The novel's cover needs to communicate genre (steampunk adventure), setting (Japan), period (1850s before the Americans come, so hardcore samurai without Western influence). In two words: samurai + dirigibles.
Front cover has
- Author name: Stephanie R. Sorensen
- Book title: Tōru
- Subtitle: Wayfarer Returns
- the mighty image you will design.
Back cover has draft jacket blurb (see below). Front image can trail around to the back or be echoed on the back in some way. Somewhere small on the back include "A Sakura Steam Series Novel."
Spine will have title, subtitle, author name and series name. Omit series name if it is getting horribly messy.
This book will be downloadable as an ebook, probably primarily on Amazon, and print on demand as a paperback. I would like a 1.5 height/width ratio (6" x 9") so approximately 3200 x 4800 pixels. I need 300 dpi for the print on demand version. Amazon's digital publishing requires RGB color profile. Print on demand version requires CMYK mode.
Spine size I do not know, as I have not done the internal formatting yet. Novel is 82,000 words, which is smack dab in the middle of the range for a science fiction novel, so if there is some sort of average rule of thumb guideline for a normal novel, not too big, not too small, use that for now. This is not a short novella and it is not a big fat Game of Thrones monster. I will come back to the winner and pay for any tweaking to the design that needs to happen to get the spine width exactly right, but for now, avoid designs that have a hard line down that left front side that might bleed oddly into the spine.
Overall, remember the goal here is to sell books. So I also need your expertise on using great fonts and typefaces, in the right size and scale so that the title and printed information is clear and legible. I need your expertise on making an image that looks good both regular book size and interesting enough to poke at when it is a tiny thumbnail on Amazon. Your image needs to make people want to open my book and start reading.
I list some of the scene ideas to give you a feel for the story and tone--earnest, adventurous, courageous, lighthearted in spots--but not to demand that you must execute one of these big elaborate scenes. I may hope for that, and I will freely admit that I do, but I really am willing to be surprised and blown away by something more symbolic and artistic as long as it somehow communicates genre, setting and period and makes people investigate the book further.
The mighty image you design can be anything that sells the genre, setting and period described above, but some pivotal plot point images that stick in my mind and might be helpful to you as starting points for brainstorming include the following scenes:
- MASUYO CLIMBS TO SAFETY A rope ladder dangles trailing from a dirigible soaring through the sky, manned by Japanese samurai in steampunk-y samurai outfits. Hanging from the ladder is a beautiful young Japanese woman, her gorgeous kimono flying open around her ankles as she climbs the ladder to safety. Below her on the ground circle hostile samurai on horseback, fruitlessly aiming crossbows to the sky.
- THE DIRIGIBLE FLEET TURNS BACK THE BLACK SHIPS A fleet of 42 dirigibles soar in a V formation in the sky above the coast of Japan facing off against Perry's four black ships, two steam pulling two sailing ships.
TORU CONFRONTS PERRY - Toru, in steampunk samurai outfit, maybe a pirate-y captain's coat over hakama, confronts an American commodore on the deck of the American steamship. Toru's dirigible hovers above. The Japanese coast is in the background.
RETURNING TOGETHER AFTER VICTORY IS WON Toru and Masuyo, windswept, lean together on the gunwale at the prow of their dirigible as they soar over the coast of Japan, wearing Japanese steampunk military gear (airship pilot-y)
The image doesn't have to be any of the scenes mentioned above, as they are pretty complicated, but a beautiful young Japanese woman and a handsome young Japanese samurai man, both in steampunk-y/Japanese-y outfits looking resolute in front of a dirigible or soaring through the air on the gunwale of a dirigible would be cool. Throw a samurai castle in the background somewhere maybe to set it in Japan for certain. If you design something more abstract, which is fine, it must be stunningly beautiful and eye-catching.
Prominent steampunk symbols and images featured in the story include dirigibles, steam trains, Babbage Calculators and telegraphs. Also Commodore Perry's four Black Ships (two steam ships pulling two sailing ships). The dirigibles are described as "dragon dirigibles" with a dragon's head. The steam trains are very important in the plot too.
Prominent characters in the story include the hero Toru, who is a fisherman-turned-samurai, Masuyo, a noblewoman's daughter who ends up captaining her own dirigible fighting ship, Jiro, a blacksmith-turned-engineer who winds up as Admiral of a fleet of dirigibles.
DRAFT BACK JACKET BLURB
A nation encircled by enemies
A noblewoman with everything to lose
A fisherman with everything to prove and a nation to save
In Japan of 1852, the peace imposed by the Tokugawa Shoguns has lasted 250 years. Peace has turned to stagnation, however, as the commoners grow impoverished and their lords restless. Swords rust. Martial virtues decay. Foreign barbarians circle the island nation’s closed borders like vultures.
Tōru, a shipwrecked fisherman rescued by American traders, defies the Shogun’s ban on returning to Japan, determined to save his homeland. Can he rouse his countrymen in time? Or will the cruel Shogun carry out his vow to execute all who set foot in Japan after traveling abroad? Armed only with his will, a few books, dirigible plans and dangerous ideas, Tōru must transform the Emperor’s realm before the Black Ships come.