Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Update and Some Covers I Like

Still about a half hour away from my goal for the night. Today I've been going through some sticky stuff. I almost gave in to the temptation to get back to reading through what I've got, but I really need to save those "easier" tasks for Wed and Thur.

So I'm finding those sticky little moments -- those hard little problems which I put in a placeholder and then skipped on first writing -- and solving them, one at a time. This is burning up my brain, so I've been working in 15-20 minute bits, and then taking a break to read a chapter of this rather fun pulp novella from 1916 called "The Princess of the Balkans." Though it starts with a big politically incorrect slap in the face, it makes up for it by turning the character introduced as a "poisonous-looking Jew" into one of the most admirable, and fun, antagonists I've read in a long time. If you crossed the sidekick Sallah from Raiders of the Lost Ark with Captain Renault from Casablanca, you might come close to what this guy is like.

The story is only available as image files of the individual pages, an I have to read it in Photoshop -- but that means it works out great to keep me working because I can't just wander off with my Kindle to read it.


I want to start talking about covers every Monday, now. (Which are posted at the end of the day, so I suppose that makes it a Tuesday post. I'm off my schedule....) But this week I didn't find much of anything that intrigued me in the new releases, at least not for mysteries, or fiction.

I did find this really wonderful cover for a non-fiction book. I'm assuming it's about Richard Feynman, the colorful scientist. This would be a very attractive cover for a novel as well -- but it screams "colorful personality." This is clearly a book about a character. So if a particular character were not the complete focus of the story -- that is, not just the subject of the story, but the object of the story -- it wouldn't do.

Two things I find particular interesting about this cover. Red, of course, is a very aggressive color, and it jumps out at you, but here it is intensely dark -- and because the lightest color in the face is a deep red, the face almost looks like it's in shadow. Like a photograph with a bright blue sky behind and an under-exposed face in front. But because the shadowed face is RED, it still grabs and holds your attention. The color scheme falls between complementary and split-complementary -- red is opposite of green, but by making the background a blue green, there is some room for that little touch of gold.

The other element I really like here is the typography. The title is almost like negative space -- no stroke (or outline), and it bleeds right off the page. It looks almost like a cut out.

For my second picture I went hunting. I didn't like my choices in mystery, like I said, so I went to Amazon and began to look at the list of best sellers in mystery. I just scanned down the page for something that stood out... and to my surprise, nothing did. At least not for the top 40 titles. Then at 41, James Lee Burke came to my rescue.

Before I get to this cover, here's the thing that was wrong with the other covers: Nothing.

All the top covers basically did their job. They were just... generic. As in expressing their genre. Most of them were all typography -- just author name and title, with a little something thrown in to give it brand for the author or series. Some of them -- the very few cozies in the bunch -- depicted a cozy type murder setting. Nothing exciting, just declaring the genre.

Mysteries in particular sell themselves based on series -- so let's be honest and say that a book which says "EVANOVICH!" and has a title with a number in it does not need a grabber of a cover. The audience just wants a clear indication of the series.

James Lee Burke could do the same thing, frankly. But look at that cover. It's beautiful. It doesn't express genre. It looks rather literary. Again, this one uses color in a surprising and intense way. Here the background is a hot red-orange, which jumps out at you. The foreground cross is very cool and dark -- but it's also highly saturated and intense with color. Once again, it's a split complementary color scheme, with a bluish-green and greenish blue in contrast to their opposite red-orange. And once again unified and defined by a small amount of yellow. Complementary colors have a tendency to be hard to look at when they actually touch, and the yellow gives some definition to the "battle line" between them.

See you in the funny papers.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nice thoughts on covers, Camille. I think, for me, one of the things I notice about the mystery section is how *dark* the covers are (not for traditionals, but for the other subgenres.) You're right about the brighter colors catching the eye more.

The Daring Novelist said...

Well, they use a lot of color on those "text only" covers -- like the Evanovich covers -- but you're right that most images are dark (as in "dark streets").

But that's also a part of what's in vogue -- standing out from other things on the shelf. If all the books were bright red and yellow, then the dull blue book would stand out.

Standing out, though, is not always a good thing. You want your reader to be able to figure out what kind of book it is.