The Birth of a Book Cover
Jim Hart, Internet Marketing Manager for Bethany House recently gave some of us bloggers the opportunity to peer into the process of how a book cover is chosen, the science behind the art. Bethany House conducted a survey for Ann Tatlock’s new novel, Every Secret Thing, and, yes, they really do use the results of those surveys when choosing a cover. They posted three covers for you to choose from and comment on (the covers are on the left with the final cover on the bottom).
We then decided to look at negative elements in the comments – what items about the particular covers did people react strongly to? The key negatives we saw recurring were (we looked at both the comments in the survey as well as what people said on various blogs that posted a survey link):
Woman – didn’t fit the genre/feel of the description; uninteresting; and the woman herself turned off a lot of respondents
“I like both romance and mystery and this [cabin] cover promises both, plus I like the ‘old’ look of it”
“Although [umbrella] is a close competitor, [cabin] wins out because of the presence of the architecture. It fills up the front of the cover much more than the girl with an umbrella – which makes me think the main character may be a child”
“I want a closer look at who or what’s behind or through that door! However, I hate the font choice and arrangement of title words. They just don’t seem to fit the feel of the rest of the cover.” [about the Cabin cover]
“Regarding [umbrella]—not interesting—though I do like the notebook paper background (relating it to school). [Woman] looks like non-fiction, and at first glance it is hard to tell if the person is a man or a woman.”
“[Cabin] is too “dark”, [umbrella] is too “light”, but [woman] is mysterious”
Since the Cabin cover won the numbers game, Umbrella got a lot of criticism for being too indistinguished, and Woman failed to really resonate with people, we went with Cabin, but decided to tweak it a bit (change the type treatment, make the figure more obviously a woman). I should also point out that Ann liked the Cabin cover… Version 2 is what made it into the catalog and remained the cover until shortly before it went to press, when we tweaked it again to make the figure even more clearly a woman and lighten the color slightly.
And there you have it; a little look at our survey process and determining the final cover.