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Cover Art and Typography

Today I took a trip to the library to see if I could clarify some ideas for a couple of covers I'll be working on in the near future. I don't even know exactly where to look. One cover needs to look sexy and paranormal but a bit wry, and the other one maybe dreamier and slightly sci fi but not with aliens or Godzillas or anything. Yeah, I know, it would be a lot easier if I just wrote in an obvious genre.

Here's some of the stuff that caught my eye today, and why.

We can start with a weird typographical thing I noticed. I snapped a pic of this book with my phone then came home and found a better image on GR. But the typography was rearranged so that the very thing I really liked about it was stripped away. So I dug deeper and...

Phew, there it is. I liked the way two sans-serif fonts were not only used together but layered so cleverly. It wouldn't have occurred to me to do that with with the fonts. I also loved the way "Lear's" was so fat and bold that it could be ghosted in more subtly.

I can't help but wonder why they un-stacked them for most of the editions. It was perfectly legible stacked together. It was COOL that way. I feel like so many things get dumbed down and made unspecial for public consumption, and that's a shame.

In City of Savages I was intrigued by the interplay of the foreground trees, background trees and typography. I wonder if the 45° angles are part of the font or if the designer altered the typography. It looks like pieces were sliced off, which I like.

I'm intrigued by diagonal type. I did some with my Channeling Morpheus box sets. I liked the diagonal in Archetype, and the simplicity.

I really liked the subtlety in City of Stairs. It's like, I expected there to be literal stairs on the cover and I was glad there weren't. I love the layers of clouds and particle, the monochrome treatment with the hint of peachy yellow warmth against gray, and the arc of light separating the city from the heavens. that transition from lower third to upper two-thirds is really well done. Different.

For A Local Habitation I was looking for a way to handle the typography that didn't take itself too seriously. I don't know how successful it is here. It's a slightly playful type on a grim/dour background. And I don't think the author name typeface works well with the title typeface. I also don't understand why the author name and title are aligned the way they are, neither centered. The title would need to be smaller to be a flush-left balancing a flush right of the author name. Things that are almost-centered (but not quite) look like mistakes to me.

Layering, layering, layering! I loved all the layers and the light in Traitor's Heir. I'll bet the size of that photoshop file is massive. This probably looks really sharp at thumbnail size with those vibrant reds, yellows and blacks.

The reds in Everneath were more vibrant in the paperback. I liked that the font wasn't super fussy, and I loved the swash connecting the E and the R. Then I saw the dress was turning to smoke and very nearly took it home. (But I don't have time to read it...but I want to now.)

More typography, I liked that a fairly round sans serif had some fanciness going on. I like the idea of taking a plain, bold, round sans and altering a character.

I loved all the textures in the Lovegrove Legacy books. I'm a sucker for smoke and particles. I'm not sure how I feel about the font, it feels too widely kerned for my taste. I think maybe I don't like the extra fiddliness in the characters either. I liked the way the bottoms scoop to black so you can really see the author name.

I didn't necessarily think Fearscape was a successful cover. The model layer wasn't altered enough for my taste, plus I like more textures. But I thought it was interesting use of smoke as a framing element. I also like the altered S character in the middle of the title.

I wish I was this good with typography. I'm interested in the notion of splitting longer words without hyphens. Maybe that's a more literary thing?

I didn't notice the score-marks in Nil Unlocked until I got home. I liked the way the visual lines all pulled my eye to the word Nil. I loved the colors. The content was secondary to me (I'm really unlikely to read anything set in a place with palm trees. You may notice it's shitting down sleet and snow in practically every one of my books. I grew up in the snow belt.) I thought using a distressed, hand-drawn type for the author name was an odd choice. I don't think it works here because of the "nn" in Lynne. It's too obvious they're not really hand-drawn when you see the duplicated characters side by side.

So if you look at all the O-characters in this title, they're all different. They invested in someone to actually hand letter it.

It's hard to lay your title over the entire photo and still have it make sense. I think this one works. I'm also really interested in black and white with red lately.

