November 4, 2014

The Color of Your Cover

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Remember what a magical experience it was to get your first big box of Crayolas, in "64 different brilliant colors"? You may recall having favorite colors and scorning certain others.  I myself was never fond of periwinkle.  It just seemed like a tepid, anemic shade of blue.

From childhood onward, colors elicit emotions that affect our mood, appetite, and purchases.  Advertisers use this to great advantage, and it's to our advantage to recognize how important our color choices are when it comes to designing book covers.

Consider the following selections, all of which are from recent pages in Southern Writers.  You know right away what kind of story you're in for, as each of these is an evocative reflection of their genre.


Colors being able to speak volumes is probably never more apparent than in the mystery / murder / thriller category, where darkness rules and the color of crimson drips freely, as in these stark black and red covers of Robin Perini, Steve Bradshaw and Amanda Kyle Williams. Dr Richard L. Mabry takes a slightly different but equally effective approach, adding the white of a sterile medical background.


Contrast those dark and stormy covers with the colorful whimsy of the cozy mystery. Tonya Kappes, Linda W. Yezak, Fran Stewart and Peggy Webb are among those whose covers let you know up front that murder can be fun too.  Bright primary colors abound and tell you it's all gonna be okay.

Red isn't just for Valentine's Day. The lush and sometimes passionate covers of Julie Lessman, Tamera Alexander, Rita Clay Estrada and Kellie Coates Gilbert will make you see red, along with an abundance of pink and purple, other popular hues that harken the heart.


Faded sepia tones remind one of an old photograph and suggest the past, as in This Side of the River by Jeffrey Stayton. The shadowy almost-gray of Ernie Lindsey's War Child: Judas suggests the turmoil of its dystopian setting. The muted tones of Linda Viden Phillips' Crazy reflect the cloudy mind of its protagonist. The cold gray-blue of Merle Temple's A Ghostly Shade of Pale creates a mood of the chilling danger ahead.


Traditional holiday colors of red and green, with bonuses of snow white, silver and gold, help to make the season bright.  Offerings like these from Ann H. Gabhart, Fern Michaels and company, and Kathy Macias leave no question that Santa Claus is coming to town.  We also made certain to put the yuletide spirit in our new holiday book catalog.

There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and plenty of successful books have bucked the tide and went against stereotype.  But a good starting point when planning your cover is to see if the parameters of proven palettes will work for your project.


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