Can You Read The Title?

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

The most recent CBA Retailers & Resources magazine had a book on the cover and it took me awhile to figure out what the title said. (Actually, Janet had to tell me.) What a big mistake for a publishing house to make! Here is the book cover. Can you easily read the title?

knightsmapPerhaps you can make it out, but I am likely not the only one who had trouble with it. It’s easy to see how something like this could happen. I didn’t tell you what the title is because if you know what it says it is easier to figure out. The author and publisher would both already know the title of the project, so the font wouldn’t be as confusing for them. They likely gave their approval without getting opinions from those who didn’t know the title.

My client Jessica R. Patch’s new book does not have this problem. As you can see the title is bold, clear, and distinct. It can be read even when the picture of the cover is small.

51eYKtR4dBL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_The cover of a book Wendy represented is below. The publisher made the decision to make the title so small it is hardly readable. This is another big cover mistake. The font is fine, but the words are so small you can hardly see them. At least the picture is intriguing! And you can read author Bonnie Grove’s name.


What are some title or cover mistakes you have seen recently? Do you think it can hurt book sales?

Has a bad title or cover ever stopped you from purchasing/reading a book?

31 Responses

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Carol Ashby says:

    I agree that the tiny font on the third example might not be a good choice for digital sales where the images are small, but I really like the first one. It’s just a variant of Old English script, and it seems very well suited to a title that includes the word “knight.” I didn’t find it hard to read at all, and it was definitely eye-catching. R.C. Sproul is one of my favorite authors, so I’d be likely to pick this one up off the shelf as soon as I saw it. A plain font wouldn’t have been as likely to get my attention. I guess that just shows what a challenge picking a cover can be. What one doesn’t like, another might find attractive and especially appropriate.

    • I agree, Carol…I liked “The Knight’s Map” straight off, but singe I’ve gone through a lot of illuminated manuscripts when I moonlighted writing art history stuff, I may have had an advantage.
      * And I agree on the third example, too, whatever it’s called. I can’t read the title, and my eyes aren’t that bad. For me it depends entirely on the image (or knowledge of the author)…and the image doesn’t really do much for me. I’d pass.

    • Janet Ann Collins says:

      Carol said EXACTLY what I was planning to say.

  2. What an interesting topic, Rachel. I had no trouble with the first title, but it is more art than letters. The last cover comes across as mysterious, but really, should the title be the mystery?
    * Years ago, I worked on a program catalog with a designer who didn’t like our company’s logo (truth be told, I never liked the logo myself, but it was more recognized by our customers than our name). I think the designer was gunning for an award, and he shrunk our logo on the final product. I don’t know if he got the award. I do know that it cost him our contract.
    * The purpose of the cover is to sell the book, not to win a design contest.
    * Sometimes I do judge a book by the cover. Who knows what I missed because the cover didn’t call to me?

  3. HR Sinclair says:

    When the color’s match too closely to the background is another tough title to read.

  4. Oh, do I have a cover story…uh, wait one…maybe I need to rephrase that.
    * Seriously, Richard Newcomb’s narrative, “The Battle of Savo island” is a fine piece of writing and research. It brings the disastrous August 1942 meeting between the American and Japanese cruiser forces off Guadalcanal to vivid and harrowing light.
    * There’s only one problem. Yeah, the cover. It depicts Marines running down the ramp of an LCP, through the surf, weapons at high port. Problem is, Savo island was exclusively a NAVAL battle, and it makes the author – undeservedly – look like a dunce.
    * Another cover issue – my own. I’m finally looking at SP-ing “Emerald Isle”; Being about abortion and the IRA, it’s too dark for Christians. Being about the Irish, it’s too Catholic for Christians. And being pro-life and Catholic Christian, it’s too religious for seculars. I figure I will sell one copy…to Barbara.
    * Ah, yes, the cover. I found one I really liked, the reflection of two rainbows in a lake; it signified, to me, love (rainbows have a personal meaning for me and my wife, of love lost and found again) and hope.
    * What I didn’t realize, and what was gently pointed out by a reader, was that two rainbows would also shout “Gay Marriage!”
    * Seriously? In a book about the Irish (native and American), and the IRA?
    * Yes, seriously. And they’re right.
    * But hang it all, I happen to LIKE that cover. I’m on the lookout for another one, but if I don’t find a good replacement, I intend to lead a Quixotic charge against the windmills of political correctness.
    * I like rainbows. I want them back.

