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where I bemoan the loss of painted book covers (rather than stock-photo ones)

 
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Has anyone else noticed how more and more book covers are photoshopped stock photos, rather than works of art? Sometimes these end up well done, but usually they look...cheap...and don't illustrate the book well. It makes me sad. I lack the ability to paint mental pictures (yes, I can't draw something unless I'm looking at it or compiling reference pictures), and I really can never really visualize the characters and scenes in a book. So, I love a well-drone book cover that illustrates the characters and scenes. (And yes, I know, there's a lot of painted book covers that totally misrepresent the book, but it seems like stock-photo book covers do it more.)

For example, these were the first covers made for The Truth Books, by Dawn Cook



The artist painted the main character in the correct colored and styled robes, even has her hair color and hair length right, and even put in little details accurately like her necklace.
...and then the books got republished with new covers....that put her in clothes that don't fit the world at all...and the images just look cheap.



Side-by-side larger comparison of the last books in the series:



I feel a part of the first cover, like I could step into the story and be lost in that land. Despite the newer cover having an actual photographof a person, I just don't feel like I could walk into that world. I used to spend a long time contemplating the covers of books, admiring the artwork, looking up the artist, and just plain being inspired. I've never once looked up a stock-photo artist. The artwork doesn't draw me in, it doesn't help me build the world.

But, apparently people are turning more and more to photoshopped stock photos for covers because it sells? At least, that's what this stock photo artist says

But, one of the downfalls is that there could be a bunch of other book covers that use the stock photo. For example:

From Caustic Cover Critic's twitter page


and

From Caustic Cover Critic's twitter page


and

From Caustic Cover Critic's twitter page


(there's a whole article about this, here)

I guess I'm just sad about there apparently being one less job for quality traditional artists. This isn't to say that photoshopping images is easy (I sure couldn't make covers like others do!), but I just love the warmth and depth and creativity in a painted cover, rather than just a photomanupulated cover.

Am I the only one? Maybe I'm just getting cranky and old and want to stick with how things were when I was a kid. That could very well be it!
 
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I'll join you on the old and cranky list about this. I find it just sad. I sorrow for younger people who will never know what it is like to repeatedly flip and look at the cover when reading, to help see in their mind what the story might look like. To me, that's what art is, taking the images from the mind of those who can see them, and putting them out for others who don't visualize well, to help them see too. It's a type of magic! It can be done well on the computer instead of painting, but it's less likely.

I have book covers I haven't seen in years that can still take me back into the book just by looking at them. But the ones you linked, no, they don't take anyone anywhere. They are just bright colored graphics to make a book stand out on a shelf. And looking at both types of covers, if I were glancing at books, I'd pick up and look at the older ones, see if I was interested. The newer ones I'd have not even picked up, I'd have glanced, said "romance novel" and gone on.... I look for dragons in my books, not romance :D

I agree, it's not a good sign of the times at all. It saddens me.
 
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Everything is about 'cheap'. Book covers, sadly, are no exception. I recently saw some new Nancy Drew books, and they were the same way. Nothing like the old ones, that pulled you in. The funny thing is, in most stuff, my imagination can fill in the blanks, and I find it incredibly irritating when they don't match up - and rewarding, when they do.
 
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I hear you. But I have a question for you too. Would you be willing to spend $3-$5 more per volume to pay the artist? Not that I don't think it's justified, I do.

That's a guesstimate, not a real number. But artists do have to be paid.

Also, with fewer and fewer people buying dead tree books, would you buy 5 copies of a title you were interested in?

I really do understand. But unless we all buy 3-10 copies of every book we buy, the answer may be to go into publishing yourself...



 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:But, apparently people are turning more and more to photoshopped stock photos for covers because it sells? At least, that's what this stock photo artist says



Bald-faced lies I believe. Photoshopping a cover doesn't improve sales. It cuts the bottom line. If you purchase a pre-made cover, it can be as little as 50 dollars. A high end one is 300. Custom work like the old school painted covers (even when digital) starts at no less than 500 and goes up into the thousands. Between Amazon pushing the value of a book down and the huge number of people self-publishing, most publishers and independent authors alike are going the cheaper photoshop route. I've also seen multiple 'experts' insisting that because the thumbnails for a book cover can be so small, that complex images just don't work. Hence why so many books now are monochromatic and very basic images rather than complex and detailed works that tell a story.

I hate modern covers with very few exceptions. I can only hope that any book I publish manages to have real artwork on the cover. I don't get much say when going through a publishing house though.
 
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I feel the same way, Nicole.  Reminds me of when Atlantic magazine, which I read since my teens, switched from illustrated covers to photos. It marked a a downhill turn, they got rid of their short stories around the same time.

Seems like everything is compartmentalized now.  Music used to come wrapped in orginal visual art, like books too.  More of an immersive artistic experience.
 
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Does this post make you feel better?

A real, live, cover artist who paints, talking about their cover making process.

https://www.dandossantos.com/the-making-of-wild-sign

Admittedly, the style is more modern than the ones you posted but I found reading about the cover making process really fascinating.



 
Nicole Alderman
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Catie George wrote:Does this post make you feel better?

A real, live, cover artist who paints, talking about their cover making process.

https://www.dandossantos.com/the-making-of-wild-sign

Admittedly, the style is more modern than the ones you posted but I found reading about the cover making process really fascinating.



Oooh, those DO make me happy! I checked out their portfolio. The paintings are more modern, but they do a fantastic job of making the "simplified" designs that apparently publishers want now (so they're more eye-catching as a thumbnail), while bringing in details and depth from the stories. Lovely, vibrant colors, near-photo realism while doing what stock photos can't: bringing in accurate touches from the stories.

