Guest Blogger Gigi Pandian: What Makes a Good Book Cover?
I am thrilled to turn over this space to Gigi Pandian, a mystery writer, photographer, and graphic designer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant for her debut mystery novel, Artifact: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, which was released August 28, 2012. To find links to buy the book at various retailers, sign up for Gigi’s newsletter, or connect with Gigi on Facebook or Twitter, visit http://gigipandian.com/.
Thanks, Susan, for inviting me here on the day my debut mystery novel, Artifact, goes on sale! It’s especially fun to be here today because I love the topic of “covers” you’re discussing this week. I’m a graphic designer in my day job, so I think a lot about the type of covers that will make readers pick up a publication.
Being a designer means thinking about the meaning an image conveys rather than creating a picture that’s beautiful for its own sake. It’s not about having a good cover, but the right one – something compelling and appropriate for the specific audience you want to reach.
I’m not talking about judging a book by its cover, but more specifically about getting the right readers to pick up a book in the first place. I’m serious when I say the RIGHT readers. A cover shouldn’t attract readers who expected to be reading a different genre or sub-genre of book. They’ll end up throwing the book across the room, even at the expense of its beautiful cover. As a life-long mystery fan, I buy a lot of books, and there’s nothing more frustrating than thinking you’re settling in for the evening with one thing only to find out you were terribly mistaken. Yes, I know I could have read the book description and reviews more carefully, but I’m busy, and so are other people.
A book cover is the most split-second clue to what you’re getting inside.
If you look at best-selling cozy mystery novels (like the ones I pulled off my bookshelf in the photo here), the covers look pretty similar. This isn’t because the design teams at the publishing houses aren’t creative. Quite the opposite. Designers want to strike a balance between sending the correct subtle signals to consumers about what the product is, and creating something unique that will stand out in a crowded marketplace.
When I started taking my mystery writing seriously, one of the things I was most anxious about was what the cover of my books would look like. When it worked out for me to design the cover myself (which you can read about here: http://www.pensfatales.com/2011/09/exciting-book-news-gargoyle-girl.html) I was really happy, but also a bit nervous. I’d put so much work into the novel, would I be able to create a cover that lived up to it?
In Artifact, the first book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series, historian Jaya Jones travels from San Francisco to London to the Highlands of Scotland, piecing together the secrets of a lost Indian treasure that are hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj.
Before creating the cover for this story, I thought about the series as a whole (in each book, Jaya and friends travel to a different foreign destination to solve a present-day crime linked to a historical treasure). I also looked to mystery novels with similar “voices” to mine, with readers who I thought would also enjoy my book. What I came up with is the cover you see here. I’m really happy with it, and I’m excited to see it out in the world today!