Monday, September 27, 2010

Cover Concepts for My Book!

For a long time--right up until this afternoon, in fact--I thought I knew exactly what Second Sight was going to look like: a pair of glasses spanning the width of the cover, held by their outside corners by a pair of fingers, with the title type floating over them and my name below. Then my book designer stopped by my office with the bad news: This image was so thin that it didn't take up much space vertically, which left the cover looking really awkward and unbalanced . . . and altogether, it was not going to fly.

I was momentarily cast down, but like all bad ideas that get recognized as bad ideas, this helped clarify my priorities (particularly this: I REALLY want eyeglasses on the cover) and cleared the way for better ideas, of which I quickly had four. If you'll forgive the self-indulgence, I'm going to analyze these four ideas the way we analyze cover ideas in-house, for first what they say about the book in and of itself and then how the covers might connect with my intended audience (adult writers of children's and YA literature). Pardon the lousy sketching and type design.

A., Left. Glasses on top of a stack of books with the title written on their spines. This looks booky; the image fills the space well; it offers an opportunity for lots of good colors on the spines (and I love bright colors) and fun glasses on top. This kind of cover has certainly been done before, but the covers it alludes to (in my mind, at least) are all good ties for the kind of book this is: Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose, which is a similar reading-and-writing book, and Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time by Lisa Yee and I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan, which are both titles off my own list. So I like this one a lot.

B., Right. I think of this as the McSweeney's cover, as it would be mostly the gracious, formal type that's used on the inside of the book, with three or so small images of eyeglasses between the lines, most likely photographs (though it would be neat to find a cartoonist who could draw all of these glasses for cheap, if their style suited the font and the book). I was thinking a conventional or cats'-eye pair of glasses up top, a set of 3-D specs in the middle, and a Groucho Marx set down at bottom, to convey all the different ways one can look at writing, and also hopefully the book's blend of both seriousness and fun. OTOH, a pair of Groucho Marx glasses may convey not "fun" but ridiculousness or absurdity. None of those images say "books" or "writing" or "editing" directly, so a potential book-buyer would have to read the text for that, which slows down the potential buyer's emotional reaction, which slows down their buying reaction. And the images are really small, which means the cover might not reproduce well online, where it could be an inch tall on a computer screen. And as online will be one of the two primary ways I'm selling this book, it's important that it be instantly visually readable. Hrmm.

C., Left: A page made to look like a piece of notebook paper, with a pair of glasses resting on it. . . . Maybe add a pencil too to get the writing thing across more immediately. The most obviously writerly of these options; also, perhaps, the most academic and boring. But it could be fun if it was done well. (That's the challenge with book cover concepts as with plot concepts: As great as the raw idea may seem, everything is in the execution.)

D., Right: A plain background with floating type and a stock photo of a dachshund in oversized glasses. I adore dachshunds for their dignity in the face of their physical ridiculousness, and this image is so darling that I imagine it might get a lot of readers to pick up the book. Indeed, in that way, it would connect to Rule #1 of children's publishing: Cute dogs sell. But the image ultimately suffers the same lack of instant connection to the book's subject as B. above, and having a dachshund in oversized glasses on your front cover is not, perhaps, the best way to have your serious writing book taken seriously.

So of all of these options, I'm leaning towards A. -- or whatever my book designer will come up with, which will doubtless be much more original and all-around better than anything I've tossed out here. Anyone want to propose alternate concepts or change my mind?


  1. Definitely A but hold out for C. It does have potential in the right hands. I'm thinking of Jo Rowling's flash-based website myself.

  2. Are you wed to SECOND SIGHT? How about PECULIAR SIGHT? Or perhaps that should be the sequel to SECOND SIGHT....

    I like A. Nevertheless, I think that C could be fun -- what if you also had some editorial markings/or copy editor markings on the cover (and title) as well? I can think of at least one problem with this approach, which may end up being insurmountable: as in "B", these little markings might be too hard to read on a screen.

