Monday, July 23, 2012

Covers & Colors

During my blogiversary celebration, I asked around for topic suggestions. Angela Brown came up with the idea of dissecting book covers, so I thought I’d give it a try. Thank you, Angela! :)


Before you pick up a book, you probably make a few assumptions based on its color scheme. Publishers and authors use that opportunity—that first impression—to plant expectations in your mind. It's how they entice you, how they pull you closer.  

“Hey, you! Check this out!”

So, how can we decipher these cues? Let's start by listing the words we associate with these eight colors:

 RED  – Passionate, dangerous, romantic, intense…
(Brings to mind: love and war.)

 ORANGE  – Energetic, action-oriented, fiery, attention-seeking…
(Brings to mind: fire and construction.)

 YELLOW  – Happy, light, idealistic, inventive…
(Brings to mind: sunshine and light bulbs.)

 GREEN  – Natural, healthy, successful, lucky…
(Brings to mind: plants and money.)

 BLUE  – Calm, quiet, clean, cold…
(Brings to mind: water and sky.)

 PURPLE  – Royal, magic, feminine, luxurious…
(Brings to mind:  jewels and cloaks)

 WHITE  – Pure, simple, innocent, isolated…
(Brings to mind: wings and snow.)

 BLACK  – Dark, deadly, angst-ridden, stealthy…
(Brings to mind: night and shadows.)

[Note] A lot of this has to do with location and culture. In North America, white is associated with weddings and new beginnings. In many parts of Asia, it’s tied with death. Make sure you know your audience. ;)

Now, let’s grab an example and see what we can guess based on its color scheme. 
 

By looking at this cover, what kind of book would you expect it to be?
A) A torrid historical romance
B) A gritty psychological thriller
C) A playful picture book

If you chose B, you’re correct! ;)
(Freak, Jennifer Hillier’s second novel, will be out August 7th. Pre-ordered! ♥)

Let’s try another one.


Is this book:
A) An action-packed science fiction
B) A page-turning crime mystery
C) A humorous “chick lit” romance

Yep! It was C. You rock!
(And so does this book: Build a Man by Talli Roland. Read it; Loved it!)

Now, before you guys get too worried about your own covers, I want you to remember something: At this point, we haven’t taken images, text style, or overall design into consideration. Color is just one factor, and we’ve only covered (hah!) a tiny aspect of it. It’ll be okay, I promise. :)

Do you know of any covers particularly true to their color meanings?

Have a great week! ♥

68 comments:

Victoria Smith said...

Very good observations and I guessed them all correctly :)

Kyra Lennon said...

Cool post! I must say, I love the cover for Freak, and I'm really looking forward to reading it!

Hildred said...

Yay I got them all. :P

I enjoyed the color breakdown. But when I see orange my brain is more "SDKFLAKLKALKSAL I LOVE ORANGE" and I have to pick it up right away. It's almost never anything I want to actually read. XD

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My second book fits the orange description. My first one is a blend of red, purple, and black, so not sure it fits the description for any of those colors.
Never thought about colors and moods before!

Kelley Lynn said...

This is So cool. Great things to keep in mind when I develop my own ;)

Marta Szemik said...

That's cool! I never thought about the colours in such detail.

Patrick Stahl said...

I was told that books with blue and orange on their covers sell better than any other color, although I've never attempted to confirm the fact.

Cassie Mae said...

Color plays a role in everything! They did this experiment once about the color red, and a woman wearing a white dress who needed a quarter vs. the same woman now wearing a red dress. Same exact dress, same exact girl, just different color. The difference in the money received... well, let's just say I'll be wearing red next time I'm running short on change. :)

Melissa said...

Ooo. Interesting. I never considered color specifically when it comes to covers. Great post! :)

J. A. Bennett said...

So true! Color can have a huge impact on what I think of a story :)

Carrie Butler said...

Hey! I saw your name on Brenda's Entangled list this morning. Congratulations! :)

Iain said...

What a really cool post! It had never occurred to me that the colour scheme also played a part.
Now I come to think about it, the early Terry Pratchet books were oranges and yellows. :o)

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, Melissa! :)

Carrie Butler said...

