09 February 2014

Anatomy of an Award-Winning Book Cover

Recently, I was a guest panelist at the Changing Hands third annual Indie Author Conference. The panel in which I participated was about lessons learned from being a published author. I spoke to a lot of attendees before and after my panel and many were interested in what goes into making a great book cover.

Luckily for me, I have an in-house designer (my spouse, Matt) who’s been a professional illustrator and graphic designer for many years. He’s done the covers for all eight of my books so far and another dozen or so covers for other writers. 

Matt's first award-winning cover was the one he did for my book “Sarah & Gerald,” a novel of Paris in the 1920s. I think this is the best design he’s done for me; so, I thought I would give you a little overview of how he created that cover.
As usual, Matt and I talked a lot about the story of the novel and what I envisioned for a cover. Luckily, Matt usually ignores my suggestions -- and did in this case.

In the first image, you’ll see some of the illustrations Matt did. I loved them and saw the possibility inherent in the images.

He added a stock watercolor background (second image) and colored the illustration to come up with the final cover image (third image). With the addition of a perfect font (Fontleroy Brown), the cover was done.

This very brief summary does not fully capture the many hours of work that went into this cover: Matt’s illustrations and the (many) suggestions I offered to alter the cover design. For example, Matt’s original design had the title at the top and my name below. I suggested it would have a neater look swapping them.

It’s very important to work with a talented cover designer. It’s equally important to listen to your designer. I know how to write. I’m no designer -- and you’re probably not, either.

04 February 2014

Not so Super Commercials

Commercials for the 2014 Super Bowl were generally tepid and uninspiring. I was disappointed that there were no clever animal spots from Bridgestone (“Screaming Squirrel” anyone?), that the only CarMax commercial (“Slow Clapping”) wasn’t funny, and we never found out what happened to the GM robot who lost its job back in 2007. Did it get it’s job back? Is it flipping burgers somewhere?

There were three spots that rose above the rest. The top three were, in order, clever, subtle and innovative.

My early favorite, weeks ago, was the Doritos time machine spot made (for $200!) by a fellow Arizonan. This additionally won the Doritos contest because it’s clever, funny and just basically brilliant. It catches the entire point of humor: something unexpected happening in an unexpected way.

Second, also an early favorite, was the spot for AXE body spray. I love how it took a very old slogan “Make love, not war” and put it into so many (otherwise) cliché images of hostility and aggression. In addition, I totally agree with the sentiment.

I’m surprised that my third favorite is for a soda. Soda and beer spots are usually so dull, but the Pepsi “Half Time” commercial makes excellent use of computer graphics to tell the story (rather than just show off the technology, which is such a problem with films today) in a clever way. (The Guggenheim as a drum? LOVE IT!) I love how the buildings were used to show sound levels. Excellent.

Runner up: Radio Shack addressing it’s fuddy-duddy image with a very smart retro-themed spot wherein the 1980s come to visit and take back their store.

You can see the spots here:



Read more about the winning Doritos commercial here.