Book Cover Trends - article

Capturing Your Audience with an Engaging Cover

With nearly 200,000 new titles published each year, bookstores have books featured everywhere—stacked on the floor, standing on end caps and sitting on tables, not to mention the rows of shelves. This mass of inventory provides a wonderful selection if you're a book buyer, but if youÕre an author, this book-laden landscape proves to be highly competitive as each product vies for the browser's attention and investment. In the few seconds they have to catch the eye of a potential reader, authors are leveraging the power of an engaging cover design to help the book stand out and rise above the competition.

Even if you can spin a story as suspenseful as the best of the literary greats, your book must have an attractive exterior. If not, readers are likely to pass it by without giving a second glance. Great covers are strategically designed to catch the eye of a book buyer.

The Shifting Cover Paradigm

Computers have revolutionized design-oriented industries like architecture and packaging, and have changed the world of book covers as well. In the 1980s, publishers favored art departments that produced covers that sell, enforcing tight restrictions on individualism. Pre-press work required hours to create printing plates, which were then used for offset print runs. In the last fifteen years, however, computer-driven graphic design has opened up the range of options for unique cover designs. Intensive artwork that only ten years ago was reserved to elite pre-press print houses is now possible on your designer's desktop computer. With the advent of desktop publishing and digital printing, pre-press work is now completed within the constraints of digital assets. Now, when your designer is finished with his or her file, your cover is ready to be printed.

The Process of Creating a High-Quality Cover

In traditional publishing houses, authors have little direct involvement with their books once the manuscript leaves their desks, but with self publishing, authors have a high level of involvement and interaction. The best book design involves initial creative input from the author and his or her feedback to the creative team. This unique author-designer relationship allows book covers to move away from the rudimentary application of title and pen name and rise to an art form.

Although a cover may take less time to complete than the text of a book, the cover is usually the central visual representation of the book. The cover presents an image that combines the artistry and thoughtfulness of the text with elements necessary to sell the book, such as the title, author biography or reviews. Designers select the perfect layout of symbols to bridge the divide between art and commerce.

The symbolic meaning of a well-designed cover will inherently change as the reader delves deeper into the story. These symbols may appear opaque at first glance, but as the reader turns each page the interrelated metaphors embedded in the cover gradually become more obvious and meaningful. The book's message is only complete once the reader has finished the story and, with one last look at the cover, fully understands the complementary relationship between the text and cover.

Forming Your Ideas into a Marketable Cover

Cover design is crucial. Though we have been told since childhood not to judge a book by its cover, your cover forms the reader's first impression of the book's content and your writing style. A successful front cover attracts a browser's attention, while back cover content assures the reader a book is worth investing time and money in a literary journey.

Your cover design is the front line of advertising for your book, a key marketing tool to sell your product. If you can imagine your book as a Hollywood movie, think of your front cover as a movie poster and the back cover as the 30-second preview. Your front cover should attract attention and leave your viewers wanting more. The back cover content should compel your audience to invest in the experience your book has to offer.

In the same way you have written your story for a specific audience, create your cover so that your target audience will immediately identify with the work. What images or designs would attract the kind of people who would enjoy your story? A book detailing a bicycle journey across the country might attract readers with an image of a road through wide-open rugged landscape. A book about the latest trends in market investing could attract readers with a sleek design around endorsements and testimonials. If you are planning a wide marketing and promotional campaign for your book, your cover image will be the crux of all your marketing materials. The image will be incorporated into bookmarks, posters and postcards, as a central design element - just one more reason why your cover should receive significant thought and resources.

If you're searching for cover ideas, start by spending some time relaxing in a bookstore. Notice how customers interact with books. Which positions, displays and colors tend to attract specific demographics? Look at other books in your genre that target similar demographics or sell at a similar price. What makes one cover stand out more than another? What type of cover attracts browsers to pick up a book and read the back cover?

The Psychology of Color and Branding

Color can impact shoppers and influence their feelings about products. When making decisions about your cover design, consider the psychological responses certain colors evoke. Traditionally "warm colors" in the spectrum, including red, orange and yellow, tend to be high-arousal colors that cause feelings of warmth and stimulate the senses. Warm colors tend to appear closer to the viewer and can attract attention from across a room. "Cool colors" of the spectrum, including blue, green and purple, are low-arousal colors and tend to cause feelings of relaxation, calmness and tranquility.

Like any other product's design, a book's design can effectively create a brand for an author. Bob Shumaker, author of The Schmooney Trilogies, created a brand around his series, starting with his book covers. The book covers are easily identifiable with the same subtitle bar at the top of the front covers, similar font for each title and mystical environments in the background. Designers not only attract consumers to buy books with eye-catching covers, but also generate a degree of brand loyalty with instantly recognizable elements. Take this point into careful consideration if you plan to turn your book into a series.

Ockham's Razor

The idea of "simplicity" in design isn't new. The principle of simplicity is also referred to as Ockham's Razor, a concept stating simplicity is preferred to complexity. The main thesis of Ockham's Razor is that unnecessary elements will decrease the overall efficiency and aesthetic appeal of a design. It can be a good indicator of why one design may succeed and another one will not. A good writer will spend hour after hour editing and re-editing their book, cutting words, paragraphs, and so forth until it is "clean." The cover designers method is not much different, other than it is a visual process rather than a written one. Respecting Ockham's Razor can assist you to strip away any unhelpful design elements and achieve a cover that balances simplicity of theme and detail of design to appeal to readers and reflect the author's vision.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I generate ideas for my cover?

First, identify your book's genre and define your target audience. Visit your local bookstore and study book covers that catch your eye. Ask yourself what elements make these covers stand out from the rest. Examine book covers online to determine which design elements elevate marketability.

How can I design my cover to appeal to Internet shoppers?

Most online booksellers feature a thumbnail image of your book, which is a scaled-down version of your cover that is usually only one inch tall. To enhance your book's online marketability, consider designing a cover that will stand out as a thumbnail. Large text is readable in a thumbnail, but smaller text can be difficult to read.

How much time do customers spend looking at a book's cover?

Most people spend twice as much time reviewing the back cover text than they do looking at the front cover. The front cover should be designed to attract a reader's attention and interest, and the back must actually sell the story within the book.

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