an OCR Font (to express the computer aspect).

    Not really fond of this option.


    Me, neither. For the very simple reason there is nothing to suggest that it is a post office, rural or otherwise.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    Skoob_ym said:

    Okay, based on Alpine Tx and ditching the road sign...



    This works pretty well conceptually, but you might need to work on a couple of issues. The first, of course, is the overall darkness of the image. Even at the size I am seeing it right now--4x5.5 inches on my monitor--the background image is obscure.

    You may also want to consider adding some additional visual element to the image that suggests the nature or theme of the book. A photo of a small town street and the title "Coding Hour" really doesn't convey much information. Perhaps something on the sidewalk on the left or something occurring on  it, perhaps something in one of the windows on the upper right, perhaps making use of the lamp post in the center, replacing the existing sign with something relevant...

    The placement of the back cover text is directly over any interesting details, leaving the lower half essentially empty.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • A_A_CainA_A_Cain Oz Creator
    My immediate response - is the story to do with computers? That's what the title and font are telling me about the subject matter of the book. I don't register the image much at all, as it's too dark. If it's not about computers, it's sending an unclear message about genre.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    What if the cover image transitioned from a realistic photo to a highly pixilated 8-bit-like rendering?
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    A_A_Cain said:
    My immediate response - is the story to do with computers? That's what the title and font are telling me about the subject matter of the book. I don't register the image much at all, as it's too dark. If it's not about computers, it's sending an unclear message about genre.
    There is a strong computer element. The concept was to involve computer code with ciphers and language codes, while hinting at criminal codes. 

    But it's not entirely a cyber-crime drama, even though a small backwater town can still be part of the World-wide web...
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    What if the cover image transitioned from a realistic photo to a highly pixilated 8-bit-like rendering?

    A good thought... I might also use a filter to make a line drawing out of it... More playing around to follow.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    Skoob_ym said:

    Okay, based on Alpine Tx and ditching the road sign...



    This works pretty well conceptually, but you might need to work on a couple of issues. The first, of course, is the overall darkness of the image. Even at the size I am seeing it right now--4x5.5 inches on my monitor--the background image is obscure.

    You may also want to consider adding some additional visual element to the image that suggests the nature or theme of the book. A photo of a small town street and the title "Coding Hour" really doesn't convey much information. Perhaps something on the sidewalk on the left or something occurring on  it, perhaps something in one of the windows on the upper right, perhaps making use of the lamp post in the center, replacing the existing sign with something relevant...

    The placement of the back cover text is directly over any interesting details, leaving the lower half essentially empty.

    I did have another comment from a friend that the sign on the lamp post was disruptive and distracting, so changing the text would be a good idea. I'm nervous about adding elements, as my photoshop skills are still a bit rudimentary, but nothing ventured, nothing gained...
  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    edited July 25
    To me, the author's name should be smaller than the title.
  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    To me, the author's name should be smaller than the title.
  • MaggieMaggie Creator
    Skoob, you have a good title and book concept. Start over for the covers. Look up similar books on Amazon and get reinspired.

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    The sign is a good idea. Using a backdrop of a small town is a good idea. The thing to do is not get too focused on whether or not the cover accurately represents the book in every detail. All you need concern yourself with is getting across the basic, fundamental idea of the book: what it is about, its theme or nature. It really doesn't matter too much, for instance, whether the town looks like a western one or someplace in New England. That it is a small town is the important idea. Get across the important concepts of the book, don't obsess over specific details. So long as you accurately convey what sort of book it is, what it is about, and not outright misrepresent it to potential readers, you have accomplished enough.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher

    Okay, this is going to be the final result.

    It adequately conveys the theme and genre, imho.

    Thanks, everyone, for the input; especially Ron.


  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited July 30

    Hmm.... I think that perhaps the old bugaboo of subjectivity may be getting in your way. That is, you know what your book is about so the cover is more meaningful to you than it would be to someone who's never read it or even heard of it. Apply a test I have often suggested: imagine your cover with the title in a language you don't understand. Would you have any idea of the nature, theme or idea of the book? Or imagine your cover with just the image alone. Would it convey anything significant about the theme or genre? Would you get any sense of intrigue or espionage?

    You could easily replace the title with "Our Town" or "Winesburg, Ohio" or "Empire Falls" and the cover would work equally well.

    I realize that you included the word "Sheriff" and a star, and a sign reading "Pancakes and PC--Cyber Café" ...but I think that these are much, much too subtle. A cover should not be a puzzle for the reader to figure out. It needs to convey its message in a glance. And the cover needs to be able to convey its message at all scales. Thumbnail size just exacerbates the problem of these too-subtle details. (I might also add that these signs are a little too obviously inserted. You need to make them look a little more like part of the image.)

    I realize that I did suggest that "You may also want to consider adding some additional visual element to the image that suggests the nature or theme of the book. A photo of a small town street and the title "Coding Hour" really doesn't convey much information." But that additional visual element needs to be something that is immediately apparent and understandable. Remember that I also suggested that you "Get across the important concepts of the book, don't obsess over specific details." I think that the tiny, subtle signs on the building might come under "specific details." And since you have to work hard to see them, I'm not too sure that they get the book's concept across.

    I have done only a couple of covers with small town themes (all by the same author as it turns out). In all of them I made an effort to convey something about the book other than the simple fact of its setting.

    One was Vigil, about a woman whose child disappears during a stop in a small town and her lonely, decades-long search for the truth of what happened:

    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51lxZ9P98ML.jpg

    Another, Monuments, about the dark secrets that are revealed when plans are made to demolish an old grocery warehouse:

    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51ocKqmi28L.jpg

    And the third, Agatite, about a small town torn apart by a murder:

    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51z5KZoJowL.jpg

    I'm not suggesting that these are great covers, the point is just that the "something" in each cover should be apparent at a glance. In Vigil it's the haunting presence of the woman looming over an empty street, in Agatite a town is literally torn in two and in Monuments I tried to convey a sense of gloom, foreboding and mystery via color and the monolithic building. There is no need to get across plot details or characterization...just a sense of what sort of book it might be. You have a small town image on Coding Hour, but it needs to share the stage a little more equally with that something else that conveys what kind of book you have, rather than dominate the cover as the image is doing now.

    I think that you were onto something when you said that you "might also use a filter to make a line drawing out of it..." Segueing from realistic photo to line drawing or 8-bit effect might be a really good way to make that instant visual connection between small town and the cyber theme of the book. I think this is a direction you may want to pursue.

    Here is another thought. You refer to a "secret sign" in the back cover blurb. Why not tack a notice onto the pole in the foreground, large enough to be overlapped a little by the title and your name, and put that secret sign on it?


    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    Okay, good points. I have some time tonight; I'll try to incorporate those elements.

    I also put reflections of police-style lights in the windows, but that's another subjective point and probably doesn't give the whole picture.

    The secret sign mentioned by the back blurb is a hand signal, but I can put another secret sign on the post...
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited July 31
    All sounds good! I should have mentioned that the composition of the cover looks great! It just needs to include something directly relating to the theme of the book that is more immediately apparent at a glance. For instance, I didn't realize at all that those were police lights in the windows! In fact, I didn't even notice them until you pointed them out! Now, if there had been a couple of police vehicles parked in front of the buildings as well...
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
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