The Cover-Up

Don’t judge a book by its Cover

Well, I have to tell you, I have never purchased a book because of its cover, ever. This comes from a guy who enjoys perusing the wine aisles in grocery stores admiring the unique labels. Reviews, recommendations, and favorite authors influence my purchases. And, if I were a wine enthusiast, I probably wouldn’t select my bottle of grape juice because of its label, no matter how colorful and creative. Dust covers and labels are important marketing tools. Creatives spend a great deal of time and effort designing them. Their inviting designs urging, tempting, daring you to select them from the overcrowded shelves. Countless books and web sites are devoted to art of cover design. Brand recognition linking the author to the book is much like creating a corporate logo. A cover style, color, font type, picture or drawing can become synonymous with an author’s identity and ignite brand loyalty. Take for example the “for DUMMIES” franchise or the Bill O’Reilly “Killing” books with their distinct flavor, immediately recognizable covers. In 1928 before launching his label Victor Gollancz paced railroad platforms trying to identify which color stood out the most in a crowd. He decided on a shockingly bright, yellow cover printed on special nonfading paper. Combined with the black type of Stanley Morison, designer of the Times Roman font. Look familiar?

A book cover’s design can be simple or complex. Tony Hillerman’s Navajo mysteries with protagonists Jim Chee and Lieutenant Leaphorn wore jacket covers with a distinct Southwestern flavor. IMG_0105Embossed fonts, artwork, and foil enhancements were used. His daughter continues their adventures with covers true to IMG_0106the originals.

Titles by Jackie Collins and Sidney Sheldon used bubblegum colors and fancy fonts. IMG_0107At the time of their popularity they were simple and easily recognizable. The IMG_0108same holds true for James Clavell’s saga with white cover and predominant black and red fonts and simple artwork.IMG_0112

Steve Berry and Dan Brown books are instantly recognizable with names topside above titles and dark distinct artwork which is carried over to their websites a fine example of branding.

IMG_0117IMG_0116And who can forget James Patterson’s Alex Cross novels, they all contain foil enhancements, ominous drawings, the cleaver use of protagonist’s name in the title, and an inviting blurb. You may have noticed this particular group of bestselling mystery writers have designers working from the same color palette.IMG_0119 IMG_0118

Cover Story

There is evidence dating back to 1352 BC, from King Tut’s burial site indicating the ancient Egyptians were the first to label their wine detailing vintage, growing region or vineyard, and winemaker. It was in the Persian Empire where labeling wine became a necessity. In fact, the Persian Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC) had an elaborate culture of wine drinking. Unlike the long history of the wine bottle label the dust jacket wasn’t introduced until the 19th century. Books were an expensive item and usually sold with pages in unbound stacks. It was up to the purchaser to commission a binding and cover. An English publisher, William Pickering, began binding books in leather, fine cloth and other materials. Publishers followed Pickering’s lead and during the 1820s cloth bindings became the norm. The need to protect the book during transportation from the publisher to bookseller to purchaser became evident. Plain wrapping paper was wrapped around the entire book and sealed into place. This innovation, at the end of the decade, became the first dust jackets. When a book was purchased during this time, the buyer would take it home and tear off the dust cover and discard it. As time progressed windows were cut into the dust jacket to expose the cover’s simple and expensive designs. Over time the designs were replicated on the wrappers themselves and the decorative dust jacket was born. This is the oldest dust jacket known dating from 1830. Prior to this discovery the earliest known example of a dust jacket dated back to 1833. A pale buff paper printed in red created by publisher Longmans to protect copies of Heath’s Keepsake. This particular dust cover included advertisements for other Longmans publications placing it way ahead of its time in marketing. Should you be interested, during the Renaissance and by the 18th century the wine trade soared in France, where Bordeaux became the preeminent producer of fine wines. Early label designs in Europe were nothing more than a small identifying piece of parchment tied with a string around the neck of the bottle. Another means of identification was a pewter base carved with the description of the wine region.

Take Cover

By 1798, lithography had been invented and wine labels could be mass produced. The winemakers pride grew in the quality of their wine and creating the perfect label to show it off became most important. Colorful designs became popular. On the other hand, the publishing industry began to slowly realize the dust jacket’s importance as an advertising tool during the late 19th century. British publishers started to utilize the jacket’s valuable real estate for book promotions, as well as, advertising space for other publications. The publisher’s ‘blurb’ was first introduced around 1910 and could include a synopsis, author biography, portrait, and/or information IMG_0120about the author’s earlier works. After WWI, the book jacket standards rose considerably as famous artists started to work commercially, designing dust covers. The wine industry also employed respected artists to design their labels. One of the most sought after, prized, and collected wine brands of all time is Mouton Rothschild. In the 1920s, in an attempt to modernize his winery Philippe de Rothschild, in a bold move, decided to market his wines with beautiful labels. He enlisted important artists of the time to create original label designs to enhance marketability. It became a permanent practice in 1946. Viotti wines have been dressed with specially-designed original works of art, inspired by the wine of that particular vintage, since 1974. The print run is the same as the number of bottles produced. The first one hundred are signed by the artist and only used once.

