The New Old in Book Cover Design

by Cathi Stevenson Amy Weiss-Meyer posted an interesting blog over at New Republic. In it she discusses the return to the chunky fonts of 1970's-style book covers and quotes Chip Kidd, who isn't really thrilled over the new trend. (If you're new to the biz or have been in a coma for the last few decades, Chip Kidd is the reigning guru of book cover design, creative genius at Alfred A. Knopf, star of information-rich YouTube videos and Ted speaker. If you haven't seen it, you should check out his Ted talk, it's pretty funny). I'm not a fan of some of the fonts or layouts, but I have always loved a text-only cover, which many of these are. Regardless of anyone's likes or dislikes, the trend seems to be gathering momentum. Weiss-Meyer cites several examples, including Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl, but chunky fonts are popping up everywhere, not just on book covers. She also also touched on a good point. Some books are targeting a demographic that became adults in the 1970s, so book covers that bring up nostalgic feelings from that period might be a wise marketing move. Marketing doesn't have to be good art, or even good writing — although both would be nice, it just has to move a product or service. I think Michael Murphy's Goodby Emily (Koehler Books) is a great example to this trend. The salute to the tie-dyed t-shirts worn in the '70s is pretty awesome. I'm also a fan of the text-only cover for Jojo Moyes' Me Before You (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking). The cursive lettering is just the right font, in my opinion. Not all versions of the book are using this cover. If you really just can't embrace the new old look, relax. Like the Papyrus font, grunge covers, feet and legs, lone trees and countless other book cover design trends, this too shall pass.

Visual Vibration: Lose It

Crazy Woman Drinking Wine by Cathi Stevenson It has to be discussed…again. Visual vibration. So many independent publishers don’t seem to think it’s an issue and I’d bet my last chocolate-covered almond it’s resulting in lost sales. What is it? Visual vibration is caused when two bright colors are mixed together on a book cover or website or ad and they create an “afterimage” effect. It’s almost as if a dancing halo has been placed around the word or shape, making it nearly impossible to look at the image for any amount of time. It’s painful. It’s the last thing you want happening on your website or your book cover. You can avoid visual vibration by introducing a less vibrant, neutral color to the mix. visualvibration_2 visualvibration_3 visualvibration_4

Are Your Feet Cold?

I ask, because surely that place below us has really frozen over! Well-known book cover designer Henry Sene Yee, creative director at Picador, winner of AIGA’s 50 Books / 50 Covers; recipient of The Art Directors Club GOLD Cube and proud recipient of awards from The Type Directors Club, The New York Book Show, The Society of Illustrators, Print Magazine’s Regional Design Annual, Communication Arts…and so on, created a book cover using Comic Sans!

The book is called The Subject Steve, by Sam Lipsyte and is featured on Yee’s blog, right above a link to Timothy McSweeny’s site, which features a  hilarious monologue from Comic Sans, by Mike Lacher.

Lipsyte’s book is available on Amazon, or better yet, get if from your local bricks-and-mortar bookstore.

Book Design – Create a Professional “Look”

by Cathi Stevenson Design elements should be carried throughout the book Since my site is mainly one for book cover design, I work with many clients who come to me for just that one element of the book. There is no problem with this, but I like to at least make contact with the interior designer, or if that part of the job is already done, see the finished product. This is so I can create a cohesive look that carries from front cover, through every page and onto the back cover. The fonts you’ve used; any graphic elements, such as dingbats or lines; drop caps or other features used on the books interior can be mirrored on the cover, and vice versa. This is not always possible of course, sometimes covers change for various reasons, but the interior of the book stays the same. One good example is once a movie has been made about the book, a new cover will immediately be produced that reflects the move characters and title, but quite often the interior is not altered. Book Cover Express has a wonderful, very experienced interior designer and through the years we’ve formed friendly working relationships with many others. Collaboration is not usually an issue. One problem I do run into is with do-it-yourselfers who are creating very amateurish interiors, using Times and Ariel, mixing too many fonts, not spacing paragraphs properly and not understanding punctuation (there is a difference between a hyphen, an em dash and an en dash). Since the cover is the handshake that greets the world, you can’t really afford to display anything that’s no able to hold its own in a competitive world with professionally-designed books. Try to remember your book is one project and it should have a distinctive look that identifies it throughout.

Top 5 Questions I Am Asked About Book Design

by Cathi Stevenson

1. Why shouldn’t I lay my book out in Word?

Word is a word processing program, not designed to format files for press. There are lots of issues that can and do occur when you use Word to lay out a print project:
  • Sometimes the black text is only at about 90% when printed, so you’re essentially getting a dark gray.
  • Word does not work in CMYK colors, which are necessary for printed books. It works in RGB colors, which are meant for screen viewing. I’ve written an article on color that you can read, if you’d like more information.
  • Word will display fonts that you don’t actually have. If you choose the italic or bold options in Word, the program will “fake” those effects, even if you don’t have the bold or italic version of the font. This means, your PDF will not have the bold or italic effects you want.
Word can be a fine tool—if used properly, to lay out e-books. RGB color is preferred for e-Books of course, and the fonts will change on various devices anyway.

 2. Where do I get an ISBN for my book?

  •  In the USA you purchase ISBNs from Bowker.

 3. Why don’t I need a barcode on my e-book?

Barcodes are the physical scanning codes you see on products that allow scanners to determine the price. E-books are not a physical product, they are never scanned. You should have an ISBN assigned to your e-book, though.

 4. Does it really matter what font I use for my book?

Yes! Yes! Yes! There are many reasons, starting with professionalism, moving through readability and ending with sales that make it essential to use fonts wisely. You don’t want to alienate even one buying customer. I wrote an article a year or two ago for the Independent Book Publishers Association, and have posted an updated version of it on my blog, that addresses one aspect of fonts, that offers information that might be useful when creating ads for your book, and even the cover design. A few years ago Stephen Coles wrote a great article on book cover fonts for I think it’s still relevant today, and many of my favourites made the list. I recommend you read the whole article, which includes images. Cole’s top 10 list of book cover fonts:
  • Minion
  • ITC New Bakserville
  • FF Scala & FF Scala Sans
  • Adobe Garamond (one of my all-time favorite fonts)
  • Trade Gothic
  • Electra
  • Fornier
  • Dante
  • Din

 5. Do I really need a website?

Yes! I’ve written about this topic before also, and here’s an excerpt from that article: I asked well-known agent Andrea Brown of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, if she thought it was important for authors to have an online presence and she replied, “short answer is yes—authors must have.” That opinion is shared by Gwen Gades, owner of Dragon Moon Press in Alberta, Canada. “Social media is very important, as is author branding. More and more readers choose based not just on a book, but because they have gotten to know an author “personally”. Large publishing houses, including Random House have an online biography for each of their authors that includes book cover images, links to purchase their books, links to personal blogs and websites, as well as Facebook pages. Harlequin has a similar setup for its romance authors. The Penguin Group (USA) has also recognized the importance of authors having and online presence and have a PDF called Penguin Authors Guide to Online Marketing, published back in 2008 (Google the title if you want to see it). If you’re a small press owner or self-publisher, you’ll want to spend your time and money wisely, and in today’s market that should be in online promotions where you’ll be able to reach the highest number of people for the least amount of investment.