Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why Book Covers are So Important

Today's guest post discusses a topic I cannot stress enough... The Book Cover!  Please welcome Gregory Turner-Rahman, author of Ellabug, as he discusses why the book cover is SO important!

Why Book Covers are SO Important
Guest Post for A Cozy Reader's Corner Reviews by Gregory Turner -Rahman

So, you've written your masterpiece, edited it so many times you no longer love it, and, after endless rejections, finally found a publisher. Now you can rest, right? You're thinking, "That front cover is not my problem." Why worry about it, you're not a designer. Why should it matter?

Fact is, it does matter. In our attention-deficit, hyper-glossy, consumerist society, we form judgements within fractions of a second. The cover of your book could say more about you than you think and, worse, it could put off potential buyers. Poorly designed covers read as amateurish thus can present your hard work in a less than stellar light.

We all know it is the story that matters. You'd never consider the opening titles of movie as significant as the movie itself. More recently, however, there have been great title sequences that extend, give clues to, or even begin to interpret the plot that will unfold. In the same way, designers often explore ways of using covers to give potential readers an idea of the story, a feeling for the characters, or even try to give a conceptual interpretation of a key idea.

Trade paperbacks and hardcovers are usually given more design consideration than smaller paperbacks. This is due to the fact that paperbacks are published after the initial release and are more often than not bought on an already established reputation. The other formats have to make a splash as they present the book to world the first time. It can be fun and enlightening to really study book covers. Start by comparing paperback and hardback covers. Study the differences and, when looking at the hardcover, ask yourself why the designer chose this image, that typeface. If you've read the book this can be an easier task. If you haven't, read the synopsis after you've studied the cover. How did the designer tell the story or evoke a mood?

For your book, don't assume that the most obvious solution - an image representing the most significant part of the story - is the best solution. Think of your cover as another character perhaps. You've got the vivid back story now flesh it out in the details. Give it life by giving it a complex or even enigmatic image. Make it as compelling and nuanced as your protagonist. Before you exchange emails with an art director or designer do some research and some thinking. Ask yourself what is a visually interesting, unique way of encapsulating what you hope to impart.

Finally, explore The Book Cover Archive online. Look at the work of great designers like Chip Kidd and Rodrigo Corral. Start a conversation with your designer. Do whatever it takes to best present your work. Most importantly, don't make the cover an afterthought.

Learn more about author Gregory Turner-Rahman through our interview!

Please tell me 5 things about you.

My name is Gregory Turner-Rahman. I took my wife's name (Rahman) as a gesture to my father-in-law - he had four girls and I wanted that name to live on - but, ironically, two of my sister's-in-law married guys with the last name Rahman (in certain parts of the world it is a very common name). I teach in an Art and Design department at the University of Idaho. I worked for many years as a graphic and web designer but am trained as an industrial designer and architect. If I could start school over again I'd study quantum physics - I find it mind-blowing. Finally (this is a bit non-sequitur but I must share) last Friday I was driving down a hill, on my way to work, when I discovered I had no brakes. It was a nightmare come true but I surprised myself by how calmly I handled it.

What are 3 unique aspects about Ellabug?

1.) Ellabug was a story that I made up for my daughter over a number of nights. The metered rhyme helped me remember it. I was about six years before finally wrote it down. The rhyme worked. I remembered it after all those years.

2.) I thought of the ants in the story as little German performance artists and Ellabug’s family members as loved but worn plush stuffed animals.

3.) At the last minute, I shifted the pages - destroying the original spreads - because, in a moment of creative impulse, I decided that the story worked better the way it is now presented. I second guess this decision all the time.

Have you considered writing an adult novel?

I have many ideas that would work well as novels, perhaps. I am, however, more apt to create a protracted web comic or graphic novel because I love visual storytelling.

Do you have another title in the works?

I am finishing a book chapter (geared towards an academic audience) and am starting the drawings of my second children's book. I am also beginning a graphic novel.

Name 3 things that help you gain inspiration for writing.

1.) I am a cinephile but have trouble finding time to watch movies. So, I watch movie trailers incessantly and make up my own plots for those movies. (I am surprised by how often I am pretty close to the actual plot. Perhaps I've seen too many films).

2.) I love to people watch. I can sit in a cafe and watch people all day. I try to figure out their stories from the glimpses of their personal dramas in various, fleeting moments.

3.) My family often say or do things that I find funny or really compelling. I have two daughters whom have provided much material for stories and drawings. They are complex creatures who, because they're still young, are constantly changing in new and exciting ways.

What are your top 5 favorite books?

1.) Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri - The stories could have come from my life. The theme of being between cultures (my wife is Bengali) resonates.

2.) Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson - Fascinating cyberpunk story set in a hyper-corporatized future mixed with Sumerian lore and vivid virtual worlds.

3.) Matilda by Roald Dahl - Dahl is such a masterful storyteller. Matilda reminds me of my girls who are both bibliophiles. I try to be the anti-Mr. Wormwood in my parenting.

4.) Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware - Ware creates a sad, lonely world that is kept tight and controlled by the almost-sterile line work and coloring. It is an incredibly complex graphic novel.

5.) Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino - This book sets my mind churning. Calvino describes many fantastic cities (through the eyes of Marco Polo, if I remember correctly). I love to go INTO this book and explore.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you as an author?

I once did a school visit to work with three classes. I was to talk with and teach them about visual storytelling. During the last class a young girl decided she'd had enough of me and she wanted to teach the class. I’ve had a lot of experience working with university students but younger children are different matter. This girl was far more fastidious than any college student I've met. I didn't know what to do and let her take over for a while and she had me in stitches.

About Ellabug
Ellabug is a simple story about non-traditional families that follows Ella, a small but strongly willed young ladybug, as she begins to question her identity. Raised in a family made up of different animals, Ellabug desires 'normality' and uniformity which she finds in a family of ants whom she meets in the garden. Ella decides to escape the craziness in her own home by joining the ants. They, however, have a very different life and Ella is surprised when they work endlessly. Ella fears she has lost her parents forever and she quickly grows to appreciate her quirky family. Just when all seems lost, Ella's parents call to her and they are reunited. All ends happily. Ella has learned that each family is unique in their own way.  

I found Ellabug to be a cute story!  At some point in all of our lives we question who we are, where we came from and why we are related to the people in our families!  Don't you remember thinking "Am I really related to these people?" as a child, teenager or maybe even an adult!  This book reminds children that while its normal to question or wonder, we are each part of a unique and wonderful family.  As the saying goes, "The grass is not greener on the other side"  each family has their own issues and quirks that make them unique.  I enjoyed this title!  It's definitely worth taking a look at!  I'm sure one of the special children in your life would enjoy this book!


  1. Sooo truee about the book covers, Gregory! We all judge a book by its cover (I know I do that more times than I care to admit.) I am also pleased to know that you are an artist/designer. Have you had any real-world experience? Do you have a website that shows off some of your work?

  2. Sandra- Hello! I do have a website:

    There is an eclectic portfolio that ranges from illustration and graphic design work to architecture. I have done one other book cover (for Island Press) and some other publication design projects. Take a look and feel free to contact me with any questions:

    Take care.


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