You Tell Me: What’s In A Cover

You Tell Me: What’s In A Cover

Posted by on Sep 17, 2012 in Publishing, You Tell Me | 16 comments

I haven’t done a post about book covers in a long time, and with this new feature I thought this could be a great opportunity to explore your opinions.

Most people know I take a lot of pride in my covers. Of course I want them to be eye-catching, but when you’ve finished reading the story, I want you to be able to look at them again, and see something different. The image won’t have changed in any physical way, but it represents something different once you’ve read the book. It tells a little bit of a story, or sums the story up, in a single image.

For my book covers, I don’t want people or faces on them. I want you to create those images with your imagination as you meet them on the pages. I know other people don’t feel the same, and that’s fine. We all have different tastes, or things that appeal to us. And I’ve seem some truly incredible book covers that have faces/people on them, but to be honest, when I finish a book and look back at the cover, rarely is the person on the cover the same person that exists in my mind.

I have a wide range of covers from the publishing world that I absolutely adore. There is no rhyme or reason to it, so rather than show you a bunch of covers I’m in love with, I want to hear about yours.


You Tell Me:

As readers, for you, is there a recipe for success when it comes to a book cover?

In the attempt to get both sides of the story, for you, is there a recipe for disaster when it comes to a book cover?

What are a few of your favorites, and what is it about them that you love?

And lastly, when you read a book that has the main character(s) on the cover, is that the same person you take an adventure with inside?


As always, feel free to answer any or all of the above questions, as well as throw out your own. It’s discussion time, so lets talk book covers!


  1. I don’t really care if MCs are on the cover. It doesn’t ruin my own perception of the characters. Covers really depend on the content, too. I tend to like bright colors, fun fonts, and simple images. But I like dark covers, too. I guess it all depends!

    • Every cover has appeal for that specific story. I suppose as long as the cover fits the content, in some form, than it’s okay.

  2. I think covers are such an important part of books, if not one of the most important at first sight. When I’m in a book store and there are hundreds, if not millions, of book covers, how could I not be drawn to books that have unique, beautiful, edgy covers?

    I don’t think there is a recipe for a successful cover. For instance, you can cook a well-known recipe, but the outcome depends on how you flavor it and whether you put a huge amount of love in it, which, if you ask me, is a huge part of cooking. It’s the same with books. If you, as an author, are satisfied with the result, we can’t be very far behind.

    I think a cover isn’t something one, even as a self-published author should hold back on. Yes, you don’t have to pay for people to publish your book, but you should pay for someone to make a great cover for your story. I’m sad for saying this, but sometimes a bad cover pulls down a good story and vice versa, a good cover can contribute to a horribly written book. It’s a two way street.

    The cover is the first thing that usually caught my attention while in a bookstore, surfing on Goodreads or shopping on Amazon/Barnes & Noble/The Book Depository etc. If not, I usually know the author already, the book has great reviews, it’s a best seller or my friends on GR have added it a lot. As a new author, I think that a great cover can attract lots of wanted attention and get the book out there rather faster than slower. We, bookish people, love covers. I really don’t know a book lover who doesn’t love them. That being said, cover is a tremendous part of a book.

    Some of my favorite covers are (I put the first books of each series, but I do actually love all of them if they’re a part of a series. Well.. Mostly):

    Across the Universe by Beth Rives
    Everneath by Brodi Ashton
    Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
    Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
    Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout
    Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
    City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
    Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
    Divergent (UK version) by Veronica Roth
    Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
    Fallen by Lauren Kate
    The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
    Lengths by Steph Campbell and Liz Reinhardt (a good example of a romance book cover)
    My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick (the same)
    Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey (an example of a cover that, in my humble opinion, gave the book an extra half point in addition to a badly written story)
    Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
    Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
    The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
    Mystic City by Theo Lawrence
    Black City by Elizabeth Richards

    As to your covers, I think they really do stand out. They are quite different, have great coloring, intriguing and attractive. They really invite you to get to know the story and make you want to know what the covers hide between them.

    I think that.. Hmm.. E.g. If we take Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Lux series, we have Daemon and Katy on the cover. Yes, sometimes it helps me conjure up a scene in my head when I think of Pepe and Sztella, but on some occasions I wonder if it’d be better if I didn’t know these beautiful faces and could come up with my own images. I think it has its pros and cons to have the main character(s) on the cover, but usually people who read books a lot, have a great imagination so it isn’t a big problem to create that special someone to follow on a journey in your own mind, so they’d be unique and nothing alike to no-one else’s Ash, Daemon, Rose, Travis, Anna, Romero etc. While reading a book, the world is your oyster and you get to be on top and cast people to play the parts. That’s an important part of reading and sometimes I feel like it’s being taken from us if there are models on the covers. I like what they’ve done to the first 4 books of The Mortal Instruments series: you get the main idea of who is on the cover ‘n stuff, but you still get to put your imagination into work. Sorry, if this is too messy. I’m just writing as the thoughts come in my head and these thoughts are really taking up the speed and speeding on a highway right now. Anyway, I don’t mind the main character(s) being on the covers, however, sometimes it takes away from the book, especially if the models don’t stand up to the hype created by the description of these characters. Ugh.. This comment is getting so long 😀 Ha. Sorry about that, really. Yes, I don’t mind models, it’s just that sometimes it’s better not to have them. Gives us more space to use our own imaginations 🙂

    P.S. I didn’t proof read it, too long, and it’s already 9 PM where I live (Europe) so, I’m off to bed to attend my early classes at Uni tomorrow. Be back to read what the others (as well as you) thought 🙂

    What are your favorite covers? Are you happy with yours?

