Covers

How to Judge a Book by its Cover

24 July 2017

From Design Observer:

AIGA and Design Observer’s 50 Books | 50 Covers competition, which reviews and awards the best of book and cover designs published within the past year, has just concluded its 94th cycle. We’re pleased to announce this year’s winning cover and winning book selections, along with a few trends the judges couldn’t help but notice while digging deep into the stacks to pare nearly 700 submissions down to 100 final selections.

. . . .

As popular as the ebook (supposedly) is these days, to our judges—Gail Anderson, designer and professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City; Michael Carabetta, Creative Director of Chronicle Books; and Jessica Helfand, Co-Founder of this publication—the strongest trends from the hundreds of selections they reviewed were of the tactile variety.

. . . .

Carabetta, who has previously juried the competition, noted after a full day of reviewing entries that the final books selected were excellent “not only in design—[but] in production; in paper, mixing coated and uncoated… People are getting into the real, physical qualities of the book.” He went on, “Maybe it’s because of the screen age we live in that they are appreciating the tactile quality.”

The book, in the mind of the bibliophile, has been threatened for some time now: due to the adoption of radio, or tv, or the direction that the current political wind is blowing. And book designers responded to these influences in the way designers know best—visually. In one particularly symbolic example, author Ray Bradbury ensured his 1953 book, Fahrenheit 451, would avoid the untimely demise experienced by those books of his plotline by binding the second edition in fireproof asbestos to prevent its burning.

With the adoption of ebooks, it seemed book lovers everywhere were not able to shake the fear that the humble object of their affection–a book created by the art of ink on paper (no battery required)–was similarly under fire. But the book has persisted in new forms, designed in even more inventive and delightful ways with each passing year. After reviewing one cover design, Anderson said, “This is one of those covers that I wish I’d done, but can now never attempt because the designer executed it perfectly.” If that’s not a high accolade, I’m not sure what is.

Link to the rest at Design Observer

PG is not an expert on cover design (plus a great many more subjects), but he had a difficult time picking a couple of award winners that he actually thought were well-designed for inclusion at the bottom of this post.

From the photos and descriptions in the OP, PG surmised that the judges of the design competition may have performed their duties entirely with physical books without examining how those covers translated to a computer or smartphone screen.

He has no doubt that the tactile qualities of the paper, etc., were lovely in person. However, a book cover is, first and foremost, a marketing and promotion tool. Tactile qualities only contribute to book sales in physical bookstores.

If the covers are only attractive and attention-getting in their physical forms and fail electronically, PG suggests they have also failed in their principal business purpose. Cover designers can probably have a lot more fun with a physical instantiation of their creations, especially with interesting papers, textures, etc., but if the objective is to enhance sales of the book, the cover will fail if it flops on Amazon.

 

Some Rain Must Fall and other stories
AUTHOR: Michel Faber
PUBLISHER: Canongate Books
CREATIVE+ART DIRECTOR: Rafaela Romaya
OTHER CREDITS: Illustrator: Yehrin Tong

The Children‘s Home
AUTHOR: Charles Lambert
PUBLISHER: Scribner
CREATIVE+ART DIRECTOR: Jaya Miceli
DESIGNER: Jaya Miceli

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14 Sites for Making a Spectacular Book Cover

21 April 2017

From The Digital Reader:

A book’s cover is often the first thing a reader sees when they find your book for the first time.

You never have a second chance to make a first impression, as the saying goes, which is why many would suggest you hire a professional to design your book covers.

But some authors have the skill to DIY or want to learn about cover design by doing so they can work better with the designers they hire, so here are fourteen sites, services, and apps that you can use to make an awesome book cover.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Nate has included several interesting-looking sites with which PG was not familiar.

He has used Canva, however, for creating and formatting some social media posts (not for TPV and not book covers, but for other parts of the PG media empire).

Here’s what Canva says about book cover design:

You’ve done the hard work and created an amazing book. Make sure it sells out by creating an awesome cover design!

Canva’s free book cover maker is ridiculously easy to use – even for the novice or not-so-tech-savvy writer. Our book cover maker allows you to choose from hundreds of layouts, making it easier than ever to create a memorable cover.

. . . .

