Here’s a basic recipe for baking a book cover from scratch. Please note that this recipe requires previous experience in baking using Gimp, Photoshop, or other kinds of illustration-friendly ovens. Enjoy!
1. Start with a scrumptious, satisfying book. A book you’d happily eat again.*
Dell Zero, a dystopian novel by C. L. Ervin, for example.
2. Study the book’s product description — its blurb.
Is it a great blurb, whetting the appetites of readers? Does it garner the interest this book deserves? If not, nag the author to write a new one. Oh, look, she did!:
Into a sexless, controlled society of drug-induced immortals comes Dell, a rare, untainted human with female characteristics.
I call myself Dell, but my name is unrecorded. I’ve always been hidden, sheltered by my guardians on the outlands of the Chapter. Now my guardians are gone, reassigned. They will not remember me.
I am young. I want to be loved, to be touched. Is there anyone in the Chapter like me?
I have no number. My identity band is false–it hangs loose, unconnected to my veins. It won’t get me into the Chapter. If I do get in, I’ll live forever, but I know what forever is like for my guardians. I will no longer be me.
I am Dell–Dell Zero–untransformed and mortal. I will make my own way.
3. Identify why the book is not just good eating (subjective opinion), but a unique dining experience (objective opinion**).
What’s the most important ingredient in the book? How can it be represented in an illustration?
- Is it the story? It’s a good story, well told — a new variation on a dystopian theme explored by some classic sci-fi authors. But the story itself doesn’t need to feature heavily in the cover, just the genre. A good tagline should be enough to represent the story. (Live Forever… or die Free?) After all, these days a potential reader may take less than a second to click or pass on a cover; how much story can be communicated in a second? A snapshot of a scene could make it look like a graphic novel, anyway. Graphic novels are great! But this isn’t one.
- Is it the writing? C. L. Ervin has unique writing skills; she takes a measured, chillingly literary look at an intriguing subject, and somehow still makes Dell Zero a hard-to-put-down book. But how do you illustrate literary writing? Layers of meaning and symbolism can be literally illustrated… as layers. Will readers understand? Maybe yes, maybe no, so make sure the layers pique a reader’s curiosity.
- Is it the characters? Yes! The main character, Dell Zero, will catch the eye on a cover. She is young and pretty and female, in a world where the meaning of that needs to be explored. Besides, a cover that gets one second of eye-time needs to appeal to the emotions of a potential reader. Faces do that, or so they say…
4. Use your best ingredients (colors, textures, contrast, images, text and symbolism) — ingredients you hope will engage the emotions, curiosity and intellect of the readers most likely to gobble up the cover — in one second or less!
This is an impossible task, so just do your best. Results will vary.
I am still learning to bake, and Dell Zero was a tough cookie.
I did my best… But wait, if I just…
5. Don’t overbeat; don’t overbake. Nothing is ever perfect. Stop when you need to stop or you’ll never publish it, never move on to the next baking project.
Wondering if Dell Zero‘s author likes the new cover? Read all about it over at her website!
*A book you’d give 5 stars to, if Amazon wouldn’t immediately delete your review just because you drew the book cover.
**Is there such a thing as objective opinion? Oh, shut up and eat your book! You know what I meant…