A Bibliography

There are a lot of resources out there for aspiring cover designers, or for anyone who wants to understand composition and design choices a little better. A few of my favourites:

Cover Design Studio is one of the most comprehensive out there, with designs, tutorials, and a blog explaining the finer points of cover composition. If you’re looking for a detailed examination of how the rule of thirds works, or an overview of the kind of typefaces one should look at, you could do worse than noodle around on here for a few hours.

The Book Designer is another site with a ton of practical advice on what makes a book stand out in the marketplace – check out their discussion of what makes or breaks a Kindle ebook, for example, or this love letter to the typeface Bembo.

Finally, there’s Creativindie, a blog about taking the “starving” out of “starving artist”, which takes the common-sensical (not to say cynical) approach to issues like cover design. I especially recommend articles like Book Cover Clichés: Why Using Them Will Actually Help You Sell More Books and, for the typeface geeks among us, an epic list of aesthetically-pleasing fonts, by genre.


Headless Women: An Uncomfortable Trend in Young Adult Historicals

It’s a running joke on the review site Goodreads that historical novel covers have a notorious tendency to feature women, usually in a state of undress, whose heads have been cropped out. This is especially unfortunate when it’s a novel about one of the wives of Henry VIII, and chances are statistically high that it will be. More seriously, the trend has come under fire from feminist critics because of its objectification of the female body – the woman on the cover is literally faceless, and often stripped down to a corset in order to titillate the potential reader. On a practical note, it’s often the case that the cover designer is trying to disguise a stock image by cropping out the model’s head, or ensuring her face is otherwise out of focus.

In today’s post, I intend to contrast two different approaches to YA historical covers. Both series star young female protagonists, and have a distinctly feminist bent in the text. The first, the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray, nevertheless falls prey to this trend. The series is set during the Victorian era, which gives the designer all the excuse they need to show a female character in a corset or low-cut dress. Read More

Size Matters: How to Look Good in Thumbnail

The golden ratio: observe how the swoop of the shooting star’s tail adheres to the ratio’s curve, and the eye ends up being drawn to the text of the author’s name (which is slightly bigger than the title).

The golden ratio: observe how the swoop of the shooting star’s tail adheres to the ratio’s curve, and the eye ends up being drawn to the text of the author’s name (which is slightly bigger than the title).

One consequence of consumers buying books online has been the use of thumbnail size pictures. Most covers hitherto have been designed for the purpose of attracting attention in brick-and-mortar stores, so cover designers have been able to experiment with complex images. Unfortunately, complex images haven’t translated well to online stores like Amazon, where the size of the cover picture is reduced to 300 pixels on the product detail page, and, worse, 60 x 90 pixels on the search results page. Tiny details are lost with the compression of the image, and often the overall appeal of the cover is lost with it.

While cover designers can still rely on tricks of the trade such as the golden ratio, demonstrated left with an older edition of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, there has been a growing amount of interest in the power of a simple, central image, which doesn’t require the eye to work too hard to understand it. We’ll be discussing in particular two covers which were produced by self-published authors whose titles made it into Amazon’s Top 10 YA bestseller list. The covers of self-published ebooks can be crucial to the success of an author – they’re a simple, obvious way to promote a book that may not have many other avenues.

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Author Branding: The John Green Juggernaut and You

Author branding is critical to a book’s success and, therefore, critical to a good cover design, Young Adult or otherwise. YA readers tend to be loyal to authors they like: this is partially because a canny author for YA fiction has ample (and unprecedented) opportunity to connect with their readers through blogs, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media platforms.

Take, for example, John Green. A YA author of some years’ standing, he used his Tumblr to promote his own work and talk to his fans, reblogging their posts about him, which led to the creation of a meme: “When will John Green find the thing?” The runaway success of his 2012 novel The Fault in Our Stars prompted a complete rebranding of John Green’s previous work in order to attract a new audience who had only heard about or read one of his books; that is, to encourage brand loyalty.

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