Create a beautiful book cover in under 5 minutes

  1. Open Canva and select the “Kindle Cover” design type or insert your own custom dimensions
  2. Choose from our library of professionally designed layouts
  3. Upload your own photos or choose from over 1 million stock images
  4. Fix your images, add stunning filters and edit text
  5. Save and share

Customize your book cover to suit your book genre

  1. Change the images. Upload your own images or choose from our stock library of over 1 million photographs, graphics and illustrations.
  2. Change the fonts. Choose from of over 130 fresh fonts.
  3. Change the background. Choose a background from our library or use an image.
  4. Change the colors. Change the color of your text boxes and text to add extra flair.

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Here is a demonstration of Canva’s power (for good or evil). PG created this cover in a few short moments without even thinking about it.

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Typography can make or break your design: a process for choosing type

15 April 2017

From freeCodeCamp:

One of the most important skills you can learn as a designer is how to choose type. This is because text is one of the primary ways designers can communicate with users. Typography can make or break a design.

There’s a beauty and complexity to typography. Some people devote their entire careers to type. Thankfully, their work is well documented, so we have tons of online resources for typography.

This article is designed to serve as a starting point for helping you learn how to choose type for your designs. It will encourage you to explore fonts and font combinations beyond those you’re familiar with.

. . . .

[I]f you are designing a greeting card that’s illustration heavy, choose a font that fits the style of your illustration. Harmonize your type with the rest of your design.

. . . .

After determining the purpose of your design, identify your audience. This step is crucial because age and interest will influence your font options.

After clarifying the purpose of your design, identify your audience. This step is crucial because information about your users such as age, interests, and cultural upbringing could influence the decisions you make for your type.

For example, some fonts are more appropriate for children. When learning to read, children need highly legible fonts with generous letter shapes. A good example of this is Sassoon Primary. Sassoon Primary was developed by Rosemary Sassoon and based on her research into what kind of letters children found easy to read.

. . . .

 Other fonts are more appropriate for seniors. Senior-friendly fonts use readable sizes, high contrasting colors, and avoid scripts and decorative styles.

. . . .

 Armed with research and inspiration, you are ready to choose your type. When it comes to choosing type, keep the following principles in mind: readability, legibility, and purpose.

. . . .

Choose fonts that are conventional and easy to read. Avoid highly decorative fonts in favor of simple and practical fonts. Also, be mindful of the purpose of a font. For example, some fonts are more suited to be headers rather than body text.

Link to the rest at freeCodeCamp

PG immediately thought about fonts used on book covers when he saw this. Lots of examples at the OP.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Makes 375,000 Images of Fine Art Available Under a Creative Commons License: Download, Use & Remix

15 February 2017

From Open Culture:

What do you need to make art? Why, art, of course: the works that have come before provide inspiration, establish a tradition to follow and expand, and now, in our digital age, even provide the very materials to work with. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has assured us that we should feel free to “use, remix, and share” their latest batch of 375,000 digitized artworks of a variety of forms and from a variety of eras in any which way we like. In partnership with Creative Commons, they’ve released them all under the latter’s CC0, or “no rights reserved” license, which places them “as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law.”

Link to the rest at Open Culture

PG says this appears to make these specific works of art (not the entire collection of the Met) available for use on book covers.

Here’s a link to Introducing Open Access at The Met for more information.

And here’s In the Library by Edwin Austin Abbey, released under the Met’s CC0 license:


and a photo taken by Alfred Stieglitz in Paris in 1908

and a Migrant Pea Picker’s Makeshift Home, Nipomo, California, taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936

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Book Cover Design: How self-publishing authors can do it best

9 February 2017

From Reedsy:

Book cover design, also known as ‘book jacket’ design, is a favorite topic of conversation in the Reedsy office. Since we opened our digital doors over two years ago, we’ve seen hundreds of authors collaborate with designers — and much more join our regular ‘cover critiques,’ when our professionals offer feedback on self-published book covers.

Despite our fascination with the art of cover design, we were surprised how little we actually knew about the process and, crucially, its cost. In 2016, we published a report on the costs of self-publishing a book by crunching real quotes offered by Reedsy editors and designers over a year. We were able to give practical guidelines for the cost of editing, but when it came calculating an average price for a professional cover, the costs ranged from between $300 to over $1,500.

. . . .

