Book cover design tools and inspiration

I found two delightful tools today that have made me very happy and inspired a project.

Obviously one of the parts of a professionally packaged book is the cover; despite the famous saying, it’s got to look just right to inspire someone to pick it up/click on it in the first place to find out what lies beneath.

And it’s not enough just to have a breathtaking design, it also needs to be appropriate to the genre, to the story, and to your brand which you’ve already established or are trying to build.

So I went looking to see if I could get some insight into what kind of patterns book covers follow; colour, layout, font, all that sort of thing.  One of the tools which I came across is called ImageSorter (does what it says on the tin basically).  I won’t link to it here since I’m not certain where the authoritative source is and I wouldn’t like to point someone to the wrong place accidentally, but if you search for it there are many available mirrors.

ImageSorterToolbar

What this allows you to do is to take a folder full of images, potentially thousands, and sort them by colour.  Now, this is a pretty cool ability, but who among us has thousands of book covers already saved?  (hands down in the back there…)

I started by saving off thumbnails one by one, but lost interest after about the eighth.  I knew there had to be a better way, and indeed there was.  OpenLibrary.org have amazingly made their covers available to download, in a series of massive zip files.  I downloaded part zero of seven, and extracted archive zero of one hundred, and it contained 9,999 covers.

Feeding this into the ImageSorter gave this quite attractive and impressive (although not obviously useful) result:BookCoversZoomed

Each of those little rectangles, in case it wasn’t obvious, is one of the 9,999 book covers, appropriately sorted and organised into its colour location.

There’s a lot of potential to this; I’m clearly just scratching the surface at the moment, but the cool thing even right now is that given any particular cover, I can see where it would fall in this chart, and hence see what other books look similar, to get an idea of what kinds of subconscious associations it would trigger.  For example, if you look at the lower left quarter, it’s pretty clear that a green book with a red stripe is going to fall into that distinctive little cluster, which if we zoom in…

BookCoversGreen.png

You’ll be bang in the middle of dictionary country, surrounded by Tom Clancy, Greg Bear, and Jeffrey Archer; The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and a goodly selection of gardening and cookery books.

I’ll keep building on this and see what other jewels it contains.  I’m expecting some pretty awesome results.  The next step will be to see if I can attach the name, author and/or genre information to the thumbnails to build a few differently pivoted submaps.  I will keep you posted.

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