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The Meaning of Well-Covered

In anticipation of my Delacorte debut, I’ve been encouraged to search for book covers that appeal to me and my story. So of course, I consulted my best friend, graphic designer Michelle Haft (check out her website, she’s a serious rock star).

She pointed me in the direction of several sites that celebrate top book covers from a graphic design perspective -- the Book Design Review, AIGA's Top 50 of 2008, and the Book Cover Archive Blog. Many of the covers are undeniably fabulous.

But intriguingly, I believe most of the examples regarded as top covers probably wouldn’t sell, if the books were published for young adults.

And maybe because I’m so immersed in the YA scene – or maybe because I’m just attracted to bright, colorful, in-my-face prettiness – but I tend to prefer YA covers.

Not all of them, of course. I’m not a fan of the headless girl trend. I also tend to dislike straight-on faces that leave no room for the imagination. But when YA covers go well, they can be breathtaking – especially, in my opinion, in the cases of cover artists who expertly (key word) manipulate photography in vibrant ways.

As examples, I showed Michelle Ink Exchange, Wings, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, hush, hush, Skin Deep and Twilight, along with a link to the fabulous juvie lit cover blog, Jacket Whys. I wasn’t surprised she liked Skin Deep the most. Ink Exchange didn’t appeal to her at all.

“We have a saying that designers design for other designers,” Michelle remarked. “But ultimately, it’s what the audience wants. I think we forget that sometimes.”

So what do you think? Why do teen book covers, adult covers, and covers heralded by the design industry differ? What kinds of book covers are you most drawn to overall?
Kirsten Hubbard

Kirsten is the author of Like Mandarin, Wanderlove, and the middle grade novel Watch the Sky.

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  1. First of all, I love the title of your post following the title of mine.

    Second, I agree about the headless girl thing. I know it's not always intended this way, but I don't think drawing attention to the midsection helps the poor body image thing so many teen girls suffer from.

    Usually I don't like to clearly see the characters, either, but I love the FoHaT cover.

    I think overall, I like it more when covers depict a mood or something symbolic from the book, rather than showing a specific scene (ala Nancy searching for the Mysterious Cuckoo Clock, etc.)

  2. ETA: Not entirely true. I like the Harry Potter covers, which depict specific scenes. But they also had lots of little hints and stuff, which was fun.

  3. I agree about the scene from the book on the cover - I dislike that quite a bit because it takes away from what I can imagine the characters look like. It's a notorious problem in the fantasy world.

    YA book covers usually look really good to me, almost as though there is more leeway to do something bright and fresh than in some other genres. I agree that SKIN DEEP is my favorite of the posted covers. So beautiful!

  4. I defintely am not that big of a fan of covers with people on them (although I like that Hush Hush one you showed there). I think the FoHaT cover would be cooler if that girl weren't there.

    Bright colors I like sometimes, but mainly I'm a fan of simplicity. That's the big thing for me.

  5. If the current novel I'm querying were published (YA paranormal romance), I definitely wouldn't want the MC to be depicted on the cover because she is so not girly, and designers would want to girly her up.
    I like more iconic covers, or design/theme oriented covers like "Skin Deep", which is so beautiful, btw.

    I'd prefer a blood spattered marble cemetery angel, an image I describe in the book, but I do a lot of graphics work at my job, so maybe I'm falling into the trap of "designing for designers", lol.

    Thanks for such an informative and thought provoking post

  6. I don't like headless girl covers either lol. I like symbolism. Something that hints at what the core theme of the book is.

  7. The problem with characters in the cover is that sometimes they look nothing like the author intended them to look. They also ruin the mental picture the reader has of them. I'd rather have a cover that hints at the story, instead of the characters.

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  9. I'm really enjoying reading everyone's comments, you guys have made some really great points. Design is about communicating something to your audience, so I think what it comes down to is whether or not a cover conveys a message or concept from the book, as Amanda pointed out. Basically there are no rules for how pretty a cover can be or what photo style you should or should not use, or any other graphic treatments so long as that message is there :)


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Item Reviewed: The Meaning of Well-Covered Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kirsten Hubbard