Case Study 82

Title: The Book of Djinn

Author: P. K. Silverson

Designer: P. K. Silverson

Genre: Fantasy

Graphics: In Islamic mythology, a djinn is a spiritual creature that may be good or bad. Usually we see “djinn” anglicized as “genie” and think of a good genie in a lamp.

Adding a genie’s lamp might have been prudent for this cover. Doing so might have set the design on a course happier than the one taken. At least the genre would have been clear immediately. On the cover as it stands, one has to wonder. From the graphics alone, what is one to think? What genre comes to mind? Not a genie genre, in any case.

As it is, this cover’s design is wrong in every way. The title refers to “book” and to “djinn,” so you might expect to see a book or a genie or both, but the graphics don’t show—or even imply—either. The cat-like eyes don’t suggest a genie (if anything they suggest a cat), and nothing else on the cover suggests one.

Aside from the eyes and the blue background, the only other graphical element is lightning. Lightning normally isn’t associated with genies, at least not in popular imagination. When we think of a genie arising out of a lamp, he arises wreathed in smoke, not glowing in lightning.

The graphics have a pasted-on look, a sure indication that this is an amateur production. The eyes come too close to the edges, the red of the eyes clashes with the blue of the background, and the top and bottom of the cover are bounded with bars and lines that do nothing but distract.

Typography: The title has multiple faults. The smallest is that “of” should not be capitalized. As a rule, articles and prepositions should be lowercased, unless they begin a title.

A more serious fault is the color chosen for the title. The greenish cast prevents the words from standing out well against the blue. A bright yellow would have been better, yellow usually working well against blue. The designer apparently realized there was a legibility problem, for he added a black drop shadow to the letters, but that isn’t enough to rectify the poor color choice.

The author name has several problems. It too is in the wrong color. Just as bad, it is far too small. It ought to be in all caps at half again the size. Lastly, it should not be in italics, which should be reserved for emphasizing particular words. The proper way to emphasis an author name is to set it in a clean font at a large enough size. Italics not required.

Overall: This cover has graphical elements that serve no purpose, but the cover as a whole does serve a purpose. It is a reminder that most self-published authors should not try their hands at cover design. Such attempts habitually fall short. Sometimes, as here, they fail completely.

What good is a “free” cover design if it ends up being costly by driving buyers away? That is the worst kind of economy because it is counterproductive.

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