Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cover Art For Books: Choosing What's Right Not Only For You But Your Audience

You've just about finished writing your novel and can see the finish line coming up in the distance.  But now you have a new concern to deal with, creating a cover for it.  But what kind of art should you use?  Should it be a photograph, cartoon, an image that evokes feelings from a favorite movie like having several people walking towards the reader like in "The Right Stuff"?  Should it just show an individual who appears in the story, or should it show a scene that's right out of the book?

So many questions, right?  And the answer is... I don't know.  Every author has to choose their own path or vision for their work.  It's not an easy thing to do either, I know this.  All I can say is know your audience and what captures their imagination.  Make sure the art speaks to them and makes them want to pick up your work.

But this can be difficult sometimes.  Tastes in art changes over the years so I thought it might be fun to demonstrate how the style of covers can change over time using one of the legendary Ray  Bradbury's most famous works, "Fahrenheit 451".  

Here is the original cover when the novel first came out.  Although somewhat cartoonish or simplistic, the image reflects the torment of the protagonist as he wrestles with his work as a 'fireman' who burns books for the good of society.  A part of him feels the loss and flames as ideas and words are consumed by the fires he helps create.


Now here we have another cover that was created depicting "The Hound" from the novel.  Although clearly the image depicts an animal at second glance we note the extra set of legs and are left wondering what part this creature plays in the novel.  Unless you're familiar with the story, you'd never know there was a 'Hound' in the book, but it was a mechanical device used for locating and hunting down 'criminal' elements.  Furthermore, it did not in the least look like an actual animal.  So although this cover would definitely catch the eye and make you wonder, it doesn't really say a lot about the story itself.  Again, keep in mind I'm speaking for myself in this entry, not any of you.



This next cover, obviously designed for the books 60th anniversary, is very simple but has good color and a clever image.  Fusing a 'book of matches' and an actual 'book' is quite clever and assumes the potential reader has some inkling of the story inside.  


This next image is both eye-catching and disturbing.  The artwork is something almost nightmarish to me, yet I can see how it works considering the society depicted in the story is rather warped and disturbing.  I can even appreciate the strange 'hound' figure which in some ways might have looked even better on the cover of an HP Lovecraft book.  And although effective, I'm not sure this would be a cover I'd want lying around when company comes over or if I had children.  


The next cover obviously harkens back to the original design, but with more color and was possibly aimed more at young boys.  Certainly it would catch a younger reader's eye and again it clearly hints at what can be found inside the pages.


I personally found the next cover very effective as we see an interpretation of what the fireman's gear might look like.  Plus the reflection of the burning books in the visor again clearly helps the prospective reader get an idea of the storyline.  Plus it keeps the red and yellow colors which hint at fire which is also seen quite frequently in a number of these covers.  


In this final image we see a dramatic scene of our protagonist in the middle of a conflagration.  We get a feeling of a fiery future and a clear sense of what a fireman does in that world. 


Now as I said at the beginning of this entry, I'm speaking mostly for myself.  Choosing the art for the cover of your book is entirely up to you.  The content, the colors, the message your trying to get across is all on the writer.  It's your baby, but it is also important to keep in mind how potential readers may react to that image so know your audiences tastes.  Remember you want them to pick your book out of a sea of choices available to them, both online and in an brick and mortar store. 

Also, keep in mind to not have the cover depict something that does not actually appear or happen in the book, because then the buyer is going to feel cheated.  I've seen many books over the years where that happened and felt exactly that way.  As good as the story might have been, I felt betrayed and had a bitter taste left in my mouth which made me gun-shy about picking up another work by that particular author.

I would suggest beta-testing your cover choices with your audience.  Get feedback on that image just as you would on the story itself.  Remember, that book cover is the handshake that introduces your work to potential readers.  Entice them, pique their interest, but don't betray their trust.  What is on that cover should show up somewhere in the book, whether it's a panoramic view of the world the story is taking place on, a moment of adventure, or an image of your heroes/villains.  Play fair and get those readers to pick up your book and leave them wanting your next one.

Until next time, take care and keep writing.




Monday, July 13, 2015

Life's Been Getting In The Way Again...


I swear there are days I wish signs like this would appear so I can prepare myself...

I'm sure the image above speaks volumes of what's been happening with me in the last week or so.  Too many distractions and problems to deal with and very little of me to go around.  I won't go into great detail but I had a financial crisis thanks to my old health insurance (no I wasn't sick or injured it was a premiums issue) that is finally getting resolved.  My finances are very thin at the moment but will improve shortly so now I can breathe a little easier again.  

I also wound up making a major decision on the university front.  I've changed my major from Collaborative Health and Human Services to aiming for a Business Degree.  I'm leaning towards Marketing because there's a much better demand for that field, as well as getting better ideas of how to market my own works in time.  


