Publishing

Cover Me Up, There’s a Draft

This week in a brilliant session I completed my first attempt at producing a draft of something resembling a book cover.

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The process of creating the cover image came relatively easily to me. I decided to assume that this fictional author was a well known one and that it therefore would be best to feature the author name prominently on the cover. If it were a new author then I would take a different approach, either a larger title or altering the positioning. Given the pastel-type image I used I thought it best to use InDesign’s eyedrop tool to take the font colours from the image itself so that it matched well. The image subtly darkens as the eye travels down the image so using colours that were not taken from the image colour scheme would have been jarring on the eye. My approach ensured that I rendered a pleasant image.

Practice, as ever, makes perfect and right now the design element of this is coming to me very easily, however it will take me some time to memorise the controls, keyboard shortcuts and menu controls and buttons. That will all come with time and hard work, however I can say that this feels like home to me and I may well have found my niche. Whilst I work to establish my own publishing house I will be able to do all of the design work and potentially subcontract out my services too.

Book cover analysis

This week’s cover is The Puppet Masters by sci fi legend Robert Heinlein.

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As one of the ‘Big Three’ (Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov) it does not get any bigger than a Heinlein title, and I must be honest and say that I really do not know whether I ought to love this cover or roll my eyes at it. All three of the great sci fi writers placed emphasis on exploring serious themes in their work, which is sci fi at its best in my opinion. I have difficulty taking preposterous space operas seriously and I find that the sci fi I enjoy usually has covers like this one. The colours, the drawing style and the emphasis on the science rather than fantasy are very common. This means that readers might become jaded at the common tropes on the artwork, however for me it harks back to books I read as a youngster, particularly one that I have no doubt that nobody else has heard entitled Great Space Battles by Stewart Cowley and Charles Harris. I love this book and spent weeks tracking down a copy online.

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Hopefully the similarities are obvious. The illustrations too have common themes with Heinlein’s cover.

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They differ from this cover in many ways, but you see hopefully the grittiness and realism infused within the images. These are not fantastical artworks, they have their origins in futuristic thinking and a genuine attempt to imagine a realistic future.

The Heinlein cover addresses its subject matter in a similar fashion. The creatures have a realistic style and the crashed spaceship loosely resembles something that might actually be engineered in real life. The colours are always interesting on covers such as this. They are never gentle on the eye, instead they are vivid and stimulating. I do not know if this is to differentiate the alien landscape from Earth or if it is intended to stimulate the lucid imagination of the sci fi fan. This is too common to be a coincidence and I would wager that it is a tried and tested method.  Heinlein’s name is presented in a much more decorative font than any of the other text, the obvious reason being that he is a giant in sci fi and therefore his name alone sells books. What is interesting is that the pricing on the back indicates that this was sold in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland. These are are British Colonies, so perhaps there is something to British attitudes to which this appeals.

I am inclined to think that this book cover is the book-based equivalent of music’s radio friendly unit shifter. This copy was published in 1979 at a price of 80p – I paid £1.99 so clearly there is value in this art, however I think that as a fifth printing it is almost certainly stock sci fi artwork intended to generate low price, high volume sales.

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