This was a particularly fun cover to create. I dug down and accessed the recesses of my dark and twisted mind for something sinister in feel (insert evil laugh and background music from the Sopranos.) Ok, I confess…I really didn’t have to dig that deep to get there. It’s closer to the surface than I’d like to admit.
As I do with each of the covers I create I began with reading the manuscript. By the way, if you want a really good read…pick this one up! As usually happens I began forming a concept in my mind very quickly while reading but this time my muse changed her mind mid-design and I scrapped my original concept that included a body half-submerged in the swamps for this complete line-art composition.
Speaking of my muse, I have learned to listen to listen to her while designing, she knows better what she’s doing than I do. So, when she changed direction on me mid-design I took note. A good indication that this is going to happen is when I find myself struggling with the design. Things just aren’t coming together and it doesn’t “feel” right to me. I know using the term “feel” when trying to explain how I design something isn’t all that helpful but truthfully the creative process gives you a gut feeling when something is right or wrong in the process. So, if you get that feeling listen to that instinct and take a step back. Don’t be afraid to scrap your initial design and start fresh. I say scrap, but I don’t mean throw it away or delete it…always keep artwork, you never know when you may use it (or part of it) in something else.
This was the case with this particular cover. I struggled and fought with the design but the components just weren’t coming together and it was taking me much longer to pull together than it should. I just wasn’t happy or satisfied with what was happening and if I’m not satisfied with it I won’t show it to the client. Instinctually I knew this cover wasn’t right. So, I took a big step back from the project. I didn’t even open the files to ponder what I could do with it. I completely stepped away for a few days…and inspiration hit, much like an ACME anvil! My muse really could be more subtle.
What I had initially been attempting to do was utilize one of several high-resolution photographs of the swamps in Jersey I had accumulated and incorporate a corpse into it but I realized….the photograph was all wrong! The corpse wasn’t necessary either and I was getting a bit too literal with the cover. Sometimes I have a tendency to try to convey too much of the story on the cover rather than simply the feel of the story or surroundings and that’s the trap I fell into this time. So back to the drawing board I went! Ok, back to the computer…it wasn’t a physical drawing board, sheesh!
I knew I was still going to have the swamps represented on the cover, that was an important component I would keep but not a huge representation like a photo. This time it would be reeds in silhouette. This time too instead of a corpse I decided to take another “character” from this story which is the old run down factories to convey the feeling of Ironton, NJ.
Pinpointing these elements directed me to the simple and dramatic colors I would use too…shades of red, grey, and black. This is a crime/mystery that involves murder so dramatic colors like the ones I chose really make the cover POP! If a cover pops then readers wants to look at it and are more likely to be drawn to it. That is my goal as the designer, draw potential readers in!
Once I had this concept the whole thing came together very quickly. The hardest part of this entire cover was creating the water, getting it to look just right took a little time. Initially I had a cityscape in greys on the opposite shore but quickly learned this needed to change. When the cover was shown to the author he quickly pointed out that this was wrong, we needed factories and he was absolutely right. While I may not be all that familiar with the area myself, he certainly was and this is a good example of taking feedback from the author. Once I changed out the cityscape for factory buildings I knew his suggestion was spot on and I now had the right combination for this cover.
Print-wise I had to make some adjustments as I did with “I Found My Heart in Prague”. This time there was an issue with the greys, they were too subtle and needed to be lighter for print. That’s an easy enough adjustment to make and the cover is finito! Time to put it in the “Delivered” folder and quit messing with it! Oh, and before I forget, this is a good time to mention too that sometimes, such as with this cover, you must have a web version of the cover and a print version of the cover so that the cover colors stay consistent. Remember what shows up on your screen well doesn’t always print well…hence the need to for two covers.
Over all this is one of my favorite finished covers. It’s sharp, it pops, and the composition just flows for me. It’s a cover I could see myself being drawn to so I could read the back cover. Would it make you want to find out more about the story?