At the most basic level, a professional-looking cover will help readers take you and your book seriously. Online retailers like Amazon do not distinguish between traditional and self-published books in their search results. That means independent authors must compete against traditionally published books and ensure their designs match or, if possible, exceed those the big boys are putting out.

You may have a friend who’s great with photoshop and has offered to help you for free. As enticing as it may be to work with a friend (for free!), a professional designer brings more than just photoshop skills to the table. Book cover design is a complex balance of images, text, and information — and you need someone who understands how each of these elements interacts with the others to best sell your book.

. . . .

“One of the benefits of hiring a professional cover designer is that he/she will have an intimate awareness of design trends within a given genre,” says U.S. designer Kevin Barrett Kane. “Emulating the designs of other titles within a given genre can make a book look generic, but being too original with the design risks confusing readers about the subject of your book. An experienced cover designer knows how to thread the needle between the overdone and the ambiguous.”

. . . .

A well-written brief will pay dividends. Not only can it help you secure your designer of choice, but it lays the ground for a smoother collaboration and will often result in a lower quote. A good brief doesn’t just describe the book in stunning detail; it’s also your first (and often only) chance to pitch yourself as a collaborator.

“I worked in advertising for 18 years so I can smell it on the air when I know I’m heading into a mire of endless demands,” says illustrator and designer Chuck Regan. “I know who’s going to get the blame when their book does not sell because of a cover they didn’t like.

“Ultimately, my decision to work for an author is based on a sliding scale. What’s the subject matter? How much detail is required? What’s the timescale? And how much fun do I think it will be to render the cover?”

Link to the rest at Reedsy

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The 60 Best Book Covers of 2016, as Chosen by Designers

21 December 2016

From Literary Hub:

Today in “2016 was garbage but at least we had good ____,” we bring you: book covers. Because it’s true: this year, we had a healthy quantity of beautiful, inventive, arresting, unforgettable book cover designs, many of which deserve recognition. Now, of course, since it’s the end of the year, we are socially obligated to ask, but which were the very best? So I wondered: which were the very best? I know what looks good to my laywoman’s eye, but which were really marvelous and which simply pretty? To make sense of it all, I asked seventeen designers whose own work I have deeply admired to talk about their personal favorite book covers of 2016.

As might be expected, some of the artists I asked championed a few of the same book designs, so I feel comfortable saying that the very top three best book covers of the year are the following:

Cannibals in Love, designed by Na Kim (7 nods)
The Bed Moved, designed by Janet Hansen (5 nods)
The Mothers, designed by Rachel Willey (5 nods)

. . . .

Mike Roberts, Cannibals in Love, design by Na Kim

This jacket is one of the most perfect integrations of title and image I’ve ever seen. Every moment makes sense both intellectually and visually. It manages to be abstract and representational at the same time. But the main thing is I can’t stop staring at it, so not only is it a beautiful work of art, but it’s doing its job as a book cover. Genius!

. . . .

Rebecca Schiff, The Bed Moved, design by Janet Hansen

Simplicity in design can be a real battle, but designer Janet Hansen makes it look elementary with her design for The Bed Moved. Hansen manages to balance chaos and composition in such a way that the eye doesn’t at first detect the repeated letters. It’s a design triumph!

Link to the rest at Literary Hub

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On Cover Design. Because It Matters.

31 October 2016

From The Dust Lounge:

I love covers.

I really love covers.

. . . .

I’m talking about book covers.

And if you turn around and tell me you don’t judge a book by its cover, then that’s damn great. But a little badger in the back of my mind doesn’t believe you. The cover is what makes a book stand out on the shelf, or on the screen. It’s the glint that catches your eye and won’t let go.

Of course, some covers are bad. They might be misleading. They might be hard to read. They might be photoshoppery disasters.

. . . .

And making a cover is hard.

But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not important. These days, we’re not just talking about browsing through shelves at the local bookshop. No, now we’re talking about miniature thumbnail covers that have to stand out in the vast sea of books competing for your attention. Which means it’s time to get all LOOK-AT-ME-LOOK-AT-ME, but in the right way.

. . . .