Breaking Cover

The metamorphosis of the dust jacket is completely of British design. The British Library started a collection of dust jackets in the 1920s. There are over 11,000 items in the collection today, the majority of which are British publications.  The oldest covers in the British Library Dust Jacket Collection date from 1919. In despite of their ephemeral design,  a few examples of dust jackets prior to 1890s exist. It wasn’t till the end of the 19th century when the British publishers began to realize the advertising value of book covers. The design function of the dust jacket evolved into an effective promotional tool. The wrapper converted into the jacket probably to save paper. Around 1910 color was added, but not received well by the British, they considered it purely American. It wasn’t till the 1920s when color jackets entered the mainstream. The war was over, the American economy was vibrant, visual imagery was everywhere in the movies, newspapers, magazines, and advertising. This enthusiasm spilled over into the Publishing industry. The throwaway jacket covers were here to stay. The wine label evolved from a handwritten piece of parchment hung on a bottle’s neck by a French monk, Pierre Perignon, into the familiar design we appreciate today. This is the oldest known record of a handwritten wine label.  Labels and book covers provide a visual record of the past. The pictures, paintings, portraits, fonts, colors, synopses, blurbs and the overall designs fuel the time machine. The authors, artists, painters and graphic designers are the pilots maneuvering the gauntlet of time. Alan Lane made a proposal to his publisher for a series of cheap, mass-produced, paperbacks that would be instantly recognizable. The British upper-crust publisher rejected his proposal. In 1935 Lane launched Penguin Books with ten titles sold through Woolworths. The price was five times cheaper than the average hardcover price. Penguin had somehow managed to produce an intellectually respectable product and its readers became extremely loyal. And the rest, as they say, “is history”.

Under Cover

The 1920s and 1930s is considered the ‘golden age of book jackets’. Talented and famous artists were attracted to the medium. As time progressed the artists were replaced with graphic designers, employed by publishers. The author’s participation was a rarity. J.D. Salinger demanded control over his covers, he despised all pictures, blurbs, and reviews. Penguin’s edition of The Catcher in the Rye had a simple grey cover. Book covers often change with each new edition and Salinger kept a watchful eye for any transgressors. Authorial designs are rare, but some authors consider themselves cover artists. J.R.R.Tolkien designed the cover for The Hobbit. The 1932 dust jacket for Opium. The Diary of an Addict by Jean Cocteau was designed by the author. And some authors participate in the production of the cover only: illustrator selection, blurbs, design and typography etc.

Blow Your Cover

The ephemeral design of the protective and disposable dust jacket transformed into the advertising cornerstone of the publishing industry, and is once again, besieged by change. Since the birth of the ebook on July 4, 1971 the popularity of ereaders has increased exponentially.

My Book Cover

Digital publishing has changed the way we view and read our favorite author’s work. The dust jacket has been reduced to 768 X 1004 pixels. The smaller sizes force the designer to create relevant and coherent designs readable on a variety of devices. Gone are the front and back flaps, the spine, back face, and headband. And forget about an autographed copy. The dust jacket is now limited to the confines of the front face. This limitation has increased the value of the title and author’s name. Peruse the aisles of your local wine store and notice the catchy names. It’s A Head Snapper, Middle Sister, Bare Foot, Blindfold, Butterfly Kiss, Troublemaker, The Dreaming Tree, Ghost Pines, Wild Horse, and Decoy just to name a few, all  taken from the shelves at my neighborhood Safeway. Created to capture our undivided attention and inspire us to open our digital wallets. Would any oenophile find relevance in these names? I don’t know, but they sure caught my eye.  It has always been my intention to design my own book covers. I had visions of an animated cover followed by pages of blurbs, bio, and animated back cover.   When the book was opened for the first time an autograph would magically be scribbled across the cover. These are all things I am working on, however the technology is not quite there. My approach to the cover design is simple; I see it as a graphic puzzle. I want potential buyers to be attracted to the cover and subconsciously assemble the pieces, revealing the storyline trapped on the pages.  And how do you accomplish this? Simple. Every element on the cover should have a distinct  purpose relating to the story. Take my book VORMUND there is a title (the German word for guardian), author’s name, colors white and black split in the center (life or death, good or evil?), the leafless tree, extensive root system with one small root full of life? The creature perched on the branch, a bird or something else? Then there is the blurb ‘See the Words’. All clues to the storyline. For my upcoming novella The BookHunter the cover is still a Work In Progress. The cover is posted on  Behance with a number of clues to the storyline with more being added through updates.

