Why Do So Many of This Year’s Book Covers Have the Same Design Style?

29 August 2015

From Slate:


Among the many challenges book cover designers face is trying to represent a book’s premise or main character without getting so specific that readers are left with little to imagine.

. . . .

But lately, another cover design trend has been popping up on this summer’s crop of beach reads: the flat woman. Inspired by the “flat design” that’s become standard on the Web, these covers take on a minimalist style characterized by bright colors, simple layouts, and lots of white space. Several different designers and publishers have used this approach on hardcovers and paperbacks alike, especially those aiming for the upmarket-but-still-commercial-fiction-for-ladies sweet spot.

. . . .

Keith Hayes, who designed the Bernadette cover for publisher Little, Brown, told me via email that he didn’t have any intention of using the flat design style or starting a trend when he conceptualized this cover; he was just working “out of the inability to actually draw,” he said.

“Finding an appropriate enough photograph and placing some type on it just didn’t seem special enough,” he said. “It needed a lighthearted cover that would appeal to both women and men and also feel original.” Hayes says he wanted to do an illustrative approach but didn’t have specialty training in that area. “I like to try to solve my design problems on my own. I thought I could do this in a somewhat simplistic way using basic shapes,” he says.


Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Book Cover Twins

17 July 2015

Book Cover Twins
Courtesy of:
Thanks to Steve for the tip.

UPDATE: For more duplicate covers see Reading the Past

14 Classic Novels Rewritten With Clickbait Titles

14 June 2015

From Buzzfeed:
Link to the rest at Buzzfeed and thanks to Tina for the tip.

How to Pose Like a Man

9 June 2015

From The New York Times:

The cover my publisher chose for my new novel, “The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty,” was indeed very beautiful, but more feminine than I would have ideally liked. It was mostly white, but all the way at the top were the gorgeous chin and red lips of a young woman. Not wanting to be a “difficult author,” I decided not to ask my editor to find a new cover. (She had already been kind enough to change it once.) Instead, I decided to counteract the cover by other means, starting with my author photo.

Until the overly feminine book-jacket problem arose, I had intended to use as my author photo a very flattering snapshot that my boyfriend, Richard, took of me eight years ago on the street in Paris at 3 a.m. I’ve been using it as my Facebook avatar for a long time, and I had been looking forward to putting it to professional use.

Now, changing plans, I made an appointment with the great author photographer Marion Ettlinger. On the phone, I told her I wanted to look stern, severe, strict — possibly standing against a white wall, maybe wearing a black cloak or something. “Like a headmistress?” she asked. “Yes, exactly!” I said, thrilled that she understood.

Two days before the shoot, I flipped through a book of Ms. Ettlinger’s photos to get a sense of how authors typically dressed for their portraits. I made a startling discovery: The male and female authors posed differently. The men looked simpler, more straightforward. The women looked dreamy, often gazing off into the distance. Their limbs were sometimes entwined, like vines.

I decided that I wanted to pose like a man. I also thought: No wonder books by women don’t get reviewed as often as those by men. Maybe it was the poses.

. . . .

Midway through the session Ms. Ettlinger said, “You look like a member of a gang of female mountain warriors.” I took this as a compliment.

. . . .

I believe that this unconscious prejudice against women, which is extremely strong in the literary world, is present in almost everyone, including in those of us who object to it the most vehemently. I know that I even detect it in myself, sometimes. That’s why I didn’t want to make things even more difficult for my novel by saddling it with a feminine cover or girlie author photo.

I eventually wiped away my rotted thought, which suited my face as poorly as bad lighting, and we resumed our session. When it was over, I could tell there was something Ms. Ettlinger wanted to tell me. Finally, she said, “The photos will be exactly what you asked for.” This was clearly a warning. I knew she thought the photos might not look “good” in the traditional sense. They wouldn’t be “pretty” or “beautiful.” She said that she would not normally produce photos like these for a woman — she would find more graceful poses, search for more flattering angles. I told her that I understood and that I was grateful she’d been willing to honor my preference.

Link to the rest, including a copy of the author’s book photo, at The New York Times

‘A Gronking to Remember’ Becomes Memorable Lawsuit Against Amazon, Apple

29 April 2015

From The Hollywood Reporter:

A self-published erotic novella entitled Gronking to Remember could be on its way to highlighting the dangers of stripping out the middle-men.

Last year, pseudonymous author Lacey Noonan hit the big time by cleverly picking a title that alluded to the way that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski emphatically spiked a football whenever he scored a touchdown. The title was undoubtedly memorable — so much so that it got heated online attention and soon, mentions on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and other television shows.

The book took a detour from the best-seller list, though, when it was suddenly pulled by some online outlets.

. . . .

[T]he problem with the book might have been something else on the cover, as revealed in a lawsuit (read here) that was filed in Ohio by two anonymous individuals.

