Picture this with me:
You walk through the doors of your local bookstore and are greeted by hundreds, if not thousands, of bright, beautiful, still-have-that-new-book-smell books. You browse through the bestseller tables and your favorite sections, hunting for that next book that will jump out at you, ready to hopelessly entangle you in its world.
Then you see it there on the new release table, the cover of a book you know is going to be your next favorite. You snatch it off the table and eagerly read the description and blurbs before hurrying to the front of the store to complete your purchase with Jen, the friendly bookseller who knows you by name. Maybe you come here too often (but let’s be real, you can never go to a bookstore too often). You head home in a rush and begin what you know will be a masterpiece.
In the situation above, you, the reader, found your next book by browsing through your local bookstore as many people do. But what was it that made you pick up that specific book? The description and blurbs are probably what sold it to you, but they can’t do their job if you grab the book in the first place.
Most the time, the reader picks up a book because of its cover. Our minds process shapes and colors before they do words, so publishers know it is crucial that the shapes, colors, and images associated with a book must be appealing to its target market. So, using Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows as an example, here are a few things that make up a truly great cover.
- The color scheme should tell the reader about the genre and tone of the book. For a romance, bright or soft colors will be better, unless a lot of death and revenge are involved, in which case bring on the red and black. For Six of Crows, the black and gray cover indicates that this story contains tragedy and death in some capacity, and probably has a great adventure to go along with it (and trust me, it does). The white font indicates that there is some hope, and along with the flecks surrounding it make the reader think of cold (like that’s part of the setting or something).
- Shapes and Drawings. For a cover that has no actual photographic images, the shapes and drawings will convey quite a bit, and they should be relevant to the story. A novel that has a friendly pink heart on the front is clearly different from Six of Crows, which features a crow flying in what appears to be a gray, cloudy sky. In this case, the crow refers to the gambling hall owned by the gang several of the characters are members of.
- The font conveys messages about the book just as much as the title does. For example, a lighter romance novel might have a font that flows and curls. The font featured on Six of Crows, while somewhat curly, is still a bold font that conveys an adventure plot and is appropriate for the world Bardugo created.
- Feel/Effect. The overall feel/effect the cover creates is determined by a combination of the factors above. The Six of Crows cover successfully conveys the feeling of an adventure full of danger. The feel for a genre will generally be similar across books, although sometimes a cover can set a book apart from its genre in a good way if the designer creates an appealing feel that is a bit unorthodox for the genre.
These are just four things that a truly great cover, like the one for Six of Crows, will contain. Comment below to tell me what I missed and what are some of your all-time favorite covers!