Book Covers - Inspiration and design | Paul McCracken Books

Updated: Jan 30





I tend to treat my book covers with a lot of attention and care. Some authors will treat them as a by-product or see them as just part of the process of a book. They may trivialize them, insisting that it's the story that sells the book, not the cover. Or they may create a generic, blank cover with just the title text.


To be honest, sometimes I do like those designs depending on the colour scheme and font, but your book cover is in essence your best advertising poster, so make it a good one.


For me, I think they are just as important, if not more so than the title of the book.


I always get a very concise idea of what the cover should look like in my head after coming up with the title. I like to view them as more of a movie poster than a book cover as that is what attracts me to new books. You've heard the saying a thousand times, "never judge a book by it's cover" but we all do. With that in mind, from the start of my career as a novelist I have strived to make the most captivating and impressive covers I can. I want the covers to represent the tone of the story as well as perhaps a plot point.


Taking the lead


With every cover to date, as well as my upcoming books, I have always maintained a very core role in their creation. Having a background in art and (as a hobbyist) photography, I wanted to be in control of creating each cover to my vision by myself. I asked for help on my first outing to get it right, that's when I enlisted the help of a close friend who is also a professional graphic designer turned animator.



Below are breakdowns of my own book covers in my own words.



Layla's Song


With Layla's Song, I wanted to create a nighttime scene that seemed ominous and gritty. The idea of a car's headlights coming towards the lens was not my first idea, in fact I owe that design to my close friend.


My initial design for the cover was a teddy bear, left abandoned by the side of the road. As if it had been tossed out of the window of a car. The idea was to foreshadow a key point within the story which was the kidnap of a child which is what I wanted to symbolize with the teddy bear being out of place and isolated, an item we would all relate a child with.


Recently I decided to rebrand Layla's Song. I loved the original cover but it was far too distorted and blurry when it came to print. I ignored my initial feelings on it and designed a brand new cover which I updated last night. The new cover is a lot better and looks more professional.





Where Crows Land


Very early on in the writing process, I wanted to create a story that was more rural based than my previous outings.


A concept that my close friend had sent me for Layla's Song's cover stuck in my head which I felt would be a good fit for this story. However, I felt it wasn't created with this story in mind so I wanted to explore what kind of imagery would fit a story like this one.


The early idea was a rusted gate leading into a country field. That image stuck in my mind for a very long time until I came to create the cover. That's when I came upon the kind of imagery that became the final product.


The sight of fog and mist mixed in between trees is one of the most eerie and ominous things I have seen. It brings me back to my childhood when you make up or read stories about ghosts and spirits (as well as The Lord Of The Rings - Nazgul). It also represents the unknown, which is kind of what the story is all about. It's about venturing into the unknown despite the eerie circumstances.





The Last Rains Of Winter


This cover required no thought at all, just the scouting involved in the photography. With this, my first book, I knew exactly what kind of imagery I wanted from the get-go. The shot of towering trees, long narrow and close together in a single row. It was quite easy seeing it in my head or seeing it duplicated in doctored imagery from other books and movies, mostly in the horror genre.


I wanted my image to be my own, taken by myself using my own camera and photography skills. It would also mean that I would own all rights to the image which is why I never just pull images off Google image search.



Just like the other two books, the image represents an element of the story, a key plot point. With this image, it's more the location than what is shown. The tone is also reflected in the dark, sinister dominating trees, blocking out the light.


Interesting point. The image itself was taken in Belvoir Forest Park in Belfast.

#reading #writing #lessons

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