Thinking About Book Covers

A lot of book cover designers tout their wares on Kboards and check out quite a few of them, mostly out of curiosity. The main thing I can’t help noticing about almost every one is that they do professional work, but there’s no way to tell one designer’s work from any of the others. From a book marketing point of view, maybe that’s a good thing. Most of the people on the boards are writing in popular categories that carry a good many reader expectations with them. There are probably only so many ways that you can show two people in a romantic pose, for instance. But when you see a romance cover, there’s no mistaking the genre.

When I’m skimming Amazon’s lists, though, what stops me and makes me want to take a look is a cover that stands out, and a title that grabs my attention. What usually happens is that I waste time clicking on books that I’ve already taken a look at once, because the cover is so unmemorable, that the title alone doesn’t serve as a reminder.

Every so often, a new designer comes up on Kboards, and the covers are — to put it politely, not up to anyone’s standards. The most common fault is not having the most basic sense about using fonts. Inappropriate fonts are the least of it. Too many fonts is pretty common, but it’s contrast that shows the would-be designers up as complete amateurs. You’d think it would be a matter of common sense, even in the absence of design knowledge, that white text is going to be lost against a light background, and red text against a dark one.

Writers are eager to find good designers at reasonable prices, so most of them get an enthusiastic welcome. Twice lately, I’ve seen posts slide down the first page and into oblivion without a single response. Which is an interesting response, in itself. You have to feel kind of sorry for someone who obviously doesn’t have what it takes to attract customers and doesn’t even get a reaction. Because no one is willing to come out and say what they need to hear. I always hope someone takes pity on them and responds privately.

All of which resonates with my ongoing struggle to improve my own design chops and, since I’m not writing mainstream stuff, to develop a recognizable style that provokes interest in my work. It ain’t easy, so I do feel for the newbies just trying out their design wings.



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