You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. We’ve all heard that before. And I, who has a whole #booksoverlooks blog series about the importance of valuing thought and reading over superficial materials, agree – when it comes to people. But, when it comes to books, I say, yes you should! The cover is part of the whole book experience and a lot of thought likely went into the artwork. So – go ahead – judge it!
Cover Art Novice
When I was in the process of publishing The Travelers I spent countless hours discussing one topic with my publisher, my sister, my husband and daughter, my mother, my best friend more than any other – the cover art.
Since The Travelers is my debut novel, I had very little experience regarding cover art and learned a lot from the process. The art went through several iterations before we landed on the current cover, which I’m happy with, but, honestly, I do sometimes have book cover envy when I’m walking through a bookstore! This is because I really enjoy art and creativity and it’s fun to see the unique ways people find to represent themes on covers. It’s called cover art for a reason.
My experience seems like a microcosm for getting a book published. Even to get noticed initially you have to create a query letter or boil your book down to a tweet sometimes. You need a quick sell, a snapshot. Once published, your book cover becomes the new version of your snapshot. So, even in this day and age of increased electronic book sales, covers are still critical.
But finding or creating a piece of art for your book isn’t easy. Yes, the publisher is an integral part of this process and many publishers don’t even seek input from their authors. I was lucky enough to be allowed to be involved in the choice. Although, it was a blessing and a curse because the more I learned, the more I realized there are many things to consider.
Here are just some of the the considerations.
Does the artwork “pop”?
Does the artwork stand out? Does it make you do a double take? A boring cover will likely get passed by, no matter how interesting the content inside.
Who is the audience?
Even if artwork pops, that doesn’t mean it’s right for your audience. What type of artwork is your audience more likely to gravitate toward?
Does the art work well both in print and on screen?
It’s certainly possible something that looks great on screen might not be nearly as compelling when it’s in your hands. The opposite can also be true. It’s important to consider all formats.
What about the details?
Should the work have texture? Embossing? Should the cover be glossy or matte? All of these small details need to be considered.
Does font matter?
Font definitely matters and there are so many with subtle differences that can make an impact. Even the ratio of font sizes between the art itself and the title and author name can have a huge impact on the cover, as can location on the cover, kerning (Yep that’s a thing – it’s the space between letters) and leading (pronounced ‘ledding,’ it’s the space between lines). When you write a book, you become a serious font nerd.
Does the artwork encapsulate the look and feel of your work?
This consideration might be the most critical. Like first impressions with people, we judge a book superficially. If we like what we see and then open it up to find what’s inside doesn’t match our expectations, we often become flummoxed by the non-congruence of it. With people, sometimes this can be a good thing, like when we’re pleasantly surprised to find someone different than we suspected. With books, I’m not sure anyone would be happy to choose a book because of the cover and inside get something that didn’t live up to its promise.
So, what are some of my favorite covers out right now and why?
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
Wonder is one of those rare examples of a great book cover that makes my point on multiple levels. Even the tagline for the book is about not judging a “boy” by his “face”. It’s a wonderful piece of artwork that so perfectly reflects the theme of the novel it almost takes your breath away.
Heartless, by Marissa Meyer
This is a cover that really is better in person than on screen. When you see this cover in the store, it has texture and curves. I love the embossing and simplicity of it. Also, this is a great use of font and font placement.
The Hate You Gave, by Angie Thomas
This book is a new release and I really like this cover because it says so much with so little. It’s starkness gives it that “pop” rather than an elaborate piece of art. And, I’m sure the abundance of white space is intentional. It’s an intelligent cover with a deeper meaning. I like that. I know what I’m going to read when I read this book. (And I can’t wait to read it!)
Carve the Mark, by Veronica Roth
This cover really does eerie well. It shows you covers don’t have to be fancy, intricate pieces of art to convey a large message. I also like the unusual use of how the title spreads across the entire book cover.
Lifeblood (Everlife #2), by Gena Showalter
I love this cover and I loved the cover of the first book also. I’m just drawn to it. There is so much to see in it, I could stare at it for a while, like a piece of art in a museum. That’s what makes this cover special for me. There is real artistry and thought that gives the series an artistic cohesiveness .
So, next time you pick up that book, perhaps you’ll better appreciate the thought and care that went into creating it! And judge it wisely. 😉
March 13, 2017 at 6:22 pm
There are so many beautiful covers that they are almost artwork! I totally judge bc I feel that we really have no choice. Unless we can “get to know the book better,” like a person, there’s no other way to judge than to read. And to do that, we have to be drawn to it!!
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