As a book designer I rarely get to do CD covers but last week I got to do one: Temple Bahan Band.
For me the process was almost the same as for books, just with some different details: I decided to play the CD’s music while working. I have to say that it was different, while listening to the music I tried to think of images and finally more than just images, what I found through the music were layers: different layers with the various voices & instruments that I translated into colors, images, swirls, shapes, and different levels of transparency & this is how I came to design the first mock-ups.
The publisher’s feedback was that they wanted to add some city/party/celebration/ritual themes to the images so from that I worked on it graphically: the old wall texture in the background, the Hindu god, the crowd, some flowers related to Hindu rituals…and here’s the new covers, that yes, the publisher liked.
In this case, I couldn’t read the book because I had to come up with some mock-ups for the next day. All I had was a little idea of what the novel is about and a title: HAPPINESS.
With that in mind, I did a few cover attempts, chose the better ones (these designs) and sent them to the publisher.
Later I showed that work to Mijal, a friend & designer, and when saw the blue one, she pointed out, “How clear that is your concept of happiness: winter & snow, while for many other people happiness would be a beach, warmth” … mmm, (yes, I do love winter).
Of course I was completely unconscious about it, and so much inside the design that couldn’t take any distance to be able to see it.
I always say that the work should never reflect the designer, but the author and the book. Yet, that’s difficult to do when the publisher insists that the mock-ups be done in less than one day.
We’ve noticed that there’s a lot of demand for designing e-book covers. And as with all books there is quite a range of quality among the books. Many, if not most, e-books are not very well written. But maybe that’s also true with printed books if one counts all the self-published titles in existence. (There are some very good self-published books, but I think everyone knows that there are also a lot of bad books, too). Some of the e-books we’ve seen are nothing more than Word document files of less than ten pages.
And some e-books are just outright scams. There seems to be a lot of that floating around on the net. And, yes, you can waste money on printed books, too, but at least with print you can see what you buying in the bookstore before purchasing the thing. Most Web sites selling e-books don’t provide previews of any inside pages or even tell you the number of pages.
This brings us to the trend in designing e-book covers where an image is created to make the e-book resemble a printed book, appearing three dimensional with a spine.
We’ve done this ourselves for clients when requested. Here’s an e-book cover and Web page that we’ve designed:
This isn’t a post to promote that particular e-book, which is why we’re not linking to that particular Web site. We just wanted to address this trend in designing e-book covers. Since we believe in design, we believe all books deserve a good design. There’s an interesting philosophical question as to whether design should be used to promote certain activities but we’ll leave that discussion to the pundits.
But we would like to call for e-book authors not to request an e-book cover that resembles a printed book. You don’t need that. If you want that, then we’ll design it for you but think about why you feel the need for it. What you need, as with any cover, is a compelling design. Indeed, with an e-book you also need a very well designed Web page. Far too many e-books are promoted from poorly designed Web sites.
Also, we would like to see more e-book authors pay attention to the layout and formatting of their interior pages. There is a lot that can be done in PDF. And e-book authors should also provide a preview of a few pages to prospective buyers. With just a little more work, by making a quality product, a quality e-book, you surely can sell more than if you just go for the quick buck from the unsuspecting, naive consumer. Let’s see more quality from e-books.
Since we’re based in Buenos Aires, we obviously have no problem with outsourcing book cover design to offshore companies. But we’ve stumbled across this example of one of the worse book covers we’ve ever seen.
Sure, for $100 you’re not going to get much but this is ridiculous. Of course, such low quality is not just common with some offshore book designers. There are plenty of bad online portfolios of so-called book designers based in the U.S. and Canada. The focus of these firms seem to be self-publishers and the rates for a cover usually range from $100 – $500, though we have seen some bad designers charging $1,000 for a cover. Now, at that price your really should get something good.
A book cover can be cheap but it doesn’t mean that it also has to be bad, bad, bad. For a low price, you’re not going to get great, great, great book covers but you might be able to get good, good, good book covers.
While maintaining a cohesive style across this series, we wanted to create three covers that each utilized a different aspect that is central to the writings of Borges: time, tigers, mirrors.
Collected Fictions by Borges
Selected Poems by Borges
Selected Non-Fictions by Borges
Or, maybe it’s just in Argentina that most book covers are truly horrible?
The Cultura section of this past Sunday’s Perfil, a very good Buenos Aires newspaper on Sundays, ran a profile of novelist David Leavitt. As you can see in the snapshot of the article, Perfil – as does many papers – likes to highlight the book covers of an author for the readers.
Let’s look a little closer at those splatches of yellow and red that Anagrama calls book covers. (Actually, Anagrama is based in Spain, so the problem is more global than just South America).
At the very top is Baile en familia, known in English by its original title of Family Dancing: Stories .
Let’s compare that to it’s norteamericano cousin:
Hmmm, quite a contrast there….Let’s compare a few more….
It’s not the price
One possible reasoning for the lesser quality book covers could be the price. But, wait, the price of books in Buenos Aires is no lower than the price of books in the U.S. So, that doesn’t explain it. In fact, the price of new paperback books in Buenos Aires is actually higher than the price of new paperback editions in the U.S.
I think that it’s simply because many foreign language publishers do not value the book cover. Well, actually, I think that it’s because many of the foreign language publishers are just too cheap to pay designers a decent rate for a nice cover. But, those publishers should realize that a good book cover actually helps in selling more books. For the publishers and bookstores, at the end of the day, it’s all about selling books.
I want to see better book covers on the shelves of the bookstores in Buenos Aires!
Â¶ What is a book cover? what is its function? many times when I’m in front of a manuscript that is going to evolve into a book, I ask myself those questions and try to answer it by grabbing the feeling of that writing, to translate it into a graphic work. What is a cover if not that thing which is going to “cover” the writing awaiting to be read, a veil that protects the content from being read until it’s time. But, at the same time is the anticipation of what is going to be found on the inside, a little of the flavor, the taste that the book will remain with the readers.