Admit it. We’ve all been told not to judge a book by its cover, but we all do it. Why? Over half a million books were published last year in the U.S. alone, so we can’t possibly read them all. I think we look to the cover of a book to quickly gather information about what the book is about…its genre, plot, theme, characters, depth, etc. Is the book’s intention to entertain, inspire, teach, or persuade? The great book designer George Salter once said that a good jacket “must be in perfect accord with the literary quality of the book. It must be even more if it is to function as an important sales factor, if it is to ‘stop’ the eye of the person passing by.” We look to the cover to let us know if it’s a book that we would be interested in reading. However, there is a balance in designing a book cover that gives enough information to intrigue a reader, but not so much that a reader assumes they know the whole story and don’t need to waste their time.
Sometimes, authors are tempted to give everything away on the cover–the whole story. They want all the characters, all the places, and all the events on that cover. In our opinion, this is publishing suicide. These types of covers tell the reader too much and there is nothing left for them to figure out. It’s best to assume some intelligence in your reader and let them feel that your book will offer them something new–something that will challenge their thinking, or give them an original story to get lost in.
This is why we think the best covers are covers that use concepts. A concept is an abstract idea or a general notion. At Book Creatives, we enjoy searching out key concepts within a book and designing around that. The concept hints at the theme of the book, just enough to let the reader know what the book is about, but not enough to give the story away. Here is an example of one of our recent conceptual book cover designs:
The premise of this book is to help youth understand that they are in control of their own destiny. The concept of the man cutting the puppet strings that “hold” him is a powerful visual representation of the theme of the book. Concepts take everyone to a common place–a place of universal truth. Concepts are ideas that we can all relate to and feel drawn to, appealing to a wider audience. Here are some other conceptual book cover designs that we love: