Cover Art: An Aesthetic Marketing Tool

Posted by February 2nd, 2012

Book Country Twitter Chat (January 26, 2012)

Cover design masters Irene Gallo and John Picacio share some tips and experience about the aesthetic aspect of trade publishing.


Judging a book by its cover. We’re always told not to do it, but that’s kind of a cover’s purpose. To hook a reader, to catch an eye, to express in an external way that which is internal to the book itself. So, how do illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, and art directors do it? What makes a strong cover, and how do they take the heart of a book and put it on the cover’s sleeve, in the first place?

With a lot of hard work, creativity, and passion, for sure. That much even I know. But to give us more details, Book Country chatted with some of the top pros in the business: Irene Gallo (@IreneGallo) and John Picacio@JohnPicacio).

Irene is the creative director at and Tor/Forge Books, one of the largerst science fiction and fantasy imprints in publishing. She is also a member of the Society of Illustrators Board of Directors AND the Spectrum Advisory Board.

John, too, is brimming with experience as one of the the most beloved and well-known cover artists in the science ficton, fantasy, and horror genres. His covers have won multiple awards MULTIPLE TIMES, as well as received numerous Hugo Award nominations for his work.

Check out some of the chat’s highlights and/or find the full transcript embedded below for your learning pleasure:

@JohnPicacio: I think the most challenging [thing] is also the most central — it’s trying to connect the book w/ its audience.

@IreneGallo: [Cover artists] need to grab the readers attention _fast_. That’s usually more about tone than detail.

@JohnPicacio: I begin by listening to the art director’s brief. Then I go read the manuscript and start breaking down the text. The reality is though (and Irene knows this all too well) — the manuscript isn’t always available to the artist.

@IreneGallo: Authors’ can often be too close the project. Fixated on too many subtleties of the book.

@JohnPicacio: [The book’s] title can have influence [on design], but I’m looking @ spirit of the book & its strengths first. Macro before micro. 🙂

@IreneGallo: Talk to [freelance designers] frankly about the revisions stage. I think self-pub gets stickiest when authors want more revisions than is sometimes called for. Keeping everyone on point is important. Marketing image,not a retelling.

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Remember though that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the end of the PDF and work your way up.

Thanks to all who made this chat such a great success!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday nightfrom 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look! And follow us on Twitter@Book_Country.

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