Saturday, September 14, 2013

Michael J. Bowler – What makes a good book cover?

What makes a good book cover?
by Michael J. Bowler
One of my favorite aspects of books is the cover art, and I don’t think I’m alone amongst avid readers in that regard. This is one of my primary reasons for not getting into a standard black and white e-book reader – the covers look horrible. Oh I know, I sound like one of the high school kids I used to teach if they had to watch a black and white movie, but in the case of book covers, I’m sorry, it’s true. Those e-readers just don’t cut it.
I have often bought books I never end up reading because I love the cover art so much. I’ll just set the book out on the shelf, cover facing out, and admire the artistry of the cover the way others admire paintings. Okay, I’m weird. But I love book covers!
Firstly, a cover can make or break a book because it’s the first thing that catches, or doesn’t catch, the eye of a potential reader. I’ve seen book covers that are absolutely terrible, but the book turns out to be great. I’m different from most likely readers, however, because I might explore a book further, especially if the description peaks my interest. Most people, though, gravitate to “cool” covers.
I designed the covers of my first two books myself because they were self-published and I didn’t want a “stock” cover. Those are absolutely egregious! Knowing the importance of cover art, I tried to put significant elements of my stories right there on the covers, some of which wouldn’t make any real sense until after the book was read but might hopefully make potential readers curious enough to at least read the back blurb.
For Children of the Knight, I had created my own “spec” cover art in case I ended up self-publishing, but when Harmony Ink Press bought the manuscript for publication I stressed a little over what they might put on my cover. I needn’t have worried. An amazing cover artist named Reese Dante was assigned to my book and she was fantastic to work with. She asked for my ideas and shared with me her own. When she needed a boy for the front cover, I convinced her to use the one I had already found for my spec because he so perfectly fit my main character. She even the same sword I did (which I own) in essentially the same position, and created a whole new background that was striking and original and eye-catching. Even the title font she used was perfect. I’ve already seen comments on Goodreads and other sites that people love her finished cover.
Since the book involves King Arthur in modern-day Los Angeles recruiting street kids and gang members for a new Round Table of knights to take on the adult society that rejected them, the sword represents Excalibur. The boy is my main character, Lance, a homeless teen skater who becomes Arthur’s First Knight. There’s gang graffiti on the wall behind Lance and Arthur’s “A” symbol spray-painted over it. All of these elements are intriguing and are explained as the story unfolds. Even the boy’s position, with his feet pulled up and arms wrapped around them protectively, indicates the nature of Lance’s character as the story begins – wary, loner, detached from others, anxious, and closed off.
Every element is perfect and just looking at the cover completely sets the stage in a reader’s mind for what is to come, and that, to me, is what a great book cover should do. It should catch the eye and intrigue the mind and, hopefully, inspire the potential reader to take a leap of faith and dive into the story. So any of you potential authors out there, never neglect cover art in the process, especially if you are self-publishing.
If you have to, take pictures of your own and use Photoshop or pay a friend to meld the pictures together as you want. Steer clear of stock covers on these self-publishing sites unless the photo truly represents your story in a visual way. Remember, a book cover is the doorway to your story. If the door is unappealing, people won’t open it, and all the hard work you put into crafting your story will be for naught.

Children of the Knight
According to legend, King Arthur is supposed to return when Britain needs him most. So why does a man claiming to be the once and future king suddenly appear in Los Angeles?
This charismatic young Arthur creates a new Camelot within the City of Angels to lead a crusade of unwanted kids against an adult society that discards and ignores them. Under his banner of equality, every needy child is welcome, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or gang affiliation.
With the help of his amazing First Knight, homeless fourteen-year-old Lance, Arthur transforms this ragtag band of rejected children and teens into a well-trained army-the Children of the Knight. Through his intervention, they win the hearts and minds of the populace at large, and gain a truer understanding of themselves and their worth to society. But seeking more rights for kids pits Arthur and the children squarely against the rich, the influential, and the self-satisfied politicians who want nothing more than to maintain the status quo.
Can right truly overcome might? Arthur’s hopeful young knights are about to find out, and the City of Angels will never be the same.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Edgy Young Adult
Rating – PG13
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