Monday, 5 September 2016

Book Cover Redesign For Harvest Festival


I don't know about you, but I'm always fascinated by how book covers are created - the designs that drop by the wayside and the elements that make it to the final version. It's probably why I've changed my own book covers so many times: I enjoy the process. I've written about this in the past (Cold Fusion 2000; the first professional cover for Turner which began here, continued here, and led to this; and a second professional cover for that book!)

Now let's take a look at the development of the cover for Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival's first temporary cover: a red harvest moon.
I didn't want to give anything away about the plot, or where the threat comes from.

The first cover I created was temporary, because I wasn't even sure about releasing a standalone novella. It was an experiment, and one that I think is successful, since many people seem to enjoy a short, action-packed book. I decided it could stay, and it was time to work on something more professional.

I then created this "pumpkin" cover after it became clear that 
Harvest Festival could stand on its own feet.

The pumpkin cover came about because I needed to capture the theme (horror at harvest time) without giving away the real threat/mystery. Strange blue lights are important in the novella, so I made sure they were included.
Note: for the pumpkin cover above and all the following images you are looking at the full wraparound cover for the print book - so the left half of the image would be the back of the book, the right half is the front cover (and would be cropped to provide the e-book cover). There is no spine text on Harvest Festival because it is a novella, and is too thin to accurately place any. Later images haven't had the back text and ISBN added yet, because I am still working on design.
Although some readers loved the pumpkin cover, others thought it was misleading - they expected some kind of teenage slasher novel, and they told me the book I'd written was far more interesting than the cover implied. I love Harvest Festival, and enjoy re-reading it myself, so decided to bestow it with a better cover, crafted with the care and attention I'd given to They Move Below.

Composition.

First I found some images and knocked up a rough idea for composition. A Welsh farmhouse topped by oppressively strange clouds and space. (If you've read the book you'll understand why each element is relevant!) The hand was to add an idea of threat without giving too much away. It's red to imply infra-red vision: the viewpoint of a predator. That's also the reason why I applied Depth of Field (DoF), so that the house is in focus and the rest of the image begins to blur, a way of focussing attention, one of a number of ways to do that. Another was highlighting the house with a vignette effect, but I decided that didn't work so I haven't shown those drafts.

This was me playing with the Depth of Field idea - notice how it pulls the eye towards the element that is in focus, at the expense of losing detail elsewhere.

At this point I was happy to start afresh and rebuild the elements at higher resolution.

A more polished version of my ideas.

All the elements were present now. The colour tones have been shifted to the blue end of the spectrum to match the story and imply cold. I fixed the derelict windows on the house and replaced one with a light - because it is an upstairs window it adds to the feeling of it being night time, people going to bed, isolated vulnerability. I switched to a hand reaching for the gate (red, for contrast - heat, organic, injury). There's a lot of detail on it, but ambiguous as to who (or what) it belongs to. It appears to be wounded, with some strange textures which will make sense to anyone who has read Harvest Festival.

Starting to add text.

Now with the front text and tagline added. There's so much detail in the image it took a few attempts to create "pop" on the title, and I'm still not sure if I have enough yet, so that the text stands out from the background. I used a motion blur shadow to add depth to the title. The novella's anme frames the lit window, though also possibly obscures it. A subtle black edging to the image helps the author name stand out. The tagline at the top is clear and easy to read, probably the largest I've ever had a tagline, but I think it can really help to give an indication of what a novel is about, and to reinforce or clarify the visual image. Yellows and oranges make a good contrast to blue. My long-term readers will probably recognise the typeface from a previous version of Turner, but with added relief (raised reflective bits) to make it look more solid.

The same as above, but the hand obscures part of my name. 
Does that effect work, or is it better to show my name clearly?

A boosted visual.

For the version above I added various effects to boost the colours, making things more stark and alien (and slightly cartoony). The sky works better but I am not sure if it is too much, and would make the text harder to read. Happy to have any comments on that.

The same boosted version, with a Depth of Field effect.

The Depth of Field effect is also something I am unsure about - do you prefer it with that, or without? Is the loss of detail worth it to help draw focus to the house?
   
That's as far as I've got, and I welcome feedback. Once I finalise this cover I'll update They Move Below with with the same font and style, then create a new cover for Turner to match, so my three dark action/horror/thriller books look like a set. Comment below, or via email, Facebook or Twitter. Thanks!

Update: final versions can be seen here.

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