So slowly but surely I've been weathering the storms that have been hitting me left and right.  But all this chaos also slowed down my writing considerably.  Just dealing with all this nonsense left me physically and emotionally drained to the point I had very little left in the tank. 

Plus I was having a really hard time trying to decide where to take the next scene in the story.  I had several options but none of them were really going anywhere.  They seemed more like unnecessary side streets that did not lend enough to the main story.  

Finally I did the one thing I keep reminding everyone else to do...


Instead of trying to force the story along I listened to what my characters were saying.  They told me where they needed to be in the next scene and I went with their idea.  Suddenly, the story is moving forward again and new tension is building as a result, adding new excitement and mystery to the piece.  So tomorrow, I think I can really settle in and do some serious work on the novel.  I really want to get this first draft completed before the end of the summer so I can get the 2nd draft and editing under way.  Then after a third and maybe fourth rewrite, I'll unleash it on some beta-readers.  I'm still planning on trying to get "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" out by Christmas as well, but we'll see how things are going.

For now I just need some down time to recover from all this recent stress.  But I feel like on my path again.  That's all for now.  Take care everyone and remember to keep writing.




Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Trying Not To Lose Your Way When Writing...

Wait I'm the one writing this story!  How did I wind up here?



Did you ever lose track of where the book/story you were writing was headed?  If the answer is no, then all I have to say is, "I hate you, now will you teach me your ways oh Master Jedi?"

Okay, all kidding aside, this happened to me just recently, and the sad thing was I didn't even realize that I'd lost my plot until I was about third of the way through the first draft. Now, I don't know if it happened because I was writing part of a series and was trying to remember details from the previous books, or because I got too caught up in the characters (both old and new), but I still managed to lose my original plot which was quite embarrassing.  I mean I could've sworn I left on the kitchen table next to my keys, but when I went back the plot wasn't there.  Neither were my keys for that matter, but I'm going to worry about that later, first things first.

Up until the point where I realized I'd lost the plot, I thought the story was moving along just perfectly.   New characters were being introduced in just the right time and place, fallout from the big final battle from the first book were being addressed, issues of love an coming out to family were being covered, etc.   Yet somehow, the new threat to the characters had somehow fallen off the radar for the most part.  There was a distinct lack of growing menace for the audience to see coming that the characters were completely unaware of...


There very little hint of the approaching storm that was looming on the horizon, which left the reader with a severe lack of growing tension.  This was especially frustrating to me since some of the new characters were in league with my main villain.  Furthermore, the villain of the piece had appeared in both the previous books as as added menace.  There is a huge mystery surrounding him and this story was to be the BIG REVEAL!  We'd learn not only his secrets but that of several others, including that of a ghostly figure who watches over Cassandra, one of my main characters.

Even more irritating to me was the fact that I have this huge climactic battle that will take the readers to places and introduce concepts you never saw coming!  But I still lost that air of growing tension and menace.  Plus, the path the story was on seemed to be veering further away from my intended goal.  Luckily I knew exactly what to do.  After all, this is my story and I was the one in control of where it needed to head.  The path was mine to alter and move as I saw fit...


So what did I do?  Did I go back and dump most of what I'd already written?  The answer to both those questions is a simple 'no'.  There were a lot of interesting scenes taking place that had a good amount of tension and intrigue that simply needed a little tweaking or an added cutaway scene.  That's right, all I had to do was cut away from an existing scene and slip in another one involving my "Big Baddie" which clearly had some connection to what was happening in the existing scene.

In a few other areas all I need to do is remind people that 'certain people' aren't who they appear to be and are actually in league with the villain.  This part is a little trickier because I added a number of new characters and I'm trying to keep the identity of the 'traitor' hidden from all.  This can be a challenge at times since I'm keeping everyone wondering who the double-agent really is.  Some writers like to make it obvious, while others like to keep the audience guessing.  I side with the latter, but even if people figure out who it is I still have a major surprise for them regarding that person.

But enough of that, I'm starting to lose the point of this entry.  It's very easy to lose your way while writing.  The characters and what's going on in their lives can become so interesting at times that we get swept up in those parts of the stories just s easily as our readers can.  But every so often you need to stop and read everything you've written up to that point and see if there are any problems.  Some writers will plow on ahead and complete an entire first draft and then go over it to look for issues, which is perfectly acceptable too.  There is no one right way, there are multiple ones.  The main thing point is to make sure you didn't lose your plot somewhere along the way.  And if you did, make sure you correct it and get things back on track.  Don't just do a first draft and declare your work done and rush to publish it as is.  You'll regret it later.

Until next time, take care and keep writing everyone.

PS: I found my keys, they were in my pocket all long.  Now if I could just remember where I put my glasses...