Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Fantasy book covers

These days, all books need a cover image.  Fantasy books especially are expected to have a fantastic looking cover (in the full sense of the word).  I've gotten a new, professional cover for my ebook, "The Starlight Raven" (you can see the original cover here; I made it myself with some clipart).

Below is the new cover, made by Dane of "EbookLaunch."  If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, it's available as an ebook on Amazon and other e-tailers for $4.99.  It's also available as a paperback (see more detail here).  Tell your friends!



A lot of readers (myself included) get irritated when the cover seems only tangentially related to the book, for example if the heroine is a shy teenager yet shown on the cover in a flamboyant pose, wearing a stainless steel bikini.  But, strictly speaking, the cover is not an illustration of the book but rather an ad for it.  That is, the purpose of the cover is to make people want to pick up a physical book and look at the first few pages or click the "look inside" feature of an ebook.

Then the purpose of the first few pages is to make the reader decide to read the whole thing and proceed to checkout.  If this happens, the cover has done its job by getting the process started.

Covers also convey a subtle message about what kind of book it is.  If you read a lot in a particular genre, you'll notice that many covers look a lot alike.  A romance will have a couple looking passionate.  Science fiction will have space ships and/or celestial objects like the rings of Saturn.  Fantasy will have medieval-like settings, often with swords or castles.  A western will have a cowboy.  Even the type-face has to match--vaguely medieval for fantasy, jagged and modern for science fiction, and so on.

A tendency which I don't quite understand in modern literary fiction (also called main-stream fiction, stories about people living here and now) is to have no actual human face on the cover.  Instead, you will see a person from the back, or somebody's torso doing something (say, knitting).  People who read mainstream fiction may not even realize this, but it sends a subtle message that this is not fantasy or science fiction or romance or westerns.

Sometimes (as in the cover above) a graphic artist paints a picture that becomes the cover.  These days, a lot of graphic artists start with a photograph or photographs and then use Photoshop to blend them together or to alter them to fit the book's theme.  There are many sites where photographers can put what are called "stock photos," photos of generic scenes (a tulip garden, a family having a picnic, a placid cow, etc.) which graphic artists then license for use in magazine ads, book illustrations, or covers.

One advantage of publishing ebooks as an "indie" (as I'm doing) is that one has much more control over the covers.  A traditional publisher seems to assume that the author is the last person on the planet with helpful insights into what the cover should look like.  My "Starlight Raven" cover, my only professionally-made cover (it's an experiment), is at least based on my ideas.  For most of my books I use my own photographs of castles and the like, rather than stock photos.

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