Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Typography of Book Covers

Here are some book covers by debut authors or unknown authors.

Now okay the thumbnails are small, but the similarities are easy to spot.

First of all, how many of these books have you heard of?  I've heard of the one on the end, that's it.  I'm very intrigued by the first two.  Definitely by the first one.

So, some interesting covers.  Number three is very generic (a fantasy that has people on horseback riding through the mountains.  My Gods, I must buy this at once.  Yeah, not so much...)

But what do they have in common?

Try some more covers, not all fantasies this time.

Do you see what they have in common?

In the first four pictures, the book title is given far more importance than the author's name.  Because the title is the selling point in these cases.  "Oh, Fallow Blade," says the bookshop browser.  "I wonder what that's about."  In the second lot of four we see a shift to "Oh, the next Terry Pratchett/Dan Brown/ whoever book.  I have to buy that."

The Unique Selling Point or USP (seriously, if you want to market your books effectively, you will need to learn marketing.  And that means learning things like USPs and how to do market research and so on) alters in the second batch of books to be about the author.

Interestingly, even by book seven, Harry Potter was still considered of far more importance than JK Rowling.  That's the power of branding.

So, for the debut author it seems that you're title should be at the top of the book.  Should it?  Readers are subconsciously targeted by the layout of your cover.  If you give your name all the attention, it might suggest to readers that you are far more well known than you actually are.  And having the readers subconsciously thinking "Hmm, this is a popular author," can't be a bad thing, can it?

Oh, and it's not lying, it's marketing.  Well, it is lying, but marketing IS LYING.  And we are having to compete with companies that have multi-million pound turnovers per annum.  We need whatever help we can get.

What do you think?  Where's the title going on your next book cover?

These book images are all copyrighted.  I don't own the copyright.  I have used them simply for illustrative purposes.  I am not claiming to be the author or publisher of any of these books.  If you are the author or publisher of any of these books and you wish me to remove the image, please email me at Chriskelly82*AT*, replacing the *AT* with an @.

Thank you.   



  1. It's likely that a first novel would show the title more prominently than the writer's name.

    In any event, I would likely be using my MC's name as the title because I'm tired of all those one word interchangable titles, but I might not be given the choice. A friend whose novel was published had a title the publisher didn't like - so they asked her to change it and gave suggestions - and it was changed. I actually liked the original title better.

  2. I'm not sure about that actually. I've been trying to find examples of debut novels that went on to top the NY Times bestseller list, to see how they were presented.

    If my theory is right and the publisher's can sort of nudge a book in the right direction by changing the title placement on the cover, I don't think they'd let authors know.

    Anyway, as an indie author I won't have a publisher making these decisions for me. Which is both liberating and terrifying.

  3. I'm a complete unknown, so I'd say that if I ever got a book deal, the title would be most noticeable.