The next time you are in the market for a new book or ebook make note of the covers they can be interesting.

” …I’mmmm Baaack.

cropped-me-e1444929984605.jpg     James Edward M    

animator, artist, author, bibliophile, blogger, bookman, gamer, geek, graphic designer, nerd, procrastinator, storyteller


Immersive Storytelling Blog


Thank you Randy Quaid for those immortal words from Independence Day.



es, I am back. I had some difficulties with the link from my blog to my website. And it has taken me a long time to figure out the problem. My friends and family consider me the ‘go to guy’ for tech help, but I have a confession to make, I’m not an IT professional by anyone’s standards. It wasn’t a major problem just a difficult one to figure out.

When I caught the idea for immersive storytelling I had already developed an outline for VORMUND. By that I mean, I had a beginning and the end to the story. A first sentence and a last sentence. I know it is a peculiar way to write, but it works for me. The story writes itself.

When VORMUND was published I realized I didn’t have an online presence. I never entered the social media craze. So there was no website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube accounts. No LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, or Vimeo, I was a ghost.

My Trek into the Social Media Maze

I can imagine how James Dasher’s protagonist Thomas felt when he entered the Glade. Shocked, overwhelmed, terrified, vulnerable, frightened and amazed. When the “greenie” learned there was a Maze beyond the mile-high concrete wall, he was eager to become a Runner, confident he could out run the creatures called the Greivers. The monsters made from metal and flesh created by the W.I.C.K.E.D. organization.

I knew as much about social media as Thomas knew about the Glade. However, I did share his enthusiasm and decided to run right in. It didn’t take long before I ran into the wall. I had no idea what a domain name, web host, content marketing and all the rest of the terminology involved with social media meant.

Creating VORMUND provided me with a working knowledge and familiarity of Adobe programs. I was a member of Creative Cloud so I chose Muse as my design platform for my website. It provided me with a creative freedom I couldn’t find in other platforms. I built three different websites: desktop, tablet and phone.

The next step was creating a WordPress blog. I used a widget to link it with my website. It worked perfect on the tablet and phone, but the desktop version just stopped working. And no matter what I tried I couldn’t get it to work again. By this time, I had mapped my trek into the world of social media. Setting my website problem aside, I found myself at the entrance to the Maze, map in hand.

A few weeks in, I started learning programs and vocabulary. I didn’t feel like a “greenie”. I used my name James Edward M as my domain name, GoDaddy to host my website, and my url is  Work began on my marketing content. Marketing content is anything and everything you see online: words, sentences, pages, pictures, drawings, movies, videos etc.

During my time in the Maze I joined Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, TumblBookBusinessCardPic3r and Vimeo. Created pages, marketing videos, and accompanying artwork. Visit my website or Facebook to view the videos. I  designed business card size handout.

All this was happening while I was trying to repair the broken link to my blog.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I entered the Social Media Maze. The amount of work that went into publishing VORMUND, creating content, deciding which content is ‘evergreen’ and placing which pages in what networks.

Without a doubt, there was an enormous amount of work, however if you love what you are doing, it really isn’t work is it?

It has been quite the learning experience. I suspect the next book will be a little easier. Here is a list of programs I learned and used:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • After Effects
  • Muse
  • Media Encoder
  • InCopy
  • Fireworks
  • Bridge
  • Lightroom
  • Adobe Creative Cloud
  • WordPress
  • Scrivener
  • Hemingway Editor
  • Word
  • iBooks Author
  • cPanel (GoDaddy)

Surviving the Social Media Maze

While I was juggling tasks a new RSS Blog widget was introduced in Muse. I tried on numerous occasions to contact the creator of the first widget without much luck. I deleted the widget and purchased the new one and installed it. Works like a charm. It is very stable and looks really good. So much so, I used it in all versions of my website. I am so happy to have my blog linked to my website. There are two flavors of RSS Blog one with content and the other with snippets. I use the snippets on the phone version, to keep downloads to a minimum, the blog site is just a click away.

Immersive Storytelling Blog

Immersive storytelling is new and not for everyone. However, I do believe that in the future it will become more and more popular. As technology advances so will immersive storytelling. The stories and cinematics will increase in size. At this time I am working on a novella sized story The BookHunter which will be published in the first quarter of 2016. I am currently working on an immersive story to be published in ePub format.

