Thursday, April 8, 2010

Evolution of a Cover A DEMON INSIDE

A Demon Inside is my gay horror/romance about a possessed house in the wilds of Wisconsin, coming out next summer from MLR Press.

I recently had the privilege to work with the great--and very receptive--cover artist Alex Beecroft on the cover for the book and wanted to share with you the process we went through in order to get to the final product, which you see at left.

I stared off by giving Alex the following suggestions, along with the synopsis that had already been developed for the back cover.

"Hunter Beaumont doesn’t understand his grandmother’s deathbed wish: “Destroy Beaumont House.” He’d never even heard of the place. But after his grandmother passes and his first love betrays him, the family house in the Wisconsin woods looks like a tempting refuge. Going against his grandmother’s will, Hunter flees to Beaumont House.

But will the house be the sanctuary he had hoped for? Soon after moving in, Hunter realizes he may not be alone. And with whom—or what—he shares the house may plunge him into a nightmare from which he may never escape. Sparks fly when he meets his handsome neighbor, a caretaker for the estate next door, but is the man his salvation…or is he the source of Hunter’s terror?

I am also attaching three other covers that convey the mood and style of what I hope for (one of them is yours). While I don't care for the type at all, THE CHOSEN is probably closest what I'm looking for: a creepy old house and two male figures facing one another, all shadowy and moody.

The house in the story, by the way, is a big old American field stone mansion. It doesn't have to be exactly like that, but I wouldn't want to see anything like a castle or an English manor, if you go that route. But I encourage you to play with ideas and let your imagination roam free."

These are the covers I sent Alex to use as inspiration:

Right off the bat, Alex came up with a the cover we would eventually go with, proving that there's something to be said for trusting one's first instincts. Of course, I couldn't just go with the first attempt and I asked her for more options, saying: "I really, really love it and am tempted to say we're done. My only hesitation is that there's just one male on the cover and the idea that this is also a gay love story as well may not come across. Would it be too much to ask if you could do something that would incorporate two males, like the cover I sent you for THE CHOSEN?

I am not ruling this one out by any means, though. It's terrific. But just wondered if you could do an alternate with the above in mind..
." Here are a few of the choices Alex came up with:

Obviously, the "couples" idea just didn't work as well as the solitary guy (if you look closely at the second one, you can see where she even tried adding a cracked photo in a frame to add the dimension of my main character fleeing a broken relationship); too corny for me. The cover using the guy appearing out of smoke was cool, but too horror-ish and also not easy to immediately discern just what the hell it was.

So I had just about decided to go with option #1, when I ran across the cover for the book above. Oh damn! I thought, we can't use that; it's almost the same. Yes, the image was a stock photo and could be used by anyone, but still... Alex went back to work, photoshopping the existing #1 choice to swap out colors to make it look different. It looked different, all right...and not as good. We tried some other options, including the one at left, which I loved, but not as much as the first.

You know how the story ends of course. After long thought and talk with Alex, we decided the best option was the one that was the most intriguing and arresting, which was the very first one she came up with. We both agreed no one was likely to even run across both covers (until now) and that they were different and that the books they fronted were very different as well. Besides, as Alex showed me, images for cover art have a history of being used and reused on several different books. Just go to Reusable Cover Art for a whole bevy of examples of how many books use the same images for different covers.

So, I'm satisfied and looking forward the summer publication of A Demon Inside.

But I really want to know: what do you think of the cover? Please let me (and Alex) a comment below.

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  1. I think you went with the right one. I like the first one best. It's creepy and screams haunted house without being over the top.

    The story sounds great, btw. I look forward to reading it. :D

  2. I like the one you went with! How stock photos are used and reused is fascinating - I actually have a weekly series called Misadventures in Stock Photography on my blog.

  3. Cover art can be quite the bone of contention between an author and an artist. It sounds like and appears that you were lucky to have Alex.

    The cover is exquisite. Looking at it I get the feeling that the man is listening to a voice only he can hear. One that emanates from the house itself, a voice that is seducing him to a dark place.

    Being both artist and writer I believe you chose the best cover. It's haunting and seductive.

  4. LOVE it! Really eye-catching and the composition alone makes me want to read it.

  5. That is a wonderful cover. I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say that cover art is a very traumatic thing for me. I often leave it to the pros because I feel that they know best what sells, and the one time I made a suggestion it wasn't a wise choice. (Not telling what though)

    So I say bravo for you and of course, a big league Brava for my lovely and talented Alex, birthday sister that she is, because I've known for a long time that she's a triple threat, Great writer, talented artist, and practically too darned nice to be real!

  6. Cover designs for print books have different needs than ebooks. The title should be visible even when the books are stacked on staired racks if possible. That's why all print covers have the most important thing at the very top--either the title or the best selling author's name. Ebooks are so much more flexible in design because they will never see a shelf or promotion table and have their covers obscured by another book. The design process is limited by what is available at a reasonable cost at a royalty free photo site. It's a tough job for any artists to capture the essence of a book in a glimpse.

  7. It's interesting to see the process laid out like this. But I'm rendered a bit speechless by ZAM's lovely words :)

    As an author myself, I know that after all that work and imagination and patience and thought that goes into writing the thing, it's absolutely soul destroying if you don't get a cover you can't at least live with (preferably love!) So I'm very happy that you are happy with it. That's the aim of the game for me as far as cover art goes.

    Laura's right, of course, that there are all sorts of limitations on cover art that authors don't necessarily think of - and getting dramatic pictures is one of the biggest. It's probably not surprising that the really good pictures get chosen more than once.

    Chris' Misadventures in Stock Photography blog is fascinating. I hoped I'd get away from the problem of reusing pictures by staying away from the photos of hunks, but it didn't seem to work that way :)

  8. On one of those Misadventures posts, Jordan Castillo Price commented that part of the problem is not enough good stock photos of men.

    I have enough material for months and months more on that series...

  9. I love the cover, the stock photo use here makes it stand out rather than feel like one has seen it too many times before. Great job! I look forward to reading this.

  10. As both a graphic designer and an author, I can really appreciate both sides of this. In my humble (but somewhat educated opinion), you went with the right cover. I might have included the second guy in the darker space below, indicating that he might better belong to that nether realm (and I even kinda liked the broken photograph). Job well done.

  11. I would have gone with the guy coming out of the smoke, but this looks good too.

  12. Great cover! Isn't Alex wonderful? She is the only cover artist I've worked with who actually LISTENS to what you say, and makes changes accordingly. If I ever win the lottery, I'm going to buy her one of those stock-shot CDs...

  13. What's funny is when I saw your cover, I almost sent you a note saying that's the same stock as My Hero because I recognized it immediately. I wouldn't have guessed no one would recognize the first book with that cover model since it's been around for a while from Queer Mojo/Rebel Satori. Different publishers and genres kind of (urban fantasy vs. horror) but both are gay literature.

    That's not to say it can't be used of course and the cover of My Hero was a big reason I chose that book too. I do agree there is a real lack of good stock pictures and that's why there are so many similar covers used. Thanks for the insight! I was curious if you knew about the other cover.

  14. Boy, if I didn't love Alex so much I'd hate her. How much talent is one person supposed to have??? The cover you chose is perfect,Rick, and I thought your description of the process was very interesting. I know from past experience that not all publishers or all artists are that amenable to working WITH the author instead of just doing their own thing. Alex is a jewel. Shhh, don't tell her I said that or she'll get a swelled head.

  15. I thought the new book was some sort of dual pack with "My Hero" because I recognized it right away. I never forget a hot guy. LOL


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