  5. Clhe Rnight’s Fnlap?
    Chle Jriiight’s Ntlap?
    Oh, OKAY, it’s Welsh!
    I knew right away what it said, but if a person cannot read that font, or cursive, they are out of luck.
    Jessica’s title is perfect!
    Bonnie’s cover is good, but the font is too small. But the book is INSANELY GOOD!!!!
    Yes, a cover has stopped me from buying a book. As in “I would not be caught dead with this anywhere near me”. ANYTHING with a swarthy, half dressed pirate in a ripped but perfectly clean shirt, holding a poor maiden who has the unfortunate luck of falling out of her corset, all the while his hair looks like there’s a wind machine going, and he has the body fat ratio of balsa wood.
    Hey, I’m sure the struggle was real, but , still.
    I mean, who has perfect hair in 1827 on a pirate ship?
    Rich pirates with solar powered hair dryers and tonnes of product from L’Oreal.

    • Well, there goes my first alternate cover for ‘Emerald Isle’.

    • Yes, covers make a difference to me. (I had to stop laughing at what Jennifer posted long enough to write this comment.) Books ARE judged by their covers. Maybe the *proverb* that says they shouldn’t be originated when books simply had a title stamped on the cover and no art. And to continue on Andrew’s remark about models looking nothing like the characters – yeah, that’s a distraction. Not that it should matter, but it does. I once read a book by an excellent author whose cover art did not-even-a-little-bit go with the title or story. I kept flipping back to the cover and thinking, “Where is the hint in this picture that points to the story?” In today’s world with people so icon-dependent, I believe the cover is perhaps even more important than it once was.

  6. I think I’ve just figured out what a cover SHOULD be. Either that, or I’m having my normal attack of 0700 hubris…but here goes.
    * I just saw the sun come up, and waited outside for it in shorts and t-shirt even through it’s in the 20s. It was stupid, I was cold, and it was worth it.
    * There is that stillness and breathlessness, then the slight shimmer before the corona appears over the eastern mountains…and then the limb of the sun sparkles to bring the day to wake.
    * And that is what a cover and title should be, I think…the creation of that magic, eternal moment when you want to open the book, but you don’t want the spell that has caught you to fade.
    * Do you know a cover like that? I know at least one…the original cover for Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse”. It’s so striking, and so starkly beautiful. Here it is, if you’re interested. It says everything about the book, while saying nothing explicitly.

  7. Sally Shupe says:

    Interesting topic of discussion! I’m glad I came across this blog today. I want a title I can see and read. In one of the comments someone stated what the title should say. I couldn’t figure out the last word. Jessica’s is perfect. I can see that is it Love Inspired, the title, and who the author is. Perfect!

  8. Sheila King says:

    Whoa! I JUST finished reading Jessica Patch’s description of her publishing experience with Harlequin Inspiration over on the Writer’s Alley blog – it was very detailed and interesting reading.

    Then I click over to Books & Such to find that Rachel is her agent!

    Congrats to both of you and best wishes for a long and prosperous relationship together.

    Although I have never met Rachel, I can imagine that being her client is a very good thing!

  9. One cover (and Pinterest) mistake (at least to me) is showing what fictional characters ‘look like’. Huge push-back, here.
    * First, it takes away my imagination. I want to build a picture of the characters as I get to know them, NOT from a publisher’s contracted artist, or even from the author.
    * Second, there are cultural differences. Even though I have blue eyes and a sharp nose (thank you, Alexander the Great), I AM Asian, and have the skin colour, labial folds around the eyes, and lack of tolerance for alcohol to prove it. Kind of cool; I don’t show the jaundice that’s come to call.
    * And to me, all Caucasians look alike. Seriously. Put my wife into a group of dark-haired Caucasian women of slender build and middle height…and after fifteen years of marriage, I will know her first by gesture and bearing than by face.
    * So if you put chiseled and lovely white folks on the cover, you’ve just alienated a significant audience…because Chinamen READ.

    • Carol Ashby says:

      I hear you, Andrew. My family is quite an ethnic mixture. I’m Anglo with pure British Isles bloodlines, my son is African-American, my daughter is Hispanic, and when my husband was young and deeply tanned, his Native American heritage was obvious. We range from pasty-pale me to very-dark Paul with a beautiful olive in between. I’d like more variety in cover art.

      *I agree about putting too much of an image of the character on the cover. One romance author whose writing I really enjoy often has cover women who look more like smiley-faced debutantes than the strong, competent women that the characters really are. Sometime only the hair color seems consistent between image and plot.

      • Sounds like quite a family, Carol!
        * I agree with you completely on the ‘buff and beautiful’ stereotype found in cover art. I WAS pretty buff – I had to maintain an Olympic level of fitness through my 40s, on the chance that I might be recalled for certain jobs – but when I was teaching I saw how much that societal pressure hurt young people. Counseling an engineering student that he WAS worth something even though he was short, skinny, and wore glasses…how does one approach that, when every ad and TV show says that the best thing he can be is a humourous foil to the leading man?
        * It may be especially important for Christian publishers to lead the way here…to let their cover art, when it represents people, show that everyone is of value, and not merely hide the socially-ranked attributes with more clothing.

