To Cover Art or Not...

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Something I enjoy as I mentioned in another thread is generating cover art. Perhaps a dystopian background, a little cheesecake, some ominous font and viola. Though I'm sure that good cover art will sell a book as quick as a solid description, I still have to say I'm struck by the blunt simplicity of older hardcovers before much in the way of art is added to them.

Lean, simple; a good font, just the tiniest amount of styling... Title and the author, the end.

Unlike typical SF covers, 'to me' it speaks of something possibly wonderful inside. As though the moment you open the sedate cover, bright light will spill out and a world of wonder pour forth. Here's a good example of what I'm saying:



A few others of ERB: A Princess of Mars

So what are your thoughts? Are we so fixed on typical advertising that we have perhaps forgotten the artistry of the tease?

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HareBrain

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A simple but effective cover is a joy to behold, and all too rare. As a recent example, I found the cover of Literature by Guillermo Stitch very effective and intriguing. I also have a fondness for vintage cover design like the one you posted, and I often find myself drawn to similar designs on a bookshelf over ones that are very fussy or illustrative. Sometimes people both try to hard and don't try enough. (Or they know most people's tastes aren't like ours.)

some ominous font and viola
I believe The Ominous Viola was #3 in the "Orchestra of Evil" series. That had quite a simple design, actually -- a stave where the blobs of the notes were bullet holes.
 

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I believe The Ominous Viola was #3 in the "Orchestra of Evil" series. That had quite a simple design, actually -- a stave where the blobs of the notes were bullet holes.
I'm unable to find that, though understand your description. Thanks for the feedback!

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ZlodeyVolk

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Erm … Actually, @-K2-, I suspect @HareBrain might be indulging in just a little bit of puckish good humour. See, you wrote "ominous font and viola", although the word I think you wanted was voila … Typos can be a writer's worst friend—especially those which an automated spellcheck won't pick up.
 

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Covers can be restrained but with a fine touch of artistic detail. Like this classic (the title itself is enough to grab attention):




But personally as a kid I could never resist an SF book with plenty of technological detail on the cover.

 

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So just for fun, I decided to try a little simplicity using the font from my header/cover-art that I'm working on, just to see how a rough of it might look. I do miss my cheesecake hehe :cautious:

plainxsm.jpg


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Guillermo Stitch

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A simple but effective cover is a joy to behold, and all too rare. As a recent example, I found the cover of Literature by Guillermo Stitch very effective and intriguing. I also have a fondness for vintage cover design like the one you posted, and I often find myself drawn to similar designs on a bookshelf over ones that are very fussy or illustrative. Sometimes people both try to hard and don't try enough. (Or they know most people's tastes aren't like ours.)
Well of course I have to thank you for mentioning my cover but more importantly I agree wholeheartedly on both the "simple and effective" and "vintage" sentiments.

Bells and whistles sci-fi covers can be magnificent things of course, making a start on world-building before the reader has even opened the book, but sometimes when you see a bunch of them lined up, on a website or on Amazon for example, the individual merits of a cover can disappear into this general sci-fi mush. It's like snow-blindness or something.

Now that the paper book is (whether we like it or not) a superceded technology, I think there's a lot of wit to be played with in revisiting design styles from the heydey (say, second half 20th century). It too can contribute to world-building.
 

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Now that the paper book is (whether we like it or not) a superceded technology, I think there's a lot of wit to be played with in revisiting design styles from the heydey (say, second half 20th century). It too can contribute to world-building.
Would you elaborate on that please?

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Guillermo Stitch

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Would you elaborate on that please?

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Oof. Maybe. Let's see if I can articulate this...

If this were 1985 I think I would be of the opinion that it would be lame to put a cover on a book that recalled the styles of 1965, for example. The bookshelves at that time (the 80's) were still fully stocked and there were a lot more of them. Book covers had this 'status' the same way album covers had. Remember how important the cover of an album was?

So, given that the whole thing was still a going concern I believe I'd have sided with innovation and forward looking designs as the way to go, rather than looking back.

But the history of the book has of course evolved and the physical product has lost its exclusivity, and maybe some of that 'sheen'. I think it's legit to look back on the 20th century as a 'golden age' of the paper book and therefore of the book cover. And that makes it fertile territory, in my opinion, for revisiting without that being a reactionary thing to do.

Pretty sure I didn't quite articulate my point as I would like to, but that's my best shot for now...
 

ZlodeyVolk

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… Though I'm sure that good cover art will sell a book as quick as a solid description, I still have to say I'm struck by the blunt simplicity of older hardcovers …


Something I thought to point out, earlier, and then forgot about until now, is that the cover, pictured above, would likely have been wrapped snugly within a dust jacket, which may or may not have had a more elaborate design. Just saying.
 

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Something I thought to point out, earlier, and then forgot about until now, is that the cover, pictured above, would likely have been wrapped snugly within a dust jacket, which may or may not have had a more elaborate design. Just saying.
Perhaps, although that edition is from 1918.

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ZlodeyVolk

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I'm sure that the people in 1918 were perfectly capable to draw pictures. Although there might have been shortages.
 

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@Guillermo Stitch ; I understand what you're saying (now), and though I do not disagree, what I'm batting around is the idea that on a shelf of say 100-books, all with their elaborate covers, a simpler design just might stand out. More so, make the reader curious.

After all, that artwork is ALL about advertising, catching the buyers eye and so on.

As an example, consider the simplistic design of what I'm working on above. Granted, it is meant to appear as though on a linen bound hardcover, though considering that hardcovers often now-a-days have photo-images attached to them, it still suits the discussion.

So, considering a long shelf of sci-fi book-covers facing out (the vast majority with artwork), if that book was in the midst of them, where would your eye go to? More importantly, would it make you curious?




Simply for contrast (and I'm going to report this post for moderators to judge for appropriate content or not, so it might vanish), as I play with header-art (meant to be posted on a forum) which would work like cover-art, here is what I rough hacked out for that, which would be more typical. These I feel would simply 'blend in.'

cen1.jpg


cen2.jpg


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Guillermo Stitch

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It's really personal but my eye is more likely to be drawn to strong colour blocks and minimal designs, rather than intricately detailed ones. But it's so subjective. I think you're right to be aware of what else is on the shelf.
 
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