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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Behind the Cover Artist's Curtain: The X Factor

By Michelle Lee
BWL Art Director

Welcome to another exciting edition of Behind the Cover with your host – Michelle Lee.

*cue applause*

This time the topic is what I like to call the X-Factor in covers.  You know what I mean, that little bit of extra something that isn't easy to define, since it varies from cover to cover – but it is there. 

If you missed past episodes of Behind The Cover Artist's Curtain, you can check them out online.

For my first example of the X-Factor, I want to look at series books, since it is easiest to pin-point that little bit of something extra when comparing books that belong together.

So let’s look at Gail Roughton’s War-N-Wit, Inc. series …

Now looking at the cover, you see similar elements.  The witch diver bar.  The guy is on top and the woman on the bottom.  The fonts (placement, color and style) are all the same.  Now you would expect to see something similar with series books – at least those covers I do for series books.  (Check out my last post if you don’t know why – just scroll down to the end).

So what’s different, besides the actual images themselves?

To start, let’s a close look at the divider.  Notice the stars?  See how they change from cover to cover?  Instead of keeping it stationary and in place, I have it shifting slightly with each cover.  That’s the X-Factor.

Also, see the cat in the first cover?  Here’s a hint – it is on top of the author’s last name.

Now look at the second cover.  Is the cat in the same spot?  Nope – in fact, when you do find it, you will see that it isn't even the same cat silhouette. 

Find it yet?

Now … let’s look for it in the third cover - again, different spot and different silhouette.  

Again, this is the X-Factor.  Just a little fun I had while putting the covers together. It also allows the author to have fun now with promotions … maybe even inviting readers to find the cat in the cover.   In this particular case, the author enjoyed the play on the witch’s cat so much she added one into the story.

(you can check out the details on Gail's blog - just continue on down to the comments)

I already mentioned in the series post about Jamieson Wolf’s Hope Falls series, how the background shifted with each book.


But what about covers that aren't for books in a series?  Do they still have X-Factor potential?

Well audience, let’s look at another set of covers - this time for Erin Quinn.


The X-Factor in these covers is a little more subtle … but if you look, it is there.  Starting with Kissing Kris Kringle … notice the I’s in the title … see the snowflake that dots it?  Also, the I in Erin’s name is the same way.

Now look at the I in Erin’s name in the cover Shaking It Up.  See the heart?  That’s a little X-Factor.

Now let’s look at a couple more covers.  

Jenna Byrnes’ Heads or Tails involves, well, a quarter coin toss. : )  So, if you notice, behind the word TAILS the headlight, it has a quarter.  Just kind of hidden there; a little bit of whimsy.

Oddly enough, another coin is found in Ann Cory’s Penny Serenade.  Pennies obviously play a key component in the story … so within the moon, which is also something that is important in the story, is the silhouette of Abe Lincoln from a penny.

Another good example is the cover for Jamie Hill’s Impulsive.  Since there are four stories in this collection, I wanted to try and get a little something from each of them worked into the cover.  There’s the bottle, for the genie story.  A trumpet for a jazz based tale.  Snowflakes and a mystical mist, for the other two stories – one of which involves a ski vacation and the other – you guessed it – magic.

 Basically, what the X-Factor boils down to is the stuff that I have fun adding in.  Something that maybe the author didn’t necessarily call for in their cover art form, as in the case of Micah the cat for Gail’s covers, or if they did, there wasn’t a real way to work it in except by doing something subtle, like with Ann Cory’s Penny.

Either way, planned by the author or not, these little things make their covers stand out just a little bit more.  It also helps to prove a basis for a “can you spot the ______ ” kind of question for contests.

And that concludes this edition of Behind the Cover.

I really do hope that you have enjoyed this brief glimpse into what goes on in creating a cover – or at least covers I create.

Next up is author branding.  

After that, I don’t have any ideas right off of what I will talk about, so if there is something you would like to see that I haven’t covered yet – leave that info in a comment.

Until next time!

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