WFC Panel: Covers

wfc 030The second panel I attended at World Fantasy Convention 2013 was “Should You Always Judge a Book by its Cover” at 10am on Friday.

Panellists were: Jim Burns, Les Edwards, Bob Eggleton, Jane Frank and John Picacio.

My Notes

– Covers should sum up the book, not necessarily be an illustration directly from the story. I’m not sure I agree with this point, but it’s an interesting idea. Panellists discussed the need for a cover to be “high drama” and its purpose was to ‘connect’.

– This led on to discussions where a book cover may be requested of an artist in 6 weeks time, despite the fact the book hasn’t been written yet, and won’t come out for 18 months. Some artists agreed they’d go further than their brief – to create something awesome even if it’s not what they were specifically requested.

– After the author, covers are the second-best marketing tool. This was debated a lot. Two members thought that covers are becoming increasingly irrelevant. This was talked about in terms of the short-attention-span world, and in terms of online shopping where the thumbnail is small, and where you can barely see the cover until you’ve clicked on the title/author. One of the panellists commented that the world is visually-driven these days. There were discussions about the cover of e-books, although this was countered by the figure that 70% of books sold are print books, not e-books.

– Marketing seem to want more control over the cover than an art director . Most things are sales driven and decided by a committee. One panel member spoke about how they liked a cover, except could he change the girl’s hat from red to green. He replied “is there no significance to the title The girl in the red hat?”

– Realism was also a great part of the discussion. So what if a Mars dust-storm wouldn’t  look like that? How do we really know? As for dragons, someone commented about “the wings wouldn’t support the body – it doesnt look real”, which had me nodding my head. I’d always kind of wondered how that worked. But then Les made a great comeback. “I didn’t think dragons were real.”

– Finally, they discussed the importance of typography. Most books are spine-out on a shelf; meaning that the first thing a read sees is the typography, title, author and colour of the background. If a buyer doesn’t pick up the book based on it’s spine, they won’t even see the cover.

The final point really got me thinking, and when I went down to the Dealer’s room to look at books, I paid attention to what grabbed me. Typography was the first thing; even on a cover I liked, if the typography was too blocky/ not pretty or elegant, I didn’t pick the book up. Even if the cover was okay.  


I’ve been very much swayed by both sides of the traditional versus self publishing routes. This was the first reason to attend this panel – in case I ever need to pick out/work on/find myself a cover if I pursue the self-publishing route in the future. But also, as a reader, unless I know the author’s name / title, then I pick a book up based on 1) Typography and then 2) Cover. Only if those both pass my ‘test’ do I read the back cover blurb, and then, finally, the first paragraph.

Without an appealing cover, I won’t read it. And it was interesting to find out that others don’t feel that way.


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