    Hope you have a great day and this gave you something to think about!

    • Interesting. It seems cover perception does vary as much as a readers taste does. I suppose that makes sense, given the subjectivity of everything! I have a lot of favorite covers. If we’re talking my books, EXILED is currently my favorite, but I given my design for the last book, I think once my artist gets a hold of it, it will quickly become my new favorite. I’m extremely happy with my covers! 🙂

  3. Covers do catch your attention. My first instinct when I see an amazing cover is to see what it is about. If the cover looks shambolic I might not be as inclined unless someone recommends the book. However, if the synapsis doesn’t interest me, it really doesn’t matter how great the cover is. I don’t care if there are characters on the cover or something else, either way a cover can be really intense and beautiful, depending on the designer. I normally come up with my own idea of what a character looks like regardless of the cover. One of my favorite cover artists is Claudia McKinney (Phatpuppy Art). She does amazing work.

    • Agreed! If the cover gets you to pick up the book, and read the synopsis, it’s done it’s job. And I know Claudia’s work – she truly is an incredible artist.

  4. Personally I think covers provide us readers with the first glimpse into the book and mind of the author. My cover preference depends on the type of book I am looking for, but usually I tend to be drawn to books with creative covers, unless I am already vested in a series, in which case I don’t let the cover sway me. But I still pay attention to it. I like it when covers are not literal, for example this book is about a vampire so I am going to put vampire teeth on the cover. I love covers that make me ask, “Why did the author choose this cover?”

    Usually I can’t figure it out after first glance, but usually after reading it I can figure it out. A cover with a little mystery and intrigue adds to the whole book experience I think. When it comes to suspense novels its like another piece of the mystery. When I am looking for a supernatural book I really want my covers to be metaphorical, wild, different, I will admit I am usually drawn to covers that are dark or gothic looking. 🙂

    As far as having people on the cover really turns me off. Because it really messes with my visualization of the character. I always find myself comparing the image on the cover to the actual description of the character in the book and to my personal created image. Normally I find the cover image to look nothing like my own. I also often find that the cover image does not match the description of the character, especially the main character, and sometimes it doesn’t match any character. So really what ‘s the point?

    I can say that your cover for Exiled was the reason I read the synopsis in the first place.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Danielle, and you’re kind words! It’s great to know the cover actually drew somebody in. I’m personally enjoy the covers that make me think and wonder as well. I like deep contrasts, and something ‘different’ usually catches my eye before anything else. There are a million covers with a girl in a dress, usually looking over her shoulder or facing the cover, and to be honest, I just skim over those. Something unique, however, will instantly draw me in, and I almost always pick up the book to read about it.

    • Your welcome….it’s true. I was searching through hundreds of books when your cover caught my eye. So I gave the synopsis a chance and I was sold.

  5. So many great questions.

    For my book covers, I don’t want people or faces on them.
    See, I love having people on covers, with the caveat that if your character is blue with pink hair, you have to pin your publisher down in a half-nelson and explain how blue with pink hair needs to get photoshopped in right now. Because I know you muckety-muck authors wield powers like that. So get on it.

    Recipe for disaster: multiple fonts. It’s very very easy to screw up more than one font unless you know exactly what you’re doing.

    Recipe for disaster: blurbage front and center. Ah. Don’. Cay-er. You tell me what your book’s about with title and representative image and let me judge for my own self.

    Recipe for disaster: severed lady limbs. Enough with this shit already. Everyone go read some Jean Kilbourne then group back here in an hour, okay?

    Honestly, I want to see these bunch of covers you’re in love with. I can pull together easily 10-15 and defend why I nom them, and I always love hearing what works for other people.

    Oh hell, I’m going to have to blog about this, aren’t I?

    • Haha. Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts! I guess since I’m independently published and have full control over my cover, it’s a little easier for me. As for traditionally published, from what I understand, you get pretty much no say in your cover. But I do expect that if you put your main character on the cover and I read the description for your character in the book, they better match up. If they don’t, that usually annoys me. Probably far more than it realistically should.

      You know, I might take some time to put together another post of just the covers I like, and then I’ll explain why there. There are so many covers that are ‘meh’ to me, and so many that make me do a double take. Even if it’s something as simple as a swirl of colors, that can be done so well that I want to know what the book is about. Of course, a suitable font and a great title help. 🙂

      Multiple fonts is very hard to deal with. I’ve never used Photoshop, so I don’t know how to do it myself, but I know if done wrong, it can ruin a cover. And I agree that all the blurbs on the front take away from the point of a cover. At least for me. I much prefer to have a powerful title and a solid image to draw me in. The synopsis *should* do the rest.

  6. I want the cover to mean something to the book. Don’t just dress up the pages- I want a connection. It can be people for me or whatever but I don’t want it to be randomly appealing. It needs to connect to the book in some way.

  7. For indies, the big one is noticing that they used an image they did NOT have the right to and just tried to mask it with photoshop.

    Another killer for all covers is TOO MUCH. Multiple characters, symbols, plot elements, backgrounds, and then top it off with three quirky fonts? The key is simplicity. Two fonts tops with a simple representation of the book. Don’t try to tell the whole story on the cover, just give the essence of the book. Tease me.

  8. Personally I love covers that don’t have faces on them. Purely because often the faces on the covers don’t match my perception of the characters.

    If I don’t know an author then it is usually the cover that attracts me to a book in the first place. I LOVE the cover for Exiled and this was what drew me to the book initially. Until I read the book I didn’t understand the significance of the cover, but that was part of the attraction.

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