Cover Design for T.R. Verten – A Co-operative Working Model #bookcovers

T.R. Verten is a novelist with whom I had the pleasure of sharing a publisher – Republica Press.  As publishers change, covers must be changed as well, because the cover is IP that has usually been paid for and is owned by the publisher, not by the author. I asked T.R. to allow me to have a go at designing a new cover for the novel “Confessions of a Rent Boy.” We used a combination of GChat and email to show things back and forth to each other. I wanted to get a sense of what was good about the original design, and what was lacking. Also a preference for fonts, colours, etc.  T.R. graciously allowed me to have a go and, even more graciously, has written up a description of the process of working together with me to develop something that represented the spirit of the story, but would also stand out amidst the thousands of other books out there.

Original Cover

The original design was a stock photo with added text, which contained some of the elements I wanted, but had a pretty generic appearance. After we talked, RG took her cue from the aspects of that original cover that I liked: the long-exposure lights, the feeling of isolation. I wanted the cover to have the feel you get after being out all night partying and waiting for the first bus in the early morning hours.

The first set of covers (5,6,7) didn’t really resonate with me, even though the streetscape they portrayed had the right kind of vibe.

I much preferred the one with the man standing against the backdrop of an urban street in options 2 and 3, and the blue-toned cover was in the running to be one of the the final two. In the end, however, I decided that the solitary figure might actually confuse the issue, making the protagonist out to be a street prostitute, rather than simply a loner. Cover one gave off the same sort of impression, and was almost too seedy.

When I saw the abstract cover, though, I knew it was the right choice. The colors were rich and saturated, the pattern on the glass almost reminded me of tears. Though the book is erotica, it is suffused with sadness. The blue cover with a lone figure portrays a solitary man, whereas the cover I ultimately chose places the viewer in the protagonist’s place. Like the best writing, it shows rather than tells.

For my part, I’m really happy with the cover T.R. Verten chose. There’s a very nice semiotic contrast of the heat of the red tones and the cool of the drips of water. I like the ghostly lone figure of the protagonist, unfocused and waiting to be interpreted by the reader. It speaks to me of being terribly lonely in the midst of a crowded city.  In the final (far right version) I lowercased all the typography as requested, and agreed that this really spoke to it being a very 21st century story, with aspects of pragmatism and alienation.

But mostly, I hope it will really attract the reader’s eye. It will pop off the shelf or off a webpage and intrigue the potential reader, while allowing them the pleasures of anticipating unknown and yet somehow familiar landscapes.

  6 comments for “Cover Design for T.R. Verten – A Co-operative Working Model #bookcovers

  1. August 9, 2012 at 1:33 am

    I love the last set of covers. You get a sense of minimalism that suits it quite well. I always get quite bothered with covers. Your standard buff, half-naked torso is a bit iffy for me. I quite like something quirky and outre.


    • August 9, 2012 at 7:54 am

      Yeah, well, we don’t stretch to buff, half-naked torsos here. Primarily because we can’t afford them.

  2. Shar
    August 9, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Really enjoying all the discussion and examples of covers.

    People keep asking why 50 Shades of Grey sells (especially as opposed to other works in that genre). I think–great title, great covers.

    Cover image approval and cover copy approval is not a standard item on boilerplate publishing contracts. But there is no reason you can’t ask for it to be added. You’re only asking for “approval,” after all, an agreement–you’re not insisting that your vacation snapshot or your sister’s watercolor be the cover. You’re only saying, as the author, “I want to be able to agree that any cover going to the printer is an appropriate one for my work.” Even if you can’t always get cover approval clauses written into your contract, the more authors ask for that, the more often they’re going to appear. And these days, when increasingly marketing is being left to the author, it’s critical that authors have a product they can fully stand behind. You, RG, had that cover you were embarrassed to put up here (I can’t get the title without losing this screen and the comment, sorry, but the one about the woman who was NOT a prostitute. See? The awful image sticks in my mind beyond the title of the story!! That’s not right.).

    • August 9, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      Believe me, it stuck in my mind for fucking ever.

      • Shar
        August 9, 2012 at 11:28 pm

        I started asking for back cover copy approval after “someone in marketing” put a sentence on the back of one of my books that simply wasn’t true. I didn’t even see it till the books were on the shelf, though. Finally, seven years later, we had a second edition and a new cover. But it scratched at the back of my head all those years.

  3. SL
    August 10, 2012 at 1:42 am

    Really enjoying your series on book covers, especially the thoughts and process. I’m certainly guilty of being drawn to attractive book covers. I do like the outcome of this design, it grows more on me each time I look at it.

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