J.R. Blackwell asked me to lay out her zombie LARP Shelter In Place. For now, here's the first draft of the cover. and the rationale I sent along with it:
"I decided to use real photos to make it clear that this isn't a tabletop RPG, which would normally use illustrations or computer-generated art on the cover. The first thing you see is a pair of eyes staring right back at you. I imagine these eyes would pop even if the book is on the back rack in the indie RPG shelves. All photos are sourced from CC-licensed Flickr photos or stock imagery.
"I'm continuing the severe diagonal motif from the inside pages as a structure for the rest of the cover elements. To contrast the cold teal of the top half, the rest of the cover is an intense hazardous orange, like traffic cones or hunting jackets.
"I hope you don't mind that I added "live" to the tagline. Purely from a marketing perspective, I thought the parallel between "live" and "zombie" was striking. If I were to go further, I'd probably phrase it as The Live Action Game of Undead Horror, to more directly contrast "live" and "dead." "Live Action" calls out to the LARP gamer, without alienating a potential buyer by using that acronym. Also "The" positions the game more confidently as the definitive zombie LARP game on the market. Anyhoo, that's just my two marketing cents. I'm happy to replace the tagline with A Game of Zombie Horror."
This isn't the first time I have slightly augmented a creator's tagline during the cover design process. When I designed the cover for John Wick's Wilderness of Mirrors, I changed its tagline from "A Spy-Playing Game" to "A Better Spy-Playing Game" since so much of John's personality expressed confidence and certainty about his game's virtues.
On top of that risky move, I used photos on the cover. Now, J.R. is an accomplished photographer in her own right and I was a little worried about using someone else's photos in her book. Want to know if she liked it? See for yourself:
"These are colors I never would have chosen, fonts I didn’t know about and a layout that I couldn’t have asked for. And I love them. I love this cover so much that last night I carried it around with me at a party to show to the other guests 'Look at this,' I said, like a proud mama with a baby 'Just look at how wonderful it is!'"