I am so happy to have my Immersive Storytelling blog up and running and I plan on writing about my adventures creating immersive stories. Please check back.

Happy Storytelling

Welcome to the Immersive Storytelling Blog

This is my first post on the Immersive Storytelling blog.  New posts will be about some element of immersive storytelling.

I suspect you are asking yourself the question: What is Immersive Storytelling? In order for me to answer, I think it best if I provide a little background on electronic storytelling.

On July 4, 1971, Michael Stern Hart received a printed copy of the United States Declaration of Independence. Inspired and having access to a significant amount of computing power, provided by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he typed the text into a computer and transmitted it to other users on the network. Today considered a simple task,  it became a technological innovation, and the invention of the electronic book or ebook. Digitization and distribution of literature became his life’s work.  He also founded Project Gutenberg the same year.

Since then a number of ebook formats have been developed. PDF, Mobipocket, Kindle Format 8 (KF8), Nook, iBooks Author, EPUB 2, EPUB 3 and a number of other proprietary formats are in use today. Electronic publishing or e-publishing include the digital publication of ebooks, digital magazines, textbooks, children’s books, comic books, and newspapers and can be read on a number of different devices. However, no individual format can be read across all devices. Development on these formats, with Apple’s iBooks Author an exception, has been extremely slow.

A bibliophile and early adapter of ebooks I was facinated by their convenience. I could highlight words, sentences, paragraphs and look up definitions without leaving the page. I was intrigued by the turning pages effect. And most of all, it was a simple solution to my already overcrowded bookshelves.

The door to the future opened: audio books, interactive ebooks and enhanced ebooks made their appearance. The publishing industry was becoming exciting. The ability to purchase your favorite author’s new novel instantly from the comfort of your home felt so Jestsonian.

Enhanced ebooks embedded with audio, video, pictures, and animations provided a window to the future of e-publishing. Interactive elements in ebooks turned readers into participants.

At the London Book Fair in 2011 Evan Schnittman, a Bloomsbury executive  declared enhanced ebooks and apps essentially dead. The publishers conundrum was the market did not allow them to deliver the same enhanced ebook across all current digital platforms. The higher cost of publishing an enhanced ebook with a limited market could not be justified.

Then in January, 2012 Apple announced its free iBooks Author Program making it extremely easy for authors to produce and publish their own ebooks complete with audio, videos and interactive 3D pictures.

Everyone with an iPad will probably remember E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth, Steven King’s 11/22/1963 enhanced edition novel, and Nancy Duarte’s Resonate all fine examples of enhanced ebooks.

Years ago, I recall reading an article about Mark Andrew Staufer’s Kickstarter Project The Numinous Place  what he referred to as “The world’s first truly multidimensional work of fiction.” An elaborate enhanced ebook with news reports, videos, documents, articles, diagrams, photos and phone calls. I was quite intrigued by the prospects of the project. (He raised $75K and the project never made it to market.)

The industry’s lack of interest developing ebook formats contribute to the neglect of inspiration, creativity, and inventiveness of authors and publishers.

I do not believe, for one moment, enhanced ebooks and apps are dead as predicted by Evan Schnittman, the executive who left Bloomsbury for a very short stay at Hachette Book Group, New York. Popular primetime television shows have interactive apps and encourage participation. Grimm The Essential Guide was a very successful enhanced ebook. J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore just announced the enhanced editions of the Harry Potter novels. All seven iBooks will contain over 223 enhancements.

This is a limited market.  Not all readers want to participate in an interactive novel or to devote the time it takes to read an enhanced novel. The limited technology of the digital formats will eventually be developed, more and more authors will take advantage and the market share will grow. Like it or not ebooks are the future of the publishing industry.

Enhancements are extras that make an ebook more interesting, informative or interactive. They are also a way to add new content or functionality that would not be possible in the print edition. (

immersive    ih-mur-siv    (adjective)

noting or pertaining to digital technology or images that deeply involve one’s         senses and may create an altered mental state: immersive media; immersive 3-D environments.

In immersive storytelling cinematics are embedded into pages with corresponding text, may or may not include audio, and have no interactive element other than the actual turning of the page.

A reader of an enhanced ebook while investigating a drawing, animation, video or audio element risk departure from the storyline. Cinematics used in immersive storytelling arouse the reader’s senses and immerse them into the story’s world.

In my iBook VORMUND a short story of historical fantasy I use cinematics as an aid for the reader to See the Words.

To kickoff the start of my blog I have created another short video highlighting some different cinematics in immersive storytelling. Follow the link above.