The big cover up

The big cover up

This week Tantamount has brought out a compendium of short stories and flash fiction by Spanish journalist, critic and travel writer, Alonso Ibarrola, which gives us a good excuse to ponder the subject of book cover art.
The book – Los cuatro libros de Alonso Ibarrola – is available from Amazon.

 

All round the web you’ll find lists of favourite or iconic book covers, competitions for book cover design, requests for opinions on covers designed by indie-authors, etc. Even Tantamount has joined the trend, with a good book covers board on our Pinterest page.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but obviously book covers are very, very important.

For printed books, the cover – and sometimes specifically the spine – is the first thing potential readers see. Unless it catches their eye, your marvellous story may not even get a chance: if the cover doesn’t attract, no one will pick up the book, open it and actually start reading.

It’s not quite the same for digital books, as some additional text may already be displayed on the store page where the cover thumbnail appears. Even so, humans react to visual information very quickly, so the thumbnail needs to be appealing. If you are selling a digital version of a book, it is worth having a cover designed specifically for screen display: an eye-catching print cover on a full-size book may just be a messy fuzz of colour on a hand-held device.

When designing a cover, there are many things to take into account, including the book’s genre and story, as well as general design elements such as colour, font, layout, spacing etc. A good cover is so important, and so many factors need to be taken into account that many indie-author advice websites recommend that even if you don’t buy in any other services during the book publication process, you should pay a professional to design the cover for you.

The latest Tantamount publication is a compilation digital edition of the short fiction of Spanish journalist, critic and travel writer, Alonso Ibarrola. The writing style is stark and spare and the stories touch on all aspects of the human condition, particularly of Spain in the Franco years. Ibarrola deals with the situations with black humour, sarcasm and satire, accompanied by a logic and objectivity that at times results in a kind of surrealist vision.

We had already brought out the four separate volumes as a series of ebooks with very bold, simple cover designs using the numerals one to four, but now we were faced with the challenge of designing a suitable cover for a collection of well over 200 stories. There were certainly a huge number of possible scenes and images to choose from, but none of them would be sufficient to sum up or represent the wide range of situations covered.

Instead of taking an idea from the content, then, we opted to illustrate the cover with an image of the author himself. We felt, and Ibarrola agreed, that the author should not be too heavily foregrounded, so we used large CMYK dots to obscure the image – a visual pun on Ibarrola’s long career in journalism, for which he is equally known in his native Spain. In addition, as a four-colour process, CMYK had additional relevance as this compendium edition combines the four volumes of stories previously published.

The result is a relevant, but simple, image that allows the reader to glimpse the author without betraying too much information; it is particularly effective as an ebook cover, where reducing the cover to thumbnail size appears to reveal a more complete image – much as Ibarrola’s flash fiction vignettes reveal far bigger truths.

At present Ibarrola’s fiction is only available in Spanish, but for the benefit of English readers, here are quick translations of two of the stories:

Apparition

On the road to his farm, B suddenly saw a strange light: a whitish, violet glow rising up from behind some tall bushes… He was alone in the countryside, surrounded by a great silence. He stopped. A female silhouette started to become visible in the midst of the glow. A beautiful lady in blue robes appeared. She smiled and greeted him. Then the lady and the light disappeared. B continued on his way. When he got home he was so preoccupied and pensive that his wife asked him, “What’s the matter? Has something happened?” “Nothing.” B did not want to complicate his life. He died fifteen years later without telling anyone. Regularly, on the first Monday of every month, the lady in question had appeared to him. If he had said anything, they would have set up a shrine…

On the couch

I love my profession, doctor. It fascinates me, it impassions me, it controls me. At eight o’clock each morning, I open the door of the shop, which sells bathroom suites, and at nine o’clock each night I close up. When I am alone and the assistants have all left, I walk through the store: I watch, I touch, I caress the sanitary appliances. Bidets arouse me. They have shapes like women. Those sinuous curves, those rounded hips… I have to control myself not fall upon on them. I understand the problems the inventor of the bidet faced when he tried to present it to the public and explain its usefulness. Dialectical problems, difficult to understand. No movement, not a single gesture, the client must be respected… Excuse me, doctor, I’ve gone off at a tangent. As I was saying… There are arousing wash basins, too, the fine luxurious hand basins, I mean. There was one time when…

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