Friday Book Cover: A few tricks

Hi gang, Craig here once more. Toward the end of last year we adopted a group of alternating topics for Story Empire, and when the debate was going on, I was probably late for class. My first friday assignment is to bring you something about cover art. I’m making this up as I go, but my idea is sound … if I can pull it off.

I’m going to pick on fellow Story Empire author, P. H. Solomon. This isn’t a blatant attempt to promote his work, but rather because he did everything so well here. Even so, I have to acknowledge his Bow of Hart Saga is outstanding, if you’re inclined to dig deeper.

One of the things to remember about visual arts is that the rules are more like guidelines. Sounds a lot like writing doesn’t it? Once upon a time, back when I could still buy Kodachrome, I was a pretty good wildlife photographer. I learned some of these things back then, and they are still good rules.

You’ll have to excuse my poor artwork skills, but I need to include some graphics here to make my points. I amalgamated the three covers together so we can talk about them.

First I want to talk about the “framing” of the actual cover art. This is the part in green, blue, then red. It has the look of a quality leather-bound book. He dedicates a considerable amount of real estate to this, but it really makes the important information stand out. I really like his font too, but the pitch on the final book is a bit smaller than the others. I can see how this happened. One and two were perfect. When you only have two words, you can’t center it quite right or if you put them all together they run off the page. The only solution was to change the pitch of the letters; either that or change the title.

One of the things I really like are faces and eyes on covers. We are naturally drawn to these. When competing on a page of thumbnails, it seems like a good idea to draw shoppers to your cover by including faces and/or eyes. P.H. did a great job on this.

I also like the rule of three. The Bow of Destiny does this quite well.

One thing you want your cover to do is give a hint as to what kind of story might come after the cover. In many cases, defining what it’s not, is just as important. I don’t think anyone is going to buy one of these and think it’s science fiction, romance, or a murder mystery. Nice work once again.

We’re going to step it up a bit now. I want to talk about something called the Rule of Thirds. This is different than the rule of three up above where we have three characters. To give you an idea what I’m talking about, take the artwork and cover it with a big hashtag, like this:

These lines and intersections are the most important parts visually. Take a look at the cover of Bow. (Ruined here by my artistic skills.) The main character is front and center. His face is clearly on the first imaginary line, so is the secondary character. It’s visually appealing. Dig deeper, and the dog’s face is right on the intersection of two lines.

Now check the other covers. On Arrow, he has three characters on that horizontal line, and the giant is on the vertical line. When you get to White Arrow, Athson’s face is right on the most important intersection on the page.

Look a bit deeper and you can tell the artist is deeply aware of the Rule of Thirds. His use of light and dark tones almost force you to see these lines. Whether it’s the trees, the dark sky, or the vertical wall, it’s subtle, but very good.

Let’s do one more. People also like what are called S-curves. Keep in mind these can be backward, sideways, or even repeated.

Check out Arrow Against the Wind. Can you see the curve I illustrated? It’s kind of repeated in the flying birds. Look back at White Arrow and see if you can spot it. It starts on a sunny peak, goes through Athson’s back and snakes back around in the dirt.

You don’t have to have all of these things. There are great covers without them, but… break the rules at your peril.

So let me hear from you. What do you think about these covers? Did this information help you in your own quest for cover art?

58 thoughts on “Friday Book Cover: A few tricks

  1. Pingback: How to Publish with KDP: Part Six B | Story Empire

  2. Because I never allow a cover to determine whether I pick up a book or not, I have never really considered the points you make. Nevertheless, I have to say how interesting I find your article and that there are certainly points to bear in mind when preparing a cover (especially as so many say they are very influenced by covers). Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Craig Boyack has a very interesting post on Story Empire today, dealing with ways to be sure your book cover does the best job possible. (Yes, covers have a big job to do: grab the attention of potential readers in a way that makes them want to buy your book at first glance.) I like the P. H. Solomon sample covers Craig chose to illustrate his topic, and how he defines some of the basic elements of good design. Check it out! (And don’t forget to share.)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is very informative. Covers are so crucial as they are a reader’s first impression. They need to be done right. I’d heard of the rule of three, but didn’t understand the concept. You’ve made it much clearer, Craig, thank you!
    And yes, to the eyes. That’s usually the first thing I notice 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve always loved these covers, mainly because they remind me of classic epic fantasy covers, but I also love the richness of the colors and presentation of the characters. My publisher handles all of my book covers but this is awesome information for when I finally get around to releasing an indie collection of shorts (some day!). My father was an artist (oil paints, pastels and charcoals) and often spoke of presentation, contrast, and depth. I remember him teaching me how to “shade” in my coloring book when I was a kid. 🙂

    P.S. . . I’ve read this entire series and highly recommend it. It definitely delivers on the promise of epic fantasy.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great analysis, Craig. Cover design can be really difficult (for the designer and for the author purchasing the design). I was always drawn to these covers because of the dark, rich framing. The colors appeal to me before I even look at the other parts.

    Liked by 4 people

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