First, "Hookers and Hangers". Now this? I'm starting to think it's a cry for help, Cassiopeia...

*Grins* Okay, I'm kidding!

That's actually pretty interesting. I love studies like that. :D

Nancy Thompson said...

Whoa, then my own cover hits the mark exactly. Thanks for the reassurance! I'm gonna keep this in mind for future covers. Or just you design them!

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, Iain! :)

Oh, and don't be silly. Pratchett's books were the colour of magic.

...Get it? *Grins*

Carrie Butler said...

I believe it! Blue and orange are complementary colors and very eye-catching. :)

Carrie Butler said...

It's a really interesting subject! Did you know food brands use red because it makes people hungry? I love reading about stuff like this. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Absolutely! :D

Carrie Butler said...

I think the colors worked really well on your first book! Purple and black go hand in hand with space, and red could stand for the brewing war. :)

Carrie Butler said...

I love that. "SDKFLAKLKALKSAL I LOVE ORANGE!"

That's actually a good point. Color preference plays a role, too! :)

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Kyra! :) Oh, me too. I can't wait!

Carrie Butler said...

Why thank you, Victoria. :) Nice!

Carrie Butler said...

Yeah, it does! :) Maybe I should make cover dissections a reoccuring feature. Then I could take everything (text, images, etc.) into consideration. A different book featured every time. Hmm...

Iain said...

Doh! silly me.
(And congrats on finally mastering the spelling of the word colour ;o) )

cleemckenzie said...

I got both right! I did. I did. Do I win something? A pat on the head?

I loved the color post and it does make sense that colors set up an emotional reaction. I'm keeping this in mind the next time I'm thrashing around, trying to find a cover image that will evoke interest in a book of mine.

Thanks, Carrie!

Carrie Butler said...

I did it just for you!
...And Terry Pratchett. :)

Leigh Covington said...

Very cool Carrie! I love this. I used to do a little bit of marketing and my boss told me that RED appeals to appetite and yellow to sales. Kind of weird, but fun to know. :) I like your meanings better. I think colors can be fascinating. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Leigh!

EXACTLY! That's why McDonald's uses red and yellow for their branding. It is fun, isn't it? :)

ilima said...

This made me look at the books on my shelf and think about what they're about. And of course, my own books. Cool insights.

Melissa said...

There ya go - an idea for a blog series. Carrie the Cover Dissector. LOL :D No - better yet: Carrie the Cover Whisperer ;)

Carrie Butler said...

Hooray! You win the title of AWESOME.

Thank you, Lee! It's certainly something to take into consideration. I hope it works out for you! :)

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Ilima! :) And congratulations on your full request! (I saw it on Brenda's blog this morning.) Woohoo!

Carol Kilgore said...

My cover is a lot of pink - in the form of a burning building. I have several male readers, and I say it takes a real man to read a pink book.

I enjoyed meeting you on Clarissa Draper's blog.

Sophia Chang said...

I LOVE this! For my novel I would want black or red. (Both?)

Carrie Butler said...

Hah! I like it. ;)

Clarissa Draper said...

Covers are very important to me. I will buy based on it and if the colors are right, I'll be more tempted to buy.

dayner said...

Funny you should bring up this topic. While writing my book I always envisioned the cover in red and black. It ended up being blue and red due to a misunderstanding with my graphic designer. Blue is my favorite color so I didn't mind the mistake. SSP like the blue too so we kept it.
Reading your list above, red and black would've been a better fit. At least it's a darker blue.

jamieayres.com said...

I got 100%, do I get a gold sticker;-) So interesting since I'm working on the cover for 18 Things right now . . . well, giving my input anyways! Lots of dark purple, white, blue. Hmm, can you guess what type of story it'll be from that? LOL . . . thanks for the fun!

Lisa Regan said...

Of course I can't think of any but I totally love this post!

Carrie Butler said...

Absolutely! ;) Hmm...

A feminine story skirting death (dark purple) and innocence (white), while being... um... calm. LOL Close enough? :D Good luck with your cover input!