    • Jared says:

      Here’s another thought about faces on covers…
      I read a lot of YA, and one of the biggest trends I see the use of a single girl’s face on the cover, with virtually nothing else to distinguish the book or provide intrigue.
      This is not the most glaring example, because at least with the hair scattered about it makes an interesting image. But do you have any clue what this book is about based on the cover? If you saw it on a shelf with fifteen other covers with nondescript blonde girls on them, what would make you pick up this book over any of the others? Also, having read the book, I know that it actually has 2 different protagonists, each with their own POV, and only one of them is female. So how did they come to this choice?

  10. Leon Oziel says:

    Great topic of discussion today Rachel, thank you. I’m very conscious of book covers and cover titles, being that I come from a visuals background. It’s so important that the title, font, imagery, colour, and overall feeling, convey what the story is about, in the flash of an eye.

    What I’ve done as an exercise in creating a strong cover is to create my book cover on photoshop. I then take a screen shot of Goodreads New Releases page, in my genre, where they show a collection of 15 or so covers together. I reduce the size of my book cover on photoshop, and insert mine on top of one on the covers on the Goodreads page, to see how mine stands out against the others.

    Not only is this a good visual exercise, but it also serves as an inspirational visual that I smile at each time I view it.

  11. Yeah, that font is cool, but hard to read. I think that the intrigue factor of the girl running in her nightgown might make up for the small font. I might look closer to read the title.

  12. Sue Harrison says:

    My first published novel was plagued with a similar problem, not on the front cover but on the spine. When the book sits spine out on the shelf, you absolutely cannot read the title. Lost sales! Ever since, I’ve been very careful to inspect the cover draft, not only from the artistic point of view, but from the marketing aspect.

  13. Connie Brown says:

    If the picture is not appealing I sometimes skip over the book even when I recognize the author. That gets a second look but I have passed over several because of the cover. I also have a gripe about the raised lettering on books. It looks pretty and feels good but when you are a librarian and trying to protect the cover by putting on protective covering it is hard to get it to lay well with the raised lettering. If I can’t read the title easily I don’t pay attention to the book.

  14. Elysabeth says:

    I have to say – if the Title is too small it makes it difficult to read and seems to do more harm than good. The first one I figured out the title but agree the font is a bit obscure although I really didn’t have much difficulty reading that title – just feel others will. I always hate to see a cover with a title much smaller than the author’s name because then I lose interest as titles are what catch my eye more than anything – I don’t think author’s name should overpower the title – no matter how well-known they are – it gives the impression that they are egotistical and then I lose interest in the book. That’s just me though – E 🙂

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Finally Home, a Kelly Watson YA Paranormal mystery
    The Ties of Time, a Kelly Watson YA Paranormal mystery
    Love Lingers, a boxed set of 4 award winning paranormal/past lives stories
    Butterfly Halves
    Zombies Amuck

  15. I can read the title, but I also spent a summer cataloging moldy old books in a library archive. And they were mostly written in Scandinavian languages, too. Ugh.

    I see two big problems with the font on the first cover. It slows you down. And in a market flooded with books, most readers aren’t going to spend the time to work out a difficult title. They’re just going to skip on to the next one. Second, I think it sends a subconscious message that the story is going to be a difficult read–like the dense works we used to slog through in college literature classes. Is that really the image you want to portray to the reader? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

  16. Carol Ashby says:

    Let me throw another pebble in the pond. Do the publishers ever select color and pattern with color-blind people in mind as well?
    *I shared a lab with two color-blind guys building a piece of equipment using ribbon cable (that strip of lots of little wires of different colors connected side-by-side to make a ribbon). They kept calling me over to check that the red and green wires weren’t switched where they split the ends apart to solder them. It sensitized me to color-blind issues.
    * I’ve been told color-blind soldiers flew in choppers in Viet Nam to spot camouflaged areas because they saw the break in the pattern rather than the matching shades of green.

  17. Lara Hosselton says:

    My oldest daughter was home over the weekend so I’m late catching up with this thought provoking topic.
    * I had no trouble reading the title of the first book, but I’m attracted to interesting fonts. However, the last title was difficult to the point of being annoying, like when you drive past a hand printed sign on neon poster board that screams GARAGE SALE, but you can’t read the address.
    * Seeing an author’s name larger than the title is also irritating even though I understand the marketing strategy behind it. Cover art that uses an actors face or a scene from the recently released movie is kind of cheesy and distracting, but then again I’ve never had a book made into a movie.
    * Okay, enough with my petty annoyances. Sue Harrison brought up a good point concerning print on the spine, you definitely need to see that clearly and as Andrew mentioned, cover art needs to be historically correct with the story. Yikes!
    * I suppose I’m guilty of judging a book by it’s cover because when I’m roaming a book store for nothing in particular, an eye catching cover or title is what draws me in for a closer inspection.