This guest post is written by Victoria Caswell at Hairnets and Hopes. Vic was my first blog friend, the first person I got to know and she is really, really wonderful. But on top of being a writer and a blogger, Vic is also an artist. She’s an amazing artist, and I knew I needed her to chime in with some great thoughts on book covers! Thanks Vic!
We all have our pet peeves when it comes to cover art. Some hate photography, others are sick of eyes or flames or skinny models— the list goes on and on. Honestly, it’s impossible to have a cover design that everyone will love, too subjective.
But the most important thing about a book cover, the CRUCIAL thing is that the cover accurately represents your novel.
There are so many ways you can go about this: an illustrated scene (the Alan Lee illustrated editions of LOTR), a model pic who resembles your character (PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White), a significant symbol from your story (THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins).
You have a TON of options as far as subject matter goes, but the aspect you should be a stickler for is the ATMOSPHERE that your cover portrays. So, when our sweet Sommer asked me to talk about one of my favorite book covers, the first one that came to my mind was Brenna Yovanoff’s THE REPLACEMENT.
I’m really, really going to try not to spoiler this book! (You should definitely read it though!)
So, let’s talk art!
Usually my eye is caught by diagonal compositions, but this one has a strong, straight-forward “T” composition. For this cover what caught my eye first was the color palette (ooh! And the metallics). Color used well is one of elements of an image that quickly establishes atmosphere. Certain colors (of course context needs to be applied here) evoke certain emotions. Red- powerful, strong, angry. Light blue- hopeful, airy, free. And so on.
Well, grey- especially as it’s used in this composition- has a solemn, sad, creepy kind of connotation. It is well suited for horror- as is the scarlet used in the lettering. Horror often has black and white palettes with red splashed here and there giving it a bloodied effect, but that’s not what this cover does. No one’s going to look at this cover and think “slasher” book. The palette is muted, rainy, contemplative, and eerie. You have the feeling of a horror LOOMING about. Which really fits with the writing and the suspense.
Then there is the subject matter.
The base of the “T” composition is the pram. It is strikingly the first thing that your eye will go to when looking at the cover. That is because while most of the cover is more midtone grays, it is a bold, chunky black.
It has this old-fashioned-scrollwork kind of richness to it. It twists and curves and is a beautiful thing, but it’s black and red and colors completely unexpected of baby furnishings. So also, Ms. Yovanoff’s prose twists and curves and is a beautiful thing- but darkly so…
Here’s a tiny excerpt from the beginning:
“I don’t remember any of the true, important parts, but there’s this dream I have. Everything is cold and branches scrape the window screen. Giant trees, rattling, clattering with leaves. White rain gutter, the curtain flapping. Pansies, violets, sunflowers. I know the fabric pattern by heart. They’re a list in my head, like a poem.”
You see, just so vivid. A setting that should be safe: an early memory or dream, flower print curtains… but it’s not. There is something hiding amongst those clattering leaves. And that’s what this cover subject matter says as well. A baby pram= safe—- except it’s twisted and scrolled and black. Then the leading line of the “T” composition brings your eye up… and you see them: scissors, a horseshoe, a knife, etc. A mobile like none other.
Instantly you think either: A.) the parents are PSYCHO!!!! Or B.) what exactly is IN that pram!?!?!?!?
So, the eye searches and rises up to the title (which by the way POPS as ALL titles should! Great color usage and I love how the tree branch both underlines the title and glues it to the composition). And you see THE REPLACEMENT. And you know that there’s something wrong with this kid.
So- you MUST flip it over! There’s no choice to it! And the back reads:
“In the story, Emma’s four years old. She gets out of bed and pads across the floor in her footie pajamas. When she reaches her hand between the bars, the thing in the crib moves closer. It tries to bite her and she takes her hand out again but doesn’t back away. They spend all night looking at each other in the dark. In the morning, the thing is still crouched on the lamb-and-duckling mattress pad, staring at her. It isn’t her brother. IT’S ME.”
At that point (for me at least) it’s a DEFINITE purchase.
But if I hated creepy, beautiful, twisty stories- I wouldn’t have been drawn to this book by its cover, because the cover does its job perfectly. It is a pictorial representation of the atmosphere of the book. It draws in the readers who would like the story contained in its pages.
I could go on and discuss the blurb and the little catch line or discuss the contents of the story and the significance of the imagery- but I don’t want to spoiler you. And a cover really shouldn’t spoiler the story either. But I think I’ve blabbed long enough!
Thanks Sommer for having me! I hope I made some sense! J Have any of you guys read this book? Do you agree with me about covers needed to represent the atmosphere of the novel? Thanks for your time and have an awesome day!