Case Study 27

Title: Old Habits

Author: Ben Trebilcook

Designer: Ant Gardner

Genre: Mystery

Graphics: It is probably fair to say that this cover’s graphics did not require much time to produce. All we have are a stylized hand grenade and a blue background overlaid with a few white and black speckles. If the image tells us anything, it tells us this is a war story—except that it’s not. It’s a crime story, a mystery, even if it has wartime segments.

The graphics are so simple that they look simplistic rather than subtle or clever. They looked hurried rather than carefully prepared, and that likely will lead prospective buyers to suspect that the inside text also will seem hurried rather than carefully prepared.

To some people, particularly authors, this may seem an unfair inference, but buyers really do prejudge a book’s words by its cover. If a cover looks slapdash or amateurish, buyers will suppose that the words likewise will be slapdash or amateurish, so many of them won’t investigate further and will move on to some other prospective purchase. If this happens with every second viewer of the cover, then the author has seen his income from the book halved.

Typography: At first glance the title and author name seem to be in the same font, but they aren’t. The curves of the letters in the author name aren’t true curves but a series of angled strokes. The font used for the author name isn’t objectionable in itself, but it should be the same font as in the title or a font clearly distinct from it.

The chief problem with the title font is dullness. Here was a chance to choose a font that suggests motion or tension, at least something to contrast with the uninteresting background. On the other hand, if the text’s background were more interesting than a silhouetted hand grenade, this title font would have been fine.

Perhaps the largest textual problem is that this cover needs a tagline to indicate the genre, since the image fails to do that adequately—perhaps something using the protagonist’s name, such as “A Joe Brady Mystery.”

Overall: At Amazon this book has four reviews, all five stars. If the book had a better cover—one that intrigued while indicating the genre—it might have received several times as many laudatory reviews, not to mention several times as many sales.

However fine a book’s writing, the writing won’t be seen unless readers are attracted to the cover and then get past the cover to the text. A cover can be a door one wants to open or a door one wants to pass by.