Case Study 34

Title: His Perfect Love

Author: Sharon K. Connell

Designer: Sharon K. Connell

Genre: Religious fiction

Graphics: From the description at Amazon, this book seems to be part mystery, part thriller, part religious reflection. Having uncovered a troubling secret, the protagonist is on the run, both from her pursuer and from God. Will she elude the one and return to the other?

If that is a fair precís of the book, one might ask why none of it suggested by the cover photo. The photo itself is nice—but perhaps for a book about wildlife. Nothing in the image leads a prospective buyer to think a woman is running scared and that problems external and internal need to be resolved if the story is to have a happy ending.

Another failure of the image is that it tells us nothing about the book’s genre. The snowy egret and its watery background don’t imply “thriller” or “religion.” They don’t even imply “fiction.” They imply little more than “pretty.”

A common mistake among indie authors who design their own covers is that they take images that appeal to them, for whatever reasons, and think the images must appeal to others and that that will be enough. It won’t be. The images indeed may appeal to others, as mere images, but they fail to do what cover images are supposed to do, which is to let readers know what the books are about.

Typography: This cover seems to use but a single font, in two variants: roman for the author name and italics for the title. In both forms it is a thin font that doesn’t play well with background images. The designer realized this and added black drop shadows. If drop shadows are needed, that usually is a sign that the wrong font has been chosen. Drop shadows are used to compensate, at least in part, for typographic design flaws.

This cover offers adequate room for placing the title over the greenish water. The words don’t need to obscure a visual element. This allows leeway in choosing text color. In this case, I would not have used white for the title because the bird should be kept as the chief draw of the eye. To put white text next to the white bird makes the bird stand out less. Given the background color, perhaps a bright yellow would have worked.

As for the title text itself, it should not be in italics, which normally should be reserved for emphasis. The font should be changed to a serif font that has thicker strokes. Two variants could be considered: the normal and the condensed.

If a condensed font were used (but one with thicker strokes), the entire title could be placed on one line, so long as the words didn’t come too close to the left and right margins. (Always keep in mind how paperbacks are trimmed: usually a little more than you’d like.)

If the condensed variant doesn’t seem to work, the normal variant of the font could be used if the three words of the title were stacked and made flush left.

The author name is more of a problem since it rests atop a variegated background.

First of all, the name should be centered, not shunted off to the right. Second, it might have to remain in white to contrast with a relatively busy backdrop. It’s far enough from the bird that white lettering here won’t detract from the avian image.

If the title is put in upper- and lowercase letters, the author name would look best in small caps, assuming the font has a small caps variant. Many fonts don’t. Their regular caps aren’t intended to be used except as the first letters of words. Small caps and regular caps are shaped and kerned differently, though the differences may be subtle, such as slightly shorter legs or serifs for small caps.

Overall: This cover fails to let readers know what the book is about, and thus it fails the most important test. Not only doesn’t it suggest genre, it doesn’t even suggest fiction rather than non-fiction. This could be a novel with religious components (which it is) or a series of straight religious reflections (which it isn’t), but it’s hard to tell from the cover alone.