Case Study 71

Title: The Best of Funds for Writers

Author: C. Hope Clark

Designer: My House of Design

Genre: Self-publishing

Graphics: You could squint and still tell that this is a non-fiction book and, likely, a self-help book. The graphical treatment is that obvious. Covers of fiction books almost never feature large, rectangular blocks of background color, as here. When they do, it’s almost always a design error, but with self-help books it’s almost always a design plus.

The central image, of a hand writing in a journal and of books stacked nearby, suggests writing or, at least, journaling. What it fails to suggest is that this is a collection of essays about how to earn money as a writer. The cover graphic includes no pecuniary element.

Given the style of the illustration, I could imagine a pecuniary element being represented by something like an overflowing piggy bank, a stack of gold coins or banded hundred-dollar bills, or an open checkbook. As it is now, the illustration could represent the act of writing and nothing more, and to me it suggests casual writing than writing for a livelihood.

Since it shows writing by hand rather than writing at a keyboard, the illustration is a step removed from the way people who write for money actually do their writing. Most of the book’s essays are about freelancing. Does any freelancer today get by with writing with a pencil? Not likely, so I think hands at a keyboard would have been more effective than a hand holding a pencil.

Thus the illustration has two weaknesses, attractive as it otherwise it. The action it shows implies informality rather than professionalism, and there is no indication of acquiring money being the object of the essays.

Typography: Just as the graphics fit a self-help book, so does the typography. There appear to be two sans serif fonts, one for the author name, volume indication, and the first three words of the title, the other for the remainder of the title.

All the words stand out well from the background, though the author name ought to have been in bold, the better to pop. It’s legible as it is, but the bottom of the cover could use more textual weight. The cover seems word-top-heavy.

Besides, the author name is a key element of a cover, and the author deserves proper credit. Many self-published writers, being otherwise little known, shy away from making their names big and bold. “No one will know my name anyway,” they think.

Humility is a virtue, but there is no good reason to downplay the author name when the object of the cover is to sell the book. If the author name is in sufficiently large and eye-catching letters, its very prominence will suggest to the buyer that this must be a writer of note, one he ought to have heard of already.

I have seen covers where all the text is well presented except for the author name, which is hidden in small text in a corner, as though the author were ashamed of having written the book. That hardly is the impression an author should want to give. That isn’t the impression given by this cover, but the author name nevertheless could use more oomph.

Each time I read the second half of the title, “Funds for Writers,” I get thrown off by the final S being in white. I read the words as “Funds for Writer,” and then I catch myself. I see no good reason for that letter and the swirl leading to the nib to be anything but black. After all, who writes in white ink?

Perhaps the S was put in white to balance the white of “for,” but is there a good reason to have that preposition in white rather than black? Not that I can see. Stand back from the screen and look at the title again.

The two words that stand out most are “Funds” and “Writer” (not “Writers”), precisely because they’re black. The “for” almost drops out of the picture, leaving the main part of the title to be seen as “Funds Writer,” which doesn’t make much sense.

Overall: This is a cover appropriate to the genre. Its weaknesses are not major. The deficiencies with the typography can be rectified easily. The deficiencies with the illustration would require more work to overcome, the main problem being that the cover doesn’t imply earning money. That’s not a killer, since the title itself supplies that information, but it would have been better had the title and illustration worked in closer harmony.