Carrie Butler said...

I couldn't agree more! ;) You too, Carol!

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Sophia! :) Oo, yeah. Black and red go great together!

Carrie Butler said...

Same here! I need a decent visual. :) Thanks for stopping by, Clarissa!

Carrie Butler said...

Really? I had no clue! I think the blue will work out for you, though. It looks great, and it sets your work apart! :)

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, Lisa! :D

Talli Roland said...

Oh, yay! Thanks so much for featuring my cover and for the kind words about my book! You rock!

Donna K. Weaver said...

I hadn't considered the color aspect of book covers. Like getting everything else right isn't enough.

Carrie Butler said...

You're very welcome, Talli! I was happy to feature it. :D

Carrie Butler said...

Sometimes it feels like a juggling act, doesn't it? Hang in there! :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Thinking . . . one of my favorite covers ever (The Starry Rift) has yellow, and you could call it "inventive".

Interesting post!

Carrie Butler said...

Wow. I love that cover! I can see why you chose it as one of your favorites. :)

Thanks, Eagle!

Jennifer Hillier said...

This is such a cool post! I love book covers and what they "say" to the reader.

I giggled at your c) choice for my book! Cute! :) And thanks for the pre-order and the shout-out, Carrie. You're awesome!

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you!

*Grins* Can you imagine what kind of picture book it would make? Take about mentally scarring! LOL

No problem! :) I'm so excited for Freak!

Rachel Morgan said...

Ok I have to be honest: I didn't think AT ALL about the meaning of the colours I've put on my covers! I thought a lot more about the actual images and the font (deciding that, though I liked the fancy fonts, I'd have to go with a simple one because it's easier to read when it's tiny on an Amazon search page or blog sidebar!)

Lydia Kang said...

Fascinating post! Now that people are supposedly working on my cover at Penguin, this stuff has me so curious now!

Carrie Butler said...

Hey, whatever works. :) Your covers are lovely!

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Lydia! :) Oh, I can't wait to see the cover for Control. You have no idea how excited I am for that book!

Michael Di Gesu said...

I could so relate to your post Carrie. I design covers and I have an illustration/design background, so I know the importance and meaning of colors.

Well done. You SO nailed it.

Loved the examples. Thankfully I guessed right. LOL.

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, Michael! That means a lot to me, coming from someone with your background and talent. :)

Glad you chose correctly on those examples! Can you imagine a children's book called Freak? *Grins*

Angela Ackerman said...

You hit it right on the head, Carrie. I find I am always drawn to darker images, and books that don't have. Ton of stuff going on. I think symbolism is really used well in books these days.

I am tired of the books with a girl in a fancy gown...there's just too many of those I think. Im more drawn toward something unique.

Melissa Sugar said...

This is a great post, Carrie. It is a unique take on book covers. I always judge a book by its cover, despite knowing that this is not always the best method. It is human nature. We are drawn to what we are drawn to. I am drawn to dark and mysterious looking covers. I love both the authors that you used in your example and both of their covers are indicative of what we will find inside. I am so excited about Jennifer's new release in August. I am going to offer several copies of her new book Freak as some of the prizes in my 400 follower give a way.

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, Angela! I'm like that, too. Darker covers draw me in. :)

Yeah, the market seems pretty saturated with fancy gowns right now. It's hard to remember which is which.

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Melissa! You're so right. We are drawn to what we are drawn to. :) Oh, that's a great idea! I can't wait for your 400 follower celebration!

A.M. Schultz said...

I am really digging the simple-yet-smart explanation of the colors, and really liked the cover/question examples. I think that would make for a pretty nifty weekly post in itself -- "Judge by the Cover," or something catchy like that. Maybe something more creative.

I'm enjoying this site. Great post that get the mind working. Keep it up!

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, A.M.! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

You know, the thought did cross my mind. If anyone wants to submit their covers for a little dissection, I'll be happy to make this a post series. :)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I so admire what you do, Carrie. It takes a real talent. People are loving my header.

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, Joylene. :) I really appreciate the kind words, and I'm so glad people like your header!