This guest post is written by Amanda Plavich. Amanda is a writer and blogger and also a photographer. I was blown away by her steampunk author photos for author Susan Dennard. She has a beautiful eye for composition and imagination!
I totally judge a book by its cover.
I said it.
Is it a good thing?
Dunno, but it is very realistic. The cover of a book is the first thing most consumers see and it has to grab their attention.
I’m no different. Maybe it’s the photographer in me, but I expect an attractive cover for a well-written book.
Sommer sweetly asked me to guest blog on some of my favorite covers and why, which got me really excited. I have very definitive opinions on what aesthetically appeals to me and I’m excited to share!
Disclaimer: I fully expect everyone on the interwebz to agree with my position – you have been warned.
But I think it’s important to hear opinions from a variety of people, especially when it comes to the arts (and I totally believe covers fit into that category).
Before I reveal my favorites, I want to address the questions set forth by the lovely Sommer:
1. Do you think good cover design is important to a book? Why/Why not?
Very. I’m looking at this from a consumer-driven perspective. When I’m walking between the rows at my local B&N I’m not picking each book up and reading the blurb to see if it interests me. In an ideal world that’s what buyers would do, but let’s get real.
It ain’t happenin’.
Instead, I’m looking for covers that catch my attention. It may be bright colors or a kick-butt character I wish I could be that draws me in. It might be something that begs me to wonder what in the world the story could be about. It might be a cool image that feels really conceptual.
Regardless of what it is, the fact remains that something has to draw the customer to pick it up and investigate it further.
Is the cover the only thing that sells the book?
But you have to get your foot in the door somehow, so to speak.
And to be perfectly honest – I expect the publisher to invest in a quality cover if they believe in the book. If it looks like crap, what does that say about their belief in its ability to succeed?
2. Do you think cover design will be more or less important for self-published works?
In all honestly, I think it’s even more important than books that go through a traditional publisher. Self-published works are already fighting so many hurdles to be viewed as legit, so if you slap up some stupid, cheesy clip art with papyrus font, consider your credibility gone.
I have to be really wowed by both a cover and blurb to invest in a self-published book. This is not because I think self-published books suck, but there is a lot of true crap out there to wade through.
I want to know you believe enough in your book to invest in it.
3. What design features most often catch your eye?
I like covers that use models, but there are a few things I want out of that type of cover. I want the face obscured in some way and I do not want a literal photograph. I want unique editing, etc. to blend the model into the background.
I want to build my own idea about who the characters are and I don’t want a model messing with it; mainly because we know how publishing can be in terms of their marketing direction regarding models (Justine Larbalestier’s Liar anyone?). This isn’t a must in terms of my picking up a novel, but it’s something that does catch my eye (I’ll give an example or two later).
If the cover looks too realistic, it’s hard for me to get into the fantasy of whatever story I’m being told. I want the editing to reflect the mood of the novel and if that can be effectively done artistically, I’m hooked.
I’m also a fan of whimsical art that has a modern edge to it.
4. Are there any design features that will turn you off from even picking up a book? If so, why do you think they cause you to react this way?
Artwork that screams ‘stock photo’ is a major turn off.
That and cheesy text.
I know, so weird! But if your text has overdone shadows, is in some silly font, or is in a TOTALLY random color (like, lime green when the picture is sepia) and unbefitting to the rest of the cover…yeah, that’s a negative.
And the why is simple – it screams CHEAP! UNINSPIRED!
Did I mention cheap?
Now, to my favorite covers. Let me preface this by saying this is only my opinion of the cover art, not the actual novel. I’m also a YA girl, so these are all covers in or near my genre.
Matched/Crossed by Allie Condie
First is the Matched/Crossed combo. I love these.
Simplicity!!! They tell a story without filling the paper with a ton of crap that makes my eyes bleed. And then the imagery of the girl in the bubble tells you right away what the MC is experiencing – trapped in her society.
The theme carries over to the sequel and though I haven’t read it yet, it’s obvious this book will be about her breaking out of the mold she’s been put into.
Plus, it’s pretty. I knew I wanted to read it from the cover alone.
Torment by Lauren Kate
Another favorite is Torment, the sequel to Fallen. The Fallen cover was nice, but it wasn’t anything particularly original.
I feel differently about Torment and it’s because of a teensy-weensy detail – the curve of her upper back as she leans to the right, her hair pulling in that direction, as well. It’s beautiful compositionally, as it takes a subject that is dead center, but pulls your eye to the upper right of the image. The way her hands are tangled in her hair says so much about the anguish she’s in.
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
This one is actually a middle grade novel, but I’m in love with the cover.
The original is one of my favorites and I still haven’t figured out why they changed it (you hear that Bloombury?!?!).
It was beautiful! The art work captured the essence and emotion of the entire novel. It’s whimsical, yet had the faint feel of grime that would be associated with mine-life.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
It’s rare to get two-for-one when it comes to covers, but Across the Universe delivers. I’m not typically a sci-fi fan, but this cover told me I needed to investigate further and upon reading the summary, I knew I had to buy it. The color scheme was perfection and it almost looked like one of those old woman/young woman illusions.
I saw the pink universe first and only after someone pointed it out did I see the shapes of the faces in the purple. Maybe I’m the only one, but I got really excited because I was able to see so much in just that one image.
Then to flip it over and get the blueprint version – yeah, perfection.
So there is my opinion in a nutshell.