There’s a reason people say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and that’s because people judge books by their covers. The cover is the first thing your reader sees and determines if they will pick up your book and read the blurb or first chapter. I’m going to review some book covers and say what works and what doesn’t from a reader’s perspective.
The colour scheme is very important to the mood, whether it stands out, and the professionalism of your book.
If your cover is completely black with hints of dark red, I’ll assume your book is a horror. If you’ve got lots of pastel pinks or blues, I’ll lean towards romance. You have to think about the genre, for example, you can tell the genre of The Woods are Dark by Richard Laymon, even though the only picture is of the woods.
If that was coloured lighter, you could say it was a fantasy, or if the reds and oranges were less intense, you could assume it was a mystery.
Another thing that stands out in this cover is the contrast between the black and the other colours. This can make certain parts of the cover stand out, for example in The Winter’s Child by Cassandra Parkin. The dark blue of the background makes the white branches and snow stand out. The fewer colours, the better, or it looks like some kind of rainbow explosion and not very professional.
Lots of books have single items as front covers, like swords, or jewels, usually matching the title of the book. This is a good idea, as long as the symbol means something to the story and isn’t just a sword for the sake of having a sword. For example, in The Map of Us by Jules Preston, the main symbol is the typewriter, which is focussed on by the contrasting colours, and references the reoccurring typewriter throughout.
The problem with a lot of novels, fantasy more often, is that they all have the same symbol, a sword or a gem, that doesn’t really relate to anything in the book, it’s just there to make it seem like an interesting story. That can work sometimes, but usually, it’s just overdone, unless the story is called ‘The Silver Sword’ or ‘Sapphire’.
Title, Taglines, and Names
The title has to stand out over your name. Unless your a classic author or have a movie made out of your book then nobody will care about what your name is, they just care about whether the title sounds like something they’d like to read. Hell, even Margaret Atwood’s name isn’t larger than the title.
The title needs to stand out, like The Handmaid’s Tale is in white against the red background, and the font needs to be readable. Never use comic sans, please, unless you’re writing a comedy that publishers are supposed to laugh at it. There should never be more than two fonts on a cover. Mostly, the tagline and name is the same font, whilst the title is more related to the mood and tone of the story.
The tagline is important because they explain the general gist of the story. A trap some authors fall into is making the tagline too wishy-washy. Save it for the blurb! You could also write a review as the tagline, or an award your book won, for example, in A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, the tagline says ‘The Sunday Times number one best selling author’ because that’s something that would draw a reader in.
Faces and People
One of the main cliches there is on book covers is a teenage girl or hot boy in an action pose, or a girl in a white dress walking through a forest, the close up of someone’s face is another cliche that doesn’t really show the theme of the book unless there’s something special about the person. There are times when people can make good book covers, if the book is a romance, a shirtless guy may be appropriate, but it does blend in.
A good idea of having a face on the cover is in Duplicity by Sibel Hodge, the theme comes through the book through the person’s expression and the cracked glass.
Thanks for reading this blog post, there are links to the books I’ve used as examples in their titles. I write a new blog post every week so if you want to keep up to date, plop your email into the bar below to get an email every time a new post is up. If you’ve got any additions to this post, or just want to say hi, you can comment down below and I’ll reply as soon as possible. Good luck with cover designing, toodles.