Ask an Editor: A Book and Its Cover
Darci Manley asked:
“This is a question about the packaging of young adult books. What are your thoughts on cover design trends that are happening right now? I’m seeing more and more covers that feature a simple graphic in the center, whether it’s the apple from Twilight, the mocking jay from Hunger Games, or the flaming graphic from Divergent, these covers seem to be more and more prevalent. In fact, they seem to be dominating over more illustrative character driven covers. I expect some of that has to do with people browsing books on ipads or kindles. A simple cover would probably do better in that smaller space, more like an app icon. Do you have any insight on this? Does it just depend on the genre? Thanks so much!”
The key word in your question is “trends.” You are right – there is a trend toward more iconic covers in teen fiction, thanks to the success of the books/series you mention. But trends don’t dictate every book and every decision about covers and their concepts.
While I like the iconic approach, it works for certain books, and not for others. How does that get decided? The publisher, editor, and art director start with the story – what do we see? Who do we see as the primary customer for the book? How do we see it standing out on bookshelves and online? Once the art director comps up a concept (as simple as sketching on a piece of paper, or as complex as pulling some images and laying them out with the title type) we share these with marketing, sales, and publicity. The team helps inform the final decision.
I also like an all-type approach, photography, collage, and illustration – but those are my preferences and won’t necessarily be used for a book I’m working on. I want the input of our team and need to consider the larger audience and not just my personal vision. Every book is different and calls for a different package—what is right for the book is considered first, regardless of current trends.
Trends come and go. For a while, we saw lots of beautiful, ethereal young women in long dresses on covers. Or big faces. Or parts of bodies (feet were big for a while). Are these approaches dead? No, not if the book calls for it. (Well, maybe the feet…!)
We have a book coming in October called Lailah by Nikki Kelly. Here’s the final cover. Our creative director saw this concept from the get-go. And it works beautifully.
Here’s another cover for an upcoming novel called Shutter by Courtney Alameda (February 2015).
What do you think? Both of these covers buck the trend of simple graphics or icons. And both have been receiving a lot of positive attention!
I’m lucky to work with a team that truly judges covers book-by-book. Much as the Swoon community does when covers come up for review.
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