Sunday, March 20, 2016

How a Book Cover Illustration Can Market While Conveying Author’s Vision

Top portion of a woman's face, the left side rotting.
Photo Credit:

Daylight savings started last Sunday in my area and it took me nearly all week to adjust to the change in my sleep schedule. On top of that, I returned to a seasonal day job and so had to adjust to my new sleep schedule for that! It was a big pain in the ass since one night I did not sleep a single blink. So, every day last week I ended up having to go to bed earlier than usual just to catch up on missed rest. A couple of those days I went to bed before the sun was down! So you can say I was a semi-vampire those days. Because of that weird sleep schedule, I hardly got any writing done and much less book cover art for “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. In fact, I didn't get any of the book cover illustration done. So I'll have to further delay the cover reveal by another two weeks. I apologise. But my daylight savings insomnia isn’t the only reason for the further delay. You’ll be glad to know that the other reason is that I’m using one of you readers’ suggestions that I asked for two posts ago. To this particular reader (who I won’t name because I didn’t get his permission to) and all of you who commented on my concept sketch whether in words or Facebook Likes and such, I thank you all greatly.

The reader's suggestion was that the skull behind the statue's face and the mask breaking off from it in the sketch was cliché. The skull was actually supposed to be a rotting corpse’s face overall, but it still came too close to a death's head which is one of the oldest images on horror book covers. So I'm going to make the face within the statue reflect more of that of a rotting corpse's than of a skull. Yet, I will leave a few skeletal features in the face so people will better recognise it as a zombie-like figure.

Sketch of a giant Hindu statue with a skull-like face.
I will make the skull's face resemble more of a rotting corpse's. 
Photo Credit: the blogger

In making a decision such as this, I have to weigh my use of marketing against my use of artistic aesthetics. While I’m definitely for marketing strategies that sell books, I also believe that the graphics and packaging are part of the art of the book itself. This is particularly so if the author is serving both as designer and illustrator. Although I'm mostly the second of these two (I'm using a template for the design part), I feel I need to reflect the unique vision of the story in the book cover illustration as much as possible.

Often marketing requires use of the latest trends, some that get old really fast regardless of popularity (thanks a lot to mainstream commercial media). That’s the case with zombies. But zombies are a much newer popular icon than the death’s head. While using these over-rated trends may be necessary for selling a book, a self-publishing author should convey his/her unique vision in as much of the book as possible including its packaging (digital or print). After all, many indie authors go the self-publishing route because their work is too unique for traditional publishers who, because of that, often turn it down.

So what will I do about the breaking mask? I thought that over heavily but decided that to get rid of it would take away the illustration’s conveyance of the story’s basic theme. That theme is liberation of self.

I want to thank the reader again who suggested those specific changes. While I can't make them too much, I can make them enough to modify the illustration so it will come as close to a new idea as possible. Again, it's all about balancing marketing strategy with artistic creation in which both are needed, especially the second. Artistic creation is why we're writers to begin with.

Until next time . . .

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