The Selling Power of Book Design

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Book publishers have only a few seconds to catch the eyes of customers.
A book cover can make or break a sale.
The customer picks up a book and looks at the cover for a few seconds.
If the cover looks interesting he or she reads the back copy.
If the customer is thinking about buying the book he or she looks at the cover again and reads a page or two.
Tom Dyckhoff examines book cover design in his article, "They've Got it Covered," published in The Guardian newspaper.
He thinks book covers are a kind of "design shorthand.
" A book cover can approach art when there is a close relationship between the publisher, the designer, and the author, according to Dyckhoff.
When I was writing my latest book I could see a cover design in my mind.
I wanted a cover similar to the one I imagined, so I called the director of the publishing company.
"I have a master's degree in art education, and though I'm not a graphic designer, I've taken many design courses," I said.
"Do you think I could be involved in the cover design?" Her reply was yes.
In fact, the company agreed to use a designer in my home town of Rochester, MN (someone I have worked with) to speed the production process.
I wanted a simple cover with a symbolic image.
What image would work? To save the designer time I searched the Internet for photos, narrowed my choices to four, and delivered printouts to the designer.
"I like the chair image best," I said, and he liked that one, too.
A week later he e-mailed the cover design to me and it is perfect.
Readers will get the symbolism.
An empty chair on a beach symbolizes loss and grief.
Incoming waves symbolize the waves of life.
A patch of blue in a cloudy sky symbolizes hope.
Several friends helped me with the cover symbolism, so I forwarded the cover to them.
I also forwarded the cover to contacts in the publishing industry and the three people who had agreed to write reviews for the back cover.
The replies I received were encouraging.
"What a beautiful cover!" "I find the cover very calming.
" "The cover is perfect.
It will make people want to buy your book.
" "It's lovely.
" I am reluctant to admit this, but when I need a break from writing, when I'm waiting for e-mail to arrive, when I wneed to keep impatience in check, I look at the cover.
Publishers don't usually consult with authors about cover design and I am fortunate.
Peter Mendelsund, designer of many stand-out covers, Senior Designer at Knoph, and Art Director of Vertical Press, discussed cover design with Christopher Tobias and the interview is on the Design Related Web site.
"It's my experience that the final product ends up to be a collaboration," Mendelsund says, "some more so than others.
" Thanks to an understanding publisher, a talented designer, and supportive friends, I have a beautiful book cover.
The book will be released soon and I can hardly wait to hold it in my hands.
Copyright 2008 by Harriet Hodgson
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