The adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” has been proven to be bad advice not only for readers but also for publishers’ marketing teams. As it turns out, books’ covers are often exactly what they’re judged by.
I refuse to believe we can’t move past the paperback designs of the past with their jumble of chunky fonts, strange color palettes, and, dare I say, unappealing illustrations of aliens.
I’ve been pursuing book cover design in the past year because in a small publishing house like Ooligan Press, book covers play more significant roles than in large publishing houses that hold big name authors and titles. I am interested in the effects of book cover design on consumers who do not know the author or content, and what information a book cover should include in order to attract consumers.
As a self-published author, it may be intimidating to start with all of the online outlets claiming they can make your book the next bestseller. After all, you’re a writer, not a designer. To help make the process a little less intimidating, here is a brief list of options that can give your book the beautiful face it deserves.
So what clues does CNN rely on? The researchers categorized three matters: color, objects, and text. For example, CNN associated white with “Self-help,” and dark colors for “Science Fiction & Fantasy.” If two people stood in close proximity, CNN guessed “Romance.” If people were illustrated, it predicted “Comics & Graphic Novels.” While “Mystery, Thriller & Suspense” tended to have a similar color palette and image content to “Romance” and “Science Fiction & Fantasy,” CNN distinguished them by their texts; “Mystery, Thriller & Suspense” books usually employ large, overlaid sans serif text.
One would think these principles of cover design to be universal, and yet I’m staring at a couple Japanese novels on my desk, and can’t help but wonder if the standards of design are a little bit different (read: awesome) there. Japanese bestsellers, especially foreign titles, are often printed as bunko, which are similar in form and function to mass market paperbacks in the West. They do tend to be a bit shorter and slimmer than Western paperbacks however, and are usually only about two hundred pages long. Because of this length restriction, many Western bestsellers are often split up into multiple volumes. These criteria mean that cover designers have less space to work on per book, but potentially more books available. You might also notice an almost universal trend of more numerous and larger typographic elements on Japanese covers. As my team has been working on a YA cover, I’m specifically interested in that market. As a teaching example of YA cover design differences between Japan and America, one need look no further than America’s favorite dystopian series about ritual teen murder and bird-themed rebellion: The Hunger Games.