Is your book cover photogenic? #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Is your book cover photogenic?

Increasingly, readers are photographing books and posting said photographs on social media and book blogs. This in mind, I asked my super talented photographer friend Sarah if there were qualities that could make one book cover not quite as photogenic as the next. She and I hit a bookstore to find out.

FYI: the images below, which were taken with an iPhone 6, seem to fall into the copyright gray area of fair use for educational purposes. This said, if anyone with copyright interest (author, publisher, designer, photographer, model, etc.) in any of the book covers below would like me to remove their cover, please message me via my contact page, and I will do so. To clarify, this post isn’t to comment on the design quality of the book covers discussed, but rather, how well those designs photograph. To be fair, the book covers would likely photograph better with a higher quality camera, but it’s also fair to assume that not all readers have high-quality cameras to shoot with.

How cameras translate colors: one of the things that we found was that for some covers, we were able to distinguish more detail in real life as opposed to in the photograph. To demonstrate this, for the first row of images, I’ve placed the Goodreads thumbnail next to my photo. For some reason, for How to be Loved, the book design, more purple in the Goodreads thumbnail, photographed in a light shade of pink, which makes the font harder to read. For Roman Crazy, because the motorcycle image has an orange tint over it, the detail blurred together a little in my photograph. For The Seasonaires, the camera seems to have changed the shade of yellow that the font is, rendering it less legible in my photo than in the thumbnail.

Is your book cover photogenic?

Metallic: notice how with The Bonfire of Vanities, depending on how I hold the book relative to light, the text can become obscured. It’s hard to tell, but I think this is happening because of a combination of metals and sheen. Circe, however, seems to photograph well, because while the gold is reflective, the black surrounding it is matte. The other way to achieve a metallic effect without using actual metal is to do what the designer of The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared did (I forgot to take a picture, but you can see thebeautraveler.com’s photo here) which was to give the illusion of metal by blending color with white to make it appear as though there’s a sheen on the banner.

Is your book cover photogenic?

Patterns: patterns can work in photographs, but they can also be problematic, and this is sometimes referred to as the moiré effect. The pattern behind The Female Persuasion, for instance, while beautiful, for me, is borderline problematic when photographed. When I took photos of the audiobook cover on my phone screen last year, I remember it being hella problematic. The patterns on the rest of the books in the layout below seem to work pretty well, however. For Crazy Rich Asians, there are some heavy patterns behind the people, but because, in this case, the patterns aren’t the focal point of the design, they don’t distract.

Is your book cover photogenic?

Obstruction of font: all of the covers below were legible to varying degrees in real life, but put them through a camera lens, and that legibility got reduced, especially for photos one and three. Photo one became less legible, I think, because not only is there some obstruction of the font, but the font color is closer to the background color than, say, photo two. Photo three is less legible because it’s degree of obstruction of the font is greater than that in photo two. The covers in photos two and four are more photogenic because there’s a higher degree of contrast and less obstruction of the font overall.

Is your book cover photogenic?

Out-of-focus font: the problem with making fonts appear out of focus as a design choice is the risk that all photos of covers with this choice could themselves appear out of focus. To demonstrate, the first photo shows two book covers side by side, one with out-of-focus font, the other with sharply defined font. If I hadn’t taken a photo of these two side by side, you wouldn’t have the reference point of Our House to clue you into the fact that it isn’t the whole photo that’s out of focus. With the exception of Hyperfocus, in which the play on focus makes sense because of the title, I’m not sure this design choice is worth the risk of all photos of these covers seeming, at first glance, to be out of focus.

Is your book cover photogenic?

Margins for hands: if you’ve ever cruised the #bookstagram hashtag on Instagram, you probably know that one of the main ways folks take pictures of book covers is by holding them. This is going to sound silly, but, yes, I am saying that leaving margins for the bits of hand that show up in photos of your cover is an important consideration. If designers don’t leave room, then bits of hand could obscure important parts of the design, the key word here being ‘important,’ because as you’ll see with Watching You, my thumb obscures “a novel,” which is not such a big deal. Notice how, with The Art of Leaving, there aren’t margins along the sides or the bottom, and so I could barely hold the book for the photo, where, with Crazy Rich Asians, though there’s little bottom margin, there’s plenty of side margin for me to get a grip. And when it comes to leaving margins on only one side of the cover, remember that there are both left- and right-handed readers out there.

