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How are book covers designed?

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Just curious here. :) I know that pb covers are going to be the illustrator's creation, a part of the book from the beginning. But what about novels? I used to think that whether drawn or photographed, the cover was unique to the book (and I remember reading Melissa's comment on how the model for Wicked Lovely was totally Ash). But now I'm seeing covers with the same stock photo, used in different ways. Is there a rhyme or reason to this? (front list or midlist, for example) I'm thinking also about the thread where someone found a book with no title or author on the spine under the dust jacket, and my own irritation with books with no flap copy whatsoever. Is this the illustrator's decision? A house policy?

Just curious.
#1 - April 28, 2009, 09:03 PM

m_stiefvater

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It varies. I really recommend the highly entertaining Jacket Whys blog -- she compares and talks about YA covers. http://jacketwhys.wordpress.com/

All of my covers were designed in house at my two publishers, but for one of them an outside artist was used. Often, even for lead titles (like 13 Reasons Why) stock photography is used, though, and tweaked -- it's far, far cheaper than setting up a photo shoot, if the designer can find something they like. My German cover for LAMENT was actually a stock photograph tastefully done:

#2 - April 29, 2009, 06:34 AM

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You might also enjoy Chad Beckerman's blog:

http://cwdesigner.blogspot.com

He has worked for Scholastic, Greenwillow, Abrams, etc.  Great blog!
#3 - April 29, 2009, 06:45 AM
VAMPIRINA IN THE SNOW (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)
BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

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Like with everything else in business, it all comes down to budget.

I design book covers from time to time. For one really tiny printer, they wouldn't even pay for stock photos. I had to use free images to do the cover. The back copy and a photo was provided by the author, as well as his head shot. With a talented designer, even free photos can be developed into something unique and special, if the designer has and can take the time to do so. With the above mentioned cover, I used 5 different photos, edited and manipulated them to create a cover that the author was so pleased with he hunted me down to thank me!

Just slapping a generic stock photo on a cover shows there was a lack of time and/or budget for anything more imaginative. It rarely has anything to do with the author or the designer but with how much the publisher is able to invest in the book. (time and/or money)
#4 - April 29, 2009, 07:08 AM
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Animal Totem Mandala 2016
The Story Circle 2016 (Piñata)
Color and Conjure 2017 (Llewellyn)

Also:

If you're lucky, the designer read your book, can do a photoshoot or get an illustrator, etc.


If you're not, the designer probably got a 3 paragraph blurb/cover copy and has to troll for stock photos that fits it.

Some covers NAIL IT, even on  a small budget, and some big budget covers look cheap. So sprinkle some fairy dust before you open the attachment from your editor. :-)
#5 - April 29, 2009, 11:21 AM
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Interesting.

Maggie, I love your German cover. Es sieht so schön aus! I bet a lot of people pick it up.
#6 - April 29, 2009, 08:33 PM

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Maggie, I also love your German cover!

I've noticed the same, pretty stock photo used on a book cover and on an ad in a magazine. I hope the book readers aren't the same market as the ad customers.
#7 - April 29, 2009, 08:51 PM
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m_stiefvater

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Maggie, I love your German cover. Es sieht so schön aus! I bet a lot of people pick it up.

I think so too! I couldn't believe it started life as a photo.
#8 - April 29, 2009, 09:24 PM

Maggie, I also love your German cover!

I've noticed the same, pretty stock photo used on a book cover and on an ad in a magazine. I hope the book readers aren't the same market as the ad customers.

There's a debut in 09 whose stock photo from her cover has been spotted on a big cling-on ad on the front door to a walgreens. And I happen to LOVE her cover.
#9 - April 30, 2009, 10:21 AM
Agent with D4EO Lit
Published by Penguin & Flux:
PRADA & PREJUDICE
YOU WISH
BUT I LOVE HIM
RIPPLE
IN TOO DEEP
DANGEROUS BOY

Traci Dee

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Lee Child's books always have lame covers, and he's huge. Linda Howard's covers tend to suck as well, now that I'm thinking about it. But if it's not just a budget thing or a YA thing, I don't know what that leaves. Lack of time? Laziness? Fate? Some mixture of all the above?
#10 - April 30, 2009, 12:30 PM

SB

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Lee Child's books always have lame covers, and he's huge. Linda Howard's covers tend to suck as well, now that I'm thinking about it. But if it's not just a budget thing or a YA thing, I don't know what that leaves. Lack of time? Laziness? Fate? Some mixture of all the above?

Or it could be that they don't think the covers suck, or at least don't think the target audience will think so.  :whistle

This is why I think there's something else going on: More Stephen King covers suck than don't.  (And I say this as a HUGE HUGE HUGE fan of his work.)  That just can't be a budget issue.  It has to have more to do with the designers/marketers trying to zero in on the tastes of a target readership.  Doesn't it?  (I'm thinking out loud here.)

I have a Lee Child cover in front of me right now (love those Jack Reacher novels), and while I wouldn't say I like it, I don't think it's the worst, when I compare it to others.  I could see how someone with different tastes than mine might like the bold, graphic elements suggestive of targets and bullet holes.  If I was window shopping for a testosterone-y book, one look would tell me to pick it up.

My visual taste is such that many YA novel covers are unappealing to me.  I'm more drawn to jackets like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Carter Beats the Devil, the UK editions of the Thursday Next novels, and those lovely Norton Annotated Classics.  But I'm pretty sure the cover of my forthcoming YA novel will have a completely different feel than any of those, because the designers will try to peg what teens connect to visually, not what old f@rts like myself like.  (And no matter what they do, there will be people who don't like my cover because nothing they come up with will appeal to everyone.)
#11 - April 30, 2009, 09:15 PM

Sarah Miller

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I'm thinking also about the thread where someone found a book with no title or author on the spine under the dust jacket, and my own irritation with books with no flap copy whatsoever.

In my experience, books without flap copy are most often library bound editions. Some publishers (Random House?) screen the outer jacket image directly onto the reinforced laminate covers, which allows the library to dispense with the fragile paper jacket entirely. So if the synopsis was originally on an inner flap, that's how it gets lost. Otherwise I can't think of any book jackets off the top of my head that have no synopsis whatsoever.
#12 - July 21, 2009, 02:01 PM

i think it does vary, with all things
in publishing.
for me, i was fortunate enough to get
a fotoshoot with a model for my debut cover.
and they hired a fotog from outside
and he also designed the cover.

i know that chris borgman (the fotog
and cover design artist) read my novel.
in fact, that's why i'm scrambling to get my
sequel to my editor a bit sooner than expected
as they all need to read it to come up with
the jacket for Silver Phoenix sequel.

i need to think of a title too.

*groans loudly*
i'm so BAD with titles. argh.
#13 - July 21, 2009, 04:40 PM
Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow: 4/28/09)
Fury of the Phoenix (Greenwillow: 3/30/11)
Serpentine (Month9Books: 9/1/15)

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