In an earlier blog post, I wondered aloud (well, not really aloud...atext? Aprint? Ablogged?) about why people like and dislike certain colors. And why pretty much everyone disagrees with my aesthetic tastes. Well, the subject has come up again.
Recently, someone was kind enough to explain to me (in detail) why they hate my book cover. No, not the old one. The new one I was so proud of and happy with, and which I thought had addressed the shortcomings of my first attempt (as well as incorporating snippets from some reviews, and a new blurb). Not as aesthetically offensive as the first one, I was informed, but they both pretty much suck.
(The colors came out pretty dull in these photos. But that's probably a positive to everyone but me.)
Well, in a nutshell, a lot of what I was told made sense. I'm still not convinced I should change the print cover as radically as suggested, but I've decided to change the ebook cover to a more conventional (yawn), simple design. The points that really sunk it are as follows:
1. Ebook shoppers see thumbnail images first. And when a detailed cover ("busy" is the graphic design/marketing term, I guess) like mine is reduced to that size, everything is muddled and confusing, or "ugly."
2. Even when displayed at size, a 72 dpi web image of even an attractive cover murks up the details and makes it kinda' ugly. So...
3. The name of the game is to keep it simple. Stone friggin' simple, judging by all the other book covers out there. Outside of western, sci fi or fantasy covers, the most detailed illustration you're gonna see on a book these days is the presidential seal with blood splattered on it, a sinister shadow cast over it or a figure running across it. (I've just described every other paperback cover in Barnes & Noble, BTW.)
4. Evidently the only colors acceptable to most of Earth's population are black, white, or (dull, drab, bland) variations on blue or green.
5. Despite the wise old adage, people do judge a book by its cover.
Somewhat aware of this, even a year ago, my original cover concept for Hell and Gone was merely a Halliburton-type metal suitcase with a radiation symbol on it. But, to me, an image like that does not connote a military adventure/action novel. More like a Sum of All Fears technothriller or maybe an espionage novel. Besides, doggone it, I wanted a five-body fireteam standing in wedge formation in the desert with the sky behind them aglow from a nuclear blast. I thought it would look cool, so nyah-nyah, orthodoxy.
Well, keeping #5 above in mind, I'll soon be conducting an experiment of sorts. I took some pictures. A grenade on various camo-pattern BDU shirts. A grenade next to a bandolier, with another camo pattern as background. A grenade on a stack of ammo boxes. A helmet on a stack of ammo boxes. A carefully composed shot with loaded magazine in the foreground, a nylon assault rifle case standing up on the right (topped by a helmet), web gear on the left, a flack vest in between, tactical kneepads above that...even as I took the last couple photos of that display, I could hear the voice of the Great Sage of Advertising Orthodoxy whispering, "Too busy...too busy..."
I don't particularly like how any of these photos came out, but I'll probably take one of them, sandwich it in between letterboxing in an approved color with title and author in bold, stark letters, and see how it looks. If it's boring, but conveys what kind of book it is somehow, logic dictates that it should improve sales.
No, actually what I think I'll do is take one of the bodies in my fireteam (probably the guy with the M21), sandwich him between some drab letterboxing with fat, stark letters, and call that my ebook cover. Yeah. Look for that, coming soon.