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Book Covers

Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
What makes a book cover good?
I need to think about designing my cover. I recognize that sme publishers my have specific constraints (e.g. an O'Reilly Nutshell book, or Wrox book is a pretty standard format), so I'm asking these questions more with an eye towards an blank slate cover where I'm unconstrained.
1) Do you like busy covers with lots of text and graphics or plain, simple ones?
2) How much does the cover influence your buying decision? How so?
3) What information do you want to see on the cover?
4) What about on the back cover? What should be there?
5) Are quotes from other authors helpful? Do they influence your purchasing decision?
6) What about inside jacket covers? Anything useful in there?
Thanks.
--Mark
Damian Ryan
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 09, 2003
Posts: 117
Ok, you asked, Mark, so here's my thoughts...
1) Do you like busy covers with lots of text and graphics or plain, simple ones?

Less is more. I know it shouldn't matter, but some books with busy, garish covers just look amateurish to me and that influences what I think about the book before I've even looked inside.
2) How much does the cover influence your buying decision? How so?

My answer to 1) notwithstanding, I think the cover design is pretty unimportant in influencing my decision to buy a book. Glancing over my bookcase, most of my Java-related books seem to be from three or four publishers that have quite distinctive house-themes: O'Reilly, Wrox (I'm sorry, but whose idea was it to subject the poor authors to the trial of having their faces on the cover? ), Sun Microsystems Press (Prentice Hall) and the Sun books published by Addison Wesley that usually have Duke doing something or other on the cover.
I bought the books because they were from publishers whose books I'd found helpful before. I have faith that these companies have a reasonable policy when it comes to selecting ideas submitted by potential authors, and selecting authors themselves. Sticking with an author whose writing style I find clear (and even sometimes enjoyable ) is also important: but most authors seem to stick with one publisher so that amounts to the same thing.
3) What information do you want to see on the cover?

An informative, concise, to-the-point title. The author's name or authors' names (see answer to 2) above). Some indication of the level of audience the book is pitched at: beginner, intermediate, advanced, reference...
4) What about on the back cover? What should be there?
5) Are quotes from other authors helpful? Do they influence your purchasing decision?

Taking these two questions together, I would say that I like to see quotes from other authors on the back cover. Seeing names like James Gosling, Martin Fowler, Erich Gamma, etc saying they think a book is important or worthwhile tends to influence me. I think if those of the great and good hold a book in high esteem then perhaps I should check it out.
6) What about inside jacket covers? Anything useful in there?

I've noticed that quite a few books I own use the inside covers to list summaries of salient points, whether these be chapter contents, key technology concepts, or something similar. I don't tend to use these much myself, but I would guess that others might find them attractive.
My final observation is this: an awful lot of Java books must get bought online, from Amazon and the like, where the purchaser usually only sees a small image of the front cover of the book. I tend to be far more influenced in a purchasing scenario like this by the comments of reviewers who've already read the book than by what the cover looks like.
I would say that I get >90% of my Java books online, and although ideally I'd like to actually see the book "in the flesh" before I buy it, the way for me to do this would usually be to go to a real bookshop and look at the book. I don't often bother to do this, so the cover isn't really an issue, as I don't see it until the book arrives at my door.


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subject: Book Covers