“The cover of the book contains a photograph of the Plaintiffs which was taken as part of their engagement journey leading toward their wedding,” states the complaint. “The photograph was appropriated by the Defendants for commercial gain without the permission of the Plaintiffs nor with the permission of any lawful copyright holder.”

The lawsuit targets Noonan, and also Apple, and Barnes & Noble for allowing readers to access the work in iBooks, Kindle and Nook digital formats. The plaintiffs — captioned as “John Roe” and “Jane Roe” — are asserting violations of their rights of publicity under Ohio law.

. . . .

“The subject matter of the book, A Gronking to Remember, is less than tasteful and is offensive,” says the complaint. “The use of the Plaintiffs image has held them up to ridicule and embarrassment. This outrageous connection has been further aggravated when the book, with the Plaintiffs image, has been reproduced in the media nationwide. The book has been shown as a source of ribald humor on The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live as well as being displayed and read before the press at media day for the Super Bowl.”

The lawsuit was recently removed to a federal court and appears primed to answer the question of whether Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act can shield an e-book service from publicity rights claims. That statute enacted by Congress in 1996 states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

. . . .

But how about Apple allowing people to “self-publish” stuff through its iBooks store? Or allowing authors to “self-publish” works on Kindle stores? Are Apple and Amazon not “publishers”?

That’s what one of the defendants asserts.

Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter and thanks to Bill for the tip.

PG says you need to get your photos for covers from reputable stock image suppliers.

Lessons from a great book jacket designer

2 March 2015

From The Book Deal:

The bright yellow cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is instantly recognizable.


The Wall Street Journal called the jacket, designed by Peter Mendelsund, one of the most iconic in contemporary fiction in the U.S.

Mendelsund, Associate Art Director at Knopf, now has his own new book, Cover, published by powerHouse Books. It’s a fascinating inside look at the process that goes into creating a memorable book jacket, including the opportunity to see dozens of discarded comps.

. . . .

The job of every book cover

“Jackets are expected to help sell books,” says Mendelsund. “They wheedle, shout, joke, cajole, wink, grovel, and otherwise pander in every possible way in order to get a consumer to pick up a given text.

A new book needs first and foremost to catch a browser’s eye, to stand out in some way. There are so many books published in one year and so many of their covers look alike, don’t they. I prefer ugly covers to clone covers. At least ugly covers demand a certain amount of attention.”

. . . .

Advice for self-publishing writers

Keep it simple!

“Most self-published book covers fail because they are trying too hard,” says Mendelsund. “Even design professionals fall in the trap of trying to shoehorn too much design into one composition. I often tell students, ‘your problem isn’t that you have poor ideas, it’s that you have five ideas competing on the same page at the same time.’

If in doubt, stick with typography. Make sure the typography is legible. Use your handwriting if your handwriting is decent. If not, use a font. Any tried-and-true standard face will do (Bodini, Baskerville, Garamond, Helvetica, Trade Gothic). Pick a pretty color for your background. Voila.

When you start to incorporate illustrations, photographs, etc. the amateurishness of the work begins to show. But there’s no need for any of that stuff. Many of the best book covers are simple as could be.

Link to the rest at The Book Deal

Forget Fabio: DIY Covers

22 February 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

The rapid embrace of self-publishing over the past decade has increased the competition among indie romance authors to put out professional, memorable cover designs that fit within the genre and adhere to current trends, but that stand out in a crowded market. And while the cover design process at a major publisher may involve the art department, editorial, sales and marketing, and publicity, indie authors must go it alone. We talked to a variety of authors and designers in the industry who shared their advice and observations about what’s hot for romance covers in 2015.

Before the now-iconic monochromatic Fifty Shades of Grey cover design, the romance industry was perhaps best known for its Harlequin “clinch covers” of the ’80s and ’90s, usually featuring the bare-chested model Fabio Lanzoni embracing a busty maiden. “A clinch cover—a couple engaged in an embrace, sometimes wildly passionate, sometimes sweeter—is a romance classic,” says Romance Writers of America board member and New York Times bestselling author Leslie Kelly. It’s something she predicts will never go out of style.

. . . .

But, while self-published and traditional romance covers often follow the same trends, she says that indie covers tend to “skew hotter.” “While traditionally published books are still trying to grab the passerby at Walmart or in a brick-and-mortar store, [self-]published books are typically targeted toward electronic readers,” she says, which allows readers to choose a book with a sexy cover and still read it in public without fear of being judged.

This leads us to back to the basics of cover design: where do designers get these sexy photos that grace the covers of our favorite titles, and what goes into selecting them?

. . . .

