A Cover is a Cover is a Cover...

Thursday, October 07, 2021

If you saw this cover, would you buy the book?

photo by Sue B. Edwards

I imagine not. However, what if the title didn't look like it was written in blood? And what if the blurb said something like, "Two men form an unlikely friendship, as they team up to fight the battle of their lives" instead of "Across the twilight of fear, the red-drenched, terrifying dream begins..."? Might the book at least prompt you to pick it up and give it a second glance?

(By the way, Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin is one of my favorites. And bonus: it's not long enough to serve as a doorstop, unlike his Game of Thrones books.)

The cover of a book is huge. I've not bought books because the cover didn't hook me. They might have been incredible books that I passed on... And yet I did exactly that. I passed on the books because either the cover didn't hook me or it turned me off.

A cover that I love is Pat Wahler's book I am Mrs. Jesse James. It's simple, classy, and gives you (what ends up being) an accurate idea of what the novel is about.

Pat's publisher designed the cover. She was lucky. Pat liked the design. If your publisher chooses one you don't like, you might not have any say in the matter.

I was even more fortunate. Margo Dill (my publisher) let me use an artist of my choice, and when the cover was finished,  Margo finalized it with different colors and borders/text placement. I really love it. It's striking, and the black, white and gray color scheme represents the fact that this is a story about racism--what the White people did to the Black people in 1921 Tulsa... and all the gray details in-between.

It also solved a huge problem: I had no idea what the main character--Henry--looked like. The silhoutte the artist cut out of the 1921 newspaper headlines allows the reader to form their own impression of Henry.

Authors--if they're self-publishing--hope their research and getting feedback from writing friends results in a great cover. Authors who are working with their publisher hope that either their input is considered or their publisher makes a wise decision when it comes to what goes on the (front and back) cover of the book.

In reading about what makes an effective book cover, I came across this article that highlights various books and what covers were rejected. I was fascinated with why some didn't make the final cut.

If you have a book (or two or three or more), I'd love to hear about your choices and decisions when creating a cover. If you're a fan of Fevre Dream, I'd love to hear from you (it's a little-known book). And if you're a fan of my book, I'd really love to hear from you...

Sioux Roslawski is the author of Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story, which is the first book she has birthed. Most of her time is spent teaching middle-schoolers (a true labor of love) and taking her dog, Radar, on walks. You can check out her work by checking out her blog.


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Chip Kidd has done at least one TED talk on cover design. I can tell you if I like it. I understand why some work better than others. But I also feel like any success I might have is almost accidental. It is so complicated!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--It is indeed complicated. So many things to consider, and conflicting advice. (Thanks again for the photo.)

Angela Mackintosh said...

There's a lot that goes into a cover. The simpler the better--if you can capture the vibe of the book's story in the most striking and clever graphics, that's key. Also the legibility of the typography is the main concern. You also don't want it to be too literal. It should have a deeper meaning or feeling.

I love the newspaper collage in Henry's silhouette. It immediately captures the feel of an important historical newsworthy story and the landscape of burning Greenwood. Your artist did a great job. :)

Thanks for the link to the article. It's interesting to see the cover evolutions. We published an article a while back that covers how book covers are used as a sales tool and includes a cover checklist: Creating Book Covers that Sell

Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela--There IS a lot. It's mind-boggling. And thanks--I agree. Jessie created a phenomenal cover.

Renee Roberson said...

If I saw this cover I would totally buy it but that's I'm a glutton for murder and mayhem stories, ha ha! I LOVE the cover for "Greenwood Gone," you can stare at it for 30 minutes and still be finding things to discuss! I follow author Jennifer Weiner on social media and a lot of her books from the early 2000s have been given new covers and the discussion of trends and how the concept of the covers evolved has been interesting.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--One of the covers for "Fevre Dream" has a riverboat in a misty setting, and that is a far better cover for that book, in my opinion.

I know. I really hit the ball out of the park when I asked Jessie to do my book cover. She so freakin' talented AND intuitive AND humble AND generous. I really lucked out...

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