Just look at these!







I loved reading the article about the artist's process. It's so neat to how much work goes into these beauties! I really love that they used the same model for reference photos for the whole series (it's a bit frustrating when the character changes facial structure drastically through a series!)
 
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As D. Logan said, it all comes down to cost. A stock photo costs a few dollars, commissioning an artist will cost many hundreds, at a minimum. I prefer the painted style covers for fantasy, too. It just says fantasy to me, while as Pearl said, the photo cover says romance (which I happen to enjoy, but not if I'm looking for fantasy!). But unless the publisher knows they'll sell enough copies to justify commissioning custom art work, they won't. I'm kinda puzzled at the rebranding of existing books with photo covers, though. If they want a fresh look, they could do that with new typography on the existing painted designs and some light tweaks to the images.

Romance overall sells more than fantasy, so I suspect that had something to do with it, too.  Or, did the publisher stay the same between editions? I wonder if the rights reverted to the author, who has published the new editions herself. Rights for the cover designs would remain with the original publisher, so she'd have to get new ones. As well, any edits and proofreading done by the publishing house remain with the original publisher. All the author gets back is what she sent them. So chances are, she'd need to pay to get those redone, as well. That would explain there not being much left in the budget for covers.
 
Nicole Alderman
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I think--in this case--they republished with new covers because the author, Dawn Cook, started writing under a new name (Kim Harrison), and her pen-name writes a very different genre of books. Her "Hollow" series written as Kim Harrison are, I gather, really popular (#1 bestseller on the New York Times list). And the Kim Harrison books are vampire romances (if the covers are any indication).

I think they were trying to entice people who liked her vampire books to buy her other books under her real name. So, they gave the Truth Series books new covers that (1) advertised her pseudonym, and (2) had the same sort of visual feel as her other books.
 
D. Logan
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A good example of the pricing on one of the artists who is doing custom work for book covers. I'd say it is worth it, but it is also a far cry more expensive than letting someone photo-bash a few stock images for 50 to 300. Even more so for self-published individuals, since the average self-pub starter isn't going to be able to make that money back in sales.

Jeff Brown Graphics
 
Pearl Sutton
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D Logan: Wow, that guy does nice work! Thank you for the link, I enjoyed looking. That's what books look like in my head, not the ones Nicole  posted....
 
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One of my 'facebook friends' makes such photo-book-covers (she writes novels too, makes her own covers, and for other books). But I prefer real paintings, works of fine art, too. The book I am writing (almost finished) sure will have a cover I designed myself (probably a drawing, not a painting).
 
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Add me to the list of loving old style covers, either painted or sketched. Here’s a couple examples of simple yet highly detailed books from the past. The cover with the house and waterfall is from 1975. The 2 page spread with door details is from A Reverence for Wood, written and illustrated by Eric Sloane in 1965. Even if I had no obsessive interest in building and working with wood, I’d still be mesmerized by the detailed drawings in both of these books. A photo, regardless of pixel count, would hardly be as captivating.
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[Thumbnail for 0ABF6424-867F-40F4-BB8D-F19BA9F29737.jpeg]
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[Thumbnail for 7D47F233-2220-4959-B61B-A87E61ED127B.jpeg]
 
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That wood working art is just, wow. Beautiful.
I'm neither old, nor cranky. Photoshopped covers are just...disappointing.
 
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I love older styles of cover design. But when I (eventually) get my next book ready to publish, I won't be able to afford something like that. I'm hoping for original, eye-catching, and reminiscent of the feel of the story, but my options are limited. And I've never seen a pre-made cover that looks remotely right for this wacky story. Thought about doing a kickstarter to help with some of the costs, but I don't know if I could manage something like that, so I will more than likely have to stay low-tech and inexpensive.
 
Julie Reed
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Mollie Kay wrote:  I'm hoping for original, eye-catching, and reminiscent of the feel of the story, but my options are limited.



You might be surprised if you search around a bit. I know of a couple people who sell artwork as a side gig, and don’t charge a whole lot. Guessing that’s the case pretty much everywhere. I talked with one person who was willing to do 8x10 oil paintings of anything for $100. Might be worth looking on Craigslist or Fb marketplace. Could also be worth it to the artist to have recognition of being published.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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my book will be totally illustrated, including the cover, by myself. This will be the first book published that's written by me, but I have illustrated a few books before. It isn't a job, I can't live from that little money, but I consider it a hobby.
 
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I am an artist and am interested in your project. I’d like to know more specifically what you are looking for and what medium. I am thinking pencil drawing with some color. I know you had mentioned earlier that you’d like the drawings to be activity based and pertain to homesteading. Which aspects would you like to showcase?
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Isabel Bolton wrote:I am an artist and am interested in your project. I’d like to know more specifically what you are looking for and what medium. I am thinking pencil drawing with some color. I know you had mentioned earlier that you’d like the drawings to be activity based and pertain to homesteading. Which aspects would you like to showcase?


Hi Isable. Is this question for me? Maybe it is ... In this thread I did mention my (coming) book and my illustrations. If I said the drawings are on activities and homesteading, that is because that's the subject of the book I mean. It is in Dutch and based on the situation here in the Netherlands (so won't be translated) and it's a mix of fiction and non-fiction.
It's a story about a very young mother, Tanya, with her small toddler son who learn about permaculture / homesteading. The story is meant to learn young people about the permaculture principles.
The illustrations are drawings in black pen, as if they were the sketches Tanya made in her Journal. Everything she learns, or finds interesting, she writes some lines on it and makes a sketch. It can be plants or birds, but also how the rainwater catchment works, or what she sees when she looks through a microscope.
 
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