Faced with the challenge of creating a memorable book cover on a shoestring budget, many indie authors and their freelance designers turn to stock photo sites for the images they need. Sites like Shutterstock or iStock offer users a massive selection of photos that can be downloaded for as little as $12 and as much as a few hundred dollars. But, while these sites are indispensable for authors and designers creating covers on a budget, their popularity also causes some problems.

“I think the biggest challenge is avoiding the overuse of certain stock images,” indie author and graphic designer Rachel Carrington says. “You don’t want a couple on the cover that is on four other covers.” To remedy this, she says she searches specifically for images that don’t have a high volume of downloads—something that can be tough if a designer is looking to keep up with current trends.

“The problem with stock images is that many of us authors end up using the same photographs for our covers,” says Katana Collins, a freelance photographer and author of the paranormal Soul Stripper trilogy. Since the beginning of 2015, she says she’s found the stock image used for her current indie cover, Capturing You, on two other books. For this reason, she says she plans to photograph the images for her next covers herself—thereby ensuring that they’re unique.

. . . .

In terms of what’s working in the industry today, the authors and designers we talked to are in agreement: “I think simplicity does it now; it used to be that the fancier covers were the ones that really got the attention,” says Carrington, who adds that her recent clients are asking for uncluttered covers. “Nowadays, it’s cleaner lines and unique colors.” Her favorite at the moment are the monochrome covers with color used only in the title or on a part of the image. “It really draws your eye,” she says. Collins also says that, as an author and a reader, she is drawn to simple covers using a single symbolic image.

Graphic designer Hafsah Faizal says she tries to steer her clients toward simpler covers. “I think the minimalistic covers stand out the most, and I try to keep my covers minimalistic as much as possible,” she says. Using her cover design for The Body Electric by Beth Revis as an example, Faizal adds, “If the book allows it, I’ll use colors that aren’t the norm.” The novel, which she describes as “science fiction with a touch of romance” features a neon green cover with a hand-lettered font. “I also try to use fonts that aren’t regularly used, but it’s not always possible,” Faizal says. She points to typography-driven cover designs that turn the title into a work of art, citing the YA titles Shadow and the Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, and The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski, as successful indie examples of this trend.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Eric for the tip.

Indie Book Covers are On The Up

28 December 2014

From author Rebecca Lang via ALLI Self-Publishing Advice Blog:

Can I just say all of these amazing book covers I’m seeing are exciting the socks off me! That good covers are becoming the norm, rather than the exception to the rule, is truly heartening.

When I first started self-publishing, good covers were few and far between. I really feel the balance has now tipped tremendously in favour of indies, and this demonstrates a high level of professionalism. I’m so pleased to be part of such a focused and inspiring group of people.

. . . .

Nearing the completion of my first self-published book, I decided to have a stab at designing the book’s cover. I had seen some covers that I really liked and set my mind to replicating a couple of them – an eye-catching tabloid-style of cover with block colours, arresting images, and a darker more academic effort.

If it was any good, I reasoned, I would have saved myself some money and added an extra string to my bow (writer, editor AND book designer!).

As it was, it really wasn’t very good at all – but at the time I thought it was Magnificent! Genius! A Work of Art!

That was until I showed a graphic designer friend Tim Hartridge who politely considered it. He never said ‘Oh sweet Jesus, this is an abomination!’, but he did design something much, much better.

. . . .

Paying for the services of a good graphic designer is part and parcel of investing in yourself, and getting your readers to invest some time in getting to know your writing.

Link to the rest at ALLI

Here’s a link to Rebecca Lang’s books

How I Gave Away Over 2,000 Books on Kindle in 3 Days Without Any Prep Work

10 December 2014

From author D.J. Gelner:

As many of you know, I co-edited an anthology of sci-fi and fantasy short stories this year with my good friend and fellow author J.M. Ney-Grimm.

The result is Quantum Zoo, a book near and dear to our hearts, and the hearts of the ten other writers who contributed excellent stories to the collection.

. . . .

You see, part of the impetus for releasing Quantum Zoo was that we wanted to get it in the hands of as many people as possible using a variety of promotional methods to see what works to promote fiction these days, and what doesn’t.

To those ends, we put the book in Kindle Select for its initial 90-day term, and figured we’d get around to setting up a free promo at some point.

Of course, life got in the way, and before I knew it, we found ourselves scrambling in September with only three potential promo days left!

J.M. and I worked tirelessly to brainstorm some ways to give more books away–after all, we didn’t want to do QZ or our fellow authors a disservice by watching a piddly 30 or 40 people download it for absolutely free!

So we came up with a gameplan that was part foresight, part improv, and a good amount of luck.

And we gave away over 2,000 books on KDP Select over the course of those three days!

. . . .

1) Get a Killer Cover

The days of “not judging a book by its cover” are long gone. For a lot of readers, a professional-looking cover is the first indication of quality in a publishing world filled with increasing amounts of people who don’t take the business terribly seriously.

