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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Judging a Book by Its Cover- Guest Blog BOUND by Carmen Fox


JUDGE A COVER BY ITS BOOK

A book’s cover might be the first impression you have of a book. Some readers, me included, buy many of their books based on the cover alone. Sometimes that doesn’t work out so well. I remember one particular cover, which promised a fast-paced, rollercoaster ride into the world of the undead, but instead, the book told the tale of a psychic medium’s gradual decline into insanity. I was bummed.

Authors need to attract the right kind of reader. That involves offering a cover that tells the reader at one glance what to expect, at least in terms of plot. A cover for me needs to be a graphical representation of the book’s content. Not any specific scene, but a metaphorical telling of the genre and the tone or atmosphere the writer has created.

But even though a cover needs to be typical of its genre, it must also stand out among the other covers of its genre. I write urban fantasy. Cue a strong woman in a strong pose, possibly a weapon in her hand. Urban fantasy is often shown alongside paranormal romances. Cue sexy guy, the picture of an animal or a pool of blood; or alternatively a couple clinging to each other. Don’t misunderstand. These covers can be great individually, but do they stand out if they’re all variations on a theme?

No, designing a book cover isn’t easy. Designing a great cover even less so. So when I set out to design the covers for the Silverton Chronicles series, what I needed was an idea.

GUARDED

The process started with Book 1 of The Silverton Chronicles, GUARDED, which I dubbed a sexy urban fantasy mystery. I wanted to show a strong female in a conflict position with a werewolf. So far, so ordinary.

I conceived a design that showed women’s legs in a strong pose. Through her legs, a wolf (to represent the werewolves in the book) is positioned in a cautious, yet not aggressive stand-off with her.

My books usually contain explicit sex scenes, so to represent the sexy nature of the novel, I gave the woman bare legs and a sexy red skirt. A simple design to reflect not just the genre, but the plot as a whole. The cover doesn’t take into account the mystery element of my book, but that was a compromise I made in favor or a clean, uncluttered design.

Once I was happy with the concept (1), I searched for a book designer. When I found Ana Grigoriu, I knew I’d found a partner. Her previous covers were gorgeous. Strong colors, simple, yet with little details to make the book stand out.



She transformed my crude mock-up into a stunning cover, once again with details that add a little extra: For example, she added shadows to the book title and red to the wolf’s eyes to reflect the skirt the heroine is wearing (2).

In many ways, I hit the jackpot with GUARDED. How was I going to equal that?

BOUND

Book 2, BOUND, is a sexy urban fantasy romance. The main character, a male vampire, is torn between his loyalties to the local werewolf pack that offered him a home, a werewolf female who steals his heart, and his vampire roots.

There were a few things that needed to be present on the cover, because BOUND had to tie in visually with GUARDED. The red skirt in GUARDED was going to be echoed by a pair of red shoes in BOUND. Wolves would once again stand in for werewolves generally. A forest background and the same title font were a must.

The Concept

My first attempt at a concept is the stunning piece of art I’ve designated no. 1. I used MS Paint to create it. Before you inundate me with e-mails, I am sadly not available to take on commissions at this time… The main character’s hunched position represents his vampire self. The two wolves (yes, they are wolves) by his side represent his other loyalties, forming a sort of triangle.



Somehow I couldn’t make the idea work. Do I show him at a crossroads? A fork in the road, with a pair of red shoes tossed into the grass?

My writing partner Julie LaVoie (awesome YA author) pointed out that I’m missing one important element from my cover. The romance. I waved her off. I would not plaster my precious cover with men’s torsos and women’s doe eyes. Not just that, I don’t like showing faces on covers. Most readers will create the faces in their minds, and far be it from me to stifle their imagination. Yet Julie insisted that readers should be able to tell from the cover that BOUND is a romance.

To prove that a couple could work for me, she made a mock-up of a guy standing in front of a woman, one arm behind his back holding a red rose. I wasn’t sold, so she continued to press on me with several versions. When Julie inserted a woman with her legs crossed in a flirtatious pose, all the pieces came together in my head. The position of the woman relative to the man brings to life a budding romance that’s sweet and tender, exactly like the romance in BOUND. If the man, Florian, hid handcuffs behind his back, this idea had potential. Handcuffs do make an appearance in the book, so they have a literal meaning, but they also indicate the fact that Florian is BOUND by his loyalties. Plus, it adds a dash of sexy to the cover (and goes with the sexiness of the red shoes).

