Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
I’m an inveterate bookstore lurker, slipping into any shop along my path to peruse the aisles. On a recent trip, I checked out a Hudson News store in an airport and was taken aback when I saw this:
We all know that Nora Roberts is beyond prolific. (The Witness is her 200th book.) But the woman seems to have paid no attention to the concept of branding her covers so readers instantly know it’s a Nora Roberts book just by its appearance. I guess when each new release will hit the New York Times best-seller list regardless of what the cover looks like, you don’t need to care.
But for us mere mortals, who are working hard to establish a publishing identity, branding via cover design can go a long way to draw regular readers.
How can you develop a signature look to your covers? With the cooperation (or instigation) of your publisher, it’s not as hard as you might think. Here are three ways to brand your covers:
1. Always use the same font for your name. Glancing over at Ms. Roberts’ covers, you can see that no such branding has occurred. The only attributes the two bylines have in common are that her name is in all caps and both fonts are san serif (don’t have curlicues on any of the letters). The fonts look very different, and convey a very different feel. You’ll want to find a font that can work regardless what category any of your books might appear in. (Nora’s two titles that I spied nestled up next to each other on the store’s shelf are romantic suspense (the book on the left) and pure romance (the book on the right).)
2. Select a color range. Maybe you’ll decide to focus on cool colors, maybe on warm colors. (Ms. Roberts’ covers clearly are opposites.) The question becomes what feeling do you want to convey with your covers?
3. Create visual similarities. You might want to concentrate on having a watercolor feel to all of your covers; or maybe you use black and white photography on all your covers. Deciding on whether a person is portrayed on your covers or not is another way to establish a point of commonality on your covers. Once again, it comes down to what feeling you want your covers to convey.
AUTHOR BEWARE! These design concepts need to be created in coordination with your publisher. Never tell your publisher, “Purple is my favorite color; so I want it on all of my covers.” Your favorite color bears no weight as a rationale for a cover design. Colors are chosen to convey a feeling to the reader, not to please the author. The same goes for the font. A san serif font communicates a feeling of being straightforward and clean-lined. A serif font is actually easier to read and communicates complexity (in a good way). Don’t come up with your own idea of how to brand your covers, but work in concert with designers and marketers who have a much better idea of what sells.
Also, keep in mind that styles come and go in covers just as they do in clothing. Don’t be locked into a look that isn’t fluid.
One of our agency’s clients, Cynthia Ruchti, has been working with her publisher, Abingdon, to brand her books. Here’s a peek at what her novels’ covers look like with their coordinating redesign:
In what ways do these covers establish a brand for Cynthia?
What author can you think of whose covers convey the same feel again and again? What creates that branded look?
Does branding make sense for you? What would you like to see as hallmarks of your branded covers?
3 ways to brand your covers. Click to tweet.
Does creating a specific look for covers help to market books? Click to tweet.