Do

  • Stay simple. Clutter the cover too much, especially on the online thumbnail, and you ain’t gonna have a clue what it’s supposed to be.
  • Use an easy to read font. That font that looks so pretty when you’re zoomed in on screen could be illegible when shrunken down. Don’t make people work too hard to know what your book’s called.
  • Stay on trend. Written a horror book? What do the bestsellers look like? Are they pink and fluffy with pictures of high heels? Are they pastel images of someone running through fields of dandelions? Know what your market likes, and play to it.
  • Get striking. Go vibrant, go bright, go graphical. Make it pop.

. . . .

Don’t

  • Finish without sleeping on it. This rule applies to everything. But then, I do really like sleeping. Also, there’s a lot to be said for letting fresh eyes have a peek.
  • Settle for something you hate. You’re going to have to market this book. This is your word-baby, so make sure you like the packaging.

Link to the rest at The Dust Lounge and thanks to Sal for the tip.

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How a Publishing House Designs a Book Cover

1 August 2016

From Digital Book World:

It all starts with the pitch. I can actually find myself on the edge of my seat when our editors present each season’s new books. It’s the art department’s chance to vie for which titles speak to us the most—which books might work best with our particular styles and skillsets.

After working at the same publishing house for four years, I can almost always predict which designer will gravitate toward a particular title. But inevitably, it ends up being a mix of interest, talent and workload that determines our selections. We give our creative director our first picks and she ultimately assigns the list. I’m fortunate enough to work with a team that is incredibly versatile; they can work across all genres successfully.

The list is actually somewhat fluid, so if I ever feel like I’m working on too much or too little, things can shift around depending on everyone’s workload. If I’m passionate about a book that I haven’t been assigned, though, I’ll often offer to assist on it. This could include doing photo research, setting up a shoot, or anything else that’s needed.

. . . .

Stylistically, I tend to lean toward lifestyle books and gritty true-crime type stories. These are the types of books that speak to my personal style, and are where I feel like I can do some of my best work. On a personal note, I also enjoy reading these books, which I think tends to help the creative process (though isn’t always necessary, surprisingly enough). I may be biased, but I really do love the clean and modern aesthetic of our lifestyle books. The Life and Style imprint at Grand Central Publishing (my publisher) has been built into a successful brand over the years, which only makes it easier for our designers to have a list of successful in-house titles that we can base our aesthetic off of.

Again, though, I do also adore the grit and intrigue of a crime book. That style can offer some very interesting creative opportunities that you may not find in another type of book, and it’s always an experience to be able to do a deep dive and explore that world. Perhaps more important, it’s also fun as an artist to be able to move between different styles depending on the book. I think it keeps me engaged and also helps me to use qualities from one genre on something that’s unexpected in another.

. . . .

When the titles are assigned, the work really begins. Sometimes, a book comes to us almost fully cooked. It’s been completely (or mostly) written, it’s got a concrete, confirmed title, and it’s up to us to capture the essence of the story on the cover. I think that’s how most people envision the book jacket process, and while it’s our best-case scenario, you’d be surprised at how rarely that actually happens.

Sometimes we’re given a book without a manuscript or even a full outline, and we need to rely on a synopsis or just some basic notes. Understandably, these can be the most challenging designs to capture, as it’s difficult to find that one visual feeling or icon that speaks to an overarching theme of a book. You can’t pull visual cues or themes from the book if the book doesn’t exist! But thankfully, there are other ways to crack the code.

. . . .

Don’t get me wrong, though: whenever I’m given an early manuscript or any sort of glimmer into what the book is about, I’m grateful for it. I find myself constantly thinking of different designs and directions I could take things in, and find inspiration almost everywhere—from New York City itself to weird posters and ads in the subway or the streets, and most importantly, from other books.

Sometimes I’ll see a type treatment or style working on someone else’s book and I’ll be so inspired by it that I’ll need to put my own spin on it. I think more so than most designers, book designers are inspired by each other.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Perhaps PG missed it in the OP, but he didn’t see anything about the cover designer actually talking to the author of the book about the cover.

Call him crazy, but PG thinks the author might — just might — have some good ideas.

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Book Covers See Yellow to Attract Online Shoppers

29 May 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon’s sway in the publishing world now extends to even the design of books themselves. The company now accounts for about 45% of all books sold in the U.S., according to Peter Hildick-Smith, president of industry researcher Codex-Group, LLC.

