Cover Designs and Titles

I’ve been meaning to do some posts on cover creation, but posting, in general, hasn’t been much on my mind. So here’s a tidbit that’s about more than just designing the cover. This month’s collection of ebook cover design awards from The Book Designer has the usual quality range, from superb to pretty awful. But one non-outstanding cover stopped me in my tracks.

The Light earned the critique: “Like other covers without a strong “hook” there’s not much going on here, and no particular reason for browsers to be interested.” Very true. It’s the kind of cover I would skip over without even wondering what it was about. The design is a somewhat blurry photo of woods, with an uninteresting title font treatment, author’s name that’s so small that it’s difficult to read, and below that a yellow bar which presumably has more information but is impossible to read because of the size and poor contrast.

But what really stands out for me is that the title tells me nothing. It’s so generic as to lack all meaning. Even ignoring the design, a title should convey something to a possible buyer. Simple titles like this are very easy to come up with, but they rarely work except for well-known authors with some kind of brand that readers already recognize. And those writers generally have professional covers that support the title.

In this example, nothing in the cover design offers even a slight hint of the genre or subject. Does it (whatever “it” is) take place in the woods? Maybe the sun shining through the trees at the top of the cover is relevant, but in what way?

The lesson here is that the title is just as important as the cover in drawing the reader’s attention. I’d say it’s even more important because an intriguing title may be able to overcome a weak cover design. But it’s very difficult to design a meaningful cover for a weak title.

This cover is about halfway down the page. Also read what the author has to say about the design and decide whether it actually does what he says it does.


5 thoughts on “Cover Designs and Titles

  1. I did extensive reading on covers, and especially on genre conventions – for the purpose of not using one by accident! I think I succeeded – and so did my mentor.

    If you check mainstream fiction covers, they’re all over the place – but they don’t have ripped abs on them.

    Ditto fonts – Romance readers and SF readers, Westerns and technothrillers – be sure you are not signalling something unless that’s what you’re writing.

    Not that easy. And The Book Designer awards don’t help me at all – every sin in the book, from illegible fonts to letters invisible at thumbnail size to red lettering on black,… is seen and praised or ridiculed there. It seems ‘real’ designers can do something – but ‘non-real’ designers can do the exact same thing without getting cut off at the knees. I can’t look at those every month any more – my brain refuses to group into usable categories.

  2. Forgot: you are so right about titles. One-word titles may have a lot of meaning to the writer, and phrases from normal speech (‘the last thing he said to her’) leave me clueless. Movies do that, too: There’s Something About Mary??? With the least convincing veterinarian I’ve ever seen (Cameron Diaz)??? As Good As It Gets?

    I long for ‘Blood Diamond.’

    1. I got tired of looking at the Book Designer awards. It often seemed as if he was just going through the motions. So many bad design features were overlooked. I have a folder of links to book cover sites — examples of the best and worst, design tutorials, etc. I should do a post someday.

      1. J. M. Ney-Grimm was my lovely mentor – she does gorgeous covers herself, and has posted several times about different features of them on her blog.

        I started questioning whether there were relationships not being declared – that site now is very commercial.

        He can do whatever he wants with his blog, of course, but I don’t find his comments useful, and, when a cover is really bad, it isn’t necessary in my mind to quash the designer. I skip that post every month.

        1. I looked at the site recently, for the first time in quite a while. I agree — commercialized. I scanned through and didn’t find anything new that was of value.

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