Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Effective book covers

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know anything at all about how to make an outstanding book cover.  I know one when I see it but how to get it? That's the value of art departments. I think magic is involved somewhere along the way too.

There are good covers; there are amazing covers; there are godawful covers. Then there are EFFECTIVE covers: covers that make you reach for the book.

Here's an article about the various covers considered for THE SUMMER OF DEAD TOYS by Antonio Hill.  All of them are gorgeous. The question then becomes: which one is most effective.

Do you agree with the choice they made?


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Awe, I would have voted for the mosaic blue...I smashed grandma's priceless dinnerware when I winged them at my husband because I was pissed he cheated on me...cover.

Colin Smith said...

That is an effective cover. It sounds like the sensory experience of the cover was an important consideration... but how would this translate to an e-book? One of the things I lament with e-books (though, otherwise, I have no problem with that format) is the potential demise of cover art. The same can be said for album art. When the CD came along, LP covers shrank and became less significant. Now with digital downloads, album art is all but dead. Will book covers go the same way? I hope not.

Janet Reid said...

Colin, so far so good on the continued existence of book covers for e-books. They're both on the book itself but more importantly, they're the avatar for the book on electronic retail sites.

Certainly the new electronic frontier has changed what makes a book cover effective but it hasn't diminished the need for them at all.

JD Paradise said...

Without picking it up (it sounds like a sensory thing as well) it's hard to judge, but visually I really don't like that cover at all. As I don't have experience with the things they're trying to evoke with the font, it just looked ugly and strange to me.

I thought the vertiginous #6 was the best of them, visually. #3 with the blue mosaic was a close second for me.

Kenneth D. Michaels said...

J.D, I agree with your choices. You have good taste.

dylan said...

Dear Ms Reid

As someone who has seen a lot of lackluster book covers, if I were this author I think I'd have been satisfied with nearly any one of the ones pictured. Most have merit to my eyes.

On my first passes through, the two covers with sherd mosaics may have encouraged me to misidentify the silhouette on cover 2/10 as the "Watts Towers", which would place the story in inner-city LA.

It wasn't until I made a more careful examination that I realized that rather than Sam Rodia's "Nuestro Pueblo", the image was of the spires of Gaudi's "Sagrada Familia" Cathedral in Barcelona, Spain.

I don't think the stylistic commonalities in these artists' distinctive works had occurred to me before.


Charlie N. Holmberg said...

I found #6 in the slide show the most "reachable," personally. I think that one has the most draw.

Adele said...

Hmm. The commentary stresses the cover's tactile appeal. That's great if I'm picking it up in a bricks-and-mortar bookshop, but that appeal is completely lost in photos, print advertising, online or e-books.

Of the 10, I preferred #2 - the colours made me think "Spanish", and I recognized the tower. The type I found faintly threatening - so, good for a thriller.

I agree that either #2 or the chosen version is the way to go, though - the other choices had me confused as to the novel's setting (#1 made me think "Tiffany: USA...wealthy...1890")and I didn't get the mosaic reference at all.

Lucas Darr said...

I give this cover a C+.

It does not look good when shrunk to a thumbnail. In print I bet it would look spectacular, but the author is leaving potential discovery on the table because the color scheme and font choice wash out at various sizes.

Today, a cover has to be both enticing to print and potential ebook readers.

As for the cover art commentary on ebooks, while it is true that a Kindle book on a Kindle does not show the cover unless the reader flips backwards from the start point, the cover art is totally necessary for enticing people to click on the book for more information in a graphical list of other books.

Bad art for ebooks today is more laziness and lack of eCommerce savvy.

Anonymous said...

My two cents? I loved #9. The one they chose is okay, but 9...that's the one that would have made me pick the book up.

The Kranky Crow said...

If it's as spectacular in hand as the writer describes, #1 is a good choice and the most appealing to me. #3 brought to mind a beach read. #4 is similar to _Incredibly Loud, and Extremely Close_. #7 looks romance-y.

Elissa M said...

My personal favorites were numbers 6 and 7. I most definitely buy books for their covers if I'm browsing a store-- or at least I pick them up and investigate further. But I'm into illustrations, not typography, so I'm afraid I would pass over the chosen cover without hesitation.

Huntress said...

#5 with the stained glass window effect.
I am attracted to black background. Reds and yellows or overall blue doesn't do it for me.

My book cover is black with burnt orange-gold fire around the edge and I might be a *little* bit prejudice but I think it is drop dead gorgeous. :P


They are all out of the box!

Mister Furkles said...

I don’t like book covers that emphasis text over image. So, of those presented, my preference would be #8. It shows older buildings on a narrow ally or ancient street. Things might happen there.

Font text covers are something I expect to see on Dover reprints or textbooks. It’s not attractive for novels.

My mother’s college roommate, Alice Smith, was an artist in New York. Most of her work was book jackets. She never used mere text to attract a reader. Were I an artist asked to do a cover for “The Summer of Broken Toys”, it would be a wood grain floor – possibly in a child’s play room – with three to five toys on the floor. I see a teddy bear with a knife stuck in his chest, a clown decapitated, a stuffed bunny with a noose about its neck, and a fire truck with the front end crushed and the tires flat. It’s metaphor for might be in the book.

Text does not arouse my curiosity. But a floor of broken toys leads me wonder “What could this be about – I want to know.”

Ellen Saunders said...

Interesting. I wonder about the tactile sense and what it would add to the "must have" factor. Can't see the spine image either.

From the screen image alone, I don't find it effective. It doesn't make me want to pick up the book to find out what it's about. I love typography, but I've rarely found pure type book covers compelling. No. 6 would have piqued my curiosity. I'm also a fan of the blue mosaic, although the red cobblestones are a bit grittier. That said, I'm not comparing these covers to what's already on the shelf, and I'm sure they are. (I LOVE No. 1 and 7, but I'm not sure they work).

LynnRodz said...

Numbers 6 and 7 are the ones I would have picked up. The one they chose would not have piqued my interest.

I reached for a book not that long ago when I was in a bookstore. I think it was the pink coat on the cover or the winter tree in the foreground that caught my attention. I read the back cover and the story did not interest me in the slightest, so I put the book back down. I continued to walk around and then came back to the same table and picked the book up again. This time I read the first few pages and liked the way the author wrote, so I bought it.

My first impression had been correct, the story did not interest me and I had to force myself to finish it. (I almost never abandon a book once I start reading it, but this one came close.) It goes to show the power of a book cover and those first few pages.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Hmm. Not a single one of those covers strikes me as "thriller." But I do like #6, the shot straight up from the courtyard of a building with the text in the sky. Quite striking.

The rest, not so much. If the black one is the one they chose, I think it's a huge mistake. It's unremarkable and pretty dull.