Functionality: 0 to 3 points. A cover has a basic job to do. Can you read the title and who wrote it? Is all the relevant information there? Is the information well ordered?
There is a bit of a built in advantage for book covers that don’t have a lot to say. Each cover needs firstly these two things:
- A title
- An author
In addition there are other text elements:
- Series title
- Publisher name (pretty rare these days)
- Egoboo thing ‘Number 1 New Yrok Tines Besteller!’, ‘Thrilling to the last page!’ Stevan Kring
A sequel that’s being promoted can end up with a gaggle of text elements.
Somebody IRL asked why do these weird points and that they don’t make it more objective. That’s right – the categories don’t make the judgements less opinionated or subjective but they do make you look at different aspects. Using subcategories is an attempt to make a judge reflect on their own opinion.
If you were using lots of judges you could also better see where there was consensus and disagreement.
Having said all that – this remains just me messing around with working out what I like and dislike about covers and your own mileage will vary!
More after the fold…
One aesthetic trick I think works really works nicely with book covers is the use of the diagonal implied by the oblong character of a book cover.
I’ve made this one into an extreme example but the elements need not create two regions quite as starkly or as abstractly as this one.
It seems to do a lot of things:
- create a sense of movement
- organises features of the cover into more areas
- allows for different colour contrasts without being too busy
- introduces shapes other than rectangular blocks
I mention it because I noticed most of the covers in this years list are a lot more centrally aligned – either creating a simple vertical line or implying one by using partial symmetry along the cover’s central vertical line.
An example that is both extreme and very subtle (and why I used purple in the abstract example) are the great cover designs for Heather Rose Jones’s Alpennia books.
That silk curtain/drape does a lot of work – suggesting secrets in line with the alchemy elements of the books, romance elements, aristocracy but also as a graphic design element.
Some interesting diagonals in the cover list I’ve got this year:
Borderline Artist/Designer: an unsung hero| by Mishell Baker, Saga ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Central Station Artist/Designer: Sarah Anne Langton | by Lavie Tidhar, Tachyon Publishing ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Final Girls Artist/Designer: Julie Dillon| by Mira Grant, Subterranean Press ISFDB or Amazon Entry
This next one uses a variety of different oblique lines rather than the main diagonal of the cover rectangle.
Firebrand Artist/Designer: Michael Heath| by A.J.Hartley, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
These last two are just a bit off from vertical but still make some use of the effect:
The Drowning Eyes Artist/Designer: Cynthia Sheppard| by Emily Foster, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Too Like the Lightning Artist/Designer: Victor Mosquera | by Ada Palmer, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Artwork: 0 to 4 points. Not every book cover needs its own epic painting but if it has one then the work gets graded from 0 to 4. Note that this is purely in terms of the artwork on its own merits. Relevance and appropriateness to the book will be covered elsewhere.
Pretty book covers get more points on this criteria but may get less points on later criteria. As always – just my opinion, partly disected.
Pictures after the fold.
- A Closed and Common Orbit Artist/Designer: Christopher Doll| by Becky Chambers, Harper Voyager ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Very similar cover and variants were discussed in depth last time with Long way…
- All the Birds in the Sky Artist/Designer: Will Staehle| by Charlie Jane Anders, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
This was a painful choice. I only want one Will Staehle cover in the list and Walkaway is the more interesting of the st.
- Infomocracy Artist/Designer: Will Staehle| by Malka Older, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
A lovely cover but works less well at thumbnail size and I have to choose between Will Staehle covers.
- Iron Dragoons Artist/Designer: an unsung hero| by Richard Fox, Triplane Press ISFDB or Amazon Entry
This is a good functional cover but looming-combat-armour-droid-thing is not novel enough.
- Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge Artist/Designer: Alan Pollack | by Larry Correia and John Ringo, Baen ISFDB or Amazon Entry
We’ve discussed the Monster Hunter covers before and this has all the same features. I’ve nothing new to say.
- The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe Artist/Designer: Victo Ngai| by Kij Johnson, Tor ISFDB or Amazon EntryNice but the lesser of the two Victo Ngai covers IMHO.
- The Long List Anthology Volume 2: More Stories from the Hugo Award Nomination List Artist/Designer: Galen Dara & Pat R Stiener| by ed David Steffen, Diabolical Plots ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Great art but the inherent difficulty of an anthology cover makes this cover less good than the other Galen Dara entry.
- The Obelisk Gate Artist/Designer: Lauren Panepinto | by N.K. Jemisin, Orbit ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Nice but no substantial design differences from The Fifth Season. I’d have nothing new to say here.
It is a super long list! Thanks for all the suggestions but I didn’t include them all (looks specifically at Doris for a moment). I also went hunting for some extra names and interesting covers of books I haven’t heard of. Obvious note: appearance on the list is not any kind of endorsement of the content of the books or their authors and in some cases I know nothing about the books at all – but at least one was intentionally deplorable.
I didn’t list it as a step but as with last year I will need to cull the list down a bit. One thing I will do is only have one work by a given artist/designer. That rule will be particularly tough when it comes to the three Will Staehle covers (All the Birds, Infomocracy & Walkaway) but it will be tough choosing between the two Victo Ngai covers also. The next post will cover the covers I’ve excluded once I’ve decided.
