Friday, April 10, 2015

What is the most engaging cover design?

One element that puts off self-published novel is, I believe, the cover; too many look amateurish. And while you may not be able to tell a book by its cover, an attractive, professional cover can only help.
Proposed cover 1

While Createspace and other publishers offer templates into which authors can pour their designs, I think it's an unusual author who can design an attractive, engaging, and effective cover. I certainly can't.

I am fortunate to have an exceptionally talented graphic designer friend, Susan Brier, who has her own firm, The WriteDesign Company. She designed the jackets for my two earlier novels and is working on ideas for the new book.

Death in a Family Business is a mystery, a cozy, and the action centers around an appliance-TV retail store. Polaroid photographs of nude women and a Cessna airplane play a role in the story. 

Tommy Lovell's dream restaurant has failed, taking his shaky marriage along with it. He's licking his wounds back in his childhood bedroom while he takes stock of his life at the end of his 20s. Reluctantly, Tommy agrees to tag along when his father offers to help family friend Otto Jonker save a struggling store in a dying Berkshire town. Tommy is ready for a change of scenery, maybe a bit of romance, and—if he's really lucky—more opportunities to fly his father's Cessna.
Proposed Cover 3

The trip takes a disastrous turn after Otto skids off the road during a midnight motorcycle ride and is critically injured, forcing Tommy and his father into unexpected danger as they make disturbing discoveries about Otto’s personal and professional troubles.  

Susan is also one of my beta readers and she not only suggested a couple of editorial improvements (both of which I took), she came up with three proposed cover approaches shown here. 

Proposed Cover 2

I know which one I prefer, but I'm not a prospective buyer, so I'm looking for some outside opinion. Given what I've said about the story, which of the three possible designs do you think works best? 

Many thanks for your votes and comments.


  1. Number 1 is #1 for me. Though I don't know how the image relates to the story, the design is more unified, less complicated. Number 2 would be second choice. Good luck!

  2. I think cover 1 is the best ... it reflects the heirloom-like quality of things that are integral to a family. Quite captivating!

  3. Cover number two is my favourite. I wish I could afford an artist rather than doing them all myself. That's why I try to engage the reader on the first page in the hope that he/she will forget my artwork. Probably the wrong way to go about it but I simply don't have the cash for someone else to do it.

  4. This is a genre that I like, read often and sometimes edit. Cover 2 at the bottom of the page is the one that would have be reaching for the book on the shelf.

  5. A good cover can give some hints to the reader about what your plot might be, but a great cover in my opinion is the one that makes the reader turn the cover and see how it all ties to the design on the front.
    So here is my opinion:
    Option 3 is kind of cluttered. The fact that it has the top of the image slightly fading out towards the top and not towards the bottom as well shows lack of consistency. And even though the word "death" is written over the image in read, both so you can see it (contrast) and to reflect the actual idea of death is not necessarily a good fit. Anyway there are a lot of no-nos in this one so NEXT!
    Option 2 is preferably better due to a much simpler design. But again you're leaving the writer's name at the top a lot of breathing room, where as throwing the photos together over the title. It's a little disproportional. Plus the black'n'white photos are great as an idea but not with the yellowish gradient background you have going on. I get you're trying to give the idea of old & old-fashioned in there, as I'm presuming the scenes are set a few years behind, but if you're going with this background, use sepia on the photos instead and a burned-like impression, since they'd go better together. Otherwise use a light grey background in gradient. B'n'W don't go well with color unless there's a powerful contrast and vice-versa.
    Option no. 1 is the perfect choice, design-wise. It looks old-fashioned, simple and makes the viewer wonder what's going on in the book (the others gave away some scenes, and gave less leeway to the reader for imagining the setting and events all on his own, which is kind of most of the fun of reading a book for me). The only thing I would adjust, though, would be the previously mentioned contrast. Either go for the yellowish theme and adjust the medallion a little, because the ribbon is perfect in its coloring, or change the background, but since I see that even the heading is in sinc with the background, I would just change the medallion.
    Whenever I do reviews for books I read, I also look to see if the cover is on the same page as the plot so I hope this helped :)

  6. And also forgot to mention this about cover 1, bring the medallion a little higher up and out of the title. The photo in the medallion is the key there, so give it more importance, and less importance to the ribbon. You can even make the medallion a little bit bigger so you can see what's in the image more clearly.
    Uncluttered and simple are an eye-catching recipe.