. . . .

2) Choose THE RIGHT Keywords

Amazon only allows KDP authors to use 7 keywords (in addition to the keywords in the title) to promote your book in their vast search engine.

At first, it can be a daunting task–which 7 words do you choose as a new author? I remember using plot-related keywords with JWATT at first, things like “dinosaur hunt,” “Isaac Newton,” etc.

Over time, that sense of enormity has shrunken down to something more akin to “frustration.” For the longest time, it seemed like no matter which keywords I chose, there was little or no effect on sales.

In promoting Quantum Zoo, J.M. and I had a bit of an epiphany, probably spurred on in one of our brains by David Gaughran’s excellent book, Let’s Get Visible:

Make the keywords Amazon subcategories, or at least related to those subcategories.

You see, Amazon puts fiction books into a vast web of categories and subcategories. I want to say that about a year ago, they vastly increased the size of this web, with a whole bunch of new subcategories. For a while, it seemed like there was no rhyme or reason to where a given book ended up–Jesus Was a Time Traveler (JWATT) was in Time Travel, Technothrillers, and a few others for a while. Rogue ended up in “hard sci fi.”

I think it was Gaughran who advocated making these new desired subcategories keywords themselves, to ensure that your book got in the subcategories you wanted. Essentially, you get the 7 keywords, plus the 2 categories you can select in KDP, plus whatever Amazon’s algos glean from your title.

The reasoning? This is the key part of the strategy! The more categories and subcategories the book is in, the better the chance it has to appear in a given top 100 list for that category or subcategory. The more top 100 lists the book appears in, the more visible it is to people who browse those top 100 lists for their next reads.

We actually followed this strategy with Quantum Zoo–since we have a lot of different takes on sci-fi and fantasy, we have a lot of potential genres we could be in. So we listed a bunch of them out: “first contact,” “technothrillers,” etc. in addition to picking the obvious “sci-fi anthologies” as one of our Amazon genre selections.

And this is also where the “luck” portion of the strategy came in. While we recognized the utility of being in as many different genres as possible for keyword searching purposes, we didn’t understand just how important being on those top 100 lists for both paid and free purposes was until we saw the results of our promo.

The strategy definitely helped us come out guns blazing–we noticed that the higher we got on those genre top 100 lists, the more books we sold, to a point, at least.

But it’s exponentially more important to be on the top 100 lists when giving away your book for free! That’s because as a “crap filter,” even the free book hoarders will scour the top 100 lists, using them as a form of “social proof” for which books are decent, and thus “worthy” (of a free download, no less!). The more lists you’re on, the more you can put the algos to work for you, and the better the chance you have of getting downloads.

The more downloads you get, the more potential reviews you get on both Amazon and Goodreads, and the more word of mouth you might start to generate.

About a month after publication, though, when reading up on the topic a bit more, I came across the following helpful page:

Amazon Categories with Keyword Requirements

In a rare look “inside the algorithms,” Amazon essentially has given us the tools to craft titles and use keywords to drill down into some previously esoteric sub-subcategories. I’ve since tried using some of these terms in my books, and while it can take a few weeks for Amazon to index them with your book, it works.

Now that you know just how important those keywords can be, have fun looking through the list for some ideas on what words you can use to get your next book in as many different categories as possible.

Link to the rest at D.J. Gelner and thanks to Jessica for the tip.

Here’s a link to Quantum Zoo

200 Years of Jane Austen Covers

15 November 2014

From The Guardian:

It’s more than two centuries since Sense and Sensibility was first published, in three austere volumes. Things have grown rather more colourful since, with heaving bosoms, gilt-embossed curlicues appealing to different decades and demographics. Here are some of Jane’s many faces.

. . . .

1 Sense and Sensibility, Thomas Egerton (1811)


In Austen’s time, books were bound very simply in cardboard covers with only a paper label bearing the title on the spine. Private purchasers would have the books rebound to match the other books in their library, like this “half calf” rebinding of the first edition of Austen’s first book, Sense and Sensibility: the front and back were covered in mottled paper, while the corners and the spine were covered with leather, providing cheaper protection. Novels would rarely have received a full leather binding in those days, as they were not considered worth such treatment – it would have been reserved for more “serious” books, such as history or poetry.

2 Pride and Prejudice, Chapman and Hall Select Library of Fiction (1872)


By the 1860s, all of Austen’s novels were out of copyright. The rising, literate middle class, were using some of their new disposable income to buy books at railway stations. Many of these were of rather lower quality than Jane’s novels, and unfortunately these “yellowback” editions received similar lurid covers and illustrations set sometimes awkwardly in then modern days. Thus, this publisher felt that Lydia Bennet flirting with soldiers in Brighton was a representative illustration of Pride and Prejudice!

Link to the rest at The Guardian

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