Book Covers: Behind the Beauty
I only recently began to question the old line, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” Having never really given the subject any thought, I always assumed that the sole purpose of a book cover was to attract buyers. I thought of it as an advertising gimmick that served a commercial purpose and had nothing to do with the quality of the story. I felt that plain covers might be more honest and desirable.
When I completed my first novel, “Corr Syl the Warrior,” my attitude changed. I was concerned that since I had no reputation at all, there might be no readers. I was confident that some readers would like the story, but I was feared that those readers might never stumble upon the book. I decided that I needed a snazzy cover.
The only thing I knew about eBook cover design was that the fonts had to be legible at thumbnail sizes. Other than that, I assumed a book-cover designer would create something attractive that would appeal to potential buyers. I checked a few websites for examples, and chose a designer that had made some science fiction covers. I provided a one-paragraph book description and a few pictures, and sat back to see what she would produce.
The designer did a great job with what I gave her. She proposed a few options, suggested colors and fonts, and ended up doing a beautiful job. Along the way, I thought more about book covers and realized that I had missed an opportunity. I began looking closely at the covers on the books on my shelves and I realized that book covers could play a significant role in telling a story.
With shapes, colors, and text, a cover could set a mood and it could illustrate important story elements. An author could use the cover to foreshadow important events within the story. I realized that the cover could also help define characters, give a real glimpse of a setting, and give clues to the story theme.
The first book I read to myself, “Tarzan the Terrible,” has gone through numerous printings since its publication in 1921. And it has had at least 20 different covers. The covers range from simple text to images that seem unrelated to the story, and to images that illustrate important scenes and the story theme.
As a child, I often wondered what the image on the cover was. I imagined several possibilities, and finally settled on one. I think it depicts a particular scene in the story. I could be wrong. If you think you know what the image is, add a comment.
Book covers can be more than mere advertising, or even works of art. They can be beautiful, informative, and suggestive all at once. A cover designer might achieve all that, but a designer working together with the book’s author is more likely to take full advantage of the opportunity the cover provides. If the author can describe what the cover could show, a good designer can probably put it together.
So, can you tell a book by its cover? YES, if the author takes the time to help with its composition.
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