How to Select an Appropriate Book Cover

A book's author will certainly have a wealth of ideas regarding the choices for his or her cover. Every detail of the book remains clear and alive in the author's mind. What needs to happen first is a clear, thorough dialogue between the author and the cover designer to allow this information from the finest and subtlest detail to the simplest overview to be conveyed and understood. In many, if not most cases, the designer will not have read the book, so the visual elements will need to evolve from this dialogue. Drawing on the designer's visual strengths at this phase will surely serve the author well. Strong teamwork and understanding can lead to both a satisfying partnership, and, hopefully, successful book sales.

From the most minute detail to the broadest generalization, the choices for an appropriate book cover are seemingly endless. First and foremost, the book cover should grab the reader's eye. Today's bookshelves have grown beyond the borders of the traditional bookstore, and the online competition for attention has increased exponentially the amount of information to be sifted through, while decreasing the amount of time allowed to each title.

Books now scroll by as tiny thumbnails, often too quickly to permit even the most cursory of reviews. That puts a lot of pressure on the cover itself to hopefully give the reader pause, and allow at least a brief review of the summary.

In the hands of a competent designer, anything from a simple text treatment to a dynamic illustration or photographic treatment can do the job nicely. Today's bestseller lists show no dramatic preference or trend toward any one of those solutions.

In the interest of a quick read, a pithy title is the best place to start. Fat Chance, An Invisible Thread, The Plan, Tenth of December...all are books currently on the bestseller list, and all share brief, to-the-point read titles.

The next ingredient is the design itself. With its title as the dominant element, emphasized by the use of boldface type, Fat Chance, by Robert Lustig, uses only the screened-back image of a scale to underscore the book's content and subtitle: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. This treatment is very effective and easily read, and benefits as well from the smaller, unobtrusive treatment used for the subtitle.

The book An Invisible Thread, approaches the problem from the other side of the spectrum. The cover treatment: simple color silhouettesof a business woman and young boy, set against a subtle sepia-toned image of Manhattan, accompanied by an equally low key title. The titleserves to underscore the silhouettes, and is framed largely by open space, drawing focus to the words despite the smaller size. Again, the lengthier subtitle: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny, is significantly smaller in treatment, not distracting from the title.The resulting cover is simple and eye-catching.

These titles are just a few successful books with effective cover designs surely the result of the team work between authors and designers who merge their talents to create strong covers to stand out in a sea of competition.