What images do I put on a book cover?
It can be tough to decide what images to put on your book cover. Should it be a photo, an illustration, or should you only use a font face? Could you mix elements, or should you only stick with one? Here’s some pointers to give you some clarity and direction.
Pros of stock images:
Cons of stock images:
Stock images are easy to use, and easy to get your hands on. So long as you take all the right measures to ensure you have the correct license for the photos (whether it’s free or paid for) then you can manage to get by on little effort for a great looking cover. When using an image get dynamic with the placement. If you have a photo of a person dead centre the risks looking boring, and one dimensional. Be creative with the placement, use only a section of the image or push it off centre.
Be open to the idea you won’t be the only one to use such an image. Take the example below of the three romance novels. This is an extreme case, but if you decide to follow the standard look of your genre (i.e.: romance in this case) there’s a possibility the image you’re using is used on other covers.
Pros of illustration:
Cons of illustration:
I ask you to have the same awareness of use of illustrations from stock photography websites- specifically for chick-lit books. It’s very popular to use the image of the girl shopping, walking, doing something fancy.
Putting pen to paper is a super exciting concept though! You’re only limited by your imagination. You book cover could be abstract, post-modern, vintage, comical, collage, water brushed, or classical.
Pros of typography:
Cons of typography:
What is typography: Laying out type (fonts/words). It is dealing only with the arranging and art form of type.
Typography can be a scary thing to consider for writer’s who are putting together their own book cover, or even for writer’s who have hired a book cover designer. It’s a foreign concept, and something they probably don’t recall seeing in a bookshop. But typography is used more often than you realise.
So what images should I use for my book cover?
When I send my clients a questionnaire to fill out before we begin the process of concepts for their book cover I ask them: Do you want a book cover that looks like the style of your genre? Or do you want something different and unique? The answer most of the time is they want to stick with the genre, and this is understandable.
When you’re dealing with a graphic designer you don’t know what you’re going to get so you want to make sure what you get is thematically consistent between the two of you. And it’s also important to know that when people look at your book cover they know what to expect, and sticking with your genre will ensure that. The use of type, the combination of images- or lack of-, the colour, the texture all adds to the genre/story you’re communicating.
By reading the article ‘How to find a book cover designer‘ you can find out how to become familiar with a designer’s body of work. If you find you’re attracted to the majority of their folio I would suggest taking a punt and trying something new. It’s a risk, absolutely. But I think it’s a worthy risk. All the best cover designs in the book industry are covers that break rules, don’t stick to the mould, and give readers an opportunity to ask questions like “Wow- what is this book about?” no matter what the genre.
And considering you have the chance to categorize your book at most opportunities like KDP, CreateSpace, and Smashwords it’s unlikely people will mistake your book for an alternate genre. Even in your local book store your book will be placed amongst it’s competitors. And if they do, so what? They’ll pick up your book anyway and you might have converted a thriller-lover to a sci-fi fanatic!
What risks have you taken with book cover design? What covers that you love only use typography, or illustration, and how do they do it effectively?