Is your book cover photogenic?

Word-splitting: my personal preference would be to not split words on covers if it can be avoided, but, especially with long words, it’s also important to have a font size that’s large enough to be read in thumbnails and photographs. This said, word-splitting works better if words are not split at unnatural junctions, such as in the middle of a syllable or, as is the case with The Art of Leaving, in the middle of a letter. Word-splitting also works better, in my opinion, for shorter words/titles, because it takes less time for my brain to compute that “EV” and “IL” spell Evil than it does to figure out that “ROS”, “EWA” and “TER” spell Rosewater. This can be an issue both in real life and in photographs, which is why I decided to discuss this design choice here, but take a look at the photos below and judge for yourself.

Is your book cover photogenic?

Non-standard text direction: as with word-splitting, non-standard text direction is an issue both in real life and in photographs. In the examples below, this design choice tends to work better with common words than with made-up ones. I would also argue that some non-standard text directions are easier for the brain to compute than others.

Is your book cover photogenic?

Room for stickers: from signed-by-author stickers to winner-of-fill-in-the-blank-award stickers to discount stickers to price tags, if the cover design doesn’t leave a natural spot for people along the book-selling distribution chain to place these stickers, they may place them over important design elements.

Is your book cover photogenic?

Glossy versus matte: in all cases, glossy covers predictably photographed with some degree of glare. In the images below, the only cover that didn’t photograph with glare was the matte cover on the far right.

Is your book cover photogenic?

Legibility: when making font choices, it’s important to remember that most if not all photographs of your cover will not show it at actual size. The font should be large enough and clear enough to read on a thumbnail or a social media photo. Below are examples of covers with cursive, some more legible than others.

Is your book cover photogenic?

Is your book cover photogenic?In other news, my mystery THE BIAS OF RAIN has finaled for a Kiss of Death Daphne du Maurier award, woohoo!

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. So many great blogs to keep hopping through. Click here to join the hop and to see what other writing tips you can glean from this month’s edition.

Can you think of any memorable book covers? What are they memorable for? Are there any considerations as far as book cover photogenicity that I’m missing? Chat with me in the comments!

Title photo of girl lying in grass created by katemangostar – www.freepik.com

 

 

57 thoughts on “Is your book cover photogenic? #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

  1. What a great post, Raimey. I often wonder how people published a book with a cover I couldn’t read/made no sense. Aside from appearance, I was surprised when the cover designer I used for my thrillers wouldn’t design my prehistoric fiction covers. She said that genre wasn’t one she did well. Interesting…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have learned recently that book cover design is an art form. The color choice, the font, the way objects are presented on the cover — however, it’s good of you to point out that authors should also consider the margins (where photographers would most likely hold on their book when taking pictures for social media), and a space for the stickers. I hate it when a sticker covers up a title, and would probably prefer to have none on the book instead…

    The difference in color is mostly due to the different handling of colors of the computer (or phone) screen versus how our eyes perceive them. It’s a thing graphic artists have to consider when designing things for print, and designing things for computer display only. There is a big limit on how printers handle color – they only have four colors to work with – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

    Then, there is the material on which the design is printed on. I am not a fan of glossy covers, too.

    This is a great post, and I hope a lot of authors understand that it is not the design of the cover that has to be considered now, but the social media implications on how fans would express themselves with an author’s book.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. For me, one key aspect is “find a section of the cover that is either a single color, or at least moderately monochromatic, with a minimum of contrast.
    I feel like part of the challenge is, if the background image has too much contrast, one or more of the colors will blend in with the text (regardless of what color the font is).
    Another technique might be to always outline the text in a high contrast glow/outline, i.e. white font with a black glow (similar to a shadow but surrounding all edges of the text, to ensure separation.

    Beyond that, I feel like the main issue is often “how busy is the background image?”
    This may be a personal preference, but I prefer to keep images and text separate. Otherwise, partway through reading the text, my mind can notice (or re-notice) the image, and lose my place in the reading.

