Book Covers & Dust Jackets

In the pursuit of publication for my writing, I’ve discovered I’m quite opinionated when it comes to book covers. This is not just the case for me as an author, but the same holds true for me as a reader as well. When a cover has grabbed my attention, I read the back cover copy and the first few pages of the story before making a final decision. While talking with a middle school creative writing class recently, I learned I’m not alone in this process. Sounds like a lot of us have judged a book by its cover.

The Design Process

Many books are released in hardcover and then trade paperback followed by mass market paperback. Publishers may wish to revamp or tweak a cover design with each release to keep up with changing trends in the book marketplace or because the book is now part of a series or set, the book is being released in different countries, or the book was made into a movie. All changes made are in an effort to reach more readers and sell more books.

With all of this talk about book covers and dust jackets, I’m reminded of a blog post that originally appeared on Shelley Shepard Gray’s website in the summer of 2015. Gail Dubov, Associate Art Director with Avon Books, described how she put together the cover for Shelley’s novella A Wish on Gardenia Street. This story is the perfect addition to the four-book series called Amish Brides of Pinecraft. With permission, I thought I’d give a brief overview of Gail’s process here:

“In the case of A Wish on Gardenia Street, I looked at photographs of the Pinecraft community (new to me, but very interesting) and tried to build a piece of art that came close to what (had been) asked for—an Amish woman walking down a street in the community. I found an image of an Amish woman in a field and knew that she would work, with some photoshop tweaking. I thinned her out, shortened the sleeves and added arms to her (from another stock shot).”

“She was placed on the street with some shadow added to anchor her to the sidewalk. I wanted to add a cottage to give it a sense of home. I found a shot of a Pinecraft cottage and put it in the scene behind the fence. Then, of course we needed gardenias. Gardenia blossoms from a stock house helped create the gardenia bushes to make the cover complete. It was really fun watching as this art fell into place. I think it made a perfect cover for the novella!”

Same Story, Different Packaging

On three separate and specific occasions, I have borrowed a book from the library and then decided to purchase a copy once I had finished reading. But when I went to place the order, I discovered the cover was different than the one on the borrowed book in my hand. Paying more for a particular book cover was worth the extra cost to me. Continue reading to learn why.

The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows by Brian Castner

As I perused the shelves of military memoirs, the pale blue cover with the boot print embossed in gold caught me eye. The significance of this image stuck with me well after I finished reading about the author’s struggles. When I see that specific cover now, I’m reminded of the print’s importance in several scenes – scenes that left me in tears. I was incredibly disappointed the publisher didn’t incorporate something similar in the cover design for the paperback.

Home Front by Kristen Hannah

Knowing I loved The Nightingale, a friend loaned me her copy of Home Front. Sure, the main character is a black hawk pilot as is represented in the more recent version of the cover pictured on the right, but the story focuses on “a modern marriage and…the toll war takes on an ordinary American family.” I remember reading the story and thinking the lighter-colored cover featuring a family on the beach was a brilliant design. Since my friend wasn’t attached to the cover, she agreed to allow me to keep her copy, and I bought a replacement for her collection.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

It wasn’t until I finished reading this book that I noticed the film negative border included on the cover pictured above. I love how this significant detail was incorporated into the design. My eye is also drawn to the blue title as well as the specific font used on the dust jacket pictured on the left as compared to the font and color combination chosen for the paperback cover featured on the right.

How About You?

What draws your eye to a specific cover? Maybe it’s the book’s title or the font selected. Maybe it’s the colors, the images, or the details included. Maybe something else entirely. If you have a favorite book cover, what about it captures your attention? Shoot me an email or find me on social media. I’d love to hear from you.