So, how do you create a cover for a (fantasy) book?
Step 1. Communication!
What does the author have in mind? Which images does he like, what other books is he drawn to? Making sure what to expect in the beginning is essential – and is extremely helpful in avoiding misunderstandings. Imagine you’re almost done with the cover, show it to the author and they say “it looks nice but not at all what I had in mind” – you would have to start over again…
Step 2. Research
What do other books from that genre look like? Check out amazon, book shops (sometimes it also makes a big difference to see books in real life) and your own shelf. Maybe something inspires you, maybe you don’t like some aspects of a certain book – all these inspirations are truly important. Additionally, in this case, it was a fantasy book. So readers who see the book should already have an idea of what it’s about – in media psychology, that’s called cognitive schema¹ and helps with understanding).
Step 3. Thumbnailing
Even if the author already has an idea of the setting and look of the image, it might help to explore some new ideas. Using loose strokes, try to put down an overall feeling, drawing from your research and your ideas and of course the “feeling” of the text.
In this case, the thumbnails looked not fitting and we turned back to the original idea. That’s also okay!
Step 4. Paint the cover
Paint the cover and you’re done! Well, not quite 🙂
Naturally, the painting progress takes up most time. And it involves all of the above steps – going back to other books, researching what a mountain looks like, getting feedback from the author and other people as well… This step consists of many iterations. I personally rather show my creations more often in between, so that I can try things out and get fast feedback.
It might seem like it takes more time to show it to the author in between, but I am certain that in the end it even saves you time. Additionally, you don’t get buried in details so quickly.
I think it’s helpful to set myself little deadlines for bigger projects and I usually tell the person I’m working with, at which point I want to have created something. This way, it’s easy for both sides to follow the process.
When you’re done painting the cover, there’s also the title. But I’ll talk about that another time!
So, without further ado: Here’s my process for the Cover of “Blaue Legende” and the final Cover:
The title of this blog has sparked another idea in my mind: Creating a new cover for a book you like. Maybe with a different genre? This sounds like a fun idea that sounds like it needs to be tested!
¹ Mangold, R., Vorderer, P. & Bente, G. (Publ.): Lehrbuch der Medienpsychologie (Hogrefe Verlag)