  3. I like A okay, but it's also something I've seen done before. I get your issues with B, but it looks the freshest to me. I could imagine yes, the cartoon glasses and varying fonts of text, perhaps all in bright colors on a dark background. It would just need to fill the space well enough. Maybe it's because the top glasses looks a little like the Chronicle Books logo, which is just cartoon enough to have character, and stands for something interesting inside the book. I'm not saying that the cover as a whole would make me think of Chronicle (I know, wrong house!)--but it *would* make me think that the content inside wouldn't be just the same-old, same-old.

    Um, but I'm not a cover designer. :)

  4. I don't know what you're talking about. There is nothing more serious or academic than a daschund in glasses.

  5. alternatives:

    1) Your original title was something like Leaves and Stems? From the moment I heard that title, I imagined a pair of glasses sitting on the arm of an Adirondack chair, with fall foliage (out of focus) in the background.

    2) Spectacles sitting atop a handwritten manuscript or letter (perhaps Mr. Darcy's to Elizabeth), with inkpot and quill--rolltop desk (out of focus) in the background

    I'm eagerly awaiting your book!

  6. i think A does a nice job of what you're aiming for, though i also agree that C could be good. if the notebook paper is made to look haphazard and crinkly, it might be a good contrast to the seriousness of the glasses, and might convey a sense of the personal aspect of what you do.

  7. I’m a graphic designer and love typography. Here is my suggestion.
    Have the background crisp white with a pair of sharp black glasses on top.
    Instead of the glasses sitting on a stack of books, have them sitting on typography that represents books. Your title comes first, and use a nice bold font with a color that will stand out from the rest. Then follows the remaining text, just like how you have it arranged in sketch A. You can select different colors but make sure they go well together, and not as prominent as your title. The fonts should be arranged within the space of an imaginary book (rectangular), and each line staggered. Last, your name as a signature (and maybe black). This should be legible. A tool in writing is by hand and type. And your type represents books. If executed well, I think this will look very nice. Just a thought. Good luck!

  8. I like A best, B second best, and I really, really don't like D.

  9. I immediately liked A, but then I saw C and I think that one most accurately captures the content of the book. I especially like the idea of adding a pencil or pen and some sticky notes.

  10. I might try two handheld devices viewing the stack of books, one a magnifying glass (close inspection of content) and a distance glass that makes things seem small, (most often used by sign painters to view their handwork as if seen from a distance). This will signify that you look closely at the contents but stand back to see the whole — keeping the end product interesting.

  11. As you were describing it, I was picking A. It seems more colorful and I think that's one thing that makes a cover more attractive. Can't wait to read the book.

  12. Second Sight, true and modern rewording of revision. Nice.

    I wanted a job for the dachshund somewhere in your book, thought it was a good tie-in: if the basset hound's a hush puppy, with your little fellow's scholarly look, he would be a slush puppy.

    I saw him sitting on a big pile of books, reading their spines, or maybe trying to climb down... then realized, egad: Slush Puppie is liquid sugar posing as a fresh fruit kids' drink. Sorry. Will crawl back to the home planet in a moment. Just one more plug for the slush pup:

    adults writing for kids is serious business, but I like to think our type never quite grows up... I'd buy such a book in a heartbeat if it had something to say, and like it more for the tongue-in-cheek sense of fun.

    Might the pup apprentice in some small, nicely drawn sketches inside? The childlike critic-- child advocate-- tailing you around the chapters, waiting to pee on the books or chew them up if they don't have the stuff to get past the slush.
    Online, he could morph into a rather sophisticated, sketchy kind of animation.

    Okay, I admit it: I'm his agent.

    Best wishes with your book!

  13. I like A and C most because both help the reader to immediately connect to the book's content.

    Another hybrid idea- Have the top half of the background be a blurry edited manuscript with red marks and such a little out of focus, then a pair of cats eye (or other striking) glasses with the words SECOND SIGHT crisp and clear in their frames.

    Below this on the second half of the cover, have your colorful spines with the rest of what you need to say...

    Best of luck, Cheryl! I am excited for you and eager to read your finished book.

  14. Ok, a book cover is basically a vertical rectangle. How about hands holding glasses on a DIAGONAL? Nice hands, diagonal, filling space... I like negative space, with color. Bold -clean- simple- maybe on top of those lined pages.

  15. Another idea- Make the cover like an optometrist's sign (with letters getting smaller toward the bottom), but made of book pages?


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