    I do agree that slightly blurry text is an issue. In some ways I feel it’s reminiscent of the uncanny valley. The closer to “in focus” the text is, the more it feels like a mistake that it’s not completely in focus, a mistake the mind/eye try to fix.

    In some ways the cover layout reminds me of the film and video convention of “safe zones” (keeping the outer most sections of every edge clear of important content, in case they are cut off during resizing).

    Solid points all around.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Margins for hands, I’d never thought about that before. You’re absolutely right about the increase in blogs and social media making covers increasingly important and I do find myself interested in lots of new books and authors based on book covers. Legibility is important, but there’s a lot more to it than that. You’ve covered this brilliantly!
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post. I love all of your examples and how you thoroughly explore your concerns. Book cover art has a different purpose than other forms of graphic design, in my opinion. As a graphic designer, the text should pop and make sense, and always be readable for everyone. The graphics should be beautiful and compliment the text, but it is a difficult balance. I tend to like lighter text and darker backgrounds with complimentary colors. All the bright colors distract my eye 🙂

    Congratulations on your award Raimey 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I prefer cleaner for some genres and more design-heavy for others, but only because those are the conventions I’m used to in those genres. If all book covers became a little lighter in design, I’m sure I would get accustomed. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was so interesting! I struggle to put together longer words that have been split up, but it does make me look at the cover longer trying to figure it out 🙂

    Whenever I make graphics I test print to make sure they look okay before committing to the design. Never thought to see what they look like when photographed though. Bookmarking for when I design my own covers as there’s so many awesome tips 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Congrats on the award! And great post. Cover design is my favorite part of the process, but I admit to not really factoring in some of your points. Will be something to consider with my next releases.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. There are so many aspects to book marketing. So many little details go into making an effective cover. Things you would never think about. When I designed my cover for Your Novel This Month, I left the background bright white and it VANISHED on the Amazon page. I had to add shadows on the edges or the ebook cover with photoshop to make it visible. Oops!

    Thanks for sharing these tips

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s an interesting spectrum of design and so much depends on who exactly is handling your book cover. I hear traditionally published authors have little-to-no control over it, so you’d think the big publishers would be swarming all over good social media designed covers. Maybe even having their artists design with pictures of the book and how it will display in graphics as the very first consideration. And yet, I’m almost positive a few publishers don’t even know there is a bookstagram! Let’s not get me started on stickers slapped higgle-piggle on top of a beautiful cover. There’s a special circle of hell just for whoever came up with stickers on covers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I snorted at your last sentence, lol. And you’re right about publishers not always seeming to take a lot of the design choices in this post into consideration. It’s probably a matter of time before they do.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Love how you just squeezed in that THE BIAS OF RAIN finaled for the DDM award! Congrats, RG!!! Very excited for you, and I’m so glad TBR is getting recognition. Regarding this great post, it’s a super interesting one, and raises excellent questions that I didn’t consider before. As I’m finalizing my own book cover, I’ll be weighing out my preferences with your comments in mind. Thanks for sharing your experiment findings!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I see a lot of blog posts about how covers have to look good in thumbnail (I even wrote one!). But this is the first time I’ve seen a blog post that considers how good a book might look in a Bookstagram post. Great tips!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t even remember how I hit on the idea, but it took a couple of months to wrap my mind around what I was aiming for, and then, of course, I wanted to find a time to hit a bookstore that fit into my photog friend’s schedule, and we did it just in time, too, because she just moved to Vancouver. 🙂

      Like

    1. Thank you so much! I honestly wouldn’t have printed out my book cover before either. I think being involved with bookstagram and Litsy have given me the perspective I needed to be able to write a useful post.

      Like

  12. I am visual, Raimey, so this is truly helpful to me about book covers. I can see what you mean. I sometimes wonder if the covers have great significance to the story being told. Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of these titles, so I don’t know. This would be interesting to find out. Great post. All best to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Woot on finaling for the award! I hope you get it!

    Great tips in this post. I love a lot of those book pictures where the photographer set up a setting matching the book cover. I’ve often thought of trying that out for my own book.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. You know, I’ve never thought about this, but it is important. I’ve seen so many promotions that involve having people post pictures of books found in the wild that it pays to make sure the covers are legible. Thanks for the hints.

    Liked by 1 person

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