Book Covers

Discussion in 'General Books' started by S.J. Faerlind, Dec 16, 2012.

  1. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    Sooooo....
    There was a discussion about this on Goodreads and I thought it would be great to hear the opinions of TFFers on the subject. What do you like to see on book covers and what don't you like?

    For myself I like something relatively simple but with eye-catching colours. I don't necessarily like a complicated scene or too many characters on a book cover and I prefer artwork to photography. Having a background in biology I also have a pet peeve when fantasy beasts are drawn disproportionately (for example: a dragon with wings that are clearly way too small to carry it in flight) so they will fit on the front of a book.

    So what do YOU look for on a book cover?
     
  2. Sparrow

    Sparrow Well-Known Member

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    Frank Frazetta is my favorite, specifically the paintings and pen & ink work for the Conan books and John Carter of Mars stories. He never even read any of the books that he produced covers for, some writers would even write the artwork into their story just so it would make sense. Our idea of sword and sorcery barbarians come from the paintings of Frank Frazetta, and not so much Robert E. Howard's creation, 'Conan the Barbarian'... sort of funny that "cover art" had more of an effect on the modern interpretation of Conan than did the actual stories.

    If it's a photograph on the cover, I probably won't buy it, if it's more graphic in nature I'll give it a second look, but I really prefer old school cover art... an oil painting with a bold title.

    Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke is one book cover I really like, very simple and direct... and I searched for awhile to get my hands on the 'white' cover edition. That's one thing I do, if I'm adding a book to the collection, it has to be a special edition with a cool cover.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2012
  3. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    Frank Frazetta is awesome! I love his art.
    It's sad how many artists don't properly investigate the book they're doing the cover for though. It seriously irritates me when the cover artwork shows something inconsistent with the story. "The Alloy of Law" is a favourite of mine but the artist who did the cover painted one of the characters carrying a gun. There's a whole section in the story about why that character won't touch one. grrrr..... Somebody really should have caught that before it went to print.....
     
  4. Crouton

    Crouton New Member

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    I dunno, I generally like book covers with good illustration, whether they be really detailed or simplistic. Something I don't usually like is photos on covers. For fantasy books anyway. I much prefer illustrated covers for fantasy books. There's this one fantasy series I read that had the WORST covers. I used to feel embarrassed reading them.

    Here's an example of one:

    [​IMG]

    I find that horrible cheesy and cringeworthy. They have thankfully been re-released with better covers.
     
  5. Taliesyn

    Taliesyn It's a feral reality out there, kids.

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    A good, eye catching cover is so important, so I find that the less clutter the better. You want something with not too many clashing colours and elements, and instantly conveys something of what the book is about. I've often found that I'm attracted to something with a little bit of iconography on the cover, kinda like the Tolkien rereleases a few years back, like this and this. The less realistic the cover, the more space for the viewer's imagination to enter in, I find.
     
  6. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    I'll second the view that I don't like photographed book covers; I'm certainly not going to say that they are "all" bad, but 99.9% of the ones I've seen just look tacky - vampire (sex) book level tacky. It just doesn't look right, although then again I'll say that I'm a massive fan of fantasy animation in the traditional drawn style (as opposed to digital drawn) which might be an influence.


    As for the content I generally want something that captures my eye, don't we all, though I don't really tend to have many fixed feelings about it when picking up a book for the first time. It's more something I come to want to appreciate more when the book is by a favoured author or part of a series. For example I love the old, proper Discworld books with those highly detailed and insane views of the world - whilst I loath/hate the new minimalist ones that they are putting out where its almost all black and trying to make discworld feel "gritty real".

    Another good example would be the books by Robin Hobb - upon first release they had some lovely front covers to them, the Liveship ones even game with dragons on the front. The new ones are again, minimalist with only a tiny image of something of relevance from the book.


    That said I'm always surprised by the fact that authors retain very little if no actual control over the presentation of their books. Indeed often as not they never pick their own front cover (and if they do its only from a selection) and the artists are often only shipped a short summary or given little time to read a book to produce a work. I've always felt that the only fantasy book on the market that gets its due is the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit - both released with versions where there are marvellous plates of scenes from the book within the pages. Whilst not essential it draws us into the world in a way that text doesn't quite always capture.

    It's something I really wish other book authors would approach and try, especially whilst they are still alive and able to commission the work and actually have it display a part of their vision accurately. Sadly I suspect this isn't the case because:

    1) It would put up the production price of the book

    2) Ebooks have yet to really get into images in a big way (until e-ink can do colour and until e-readers become easier to view images upon).

    3) I assume that in the world of commissioning art the costs in licensing a work of art (even just one) for a book run is high and that for multiple its just not economical (it might also be that expected profits from the book, once divided up, don't cover enough of an estimated cost to fund the artist).


    That said I then only have to flip open an RPG source book or Wargame rules book to see page after page of artwork on display. Heck some of them have page upon page upon page of outstanding work to show so there must be a market somewhere (heck look at Magic the Gathering - gah that has some utterly outstanding art for tiny tiny cards)
     
  7. Emelie

    Emelie Queen of darkness

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    I agree with the other people here, I definitely prefer illustrated covers before photos. I do enjoy most artwork from keith parkinson. And I like the artwork of wheel of time and Deverry saga. The ones with illustrations on. I dont like the minimalistic ones that much really. It tells me absolutely nothing about the book.
    The minimalistic ones I do like, are aSoIaF.

    The cover is so important to me, thats usually how I pick up a book at a bookstore. I even have a hard time reading a book if the cover is wrong, it can put me off so badly. Which is sort of sad, cause they might be good books after all.
     
  8. Cascador

    Cascador Who's Anakin?

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    Well like many I like great artwork on book covers, though they can be deceiving. Even the greatest novels have simple covers, so I don't judge a book by its cover.
     
  9. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    Traditionally published authors have almost no say in the final look of their book in many cases. Unless they have somehow managed to get a say by negotiating that into their publishing contract (and I assume they`d have to be pretty well known to be able to demand that), they hand in the edited version of their work and the publisher does everything from there on out. All formatting, interior artwork and cover art is arranged for by the publisher who gets the final say on all of it in most cases. That makes sense considering that they`re putting up the money to pay for editing, formatting and artwork, never knowing if the book will sell enough copies to recoup their investment or not. The author doesn`t have to pay for any of that.
    With self-publishing all of that is completely up to the author and that brings its own set of benefits and problems. A self-published author can either do everything on their own (cheap, but maybe less than optimal) or pay someone to format the book and commission an artist to do a cover illustration for them. Commissioning an artist can be quite expensive depending on who is hired to do the illustration. The upside of self-publishing is that the author who knows the story best gets the final say and the book reflects their vision of the story much more accurately. Even some of the more well-known authors are choosing to self-publish some of their stuff because they now have a choice and they want their say.