Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Guest post: Don't Judge a Book by its Cover

A few weeks ago, I had asked you to help with a survey about chick lit book covers. Thanks to those of you who participated. Here is the essay that utilized those surveys.

An Essay about Chick Lit Book Covers

by Finda Ayu

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is one of the most popular idioms in the world. This means that we can’t determine the worth of something based on its appearance. That idiom may have a great meaning especially in humanity. But in reality, I believe we are losing counts how many times we fail the idiom.

Looking at design field, the packaging is the first thing that attracts us to find more about the product. Packaging is our first impression of one thing. If it’s good enough, it will lead us to decision to buy the product.

Same thing happens in book design field itself. The cover of a book is usually something that attracts us at the first place and makes our mind to know more about the book. Book cover is such a powerful tool to gain customers and also have a role as a marketing tool.

Chick lit is a genre of books that are mainly written by women for women. The books range from having main characters in their early 20’s to their late 60’s. There is usually a personal, light, and humorous tone to the books. Sometimes they are written in first-person narrative; other time they are written from multiple viewpoints. The plots usually consist of women experiencing usual life issues, such as love, marriage, dating, relationships, friendships, roommates, corporate environments, weight issues, addiction, and much more. Chick lit is told in more in personal tone. Humor is a strong point in this kind of book.

Book cover design is a powerful marketing and sell toll towards a chick lit book with no doubt, as it is agreed by 36 respondents (60%).

36 respondents (60%) said that they have ever bought a book just because the cover looks nice. It’s proven that a good book cover design affects the sales of the book.

Even though it’s powerful, 32 respondents (54%) said that synopsis is still their most important consideration in picking a chick lit book while 14 respondents (23%) said that it is the author’s name. Book cover design is in 3rd place with 8 voters (13%). We can see here that book cover design hasn’t beaten the importance of the story and author’s name.

Most of the respondents said that they didn’t have any specific criteria of visual, typeface, and colours of the book cover. They thought everything is fine, depends on how good it relates to the story and represents the book well. But another big part of respondents answered that they like illustrations with bright and bold colours on the front cover and hand written look or script typeface on the title.

There is actually no exact rule in how to make a good book cover design because everyone may have their own preferences and tastes. There are people who like bold and bright colours on the front cover while the others like pastel colours more. There are people who like illustration as the cover while the others like real photo.

On my questionnaire I asked whether they had experience towards not so good book cover design but has great content and great cover design but the content isn’t that good. I also asked them to specify which book they meant. From their answers, I found that there are few books that one respondent said that its book cover design is disappointing while the other said that it looks good.

There is maybe one rule, if it can be said to be a rule, to create a good book cover design. We need to get the essence of the book content and what is the author’s message on this book and try to implement design elements to create ‘the right’ book cover design. It must show what kind of book it is, what the genre is, the target market, and other information that will be needed by the customer.

A good book cover design helps writers and publishers to sell the book. A bit deeper into the author’s point of view, the book cover is also something important for them in term of showing the book. More or less, the cover defines the ‘pride’ of the book; it’s like an unseen reward of their long term hard work writing the book.

To make a good book cover design, collaboration between the author and the publisher is highly needed. The author has the idea about what is inside the book; she or he is the one who knows the soul of the book. In the other hand, the publisher is the one who markets and sells the book to the public. The publisher manages how to make the book a success out there. Both of them hold an important role of a book’s existence.

Most of the respondents said that the existing chick lit book cover design is good enough while another big part of them said that it can be improved to be better. Evolving from long time ago where books didn’t have any ‘proper cover’ when they were published, book cover has become one of the most important things in publishing a book nowadays. It impresses the customers and readers of the content. It attracts them to get to know more about the book. And finally it’s one of the most important considerations of someone to buy a book.

“Great book cover designs increases sales and profits.”
(Hall-Bills, 2008)

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover. 2010. (accessed August 26, 2010).
What is Chick Lit? 2010. (accessed October 17, 2010).
Henry. How to Design a Book Cover. (accessed August 26, 2010).
The Art of Book Cover Design. 2009. (accessed August 26, 2010).
Conrad, P. 2009. This Time You Can Judge All You Like. (accessed August 26, 2010).
Hall-Bills, PJ. 2008. Importance of Book Cover Design. (accessed August 26, 2010).
The Importance of a Great Book Cover Design. 2009. (accessed August 26, 2010).
Leah. 2010. Editor Article: What Makes A Good Book Cover?
(accessed October 25, 2010).

FINDA AYU is an Indonesian who has made friends with colouring books, pencil colours, and children stories since kindergarten. She has been in love with design and Adobe Photoshop since high school.
She is inspired by imaginations, great thoughts, and the beauty of this very own life. She believes in black and white as much as in colourful things.
She's currently pursuing her bachelors degree in graphic design in Limkokwing University, Malaysia. For more information about her artworks, visit her online portfolio. As long as there’s internet connection, she can be reached at finda.ayu.w at gmail dot com.


Stephen Tiano said...

You know, as a book designer, I think it's my job--when I do a cover; I tend to do interiors primarily--to create a cover that allows prospective readers to fairly judge whether a book is worth picking up and looking at further.

Beth Hoffman said...

I enjoyed reading this post, and I agree -- now more than ever, book covers carry quite an impact at point of sale.

Finda Ayu said...

Hi, :) thanks for all of you who have read this post and leave comments, appreciate that!