Getting Smart About Cover Art

Published October 23, 2009 by Eli Stutz

These are the days when the cover for Pickle Impossible is being born. And as we know, people unfortunately do judge books by their covers, and decide wether or not to buy them based on this in many cases. So the question I put forth today is: what makes a good cover for a children’s book?

There seem to be a few factors here, so I’ll lay them out as follows:

1. Does the cover reflect the book?

The cover should represent or be a microcosm of the book. Sometimes it’s obvious what the image should be, but most of the time it’s not. Should the cover show the main character(s)? – yes. Should the cover give away the climax? – probably not. If the book is humorous, I would expect the cover to be funny as well. If it’s a mystery, the cover should be mysterious. The mood and images must in some way mirror the inner character of the novel, since otherwise the cover is misleading for the potential reader.

2. Is the cover exciting?

Especially for children’s books, I’m of the opinion that an exciting cover is a must. Kids love action, and that means the cover should have action in it. Hopefully there will be scene in the book that lends itself to such an image, without giving away too much about what happens. This will probably be a seen from somewhere in the middle of the book, where things have progressed to the fast-paced stage , and exciting stuff is happening, but we haven’t reached the climax yet.

3. How good is the art?

You don’t have to be a professor in art history to be able to judge for yourself if your cover artist has it or has it NOT. Art is not, by definition, a science, and there’s a range of subjectivity here. But there’s also your impression, which is super important, and there’s the impression of your circle of friends and readers, which needs to be guaged. When you get that draft, hand it around and see what others think. Not only should the type of art reflect the mood and age level of the book, but the art itself should be professional, attractive, and visually pleasing. You’ve worked so hard on this manuscript and it’s important that the art on the cover be at least on the same par as far as quality of what’s inside. Otherwise you’re selling yourself short.

4. Is the cover compelling and does it grab you?

This is one of those hard to put into words categories. Either it does or it doesn’t, but it must. The cover’s got to get your mind racing somehow.

5. Do you like the cover as a whole and do you think it will sell?

I’m putting these two together, since in a way, this is the bottom line. If the pieces don’t add up into one satisfying whole, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. And if you like the final product, then the chances are, others  will too. And if they like it, why then, they’ll buy it.

So now you’re probably wondering whether the cover for Pickle Impossible passes all the above criteria. And you probably want to see it already. All I can say is that it rocks and soon, very soon.



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