Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

The Magic and Mystery of Book Covers

There are many theories about what attracts us to certain book covers.

Image Courtesy of Gabriel Robledo ~

Image Courtesy of Gabriel Robledo ~

There are many misconceptions about what a book cover should look like.

To say that certain covers “speak” to certain readers seems true to me…

To say that an author, publisher, or designer can always conceive of the “right” cover for a book has been disproven millions of times.

Notes from An AlienMy short novel, Notes from An Alien, got the best cover I could design—many folks say it’s a “good” cover…

The same thing can be said for the cover of my poetry book, Is Your Soul In Here? Is Your Soul In Here?

Strange Fantasies I had the help of another author, Jane Watson, with the covers of Strange Fantasies and Story BazaarStory Bazaar

I’m not sure if authors really need professional artist/designers for their covers; mostly because I’m not sure what exactly makes a cover “good”.

I may like how it looks but that doesn’t mean others will…

I may be extremely attracted to the cover of a book; but, I may not like the story inside, at all…

Some folks might say a traditional publisher knows exactly the right cover for every book they publish.

Please, go talk to about a dozen authors who were traditionally published—you should find at least one who hated the cover they got…

I’m very sure there’s no readily accessible data for the books the big houses have produced that had “bad” covers…

In the realm of Self-publishing, there are all the self-styled “gurus” who demand you must keep your reader in mind when designing a cover…


Perhaps a writer locked into a certain genre might “know” who reads their books; but, I tend to doubt if any author could guess the range of folks who could love their books; not to mention, like their covers…

So, with all this uncertainty and razzmatazz, I felt I had to share a particular article from Publishing PerspectivesRising Star Rafaela Romaya: ‘A Very Clear Vision for the Book’.

Rafaela is the Art Director at the Scottish independent publisher, Canongate.

The first statement that jumped out at me was this quote from Rafaela:

“There’s always an element of surprise and unpredictability regarding what draws people to covers, which is partly why each title gets the same amount of care and attention regardless of author or sales expectations.”

So, a professional cover designer admits the response of readers to covers has elements of surprise and unpredictability…

If you end up designing the cover for a book (or, consulting with someone about the design), this quote from Rafaela bears attention:

“I often have a very clear vision for the book and what it can achieve from the outset—finding the essence of the story through a small detail or unusual angle, and executing it in a style right for the audience whilst remaining distinctive.”

O.K., small details and unusual angles might help create a “good” cover; but, again, there is the wild uncertainty in the phrase, “…a style right for the audience…”—please, if someone out there knows exactly how to determine the definable characteristics of any particular book’s audience, my email address is in the blurb after this post………

You might enjoy reading the full interview; but, I will bring the video at the end of the article over here, since it shows a book cover that Totally blows my mind…

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12 responses to “The Magic and Mystery of Book Covers

  1. Adrian G Hilder October 5, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Wow! That is certainly new and different.


  2. Sessha Batto October 5, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Right for the audience means ‘appeals to readers of XX genre’. For the most popular genre (romance, mystery, suspense, horror) there are definable audiences and well researched information on which covers work and why. Does this mean you will get more readers with a particular cover? Not necessarily. Does it mean you will lose readers if you step outside these guidelines? Also not necessarily. But, conforming to genre expectations will get your book recognized as a possible read by that audience at a glance…then your blurb and sample need to clinch the sale. Operating outside the genre standards may get a whole new audience checking out your blurb and pages…which may or may not result in a sale. A nice cover is nice, but it IS the inside that really counts!!


    • Alexander M Zoltai October 5, 2016 at 2:07 pm

      Well, Seesha, I appreciate your comment; though, I don’t know if you could “sense” the “irony” when I said, “Perhaps a writer locked into a certain genre might “know” who reads their books…”.

      Still, within the genre-factory, what you said is mainly “true”…

      I truly Appreciated your last sentence! :-)


  3. dgkaye October 11, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    Very interesting video Alex. I believe a book’s cover should strongly depict the essence of the story, at least that’s how I envision my covers. I write down many ideas of what I’d like to see as a reader to entice me to look at the book evoking something of what the book is about and then I give those ideas to my cover artist with a short synopsis of my story so she can capture of feel of the story too. I create in my head what my terrible art skills can’t draw up and the collaboration with the artist blends well. :)


  4. Kate Rauner October 31, 2016 at 9:37 am

    I’ve noticed that fiction books by big name authors barely have a cover at all – just the NAME OF THE AUTHOR in huge bright letters.


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