Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Short History of Book Covers and Some Tips

Sorry, I meant to post this yesterday, but I was very busy. This counts for last week's post not this weeks. This post was taken reposted from Birds of a Writer.

One of the things I love the most about modern books are the covers. Especially the really pretty ones. Most of the books at my school are really old and don't have covers or pictures on them. Few do. And then its only a small picture. I also love designing them myself. As do many people.

The Short History of Book Covers
Books covers do in fact have a short history. Before the 19th century, books were hand-bound and were covered using gold, silver, or probably leather.

Before the 1820s, books were generally sold without a cover-- just a stack of printed pages. To have one put on was very expensive although well worth it since it would help preserve the book. But by the 1820s, many publishers were selling books pre-bound with covers that were stiffened with a board of some type and covered with cloth or paper. The title and sometimes a block picture could be stamped on the cover.

Because the illustrations were rather basic, they weren't very detailed or useful in deciding what books were about. But then lithographic printing became used and multi-color book covers were available. Then half-tone illustration made it even easier.

In the 1830s, dust jackets were added to protect covers. And these ones were wrapped all the way around and then sealed in place with wax. But during the second half of the century, the current design was adopted.  But because these were mostly thrown away, they are very valuable today.

After 1900, the production of book covers became more practical, economical, and marketing became important. Some of the first modern cover designs were made in the 1920s. People such as  Alexandr Rodchenko, El Lissitzky, and  Aubrey Beardsley were highly influential regarding early book cover designs.
Although dust jackets also became more decorative, it wasn't until the 1950s that people began to keep them as an important part of books.

Today, book covers are one of the most important parts of a book. They can help give hints as to the style, genre, and subject of the book. But it also differs from country to country as people's tastes in different places changes.

*Tips on designing your own cover. 

  1. Look at covers you love and decide what they did that caught your attention. What about the book cover do you love? Can you use those same things in your cover?
  2. Decide the main point of the story. Then find or capture a picture that best captures that main point or the idea you want to convey. 
  3. Choose a good font for the title and author name. Slight variations in different fonts, shapes, and sizes can help with the over all cover. If you're having trouble seeing a font, use a border or a background for it. Remember that where you place titles and fonts is important. 
    1. Also note that you're looking for something that not only conveys what you want, but something that is easy to read. Don't use to small or too big sizes. 
    2. I've heard that using fonts where the letters are either all capitals or are all the same size looks professional. 
  4. Play around with colors and color themes. Remember that your colors of your titles and your picture should be different. You want something that will stand out. But also remember that the colors should look good together as well as conveying whatever you want. 
  5. Don't be afraid to play around with effects or something of the sort. Making a picture black or white can be cool. They don't always have to be full color. 
* I am in no way, an expert. Yes, I make my own covers, and these are some simple ideas. I am planning to be a graphic designer and I hope to one day make my own covers professionally. 
** Make sure that whatever picture you're using isn't copyrighted. Its best to use a picture that you took. (Although many covers I've seen are copyrighted, but the people who "designed" the cover makes sure that you know that they didn't take that picture themselves. Or you could use one of those non-copyrighted/stock photos. I think those work too. In any case: give the photographer or whoever's picture it is, credit. 

What I think about covers...
I don't know about you, but I'm getting bored of covers where the girl is in a dress. Its so lame these days! I'm  not saying they don't look good- they do- but its getting boring.

For me, I hate covers that that only one basic color to it. Like Legacies in which the whole cover has this weird blue tint to it. And it makes the girl look like she's sick or something. Other covers with a whole blue theme is the Darkness Rising series by Kelley Armstrong. Those don't look too bad, but its still annoying.

Another thing. The covers where its just one person's face or half of their face. That bugs me too.

Now I love covers where it has cool fonts or something. Like the XVI series by Julia Karr. Those are cool covers cause the covers is the titles. One of my favorite covers of all time is Eona by Allison Goodman. It just looks so epic. Plus, the girl isn't in a dress!

I could go on, but I'll leave you with that.

So, what do you love or not love about covers? Do covers ever sway your choice in buying books? What are some of your favorites? Why? What aren't and why?

Because I feel like I could add so much more about covers, what are some things that you would like to see me add to this discussion about covers? I'll add your ideas into a second post about it Saturday or next Thursday. Thanks!

Ehow- History of book covers 
Basic Book Cover Guide & Basic Book Cover Guide 2
Ehow- Designing book covers.
Guardian- The history and more in depth review of book covers
Quezi- History of Book Covers
Wikipedia- Book Cover 



  1. Does the cover ever sway my choice? 98% percent of the time, yes...

    I know, I'm a terrible person, judging books by their covers :P Of course, once the cover initially attracts me, if the pitch doesn't catch my attention or make me think it would be interesting or gives me some indication that it contains stuff I don't want to read (such as, for example, excessive cursing or sexually inappropriate stuff...), then I'll pass.

    On the other hand, if the pitch interests me but the cover isn't super, the cover definitely downplays my opinion and whether or not I get the book is questionable.

    I'm a terrible person, I know. >_<

    1. Oh I totally let covers sway my choice too. If the cover doesn't impress me, I don't give it a ton of thought. Sure I'll check out the pitches but if a cover and pitch can't convince me to read it, its not worth my time.

      Nah, I don't think you're a terrible person! *pats* If you were, then I think most of us would be too. Honestly, I think most people are swayed by covers but they just don't like to admit it!