Book Covers
In college, I projected 35mm and 70mm movies for our audiovisual club. They called themselves Lens and Lights. An arrogant bunch of kids. Yeah, I loved it. Side note, projectors are loud!
Older projectors held up to 20 minutes of film and our projector had 40-minute reels. Each theater had two projectors and when one ran low on film, the projectionist would execute a “changeover.” In order to do this, they would first hear an automatic bell when the projector had about five minutes of film to project (or they would set an alarm.) They would then start up the arc lamp and get ready to turn on the motor. Seven seconds before the end of the reel, a “start cue” would appear in the upper right-hand part of the screen. This felt like an exciting moment as I turned on the motor. The start cue looks like a scratchy white ring circle, sold black circle or red ring circle. Five seconds would count down and then the “changeover cue” would appear. The operator had two seconds of film to close the damper on one projector, open the other damper and switch the sound over. Later, the “presto-changeover” company developed a button that did all of this.
Now projectors are either digital or they use a platter which uses a massive (six feet wide) reel of film to eliminate changeovers. I have not projected for years but I still see these changeover cues when I watch movies. Of course, I point out the cues to my friends to annoy them.
Book covers are the primary advertising tool to get a reader’s attention. If an author fails to put effort into this critical step, their book does not capture a reader’s attention. When I began writing, my self-publishing helper Bethany helped me to develop a book cover. She encouraged me to study successful book covers. Bethany also pointed out the many flaws that bad book covers had. I looked at hundreds of covers and formed ideas of what my book should look like. We worked on concept art and discussed all the necessary elements to create a solid cover.
Book covers start out with the title. The font and layout of the title should all tie into the graphics and author’s name. There are many pitfalls to the tile like having a “flowery” font on a serious book. The cover graphics must flow into the theme. For example, if the book is about submarines, it needs to have something to do with submarines on the cover. The graphics serve as the primary tool to visually inform the reader about the book.
Books can have flashy graphic designs or they use simple elements on plain backgrounds. Overall, the look should be bold. The author wants readers to buy the book. The cover needs to reach a reader at a primal level and jam open their wallet.
What are all the elements? This is a complex answer that has a zen quality to it. It took me hours of studying good book covers with a detached mindset to see the patterns. I also looked at hundreds of books with 1-star reviews. I began to see the elements come together in successful covers and the many flaws of poorly designed covers.
I recently came across a book where the author described a harrowing tale about surviving a remote plane crash. The cover had a picture of himself on a rock in the wilderness. I instantly noticed he used an out-of-focus picture. Really? I wanted to yell, “Digital cameras have gigabytes of memory! Take 100 pictures and use the one that is in focus! This is important!” I have an adventure novel where the title font is square and the font of the author's name is round. I have another book where the back cover artwork does not have the same theme as the front. My “guide to being a successful marketer” book has a title on the left and not centered with the background. Who is going to buy a book from an author that cannot even center a title? Me of course. Are these minor flaws a big deal? Readers subconsciously dislike covers that do not come together.
What does this have to do with projectors? All of my cover efforts gave me a new problem. Just as I am painfully aware of movie cues, bad books covers now stand out. I see every single mistake and I now hate going to bookstores.
I suppose of all the problems to have; bad book covers are not that big of a deal. Maybe there is a self-help book out there for me? Off to the bookstore to find one? Gahhhh.

You’re the best -Bill
May 29 2019

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