Judge Not

Threaten to Undo UsThis is a guest post by Rose Seiler Scott, author of  “Threaten to Undo Us

In addition to writing her novel and blogging, Rose teaches piano. She is currently working on a BA in Leadership and has enjoyed enhancing her communication skills.

Rose felt compelled to write her debut novel after many years of hearing family anecdotes. Unpeeling the layers of the fascinating story resulted in “Threaten to Undo Us,” which won the 2016 Word Guild Award in the Historical fiction category. During the process of research on the Second World War and its aftermath in Eastern Europe, she has come to realize that not only is truth stranger than fiction, but that truth can be told through fiction.

Two of Scott’s short stories appear in “Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon,” an inspirational compilation of Canadian Christian authors.

Rose lives with her family on the beautiful West Coast of British Columbia, Canada and looks forward to reading stories with her grandson.

For more info please visit Rose’s website: www.roseseilerscott.com

Rose Seiler Scott

Author

A few years ago, a re-release of the classic children’s novel, Anne of Green Gables, featured a sassy 21st century blonde-haired girl wearing a plaid shirt. Anyone who has read even the first few pages of the book knows that the iconic Anne has red hair and wears a wincey dress and a straw hat. The cover designer could have gotten it right by reading the first few pages.

Classic books are most vulnerable to attack from bad cover artists. How about the novel Frankenstein with a medieval knight on the cover?  Or Pride and Prejudice with a nude woman on horseback? Jane Austen would probably be astonished.

But it is a two way street. A bad cover shouldn’t necessarily stop a reader from picking up a book. Just because the cover is not great doesn’t mean the book isn’t good.  I have been guilty of rejecting a book based on its cover. I was eight years old and looking in the school library for a new book to read. I noticed a novel with a plain green cover, but rejected it as dull and unworthy of my reading time. Though I went back to that shelf repeatedly, I did not take that book off and open it. Little did I know, Anne of Green Gables was a classic, loved not only in Canada, but around the world. I didn’t read the book until a thoughtful relative gave me a boxed set whimsically depicting the orphan Anne. The cover invited me in and I got hooked on Lucy Maud Montgomery.

As authors, we ought to put effort into getting the cover right. If we have a publisher, they will probably do the choosing and there is no guarantee of what will appeal to readers or what might cause controversy.

So, what makes a good book cover? Aside from the obvious, that it should tell the reader something about what is between the pages, scientific and design principles need to be considered.

Title. The title should use a bold, but not distracting font. Think about the era and genre of your book in addition to your reader demographic, when choosing a font.

Summary. Writers put a lot of effort into our books, but sometimes the summary is done as an afterthought. Remember, after the reader has considered the front cover, they will turn the book over to find out more. Draw them in with your summary blurb.

Spine. The spine might be the only part seen if the book is on a shelf. The title and author’s name needs to be legible and eye-catching.

Images. Keep them simple. Using too many elements is overwhelming to the potential reader and can send the message that the writer is rookie. When choosing an image, think about the key characters, themes or setting of your book. Make it stand out.

Style. Like many things, book cover types go in and out of fashion. A cover that would have worked a generation or two ago, might get ignored today. Ironically retro artwork and colours are in, but bold uncluttered covers are mostly the trend.

Genre. What speaks to the readers of that genre? Softer pastels may appeal to readers of romance novels, whereas a thriller might use bolder contrasting colours to imply tension. What design elements or colors are common in books of that genre?

Being a talented writer doesn’t mean you have an eye for a good book cover. Both authors and publishers should ask around before getting a terrible cover printed. While there are sites that can help you design your own, if you don’t have the eye for it, get a professional.

And readers, give us a chance. Even if the cover isn’t great, consider opening the book and reading a few paragraphs. Then make your judgement.

If I had done this, I would have met the delightful Anne earlier.