Book Design Part I: Judging Your Book by Its Cover

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It means don’t assume your first impression of a person is accurate, but that doesn’t apply to books! Potential buyers won’t give your book a second glance. Your cover matters, and the inside matters, too. If you’ve decided that self-publishing is the best option for your career, then there’s no shame in it, but it is a shame to scrimp on the design process, and end up with something you can’t be proud of and can’t sell.

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about book design, so today I’ll send you to some advice about covers, and next week, we’ll turn the page.

Wiley sponsored a design contest for the cover of its Photoshop for Right Brainers: The Art of Photo Manipulation. While not all book cover designers would agree with every point, understanding which designs were ruled out and why is a great starting point. Here, Fred Showker, one of the eight judges, explains some of the considerations. Some things are obvious: Does it at least appear that the designer read the book? Does it fit the target audience? Does the design flow well? Are the headings organized in order of importance? Can the typography be read at a distance?

Wiley Book Cover Contest Finalists for Photoshop
Wiley book cover contest finalists Photoshop

I found it interesting that the contest concluded with “a compromise.” The judges didn’t tweak the winner’s design to overcome its named weaknesses, nor did they give another favorite a chance: “This one was our favorite in terms of illustration. It was very disappointing that the designer blew it with the type at the bottom — dropping it out of the running. Why the USP typography was broken into three sets of type faces we cannot imagine. Had it been pulled to the top, above Photoshop, home-run, out of the park!” So, why run a contest that’s all or nothing, when you can take that favorite piece, ask for the revisions, and deliver your home run? It’s always an option.

Next week: interiors.


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2012. All rights reserved.

Image from linked article.

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