What's your favorite cover among these? What do you think is the element that draws you to it? Is it a genre you typically read?



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2015 04:37 am (UTC)
I li!ke the Everneath one, since I'm a sucker for dresses made of floaty material, and like you say the way the dress fabric turns to smoke is great. The lettering is beatiful too. The red on greys and black is dramatic and nicely Gothic.
Nov. 21st, 2015 04:40 am (UTC)
Interesting selection! I'd go for Traitor's Heir as my favourite - clear font and not too much going on in the background visually.

As I'm not terribly visual I prefer large, clear, easily readable fonts on covers. I hate it when the font is too elaborate for me to actually be able to read the title or author name - not too bad on your selections, though I found Promise of Shadows took a few moments to decipher. I rarely see the details - either because I don't look that closely or because they aren't that clear to me. And I'm not a fan of decapitated or partially decapitated people (unless they appear that way in the book).

I used to pay a little bit more attention to covers when I was reading dead-tree books because the cover was what cued me in to picking up the right book from my reading heap! Now that I read exclusively in e-format I don't 'recognise' covers in the same way because I rarely see them. I can't see much on a thumbnail so tend to ignore it, and a lot of e-books don't start with the cover picture just go straight to the text so I never get to see the cover properly like I did when the book was in my hand.

Really good qualifications for commenting on a cover question! :)

I've read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, not so much horror. And I really hated the original Terry Pratchett covers when they first came out because there is so much going on in them - the scene wraps around the book from front to back including the spine - and the characters are cartoon-ugly. I got used to them and the style was an easy way of finding his books on the shelf - also the covers make a lot more sense after you've read the book which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing.
Nov. 21st, 2015 05:40 am (UTC)
I can't deal with the Promise of Shadows cover! I think the typographer fell into the "I know what it says so I can read it" trap. To my eye it reads:
Pro Mise Of Had Sows
I feel like a title should be effortlessly legible to an eye that is skimming lightly across a shelf. If you make your potential reader work too hard, they get bored and move on to the next book.
Nov. 21st, 2015 09:45 pm (UTC)
I liked Everneath the best. I don't know, just the dress and the red and the smoke, I would definitely pick it up and read the blurb for sure. I think I'm going to check it out on Amazon tbh.

The Nil Unlocked was also intriguing, enough to make me want to find out what it's about.

And City of Savages - I liked the tag line and the slashed off writing.

I would probably look at A Local Habitation because of the picture.

Nov. 28th, 2015 10:36 am (UTC)
I've had this open for days because I looooove looking at covers. I actually take people to the bookstore and stand them in front of a wall o' books and say, "Pick the covers that draw you." Most of the time I'm baffled by their selections - art really is relative. LOL

My fav of your selections is City of Stairs. It's one of those that snags attention right off, the font is easy to read and it's clear what it says, yet the treatment of the "of" adds a hint of originality. The whole cover looks professional and I actually want to know what a City of Stairs is now. #success

I agree with you on Lear's Daughters - the layered look is more interesting. Perhaps they thought it would be too hard to read on a thumbnail?

City of Savages has a great font and the cover is nicely done, but it could have used something to make it pop more. It's easy to pause long enough to admire the font and then move on.

Archetype would have been extra cool if they could have made the font look like it was underwater. I like the use of angles.

A Local Habitation is a terrible cover to me. It looks like something slapped together by a self-publish author with only a vague notion of how to use Photoshop. The picture is uninteresting even with the angle, I hate the colors, and the fonts feel like they were slapped on. The author name actually clashes with the title. WTF?

Everneath is really cool. Definitely my second favorite.

I hate Promise of Shadows. I was actually annoyed that I had to decipher the title. With that said, I would have approved if the title had been something like DECIPHER where the whole point is to piece together the clues. Then I'd say "Aha! I figured it out! Obviously this is a tricky mystery novel." Promise of Shadows sounds like the title of a dull vampire romance novel and I couldn't figure out the purpose of making it hard to read.

I agree with pretty much everything else you said. Cover analysis is fun! :D
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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