Case Study 25

Title: Islandia: The Lost Colony

Author: C. J. Klinger

Designer: James Wintel

Genre: Science Fiction

Graphics: The cover features an eighteenth-century-style ship sailing beneath a mountainous island atop which is a futuristic city. A close view of the cover shows fine detail, particularly on the ship. Sailors on deck can be distinguished from one another, the rigging and sails are well executed, and even the crow’s nest is finely delineated.

The remainder of the scene sports less detail. Neighboring islands are in shadow, and the city seems drawn in a different artistic style; its lines are more suggestive than definitive.

On the whole, the illustration must be labeled as first rate, but it has one deficiency. At thumbnail size the city is indistinguishable as such. The viewer can make out the island and the glow around it, but it isn’t clear what sits on the island. It very well could be trees.

If that is what the viewer thinks he sees, then the cover no longer indicates science fiction. It fails to indicate the genre and may suggest a different genre, such as historical fiction.

I would have suggested that the designer rework the cityscape, removing most of the buildings and leaving just a few isolated structures that could be recognized immediately as buildings.

The finer the illustration, the more professional a cover looks, but the illustration also has another task: to indicate to the prospective buyer the book’s genre. Sometimes designers put so much effort into producing a lovely cover, as this one, that they overlook marketing considerations—or think that the professionalism of their work somehow can render the marketing part nugatory.

Typography: This is the first volume in a series. It could have used a tagline to that effect. If the tagline included an indication of the genre, the problem with the illustration might have been overcome—perhaps something along the lines of “Book 1 of the Distant Stars Trilogy.”

As for the text, it’s clear and says what needs to be said, though the subtitle is so much smaller than the title that one almost wonders whether it’s a subtitle or something else. I would have reduced the height of the title a little and doubled the height of the subtitle, which, at the current size, is hard to make out in the thumbnail.

Overall: Although this cover could stand a few tweaks, there is no mistaking that it’s been designed professionally. The professionalism suggests to the prospective buyer that the story is written professionally.

At least the prospective buyer is likely to click on the thumbnail and read the opening words of the book. If he does that, the cover has accomplished its chief purpose: it is a door that has been opened. At that point, the author’s words have to do the selling.