Writer’s Cramp is the blog and site for B. Jenne’ Hall, writer, genius, and pathological optimist. She’s written her first book, is working on her second, and she’s trying to get published. Which from all accounts seems to be as approximately attainable as the gift of flight, but who doesn’t love a challenge?

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The Art of the Book Cover

It’s ironic that a book’s success can hinge so critically on its cover, that a textual medium is so dependent on the visual. Not only does an author need to write an amazing story and refine it to a shiny polish, and successfully navigate the path from final draft to publishing (in whatever form). But that author needs a cover that helps its chances at success. (Or at the very least, doesn’t hurt it. Which is surprisingly harder than you’d think.) Ideally, that author will get a cover that helps a whole lot. And very, very rarely, that author will get a cover so iconic that it spawns imitators for years. (Which isn’t to say that an iconic cover equates to a superb book. Obviously.)

A book cover needs to entice you, the reader, to pick it up, to give it a look, to consider it, to buy it, and most importantly to want to read it. A hefty task, especially in the crowded market not just of books vying for our attention, but in the crowded market of entertainment, period. Unless there are other sources encouraging you to choose that book — a recommendation from a friend, a review that intrigued you, a building buzz that puts it on your radar — chances are, the first impression you get from the cover decides that split section reaction: “Huh. I wonder what this is about?”

So, how, exactly, does a book cover accomplish all of that?

Chip Kidd recently gave a TED Talk about the art and philosophy of the book cover. Not just the cover, but the design of the book itself. He talks about several books he’s done covers for, sharing the evolution of thought behind the designs and how they encapsulate a story visually. And how a book’s cover can become as iconic as the book it covers.


post image credit: by Lienhard Schulz (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

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