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Design Trends In Book Covers For 2010 Bestsellers

Design Trends In Book Covers For 2010 Bestsellers

So, I might have mentioned that I’m working on an ebook project. As I do this, I’m trying to think of the best way to present it, all the way down to what kind of cover artwork will work best, because even if you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, everybody knows that we all do. In the interest of looking at what kind of book cover artwork has appealing to people recently, I thought I’d look at the covers of 2010 bestsellers and see if I could come up with some generalizations about what is popular these days in book cover art. Shall we?

1. Sneaky marketing ploys, e.g. changing the cover to suit different audiences. (Room by Emma Donoghue)

Room is a story told from the perspective of a five year old boy who is being held captive in a small shack with his mother. The cover with which it was released attempts to put the viewer in the subject position of the boy, who views the world through a distorted lens, having always been inside of the shack, and therefore unclear on how anything works outside of its walls. The distortion of the photograph around the edges, the “fisheye” effect of the typography, as well as the pictue of the shack itself all contribute to a vaguely uneasy feeling that is in keeping with the darkness of the novel.

When Room was chosen as an Oprah Book Club selection, this would not do, of course. While the second choice of cover is still reflective of the novel — the childlike writing still reflects the novel’s narrator, the colors suggest something far more hopeful and light. The emphasis is completely shifted from the darkness of the first half of the novel to suit a more palatable theme to the chosen audience, which would presumably bitch and moan about this book if they knew what it was about before they started reading it.

I don’t think I will be using this particular technique.

2. Literal representations of titles and easy-to-identify similarities for books within a series. (The Stieg Larsson books)

This is a thriller series of books translated from Swedish (? I think) featuring a youngish heroine, and their chief attraction is for plot rather than character analysis or social commentary. Whereas some covers might mess around with multiple layers of deconstruction, these books are more about literal deconstruction — the book about the girl with the dragon tattoo has a girl’s back with a dragon tattoo, the one about playing with fire shows fire, and the one about kicking a hornet’s nest shows a hornet. Those might be cultural idioms but they aren’t messing around with multiple layers of meaning here — the people buying this book don’t care about that, at least not when they are reading this book. One thing they do care about, though, is being able to tell that this is a series of books even without the kinds of clear demarcations of series that the usual crime drama book might give you (e.g. A is for Alibi, B is for Bludgeon, etc.). This book achieves this goal by using the same typography throughout and maintaining a uniform aesthetic, even without having to explicitly state it is a series on the cover. This works well for a series targeted at people who don’t really like to think of themselves as genre fiction readers.

3. Pictures hidden behind cut-out fonts.

This trend has been popular in movie posters as well this year. The technique allows for typography to be a central element but still allow room for some illustration. On movie posters, the fonts are usually filled with characters’ faces, though on books the letters might offer a limited view of some kind of scene. Depending on the topic of the book, this scene can be more or less illustrative of the story. This would be good for a more literary book, or a book that deals with art and encouraging the reflection on beauty, as is suggested by the title above.

Comments (2)

  1. Dec 6, 2010

    Ah book covers. If you ever want to see a group of reasonable adults become bumbling idiots, throw them into a cover design meeting together. Covers are one of THE hardest parts about the publishing process!

    I’m sure you’ll be doing this, but make sure you do an analysis of non-fiction titles as well. Non-fiction cover trends are usually very, very different than those of fiction (particularly literary fiction), and the few times I’ve seen non-fiction covers attempt a fiction look it hasn’t worked very well. At all.

  2. Dec 6, 2010

    YES! I don’t want to give anything away, but yes, I’m definitely researching both types. I know they are different and that it’s really important to choose the right kind. The cover will definitely fit. Don’t worry.

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