As someone who’s considering self-publishing a paranormal-fantasy series, I’d be interested in seeing the rubric the judges used to decide how to separate the wheat from the chaff. In the past I’ve been given all sorts of advice (solicited and unsolicited) about what makes a good cover, but if the results of this contest are any indication, the judges weren’t privy to any of it.
Apparently, simple monochromatic font covers are in vogue (How Music Works, Shoplifting From American Apparel, The Sniper’s Log, the David Foster Wallace book, Paris I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down, etc.) as are covers that contain some sort of note (Girlchild, At Last, What to Look for in Winter, Oblivion, The Flame Alphabet, etc.). The judges also seem inordinately fond of non-head items forming heads (The Investigation, The Bug, Cascade). In most cases, the genre or subject matter of the book are not discernible from either the cover or from the title. In many instances, obscured text or tiny fonts require the reader to use a magnifying glass to deduce the title or author (Cascade, Oblivion, The Flame Alphabet, The Vanishers, Stripped, Girlchild). Courier as a font makes a surprise resurgence as a cover-design element, clearly though, like nudity, only when it’s integral to the plot (Girlchild, Butterfly in the Typewriter).
My favorite? Far and away, its the attractive cover for The Teleportation Accident. To me, the title and the cover conspire to give an intriguing suggestion about what the book might be about that makes me want to investigate further.
The takeaway message for the self-published author is that award-winning covers can be produced using simple graphic elements and a good aesthetic sense. Many of these winners used little or no artwork. Of course, the elements that win a design contest may not translate well to selling books. It will be interesting to see whether any also become best-sellers.