OK, just feast your eyes. Take it all in. This is an ideal example of a nearly perfect book cover. The folks at ARGH! Oxford have done a beautiful job with Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. Not that I want to over-analyze beauty, but this particular cover accomplishes so much while being breathtakingly gorgeous. First, let’s look at the design. The font tells you this has a literary focus, not a science one. A lone man on a lone road. There’s some serious estrangement going on somewhere in this novel, with possibly some longing. (OK, I may be reading this in after the fact of, well, reading, but it fits). The moon plays a role and it’s not just a big, ole honkin’ cool moon; it has slight overlay of bits that aren’t showing like an architect’s blue print. There’s the slight fuzziness of it all. Somewhat like impressions that don’t quite come into sharp focus. Then there’s the line – A Tale of Love, Loss and Robots. I’m all in. Right now, before I even open a page (virtual or otherwise).
UPDATE: Couldn’t resist Company Town cover:
I first encountered this cover some time ago, even before publication I think. Knowing, at the time, pretty much nothing about it and the author, I still almost bought it (or pre-ordered) on the spot just for the cover and the brief publication blurb. However, my TBR list was already quite extensive, so I waited. I try not to buy books if I know I can’t get to them anytime soon. Since that time, I’ve read Ms. Clarke’s Assassin’s Curse (really good but very different novel; more here); I’ve also listened to Kate Rudd narrate The Fault in Our Stars; she performs The Mad Scientist’s Daughter as well. I would encounter the book from time to time and, strangely enough, I kept on thinking I already bought it (wishful thinking). Well, I finally ended the charade and purchased the book, Kindle & Audible versions. (I’m a little over two-thirds done. It’s amazing. Every time I think I’ve got everything down, it surprises me. I’m absolutely loving it and Ms. Rudd’s performance.)
Here’s the kicker: the cover was so stark in its beauty that it stood out each time I saw it. Even as I moved on to other works I already planned to read, it stuck with me. I could not forget it. Resistance was futile; it was inevitable that I would buy the book. Now that’s visual power. I am a logophile. I thoroughly believe that content is king. Moreover, if Ms. Clarke’s writing didn’t live up to such a cover as this, the disappointment would likely have put me off her work forever. Nicely enough – it was a perfect fit. The salient point is this: great covers still sell books in a virtual world. To my indie author friends – seriously, if at all possible, pay for great graphics and design.
Which brings me to the other part of this equation – fitness. The cover needs to be more than just beautiful. It needs to fit the work. All of it – from font to finish & tag line to tint – it all needs to work together. At the beginning of this post, I argued that this was a particularly apt cover since it seemed to resonate so well with elements of the story. I may have overstated my case, but I believe it’s true nonetheless. ARCH! Oxford seems to have a great sense of this, especially when they work in concert with Angry Robots. Some of their covers aren’t what I would call beautiful, e.g., Wesley Chu’s Lives of Tao, but they are a perfect fit. They convey a bit about the book in a memorable way. While this doesn’t solve the challenge of how you get your book to stand out in a world flooded with books, it certainly seems one way to help.
Lest you think I’m blinded to all other designers, another book that I initially decided to read almost completely based on the cover is Madeline Ashby’s iD, cover work done by Martin Bland. This is a sequel to vN and I still read it when I rarely read out of sequence (I still have to finish vN). That’s visual power. This brings up another point – Angry Robots gets the importance of good covers and, overall, good design. They almost always insure a great cover to fit the books they publish.
Finally, another set of perfect (non-Angry Robot) covers come from the collaboration of Victoria Maderna & Federico Piatti for Michael Martinez’s incredibly fun The Daedalus Incident which presumes a pure-play modern science fiction with a hint at old world, kind of like how the book starts:
I would also argue for the importance of font choices and design inside of Kindle books (and ebooks in general); that it’s worth the effort to embed your own font (even if the Paperwhite’s Palatino Linotype is awfully sweet) and yes Amazon publishing allows this as well as control over design elements and illustrations, but that’s another post.