Judging a book by its cover?



Who hasn’t been drawn into a book by its tempting cover? Some covers are so beautiful, they’re art works in their own right. But book cover has a lot of work to do besides being a beauty. It should really be the visual blurb of the book.

I think the best covers tell a story, and particularly choose a moment, where something is just about to happen, so you’re drawn in, and you want to read.” Ken Steacy, author

A book cover is a form of illustration and as such it should combine a huge amount of information in just a few elements that will fit in the space it is allowed. This places great demands on the cover designer. Readers’ ability to understand the illustration depend on its spatial organization and its composition. All the elements of the illustration work towards the intended message: the directional lines, the colours, the lighting, the empty spaces.

The way these elements are arranged have an effect on the feel of the illustration and thus the book itself. If the elements form a pyramid, they will convey a sense of hierarchy. Vertical or diagonal lines will create tension. Empty spaces can accentuate the message given in the filled space. If there are converging lines, a reader’s attention will automatically be drawn to the meeting point.

Judging a book by its cover? Read, Write and Publish
The Belgian Comic Center holds an exhibition on book covers until May 2017 in Brussels.

Often book covers are produced under tight schedules. It might be that the book has not even been finished yet, when the cover is being designed. Book cover is essential in the marketing of a book. It is the first thing that draws the attention of a book buyer. No wonder then that creating a cover is an exercise in sociology and psychology. A cover should create an ambiance that is full of promise. It should get a reader to identify with the book and engage with the emotions created in the cover to generate interest and to trigger a purchase.

All the elements of the cover work together to create this reaction: the illustration, the title and subtitle, the author’s name and the publisher’s name, the typefaces and fonts used, aso.

On a good front cover, the drawing will run from left to right. This is also how we read, so the intention is clear: To encourage us to open the book and to read it.” Ferry Van Vosselen, author

The great scam

All the while when creating the best possible book cover, one should not forget the contents it is holding. Can there be a worse moment than being allured to a book by its promising cover, only to realize the insides are nothing of the like given out on the front?

This is the kind of scam that a reader finds hard to forget and it certainly discredits, if not the author, the publisher, who is usually responsible for the cover.



One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words


When was the last time you read a textbook? Did the pictures catch your attention? Sometimes pictures literally jump off the pages, other times you don’t even notice there are any. I’m a visual person and I remember things best in images (also text from a book page). The textbooks of my school years didn’t offer much for imagination. Mostly the illustrations of the time could be described as lame. Fortunately things have changed.

Types of Fruit by Eurwentala Illustration
Types of Fruit by Eurwentala aka. Maija Karala.

Illustrations have increased almost exponentially and they are now an integral part of textbooks. My own children go to elementary school and they study from textbooks with illustrated characters, who function as teachers – and indeed function, they have a very active role in the books.

How do you make an illustration?

Illustrating is a demanding process, even more so because of the realities of the publishing business. Maija Karala ended up working as an illustrator partly by an accident. Publishing company Otava contacted Maija to have a permission to use a picture they’ve seen in her blog and one thing led to another. Otava asked Maija to illustrate the new high school biology textbook called Koralli 1.

-A typical illustration process begins with a brief and a model picture sent to me by the publisher. This is the basis for my illustration assignment. Once I for example made a similar picture to the model picture, only changing the species into Finnish equivalents, Maija says.

How does a plant work? by Eurwentala aka. Maija Karala.

Tight Schedules

When the illustrator begins her work, she usually doesn’t have the final text of the book available. Maija made 46 illustrations for the biology textbook. Originally she had 4 months for the job, but in the end most of the illustrations were made in 4 weeks. Publishers often have very tight schedules, which become even more pressed if those working in the beginning of the project don’t keep up. As the book has to be ready by a certain deadline, the ones working in the end stages have to speed up. An illustrator is normally one of the latter.

Maija hopes that she could collaborate more with the writers of the textbooks, but the schedules often don’t allow that. However, she’s thrived even with the rushed work schedule. In fact, illustrating assignments have increased so much, she’s been forced to cut down writing jobs.

Written in bone by Eurwentala aka. Maija Karala.

A Good Illustration is a Clear One

-A good illustration gives all the information it should, but it is also esthetically pleasing. Although the schedules are tight, it’s worth while to use enough time to think over what you actually want to do. There is no point in copying something that has already been done. The illustrations also have to be very clear to look good in print, Maija says.

The blog has worked as a great reference for Maija. Besides Otava, the Finnish National Board of Education has found Maija through her blog.

-A blog gives you freedom to try things out. You don’t need to please any certain audience there, Maija tells. It is also an easy way to present your style and skills for a potential client. Choosing an illustration is often also a choice of the style and technique, especially if the illustrator has a distinctive style.



Maija Karala in Deviant Art

Maija’s blog: Erään planeetan ihmeitä