Book Cover Art: What Do You Look For?

Wow, two posts in a day – that has to be some kind of record.

After making the last post, I walked into town to buy lunch and run errands. The whole way I was thinking about what I did want to see, and want to create, in book covers. You see, I didn’t want it to seem as though I was biting the hand that feeds me as it were. I love these books, both as a genre and as something produced out of love and hard work by a community of amazing people. I’m coming at it from both the viewpoint of a reader/fan and also from the perspective of someone who helps in some small part to get these books out there.

I want to be better. I want new ideas, new styles, the next trend. I want covers that make people get grabby hands when they see them. And yeah, I know that I sound like I’m channelling Michael Wincott in The Crow, but you get the idea. :D

I want you all to be able to look me straight in the eye and say ARE WE HAVING FUN OR WHAT?!?


Anyway, I wanted to ask: What do you want in a cover? What makes great cover art? What catches your eye as a reader, as an author, as a book blogger?

This is my list:

  1. Action poses. I am sick to death of pretty models standing there like that one stick of celery they ate yesterday just isn’t going to hold those cheekbones up anymore. I want models who look muscular enough to kick some ass who are…well, kicking ass. Rather than holding a sword or gun limply (or worse, like they’re going to lick it seductively at any moment), I want to see a dynamic body that practically bursts off the cover. I want intensity, I want life.
  2. Better stock (i.e., non-fashion stock). I want those kickass models in the right clothing, as it is hella difficult to fit the right armor or clothing to an action pose. The deviantART community is a very good example of the stock that I would love to see commercially. You’ll find tons of gorgeous models who have made or had made for them great cosplay outfits, and they’re shot with exactly the right poses. And (cry!!!) I can’t risk using them professionally. But this is what I would like to see.
  3. Diversity. Hey, what can I say…I’m a social justice warrior from way back. (Or perhaps a social justice mage, but I diverge.) Not only do I want to use diverse models, I want to be able to do covers with diverse cultural influences. For instance, I lived in Los Angeles for many years, I was born in Queen of Angels hospital and will always love the city – but in order to properly “feel” like Los Angeles you need the cultural aspects of the Hispanic community alongside the dreams of stardom and the gritty neon griminess of it all. That is real.
  4. New perspectives. Personally, I feel that I’ve done too many images where the model is dominant to the rest of the image. Lots and lots of pretty girls, close up, looking at the camera. I’d like to pull back, I’d like to shake it up a bit. But perhaps I’m in danger of following my own taste when that doesn’t reflect mainstream readers.

So what do you think? What really pulls you in?

Disorder. Chaos. Anarchy. Now that’s fun.

4 thoughts on “Book Cover Art: What Do You Look For?”

  1. I like covers that try new things. A bold striking colour can catch the eye, I’m pretty fond of the two-tone contrast covers of British epic fantasy, usually from Gollancz, but also the type that paint a scene and tell you a little something about what might be inside. And yes to everything you’ve said. The generic and basic can work nicely if things are mixed up with more diversity, new perspectives, bold tones… just a few ideas, anywho. :D

  2. Agreed! I’m not a very “designer-y” artist, if that makes sense – I suck at really conceptual covers. I want to build on what I’m competent at, but change it up, such as playing a lot more with layering textures and doing less straightforward photomontage covers. I couldn’t find a good example of what I mean, but this cover for Zoo City comes close:

  3. Hey Ravven, have you considered asking some of the DeviantArt artists to consider adding their content to stock sites? Some of them will balk at the idea of commercializing their work, but in my experience, artists are very open and often thrilled at the prospect of having their work used. Could mean a bit of extra $$ in their pockets and new stock for you to choose from:)

  4. I would love it if more of them did, and I suppose it’s worth asking! One male model has a wonderful portfolio on commercial stock sites as well as DA, and I make sure to use him as much as I can. There is one female model (you would know her if I posted a picture, but I won’t) who has gorgeous images and does sell them commercially, but at rates which make them impossible for me to use on a cover. (Very expensive to start with, and the prices go up according to anticipated sales, which as an artist I have NO control over and no access to.)

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