They say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we all do, especially when thinking about buying a book. The cover makes you pick it up and read the back cover. The back cover copy makes you open it up and read the first few pages. If what you see is good, you make the purchase.
But it starts with the cover.
I’ve kept all that in mind as I worked on the cover for State of Grace this past week. In fact, I’ve been thinking really hard about all sorts of cover-design issues. What sort of art? What font? What colors? How will this look brand the series? Here’s what I decided.
The first thing to think about was the overall look of the cover. Because I’m writing a series, it seemed important to create a brand look. Each book in the series should look similar, so all the books are easily identifiable in stores (whether electronic or physical).
With that in mind, I decided simplicity was my ally. I would not seek out extravagent art or put a bunch of frilly fonts on things. I wanted the cover to be very simple and easy to look at it.
Thus, I decided on two elements — a solid-color background and a single piece of small, evocative art bracketed on top by the book’s title and on bottom by my name.
This was the hardest part of the whole process. State of Grace is a complex novel. It combines elements of fantasy, thriller/epsionage, and court intrigue. It has two heroes and four villains. How would it be possible to have a single piece of art evoke all that?
The answer, of course, is that it can’t. So I had to choose carefully. I played with a number of ideas. Because I wanted the cover to be simple, I thought about a man with a sword in silhouette. Searching the various royalty-free art sites, I found nothing suitable. I tried looking for a sword duel (there is one at the novel’s climax), but everything I found that looked good was either obviously fencing or obviously Asian. Not the right look. I explored the idea of a reaching hand, possibly with blood dripping from it, to reference one of the powers of the book’s principal villain, but it just didn’t look right.
Then, on my editor’s suggestion, we started looking at wand images. The terrorists in State of Grace use wands to cast their deadly spells. Moreover, the image of a wand would tell potential readers this is definitely a fantasy novel, something that might not be apparent from the book’s title.
After searching, we found what I think is the perfect wand. It looks evil. It implies a threat. It promises conflict.
The other nice thing about using a wand is, even blown up large, it doesn’t take up a lot of space on the cover. That left room for white space, which was important to my KISS design principle. I tried to put enough white space between the title and byline and image that it would make everything stand out.
So here’s what I came up with:
It covers everything I was trying to do with the design: it’s simple, elegant, and evocative. I like it.
But will it sell books? That’s where you come in. Let me know what you think. Leave a comment and offer any criticism you think will help.
Because I want readers to pick it up and read the back cover copy (or the electronic version of doing so). I don’t just want to publish my books; I want to sell them.