The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Monday, May 4, 2015

What's Important in a Cover?

        On May 2, Catherine Rankovic spoke to the St. Louis Writers Guild. Her topic? Book covers.

      Here are some informational tidbits she shared during her talk:

  • The title should be in the top third of the book cover. Second in importance is the image that will capture readers' eyes. Third in ranking is the author's name. According to Rankovic, the author should be humble and thrilled that their name is on a book, so it should be much smaller than the title. (Unless, of course, you're James-freakin' Patterson or Stephen King. If that's the case, emblazon away in four-inch high lettering.)
  • The title should be able to be read from 12 feet away, and because it's the Amazon era, your book cover should still be distinct and recognizable when it's shrunk to thumbnail-size. Script typefaces should not be used in the title, and serif typefaces (as opposed to sans serif) increase the readability. (I didn't know those little "tails" on letters made the text easier to read. Did you?)
  • There are colors to avoid when considering a background color for the cover: purple, gray, blue-green, babypoop yellow, along with any other color that is the same hue as a bodily fluid. (And for years I've been dreaming of my book cover being the color of bile! Maybe she's wrong...)
  •  Leave your face off the cover. Leave yours and your relatives' artwork off the cover. Leave any ambiguous image off the cover. If a prospective reader has to study the cover to figure out what the image is (What is that?), that tends to turn people off.
  • Effective cover designs make clear what the book is about and stirs up feelings.

            Here are some covers I think work, based on what Rankovic said on Saturday:

Of course, if we were as popular and prolific as
George R. R. Martin, our name would take top billing.
The text is easy to read, it has the notation "#1 New York
Times Bestselling Author," and the image is easy to understand.
This ain't no contemporary tale, and cool-looking swords are involved...

Martin's best book, in my opinion, is Fevre Dream. It's spectacular!

This cover works--for me--because the title is in the upper third/half (which
is prime real estate as far as book covers), the text is easy to read, and the image
makes it clear--this is not a contemporary novel, and it has to do something
with African American maids in the 1940's or 50's...The "teaser" above the title
intrigues me. Change begins with a whisper. That line stirs up feelings.
What kind of change? Who's doing the whispering? In the end, will they be
successful? That book cover would have made me buy the book, if I hadn't
already been swept up the frenzy surrounding the novel...
Perhaps Catherine Rankovic would not agree with me, but this
cover is an effective one, from my perspective.
The text is easy to read, the watery letters intrigue me (What is this novel about?)
and the cover includes an endorsement from the New York Times. (And I was thinking
a blurb from my daughter or best friend would do the trick. Oh well...) The author's
name is intriguing as well. (What is it with these odd names for writers? said Sioux.)


  1. My most recent book's cover is green and gray! Maybe THAT's why no one buys it!

    1. Shay--No, it's just in this day and age, a book of poetry is a hard sell. But anyone who buys one of your books probably buys more than one (for gifts). At least that's what I did...

  2. This is interesting. I never liked a yellow cover!

    1. Claudia--And Rankovic claims that a book with a purple background never sells... I wonder why?

  3. Shame on us for judging books by their covers!

    1. Val--Yeah, we should beat ourselves with a cooked, wet noodle...

  4. Uh-oh -- I'm in trouble according to this---where were you two months ago when my publisher was approving the book cover? My name is at the top (though in small print) and the title is at the bottom of the book, but it is in a BIG font, much bigger than my name at the top. Of course, I love my cover, and didn't know I had a problem until you just told me. :)

    1. Lisa--The info I shared was from Catherine Rankovic. I am not any kind of expert on book covers or even on how to finish a book. ;) I think there are always exceptions that work... Check out my previous post, where your cover is one that's featured...

    2. I missed one of your posts? How??

  5. Yep, Amazon and the whole digital movement has changed the face of bookcovers--there's a very good reason why so many book titles in YA are one or two words: ALLEGIANT, TWILIGHT, THE UGLIES, HUNGER GAMES...

    Of course, there are exceptions, and sometimes, being different is enough to get a book cover noticed. I think that'd be a very cool job, designing book covers. I wouldn't have to actually BE an artist, I'd just have to, you know, come up with cool ideas. Right? :-)

  6. Cathy--I am sure I would make a lousy designer. I'd get distracted by something I thought was attractive, but most likely everyone else would consider it barfable...

  7. I'm glad you posted on this, Sioux. I really wanted to attend the meeting but had other commitments. Maybe I can convince the SW folks to have her come to St. Peters and do a similar talk?

    Critter Alley

    1. Pat--I think the Saturday Writers would appreciate it, especially since so many writers are going the self-published route.

  8. Sioux, thanks for coming to the seminar. I wish we had met! (I just tried to send a similar message that got lost somewhere, so if you see this twice. . .)

    Purple book covers are one of the great mysteries; no one in the printing or publishing industries knows why purple books don't sell, but everyone knows that's true. I will give you a dime for every purple cover you find at Barnes & Noble or in a Wal-Mart book rack.

    Because there are exceptions to every "basic rule," it is possible for a book with an author's name at the top to do well.

    Thanks to the critique I received of Sylvia Sky's "Bonded and Hitting It Off" book cover, I redesigned it and think it's much better, and now it's on Kindle.

    I'd be glad to talk on this subject to the Saturday Writers.


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