August 16, 2018

WorldCon 2018 Report: Day One — Creating a Book Cover: Part 1

Hugo finalist Heather McDougal (Art Director for Strange Horizons) and Chesley-winning artist Lee Moyer get the lowdown on Elliott Kay’s strange new series and it’s intended audience, genre, and competition, in order to create its line design and its marketing. Moyer will be sketching, working to bring the concept to a place where he can begin the illustration and design of the cover. With only a few days in which to work, time will be of the essence!

Panel: Elliott Kay, Lee Moyer, Heather McDougal

This was a very worthwhile panel. It was particularly fascinating to watch the creative process at work in turning a book cover design from an author’s summary to a design concept:

  • the rise of independent and self publishing has been a boon for cover artists
  • it gives artists a chance to work directly with authors to understand their vision for their book
  • readers pick up books because of their cover — regardless of whether in person or online
  • line design is important: choosing common fonts, layouts, and colors that to all of the books in a series, or by the same author (some authors have distinct fonts for their books)
  • Example: “Stranger Things” uses a “Stephen King” font, so people intuitively know what kind of content they are going to get
  • imagery and fonts combined give the overall design of a book cover
  • “fiction and the images on the covers are aspirational”
  • The best thing to tell a cover artist on a deadline: “crowd scene” (yes, sarcasm)
  • there are documented bumps in sales for books with dragons on the cover
  • don’t the entire cast on the cover; stick with 1 or 2 characters
  • there is a similarity in book cover design between humor and children’s books
  • there are implications in font choices: serif typically implies feminine, while sans serif implies masculine (I had to step out for a few minutes here, so missed some of this discussion)
  • some series book designs also have a common “emblem” that ties them together as part of a series (or shared universe)
  • the size of the author and title can depend on the popularity of the author; sometimes the name of the author will be as large as — or larger than —the title if that is what will drive sales
  • design for how it will look as a icon (thumbnail image) on Amazon, making sure that the title is readable
  • “type matters in a big, big way”
  • cover design can be driven by either realism or symbolism — symbolism steers better toward a YA audience

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