How Book Covers Need to Evolve in the Digital Age


As publishing adapts to changes in book technology, one area that has yet to adapt is the all-important cover art. Today, two independent articles highlighted the serious considerations authors and publishers must take into account when designing the face that will ultimately help or hinder consumer purchases.

The first post, a piece for the new yorker by Tim Kreider, examined the evolution of book covers from their days as jewel-toned illustrations to today’s minimalist approach to stereotypical designs. Kreider’s piece tackled what appears to be a requirement in designing book covers on a genre-by-genre basis.

“The big principles of design – in books, appliances, cars, clothes, everything – are: 1. Your product should be bold and eye-catching and visibly different from everyone else, but 2. Not too much!” Kreider wrote about the often frustrating experience of traditional publishing cover concepts.

Besides Kreider’s explanation, Alex Ingram wrote a more technological look at book covers for The bookstore. In his explanation, the whole purpose of a book cover has changed, in line with the rise of digital publishing. Now, as consumers no longer have to walk the aisles of a brick-and-mortar bookstore and see a cover grab their attention from a few shelves, artistic considerations for thumbnail-sized covers must also evolve.

“Looking at the cover of an e-book, it’s usually only a paperback or hardback, although audiobooks have long had covers to match their packaging,” Ingram wrote. . “Good front and back cover design is surely about putting a solid set of information into a template to both encourage purchase and encourage people to read a book. Yet publishers make little to no adjustments to the coverage and copy they provide to digital retailers. »

Interestingly, as more authors begin to exercise control over their work by turning to self-publishing, cover design remains one of the areas where traditionally published authors often have little or no contribution. Author Polly Courtney actually cited her book covers as one of the reasons she returned to self-publishing, admitting that her traditional book covers created by the publisher’s marketing team were ” embarrassing”.

“I had what we’ll call a constructive dialogue with my publisher’s editorial, design, and marketing teams, balancing my personal vision with something people might want to buy,” Kreider wrote. “For months, we went back and forth: I sent them several illustration options and they chose the one I liked the least; they would send me design options, I would pick the one that made me the least unhappy, and they would veto it. Book covers are an important selling tool, and the marketing department rightly felt that the cover was really their thing. I also had a paranoid feeling of dark and Olympian forces weighing higher; I’ve been told that the most powerful figures in today’s literary world, the buyers of the major national bookstore chains, have been known to offer to increase their orders of a book if its cover changes.


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