Always judge a book by its cover...or?
- Designing book covers
A book cover is actually a package that showcases the author as a brand and lets the book stand out from the competition. Many graphic designers dream about creating book covers, even though it is tricky work where many different people will have strong opinions during the process.

Book covers are also a product where a lot of Johnér images get used, so we wanted to find out more about the creative process behind a book cover. So, we had a chat with Art Director and Graphic Designer, Sofia Scheutz, one of Sweden's most sought after book cover designers.

Hi Sofia! Tell us a bit about how the work on a book cover begins!

"I get a request from the publisher, and the manuscript or synopsis together with a brief - that may or may not be sufficiently detailed. I read everything and analyze the book's competition. If I'm designing for a writer that is a well-known brand or for a series of books, I tend to create moodboards to set the overall ideas."

"I often create more than one draft for my clients. There are quite a few people involved in the process of approving a cover, and each person wants to bring their input and modifications. Unfortunately it sometimes results in the end result being more bland than the original drafts. But ideally it leads to a better end result than the original sketches."

How do you go about, in concrete terms, determining the design of a cover?

"If the manuscript is complete I always read it, otherwise I start from the synopsis. The first thing I take note of is the atmosphere of the book and the genre. I look for specific details, everything that feels special or is recurring in the text. I try to find the essence of both the atmosphere and the action - the book's soul. A good cover reflects the soul of a book in a commercial way."

"To me, the analysis of the competition is absolutely central. What's the competition for the particular book or writer, what does the different designs look like. This saves me from unintentionally copying and it also clarifies what I think works or not in the given genre."

Where do you find your inspiration?

"In the beginning I basically do a lot of image googling, and I also do searches at image agencies and sites like Pinterest for inspiration. Sometimes I have a clear idea from the start, other times I will get ideas from what I see. This helps the brain to start working."

"Ideally the colors should help reflecting the nature of the book and the story, but the color should also help making the book visible in stores and online. Working with duller colors can be a challenge since more lurid colors add visibility. However, it can be eye-catching and novel to use a totally unexpected color in a type genre where you least expect it. Like pink on a cover of a thriller. More important than the color though, is that the cover should have contrasts."

Are there any classic tricks that sell?

"Human presence, or animals, something depicting life. That is often an ingredient on a selling cover. It's harder to stand out if you do not have something living featured on the cover. Without it, something that captures and strikes the imagination is missing."

What type of book cover do you yourself like?

"American and some British covers are fun to look at. American covers are more daring. They visualize the designer's concept of the plot in a more abstract way. Swedish publishers sometimes prefer a more illustrative and practical approach than idea-based. A good cover should be unexpected while remaining within the framework of the genre."
Sofia Scheutz's comments on a few of her covers
The Fault in our Stars - John Green
"The Swedish title of the bestseller 'The Fault in our Stars' by John Green is 'Förr eller senare exploderar jag' ('Sooner or later I will explode') which recently became a movie. The book was first published as a youth title (left) and the cover is designed to capture the Swedish title (which is a lot more handd-on than the original English title). I don't think I ever have received so much feedback on any on my covers. Either people loved it - or they hated it. John Green himself happened to love the cover."
Watch John Green praising the cover
"Later on, when the book was to be published as a pocket book for a more grown-up audience, the publisher didn't want an illustrated cover. They asked for a more "serious" and mature cover. I insisted at least on keeping the typographic elements, so that I could create a connection between the two books. I also kept that manner for the rest of his books in the Swedish market. It became a comic detail that the girl and the boy in the picture that I chose for the "grown-up" cover, are very reminiscent of the couple that later got the lead roles in the film."
Here and Now - Paul Auster & J.M Coetzee
"This is a literary book with a cover illustrating the correspondence between Auster and Coetzee. Since it is not a book that typically would get selected for book clubs, I didn't have to take standard measurements into consideration. So, I was free to create this chubby book without a book jacket. The paper is uncoated and the names and illustrations are printed in a glossy varnish. The lavish cover really says something to it starget audience."
A Pinch of Salt- Maria Goodin
"A great example of how important a cover can be. It has sold extremely well in Sweden, and since the author is relatively unknown sales are based very much on the cover. It gets noticed in the book stores. The atmosphere depicted on the cover fits so well with the story of Meg growing up with her eccentric mother. This cover is also pretty typical of my work, I like to build up collages."
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