As always the eligibility period here was very flexible. For ease of scrolling the list with thumbnails is after the fold. [Update: some issues identified in the comments fixed]
It is almost certainly that time again for the amazingly over complicated Book Cover Award thing for 2017! And you can participate (sort of)!
The winners for 2016 can be seen here: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/book-cover-award-thing-2016-the-results/
A reminder of how this works. There is no eligibility period.
- A draft long list is made from finalist from the Hugos, Nebulas and Clarke Awards, as well as the winners of book categories from the Dragons.
- To the long list we add book covers suggested in the comments by anybody (and yes that includes Phantom as per last year). Also I may add additional covers to keep it interesting.
- The covers are then scored on a set of criteria (see below).
- Points are totaled and the highest scoring cover(s) are the winners.
- Winning artist/designer gets a JPEG of Timothy.
The scoring criteria are:
- Artwork: 0 to 4 points. Not every book cover needs its own epic painting but if it has one then the work gets graded from 0 to 4. Note that this is purely in terms of the artwork on its own merits. Relevance and appropriateness to the book will be covered elsewhere.
- Functionality: 0 to 3 points. A cover has a basic job to do. Can you read the title and who wrote it? Is all the relevant information there? Is the information well ordered?
- Graphic design (aesthetic): 0 to 6 points. Text, art, borders, colour, everything – as a complete image, how good is the cover in terms of making all the bits work together aesthetically? An extra couple of points are available here for covers with no artwork per-se, so that artwork-heavy covers don’t get an in-built advantage.
- Relevance/appropriateness: 0 to 2 points. I haven’t read all the books, so I don’t want to weight this too heavily. Based on plot synopsis/reviews, does the book cover fit its contents? Does this horror story set in feudal Japan look like a cyberpunk western set in Mexico?
And here is the draft longlist! Shorter than last year. I’m not going to do multiple cover versions. If a book has two different cover designs and the artist is listed for one but not the other then I go with the cover that has an artist. As with last year a variety of nationalities but men out number women 14 to 5 – so covers designed/created by women would be particularly welcome as suggestions.
- A Closed and Common Orbit Artist/Designer: Christopher Doll| by Becky Chambers, Harper Voyager ISFDB Entry
- After Atlas Artist/Designer: Anxo Amarelle | by Emma Newman, Roc ISFDB Entry
- All the Birds in the Sky Artist/Designer: Will Staehle| by Charlie Jane Anders, Tor ISFDB Entry
- Babylon’s Ashes Artist/Designer: Daniel Dociu| by James S.A. Corey, Orbit ISFDB Entry
- Borderline Artist/Designer: an unsung hero| by Mishell Baker, Saga ISFDB Entry
- Central Station Artist/Designer: Sarah Anne Langton | by Lavie Tidhar, Tachyon Publishing ISFDB Entry
- Death’s End Artist/Designer: Stephan Martiniere | by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu, Tor ISFDB Entry
- Everfair Artist/Designer: Victo Ngai| by Nisi Shawl, Tor ISFDB Entry
- Fallout: The Hot War Artist/Designer: David G. Stevenson| by Harry Turtledove, Del Rey ISFDB Entry
- Iron Dragoons Artist/Designer: an unsung hero| by Richard Fox, Triplane Press ISFDB Entry
- Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge Artist/Designer: Alan Pollack | by Larry Correia and John Ringo, Baen ISFDB Entry
- Ninefox Gambit Artist/Designer: Chris Moore| by Yoon Ha Lee, Solaris ISFDB Entry
- Occupy Me Artist/Designer: Sidonie Beresford-Browne| by Tricia Sullivan, Gollancz ISFDB Entry
- The Changeling Artist/Designer: Yuko Shimizu | by Victor LaValle, Spiegel & Grau ISFDB Entry
- The Hammer of Thor Artist/Designer: John Rocco | by Rick Riordan, Disney Hyperion ISFDB Entry
- The Obelisk Gate Artist/Designer: Lauren Panepinto | by N.K. Jemisin, Orbit ISFDB Entry
- The Underground Railroad Artist/Designer: Oliver Munday | by Colson Whitehead, Fleet ISFDB Entry
- Too Like the Lightning Artist/Designer: Victor Mosquera | by Ada Palmer, Tor ISFDB Entry
- Walkaway Artist/Designer: Will Staehle| by Cory Doctorow, Tor ISFDB Entry
A shorter interval than usual between McEdifice chapters. The delays are not in the speed of Timothy’s writing – he writes like the wind, as is only proper. Quantity is the mark of the true author and Tim has no time for those lazy liberal writers who are all “boo hoo, the collapse of civil society is getting in the way of my typing”.
Of course, I have to make his blimmin’ chapter covers (who has covers for chapters for grudness sake) and I am distracted by the collapse of civil society. Still I was inspired yesterday by my perennial guru for all things SF book covery: Brad Torgersen.
Brad was extolling the wonders of this cover for a forthcoming book by Mike Kupari.
I’ve already discussed Brad’s paradox before and he still seems to want books he doesn’t like to both HAVE and NOT HAVE overtly SF covers. The cover to All the Birds in the Sky makes him grumpy because its has no spaceships and yet he complains about books that do have spaceships on the cover being too literary. You just can’t win.
Or can you?
See, the way I see it is, if three, maybe four, rocket nozzles are good then NINE smokin’ rocket nozzles is EVEN BETTER!