Wednesday 15 November 2017

The Mid-Month Extra: Covers Uncovered by Tamian Wood

By Tamian Wood
(co-judge of our Cover of the Month slot)

You glance across a crowded room and lock eyes. You are inspired, beguiled. Suddenly, “love-at-first-sight,” makes sense and you feel the spark of a love affair blossoming with …
...the BOOK of your dreams?

Ok, that might be taking the metaphor a bit too far, but work with me on this. The ultimate goal of your book's cover is to grab your reader’s attention and tell them in an instant, “Take me HOME, I’m just what you need! Pay no attention to all those other books, I’m the one!”

Think of it like your favourite little black dress that shows off your curves, and accentuates your …assets. :-)

Let’s face it, there are really only two reasons to write a book. 
1. To say you did, and 
2. To sell it.

Unless you only wrote your book so your grandmother could read it, and your target audience is your crazy cousin Emma, Auntie Eileen and Uncle George, the cover does matter. Let me say that again, in case you missed it in all the humor:

If you want to sell your book, 
your cover DOES matter. 

So, let’s assume you wrote your book to actually sell a few copies. The key then is that you must treat your writing as a business, your book as a product and the cover as its packaging. The cover is your most important marketing tool, and as such, must be properly packaged to be visually appealing to your target market.

A successfully designed book cover, like that little black dress, will convey the tone of your book, give hints about its content, and entice readers into actually picking up your product to read your meticulously written and diligently edited words. Metaphorically, you’ve just been asked out for a first date. Only then can your inner beauty be discovered.

Let’s have a look at some examples and see what they tell you about what’s under the covers…  (Ok, I’ll stop.)

Ponder on this cover package for a moment. What does the colour story tell you about what’s inside? It’s fresh, clean, green grass, blue sky. How does it make you feel? Cheerful, hopeful?

What’s under the cover, you ask? A letter from Pope Francis about caring for our common home, Earth.

The cover I created for the Pope’s Encyclical Letter is designed to make you think about our environment, ecology, and our children’s future. The fresh greens, calming blues and flesh tones are used intentionally to evoke a feeling of newness, and concepts of youth, growth, and springtime rebirth. (And for anyone curious, much to my darling husband's disappointment, no, we did not get to ride in the PopeMobile.)

What about these next two. How do they make you feel?

The colour red in both of these images tells us they might be about ​something sinister, but the fonts also tell us a story too. Notice that the bold modern font on The End Of Snow tells us that the story is based in modern day. If you zoom in close, you’ll also notice the texture of the font feels like a blizzard.

With Rebel Nation, we can surmise from the font that it has something to do with history. The rebel flag also gives a historical clue… but why is there a modern day-rifle site? Hmmm, intriguing.

​How about this cover, designed by my good friend and fellow designer Cathy Helms from Avalon Graphics?

Of course, the word "Dead" is a bit of a "dead" giveaway, but again, the use of the colour red drives it home. Nicely creepy Cathy!

In the case of these next two​,​ the softer font tells us this is a more feminine story. But what else can we discover about these two? Do they belong together? What clues tell you this?

With a sequel, it’s important to have consistency in the overall look and feel from one book to the next so your readers (or searchers) will know these stories belong together. This is known as “branding.” Typically, the colour story will likely match and text treatment is usually similar.

Notice the repeating elements. The spherical object at the top of the design space, the light source just below, the city-scape in the foreground, and the similar text treatment. All these elements let us know that these are part of a sequel.

​Here's another great example of repeating elements from Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics. The fonts are the same and in the same positions, the colour story is complimentary, there is a ship in each. (and except for Pirate Code, the same ship is used.) Nice work Cathy!

Another important thing to note is that there should be a strong contrast between the text and the image behind so that your words are legible.

​Here is another example of strong contrast from Avalon Graphics.​​ Notice how the title stands out against the background.

You should​ also​ always keep in mind that the cover will be displayed on digital browsers at a thumbnail size, so it is important the elements are minimal. Including every detail from your story only serves to make your cover busy and confusing, and gives away too much, too soon. Remember our little black dress ​analogy ​and keep it simple and classic.​ If you go back over each of the sample covers, there are really only 1-3 visual elements in each.​ (excluding text of course.)

One final little tid-bit of advice I always give new authors is​,​ if you are beginning to write a book, start saving your pennies from day one, so that when it’s complete, you’ll have a tidy little nest egg to invest in what it takes to make your product look professional.

Because it matters. 
A lot.

Are you a DIY cover designer? 
I am offering a cover critique on my blog. Show me what you have and I promise an honest, kind and constructive insight into how you might make your cover better before
you display it to the world.

Take a peek at what other authors have shared…
Tamian Wood

Graphic Designer

Beyond Design International

Video Trailer:

So what do you think about the covers shown above? Share your views and ideas  by leaving a comment below.


  1. Nice covers, Tamian. I treated myself to my first ever completely professional cover this year (with a push from Helen, lol) by Cathy Helms, and I absolutely LOVE it. It makes me feel soooo good. I just want to stroke it and put it in the window and...oh, excuse me, I do believe I'm starting to dribble.
    But yes, a professionally designed cover makes you really proud to show off your book. And my husband, who's my accountant and business adviser (he specialises in small businesses - and they don't come much smaller than mine, haha) says I owe it to myself to have my next one designed by Cathy too. Yes!!! I don't even have to justify it now, just take my business adviser's advice. Perfect!

    1. Thank you for the very kind comments, Loretta. It was a true pleasure working with you on your cover design and I look forward to working with you again in 2018! Tamian hit the nail on the head, of course, as a book's cover is very important and it is extremely important to get it right in order to sell your book.
      I owe your husband, and business adviser, thanks as well! Smart man!
      Thank you again for the lovely feedback.

  2. Good for you Loretta! And good for your business! That Helen, she's a wise woman. And your business adviser too.

    Try not to dribble on the pages. :-D

    PS - Thanks for your kind words about my work.

    1. Excellent article!!! And of course I agree wholeheartedly! And thank you for including a few of my cover designs as well - all of your included covers are excellent work and make your points perfectly.

    2. Thanks for your kind words Cathy. Your cover designs also demonstrate my points perfectly, so it was my pleasure to include them. You know I'm a great admirer of your work. So lovely to hear from your happy client too. You must be chuffed.


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