As Amazon’s importance as a bookseller has grown, publishers are pushing their designers for brighter, bolder covers that pop for online shoppers. That has led to a spate of brightly colored book jackets, with blaring yellow covers now appearing in profusion.

“There’s a kind of maximalist attitude toward color, I think mainly because we operate from the fearful assumption that no one’s going to look at the book unless it’s screaming at you,” said Peter Mendelsund, associate art director at Knopf.

. . . .

In 2008, he used Pantone 803, fluorescent yellow, for Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,”setting the novel apart from the traditional dark hues of thrillers.

“Everything gets simplified to what the eye can see at one inch. That can be the size of the graphics, the colors, the amount of detail,” said Robbin Schiff, executive art director at Random House.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Barb for the tip.

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It’s the Cover, Stupid! Why Publishers Should A/B Test Book Covers

5 April 2016

From Digital Book World:

Every publisher and bookseller knows that covers sell books. But do consumers also form expectations from looking at the cover? Well, based on the results of some of the initial reader analytics data at Jellybooks, we think they do.

. . . .

The first case shows how a cover shaped readers expectations. The cover was well designed and clearly aimed at grabbing book buyers’ attention both online and in physical bookstores. This particular cover had a single dominant color and “told a story” with a single image. But it seemed to have told the wrong story.

Users who picked the title in one of our test reading campaigns told us afterward that, based on the cover, they had expected to be reading a crime novel or perhaps a spy thriller. However, they were surprised to discover that the book was instead a work of non-fiction.

The narrative described a slice of post-war history at the Central Intelligence Agency. The spy and crime themes were there, but not in the novelized form readers had expected. As a result, the drop-off in reader engagement we measured during the initial chapters was swift and sharp (over 60 percent) when readers realized that this was not the book they had expected.

. . . .

The second example comes from a different reader analytics promotion. Once again, readers were allowed to choose from up to 20 titles on offer, but instead of being able to choose only one title, they were allowed to pick up to five. One title frequently chosen, though rarely as first or even second choice, was a psychological thriller with a somewhat quirky cover: a cat staring at the consumer. Astounding, though, were the results for this book relative to its sales.

The book was a debut novel from recent years for which the publisher had held very high expectations. However, sales had been poor. In a rare case of post-mortem “what went wrong,” the publisher had the courage to investigate whether the content or the publisher’s marketing was at fault. The reader analytics showed that the content was not responsible for the poor sales performance:

i. The book had an exceptionally high completion rate: more than 75 percent of those who tried the book finished it—a rate achieved by fewer than 5 percent of books that we test.

ii. The thriller had a very high velocity. Readers were glued to the pages, and a majority read the book from start to finish in just a few days.

iii. The book had an excellent recommendation factor based on the Net Promoter Score concept. Readers were strong promoters of the book, recommending it to their like-minded friends.

However, many test participants also noted that the cover was “weird.” Readers indicated that they really enjoyed discovering the book, but that based on the cover, they would never have picked it up in a bookstore. Well, why not?

The cover was clearly outside the genre conventions readers were familiar with and accustomed to.

. . . .

How does Jellybooks design A/B tests for book covers?

Test readers are invited as normal, but half the test audience is randomly selected to receive one cover, while the other half is selected to receive an alternative. Readers think we are measuring their reading behavior, as usual—which we are—but in addition we also look at:

i. Whether the cover influences which book is picked by test readers from a selection of available titles to read (remember that test readers do not know that there is more than one cover in play). Does one specific cover make it more likely that the book will be picked compared to an alternative?

ii. How completion rates, velocity and recommendation factor might be influenced by the cover, as the cover has created a particular “promise” or expectation for the reader. In other words, we are very specifically measuring whether a cover can influence the results of a reader analytics test and how strong that effect is. This kind of potential reader bias depends in part on whether readers form their expectations primarily based on the cover or on the synopsis of the book.

An A/B cover test might not perfectly replicate the environment, stimuli and selection pressure that occur in an online or physical bookstore, but for the first time it allows us to judge—in a reasonably objective way—how readers’ expectations are shaped by the cover, if one cover might be a better fit for a book, and to what extent a cover might shape a book’s future success.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG will note that, outside of the publishing world, A/B testing of advertising and promotion materials has been happening approximately forever. For example, A/B testing was common during the days of Mad Men.
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