Books covers is one of those topics I’ve been meaning to write about here. I keep putting it off/forgetting about it, but this new thread on Kboards sort of nudged me into getting off my butt.
Here’s the question that started the discussion: “How does one go about judging a cover designer or their covers? EXACTLY what should one look for? When one hires a designer and looks at their work, how does one KNOW that they’re good? I mean the cover may be purty but does that mean it sells? (Even I can answer that. No, it doesn’t) So what should we actually look for? (I don’t consider “they worked for Tor et al” a good answer)”
The discussion looks to be going on forever, which such “matter of opinion” subjects often do, and so far, I haven’t seen too much that’s useful. Lots of talk about conforming to the genre’s expectations, hooking the viewer, etc. There may be some good stuff further on, and you’re welcome to check it out, but I don’t have the time or interest.
What writers who aren’t artists or designers need to know about book covers, is what criterion you use to judge a good cover. That’s just as true if you’re hiring a designer as it is if you’re going to bite the bullet and do your own thing. By the way, I’m going to be redoing the covers for Hidden Boundaries and Crossing Boundaries, based on what I’ve learned since publishing them.
I’m not going to get in deep with this post, so I’ll make two points. People will judge a cover first by its aesthetics. That’s different for everyone, but most of us can, at the very least, determine whether a cover is attractive or ugly, something that you don’t mind looking at or something that’s offputting in some way.
At least part of that depends on technical knowledge, some of which is very technical and of interest mostly to professional designers. But there are basic elements of design that we can all learn. Even knowing about them, we will need time and exposure in order to refine our vision and use or judge them effectively.
I haven’t really thought about how to run this series, but for now, I think I’ll limit each post to one element like fonts or colors.