Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Designing the Wind of the Spirit Cover

Cross posted on Publishing Dream.

We all know that creating a striking cover is one of the most effective tools for marketing a book. When I worked at Abingdon Press, getting approval for a book cover was one of the most important and stressful hurdles we faced. So when I began thinking about the cover for my own next project, Wind of the Spirit, I ran right into a question that stymied me for a while.

How do you illustrate a title like Wind of the Spirit?

Well, obviously the cover has to give an impression of what the book’s all about. It has to basically encapsulate the story’s theme and focus. How to do that with this particular book was the issue.

One thing I’ve heard from a number of readers and authors is that they prefer book covers that don’t include people. Trying to capture the characters in the book is iffy because everybody is going to have a different take on them. Especially the author, as I discovered while wrestling with Zondervan over the covers of my first two books. So I do agree it’s more effective to engage readers in the story by allowing them to visualize, and thus identify more closely with, the people they find on the pages of your book. It makes reading more interactive, and that draws the reader into the story.

The cover designs of my first 2 books in this series were essentially out of my control. Zondervan gave me some input, but at the end of the day, it was their marketing department that had the final say. Now, as a publisher I know marketing considerations are very important in the design of a cover. But big publishers put out a whole lot of books, and too often it’s the same old same old, the easy, hopefully safe bet, the publisher ends up going with. In my case, I was never happy with the covers on Daughter of Liberty and Native Son though admittedly some of my friends developed a passionate relationship with the model on Native Son. Okay, I’m teasing, but they did like him. A lot.

Now, however, I face making the right decisions myself since I’m the publisher. And that’s even more stressful than being stuck with a cover you don’t care for. What cover would have the best odds of selling this book?

Well . . . I came up with this crazy idea . . . Yeah, right. So what else is new? LOL! You knew that was coming.

I’m not going into all the details of what we’re planning at this point—once we have a final cover, I’ll post it, of course. But in doing extensive searches on istockphoto, I came up with these 2 images of the same scene in portrait and landscape orientation. They’re perfect for the front and back of a book cover. The first one even has black bars across the top and bottom where the title and author name can go. And the one in landscape orientation gives us enough of the scene to wrap around the spine and back cover. Of course, we’ll have to ghost that portion—put a screen on it—so we can run text legibly across it, and it will be just visible in the background.

The crazy tree that sticks up is going to be eliminated. And there will be a figure and some other detailing in the scene itself, but it will all be subtle and full of motion. Dineen Miller is working on the overall design, and she enlisted Frank Wu, who is doing the magic with the images. They think they can achieve the look I want, and I am totally excited at how this is developing!

Isn’t this scene amazing! Strangely enough, these photos were taken in Kenya, but I was so captivated by the powerful image of a gathering storm that I knew this scene gave just the right feel of foreboding and movement that I was looking for.

So what do you think? Will this make a fabulous cover or not?


  1. Hi Joan,

    I love that fact you are journaling about your newest novel coming out. The book covers did not show up on the page. Can you put them into jpgs and then put them up. I'd love to see them.

    I agree. People do judge a book by its cover. It's the first thing they see. Next is the first few lines, then the price.

    Thanks for commenting over on my blog. I will keep Sheaf House in mind. How do you feel about doing reprints of books that have been out of print for a while?

  2. Joan,

    I LIKE that image. Evocative, moody, atmospheric, and slightly mystical/spiritual too. I like the black at top and bottom.

    Do you plan to find similar photos for the DOL and NS rereleases?

  3. Rita,

    Did you check out Publishing Dream to see if you could see them on that blog? Your browser may be keeping you from seeing them. These are jpegs, so they should be visible to you, but your browser may be blocking them. I'd be glad to e-mail them to you if you can't see them. I'd love to have your feedback. :-)

    I am definitely open to taking a look at books that have been out of print especially if they're part of a series. Let's talk further.

  4. Lori,

    Those were my exact thoughts about these photos! They kinda gave me goosebumps. And yes, I want all the covers in this series to have the same "look." So when I re-release DOL and NS I'll try to find evocative photos that relate to those stories to give them a series feel.

    I'm on pins and needles wondering what Frank Wu is going to come up with for the figure. I've seen shots of the model he's using, but after he gets through with the photo, it'll look really different. Very evocative, I think, if he can achieve the look I want. At the least, it's going to be really different. :-)

  5. I see them now, Joan. I love those photos. Beautiful yet haunting. A sense of movement and storm. The rich color of blue and grays stir the emotions.