Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Designing a Book Cover or Jacket - Guest Post by @thewritershouse


The following is a guest post by Claire Pickering and Rebecca Richmond at The Writers' House UK.


Things to look out for when designing a book cover or jacket

To coin a well-oiled phrase, the fact remains that people do judge a book by its cover. Covers, otherwise known as jackets, were originally designed to protect the pages within and to stop them from falling out. They have now become an essential part of crafting a book. Years ago, those bound in leather were statements about the owner, rather than the contents of the book. All sorts of selling tools have been used over the years when designing a book cover or jacket, include stamped and embossed scenes which were introduced in the 1870s and 80s.

A cover is one of the key aspects of success and can encourage a reader to pick up a book in the first place, so it is very important to consider all sorts of aspects when designing a book cover or jacket. As well as the title, they are designed to sell the book. George Orwell’s 1984 has sold in its millions and has had over fifteen different cover designs in its sixty years in print, each showing changes in fashions and society as a whole as it moved with the times each time a new print run was released and also for different markets, when it was rebranded.

When Penguin came along they introduced reputable authors to the mass market, establishing a brand readers could trust, and they employed a colour scheme to denote genres together with distinctive typography, thereby making them collectable.

Covers are designed to sell the book and people have experimented with them over the years as cover designers started to take risks. If a title sells well, authors found that they could afford to take more risks and rebrand as new editions were printed as soon as current stock sold out. But this is not a history lesson behind the covers of books, so we will now share with you what to look out for.

Book covers are the first thing we see and it can offer an interpretation of its contents. Even if you are producing your book as an e-book, the cover still has to look like something worth buying, and perhaps worth keeping. Online, the only distinguishing feature is the cover and with the increase in demand for e-books, cover design has become even more important. When choosing or designing a book cover or jacket there are all sorts of things that need to be taken into consideration:

§   White backgrounds cannot be seen very well as a thumbnail on Internet sites like Amazon

§   If you don’t want to employ the services of a designer, there are sites out there such as from stock photo websites which enable you to download images. You can either use one of theirs or create your own by putting several images together. If you intend to serialise your work, this way you can standardise your illustrations. While these may be free, once you have reached a certain limit of sales, you will have to pay an additional fee. It is still worth considering though, as cover artists/illustrators can set you back a lot of money. However, it is worth bearing in mind that you will risk someone else using the same cover.

§   Consider if you want to serialise your books. For instance, you may want the covers to have a similar layout so that they are easily identifiable on the shelves.

§   Do you want your logo to appear both on the spine and on the back cover?

§   Does it represent the contents of the book?

§   Does it sell the book, encouraging people to pick it up, rather than repelling them?

§   Is there a talking point?

With digital content, there are design limitations, but animated book covers are now creating new opportunities as they take advantage of interactive features like video, 3d modelling and Internet connectivity. So what if your book cover could interact with your reader? How would it feel to drag your mouse over the book cover and have the image transform and come to life? While these covers cannot be produced on black-and-white e-readers, they are entirely possible for the iPad with the digitised Wired app, created by Adobe.

When looking at various designs for our own book, it proved to be a big learning curve and many brainstorming sessions as we considered the pros and cons of different layouts:

  • A front cover which silhouetted itself onto the back cover behind where the blurb would appear could not be uniform, as the picture would change for each design.

  • Depending on where the wording would fall, it may interfere with the picture we wanted to use.

  • If the photograph or picture was dark, how would it look like on a black background?

  • If we chose a red background, how would it look if we had a pink picture, as the two colours might clash?

  • If the photograph was pale, it might be lost on a white background, how could we get over this?

  • For e-books, the cover has to work even in reduced format (for the Kindle it’s a thumbnail size). To do this you need a lot less detail, simpler, more effective colours and very clear fonts of good size for the title and author name, so they remain legible when reduced.

Don’t be tempted to take short cuts when designing your book cover or jacket as it can mean the difference between gaining sales or your book remaining undiscovered.

About the Authors

Author of Forget Fibromyalgia: Putting the Pieces Together and My Guide: How to Write a Novel, Rebecca Richmond has enjoyed a highly successful career within global organisations, later going on to become a coach. Having triumphed over adversity and cancer, as a qualified coach, master practitioner of NLP, hypnosis and Time Line Therapy, she is ideally equipped to help you achieve the success you deserve.

A qualified proofreader and editor, Claire Pickering knows her subject and has an amazing attention to detail. Having worked in the publishing industry for many years, My Guide: How to Write a Novel is her first published work – unless you can count the hundreds of manuscripts she has worked on over the course of ten years, which are now in the general market.

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