I stuck in the wolf from GUARDED as a place-holder and added a background. Once I was happy with the concept, I sent the idea off to my cover designer, Ana (Cover 2). I specified that the woman should wear a skirt, that I didn’t want another white wolf, and that I wanted the man to be angled toward the wolf so he is in conflict with it.

The Finished Cover

Once again, Ana knocked it out of the park. I now have a cover that shows its genre: a sexy urban fantasy romance. She added details that might escape readers’ notice, but that put a smile on my face. An example: Although it’s not entirely clear on a thumbnail view of the cover, the wolf’s eyes stare at Florian and the woman. Not in a hostile manner, but as a sure sign of conflict, just as I’d asked.

In my revisions, I asked Ana to add shadows to the title to be consistent with Book 1 (Julie spotted this), to remove a tree from behind the couple (a suggestion by my friend Paul), and to shift the sky from a rainbowish sunset to a simple green hue.

The final cover is labeled 3.


If you’re in need of a book designer, Ana Grigoriu can be found here: https://www.books-design.com. Unfortunately, you cannot borrow Julie’s input. I’ve locked her into contractual servitude to assist me—and only me—in the creation of all my book covers henceforth.


BOUND
The Silverton Chronicles
Book Two
Carmen Fox

Date of Publication: April 30, 2016

Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance

Publisher: Smart Heart Publishing

Cover Designer: Ana Grigoriu

epub ISBN :  9780993199233

Book Description:

Bound by blood. Bound by loyalty. Bound by love.

Florian has it all: excellent fashion sense, a kickass job with his best friend, and a hard-won place among Silverton’s werewolves. When a pack of females pads into their territory, Flo’s alpha dispatches him to handle a merger. Total cakewalk. Except Keely, their alpha, has no intention of submitting her wolves to Flo's larger pack. Worse, a single glance from her baby blues sends his eloquence on vacation and his heartbeat into overdrive. His flirtations seem welcome too, but there's a snag. She doesn’t know he’s a vampire.

While Flo struggles with his conflicts—obey his alpha, or win over Keely—his estranged sire blasts into town with a catalog of radical ideas. And hanging out with unsophisticated werewolves didn't make the list.

With violence in the air and all sides testing his loyalties, Florian must bite back, even if showing his fangs costs him the girl.

Excerpt (romance)

Keely led me around the side of the camp to an area where ropes, wooden blocks, and tires lay strewn in the grass. Despite her heels sinking into the uneven ground, she kept her poise.

“We want to set up a few swings.” She pointed at the grassy surface.

I took a quick count of the materials. “There's enough here for two swings, a seesaw and maybe a fort.”

“A fort?” She gave a laugh, light and carefree.

I stood taller. “You have boys here, right? You gotta have a fort.”

“If you say so. Come on then.” She kicked off her shoes and strode barefoot toward a wooden beam.

“We need a saw.”

She gestured to my right. “Will that do?”

“Yes.” I picked it up. “Come on, give me a hand.”

Together, we cut the ends of four sturdy posts at roughly twenty-degree angles. Sawing wasn't a hobby of mine, but it seemed appropriately manly. The kind of work a male werewolf might perform.

“Have you done this before?” She used her weight to hold down the long end, exposing more cleavage than a man holding dangerous tools should see.

“No. But I've read about it.” I placed the saw and moved it back and forth until the corner dropped into the grass. “It didn’t seem difficult.”

“You read about building a swing set?” She exchanged one board for another, which got the same treatment. “That must have been a riveting read. You should join us for book club and tell us about it.”

I chuckled. “My memory has a thing for remembering weird information. Like how to build the frame, but not where I read it. Sorry. Am I still invited?”

“Sure. We’ll be discussing the complexities and metaphors of Little Women. You can bring the snacks.”

“There is no book club, is there?”

She straightened and ran the back of her hand over her glistening forehead. “No. Maybe next month.”




About The Author

Carmen lives in the south of England with her beloved tea maker and a stuffed sheep called Fergus. An avid reader since childhood, she caught the writing bug when her Nana asked her to write a story. She also has a law degree, studied physics for a few years, dabbled in marketing and human resources, and speaks native-level German and fluent Geek. Her preferred niches of geekdom are tabletop games, comics, sci-fi and fantasy.

She writes about smart women with sassitude, about pretty cool guys too, and will chase that plot twist, no matter how elusive.

Guarded (The Silverton Chronicles – Bk. 1) became a no. 1 bestseller in the vampire and werewolf mystery categories.

For details on this or Carmen's other work, visit her website at
www.carmen-fox.com





1 comment:

Carmen Fox said...

Thank you so much for inviting me to guest blog for you today. :-)