I spend most of my free time reading. Nowadays I mostly read magazines or books about design. Fiction pretty much took the backseat which is a damn shame because while reading to gain information is Reading With a Purpose, Reading For Fun is something we should all do once in a while. That is not to say that only fun thing to read is fiction. Quite the opposite: real life is much more riveting than we expect it to be.
However, the contents of a book is not our subject for today. We'll discuss the first thing you notice in a book: the cover. Book cover design is often overlooked, probably because we're taught to not judge a book by its cover, but we do, whether applied to books or people. I wouldn't pick up a book I haven't heard of before if the cover does nothing to spark interest.
Book cover design is not an easy feat. At its simplest, the designer has only two things to work with: the book title and the author's name. You need to catch a potential reader's attention in mere seconds since the purpose of book cover design is to pique interest. The goal is to sell, which explains why most romance novel covers feature a shirtless beefcake and a buxom woman in the throes of passion. A lot publishers overlook the fact that you can have good design and still sell well, but this seems to be changing.
Penguin does the best covers in my opinion. They even released a book exalting cover designs of 75 of their titles. Obviously I lean towards the more minimalist side of book design but I can appreciate a cover bursting with color and pattern just as well.
Would I buy a book with a cover with subpar design? Of course, if the content is good, but if given a choice between two different covers of the same title, the prettier one wins. Shallow, sure. But aren't we all.
Want to try your hand at book cover design? This site has downloadable Penguin cover templates to start with.
Do you have a favorite book cover? Do you even like the cover of your favorite book?
In case you're wondering, the last fiction book I finished was Shades of Gray by Jasper Fforde. Absolutely adored the book and I can't wait for the next one, but the one I got had the most boring cover design of all the versions they released. I prefer this one (actually, I like this one the best, but it's fan-made).