Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book cover inspiration in a Chinese restaurant

Books have been around for centuries, and there are just so many ways to design a cover.

Book covers use just three basic ingredients that can be combined in various proportions:  
  1. text
  2. graphic image (a picture)
  3. negative space (nothingness).
Some books have text but no picture, some have a picture but no text. At least one cover has nothing on it. Some have lots of space, or very little. Some pictures are photographs, others are drawings or paintings. Some images are literal, others are symbolic, or abstract.

 Some covers are beautiful:

Others are deliberately or accidentally ugly:

On some covers the text is vertical, or backwards or upside down or in a spiral or is chopped up or smeared. Some text is tilted, some portraits are rotated, or are blurred, monochrome or converted to line art. Some covers are horizontal instead of vertical -- or square or even oval or round. Some covers are made of leather or metal or bark or parchment or canvas. Some type is metallic or glows in the dark, or feels fuzzy or is embossed, debossed or cut out. Options seem endless.

I often write books about writing and publishing books. In this genre, options are less than endless. Most books in the field show either (a) a book, (b) a bunch of books, (c) a writer, (d) equipment used to make a book, (e) money, or (f) a reader.

For a long time I've wanted to find a new look for books about publishing, and wanted something that would tie a family of books together.

A while ago I happened to notice a calendar in a Chinese restaurant. The top showed a pagoda. Or maybe it was a dragon, or a Buddha or the Great Wall. (The calendar image up above is a fake I produced for this blog post, with illustrations from Fotosearch and FreeBookmarksCalendars.com)

The calendar in the restaurant wasn't great art, but it captured my attention more than a mere restaurant logo or picture of a bowl of chow fun would.

That calendar made me realize that a book cover could perform two jobs: it could be entertaining in itself (in my case, evoking a smile or a chuckle) and identify the book

I decided to use the spirit of a 1950s-era comic book and spent a lot of time over the summer studying stock images from iStockPhoto and writing captions and book titles.

Four e-books are close to complete and will be released over the next few months at $4.99 each.

Last Friday I decided to experiment with a $2.99 quickie. Writers Can Get Away With Apparently Absurd Tax Deductions That Ordinary People Can't is available now. I have to make a few repairs and I want to add some photos, but I won't be embarrassed if you read it now. 

Innovation is important. I'll resist the powerful temptation to tell you to "think outside the box," and will, instead, advise you to
"think outside the book."

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