Wednesday, December 27, 2017

About Book Covers

What should a book cover look like? Should it tell something about the story? Should it have people on it? Should it evoke an emotion?

The answers are “yes” and “not necessarily.”

One publisher friend says a title should contain no more than three words. The subtitle may contain more. A one-word title is ideal. Why? Because it stands out on the cover. Too many words have to be in a smaller font to fit.

I chose the title Ghost Writer for my fantasy/mystery/romance novel because it is a hint at the story. (The ghost was a writer.) Yes, I knew other books existed with the same—or similar—title, but book titles can’t be copyrighted, and this one was perfect. Larry mocked up an idea, and my cover artist, Karen Phillips, perfectly captured it.

This cover hints at the story itself: the girl running on the beach with the dog and the ghost looking out the window. This was Larry’s concept, and I have always loved it. In a group of other covers, this one is especially eye-catching.

However, one of my publishers didn’t want a cover to give away much of the story. She preferred “generic” images. In my opinion, a cover should intrigue a potential reader regardless of the image chosen. It should also avoid cliché images. (Eyes staring out from the cover have become far too common, in my opinion.)

For our historical novel, The Memory Keeper, Larry’s best friend and wonderful artist, Robert Schwenck ( allowed us to use his painting of the ruins of the Great Stone Church at Mission San Juan Capistrano for the cover. Our designer, Melissa Summers, created a beautiful cover from the painting.

As a reader, I don’t like to see people on covers. I’d prefer to picture them myself from the descriptions in the book. (One of my friend’s books has a person on the cover. Throughout the book, she is described with black hair. The cover image has blonde hair. One reviewer pointed this out and gave it a low rating.) For The Memory Keeper, the image is timeless and perfect.

Series covers should have related images. For Larry’s The McGregor Chronicles sci-fi series, the background for each book is a different NASA star field image. (Fortunately, these are in the public domain.) He creates the spaceships and other space gear shown. The specific items are unique to each book.

Book covers need to be memorable and eye-catching, especially on an online retailer’s site, where they are seen in thumbnail size.

Cover preferences are personal. Sometimes the author has a great deal of input into the image. Sometimes the publisher makes the decision without involvement of the author. We have been fortunate to have had a say on the covers for all our books.

What do you like to see in a book cover? What captures your imagination? What do you not like to see?


  1. Replies
    1. Lingering Spirit and Cup of Demons are both spectacular. They evoke the emotion and hint at the stories. I especially love those two.