Have You Got It Covered?

MysteryBookCover_thumb.pngIf I upset you with what follows, I regret doing so, but I am honestly speaking out in an attempt to help!

I’m on Pinterest.  I’m a member of several book groups on Pinterest.  And in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed something about book covers.  There are more and more being shown on Pinterest that I wouldn’t, in all honesty, look twice at!  It’s not the actual imagery in all cases, either, though there are some…  No, the problem lies in the titles.  I simply can’t read them!  They are in colours so close to what they overlay that they aren’t visible, lost in the background.  One thing I work hard on is a cover, and getting titles visible isn’t, as far as I’m concerned, that difficult.  In fact, it couldn’t be easier!  Yes, I might agonise over whether to use, say, plain white or a strong but bright yellow, but the principle of contrast isn’t difficult to understand.  If you’re determined to reflect the background colours in the titles, you really do have to to use a font that allows outlining, which has to make the letters visible by using a contrasting colour.  There are also certain colours that really don’t work well.  Reds can be very difficult to see, for example.  You also need to think how a cover will look to different people: the colour blind and the visually impaired, especially.  Look at your proposed  cover in negative as well as what the majority would see.  If you use red titles, how do they appear to a colour blind person?  Is the font so fancy that a visually impaired person would only see the stronger parts of letters but lose the detail, making the titles unreadable.

Of course, I can’t target just titles!  Cover images are important.  It’s better to have a plain cover, than one which will repel potential readers!  There’s an increasing number of pretty standard romance novels which have what can only be described as distinctly erotic covers, presumably to enjoy the benefits of the current fashion for erotic tales.  Fine.  Romance can lead to the erotic.  Fine, that is, if the story in the book reflects the cover!  But there are many romance readers who aren’t interested in erotic novels!  They are happy with the gentler, genuinely romantic covers that their favoured genre have traditionally used, and they’ll ignore those erotic covers.  lost sales.  I’d also question, again, the increase in the number of photographic covers in general.  If photography is used, it’s better to have the images heavily manipulated to create a more artistic effect, with facial features less clear, and a ‘softer’ focus.  For horror and paranormal, some of the covers look either amateurish (like stills from movies that don’t even achieve a ‘B’ grade!) while others are so graphic, they should be placed where only devotees of gore can reach them.  Finally, there are some where the cover illustration is so bizarre, or muddled, or dark that it’s almost impossible to figure out what you’re actually seeing!  I can’t see what benefit can be gained from such covers.

Covers need to be: descriptive/illustrative of the content; clear and intelligible; bold, bright and colourful for the youngest readers; they must have clear, readable titles that stand out from the background.  I know that many authors can’t afford to buy covers, especially custom covers, but they aren’t always the guilty ones.  I’ve seen covers which were ‘professionally’ designed, and which look truly dreadful!  The authors using such covers have wasted their money.  I have to wonder how many are actually happy with those covers, and how many use them just because they’ve paid so much to get them.

I beg authors to be more discerning in what they choose for their covers, and accept the principle of contrast for titles.

~ Steve


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About Steve

An author since the age of 13 years, writing again dominates my activities. My "Imagineer-ing" blog is my primary site. Also: Beginner knitter since November 2010. Favourite knitting techniques: cable and lace. Beginner cross stitcher. Beginner jewellery maker. With the promotion of self publication and all the other work that has been going on here, Dad decided around 2am this morning (22/11/2013) that it was time to begin his next adventure. He was seen off earlier the previous evening by myself, my brother, my sister in law, and my sister, as well as his wife (our mum), and an enigmatic being known only as A Lorraine. After this time of story telling, laughing, crying, joking and mickey taking, we saw how tired both mum and dad were, and we decided to leave them under the (sometimes) gentle care of The Lorraine. When Dad found the timetable for his travels, he let Mum know gently, which woke her from her drowsing, then, with the same gentleness he showed in this universe, he boarded his favourite mode of transport, the Interdimensional Steam Train, and set off with a smile and a wave. For those of us closest, that smile was a reminder that his pain has ended, and the wave, an indicator that he will pop in to all those that knew him, from time to time. Usually at the most inconvenient and in opportune moments he can. While we are sad that he is no longer here, we are happy he now has no pain, and is experiencing more extraordinary things that his writers mind will be frantically weaving into a new story. Posted by Son Damien

12 thoughts on “Have You Got It Covered?

  1. Thank you for mentioning the color blind. There are several types of color blindness, the one I have is mild (I can see colors well enough to tell wire colors when doing electrical work) but it does effect my ability to see certain color combinations on a monitor.

    For example, a lot of horror themed websites seem to like using red text on black background (actually this trend seems to be fading away) and I simply cannot read that. If it is something that I really want to read I will go into my browser and override the page settings, but that’s a pain.

    Also a lot of people don’t seem to realize that our first view of a cover is likely to be in a thumbnail, and fancy display fonts tend to be hard to read when shrunk down.

    • No problem, Misha 🙂 I don’t have colour blindness, as such, but I certainly have difficulties – such as not being able to see light to mid-tone yellows on pale/white backgrounds. And like yourself and many others, some websites are essentially no-go zones because one of the oldest rules in web design has been ignored: always use websafe colours! Red or darker tones in general should never be used on dark backgrounds.

      Very true – and I wish I’d mentioned thumbnail views! 🙂 It’s always worth checking your proposed covers in thumbnail size, to see whether it actually works or is just a messy image of no significance 😉

  2. My next cover is bright red on silver-grey – about the best I could come up with that wasn’t black on white! However, I hadn’t considered sight problems… away now to do just that!

    I wholly agree with you – some professional covers are so full of faded overlapping images trying to either tell you the entire plot or turn on every shade of human known to the universe that they just blend into a mess in my eye.

    • I must admit, I tend to avoid reds, as they are so often difficult to see, and may look ‘diffused’, but strong reds can be fine. It does very much depend on the background – and the viewer. I’m glad I’ve given you some reason to check visibility 🙂

      Thanks 🙂 It does amaze me that some covers are actually paid for when they are such abominations :O

  3. Your article made me check my own PinInterest book covers and was happy to see the titles, etc, could be read ok … phew!

    You can see them here:

    But I will be keeping watch for any that don’t in future, thanks Steve 🙂

  4. What timing, I’ve been working since yesterday afternoon on a cover and font and sizing. What a mess. I’m determined. LOL Thanks, I’m trying to make mine good, or should I say, great!!! Cher’ley

    • Thanks, Cher’ley 🙂 There’s one thing that usually works well – keep things as simple as possible! The more you ‘tinker’, the more likely things will just get chaotic 😉

  5. Nice post. 🙂 Packaging is huge, and too many authors don’t realize its importance. When you see several thumbnails in search results or on Customers Also Bought lists, packaging makes all the difference for whether or not the book will be noticed or ignored (or whether the wrong audience will take notice).

    • Thanks Chris 🙂 It does seem odd – considering authors are consumers too – so probably behave the same as most in terms of ignoring the uninteresting or unappealing packaging. And the thumbnail issue is definitely very important.

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