Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What is Going on With YA Book Covers?

My brother is a designer and instilled in me a pretty big appreciation for good design. My absolute favorite book in the world isn't fiction but instead is a wonderful collection of design theory called The Art of Looking Sideways (buy it. It will change your life).

And the truth is, a lot of YA covers are just really poorly designed--boring and generic. Kate Hart's epic breakdown did an awesome job of showing just how homogenous covers are: the vast majority showed a (white, model) girl in some sort of bizarre pose. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with white, girl models in weird poses. But when the point of a book cover is to attract attention and get people to buy your book over all the others, how successful can it be if it looks like 99% of what's out there?

There are a lot of inventive, imaginative covers in the adult world. Covers that are smart, witty, evocative and make me say "Woah. I have to read that."

For example?

This is just a sampling from two minutes of Googling, but it's still more evocative and creative than almost anything out there in the YA world.

And I know that YA has a lot more market constraints, but that shouldn't be an excuse. And even despite the constraints, it can still be possible to come up with something that stretches the limits or at least doesn't look like every other book out there.

So, I'm going to give myself a little design challenge over the next few days and weeks: take some of the most popular YA books and redesign their generic covers.

Here are the rules:
No headless/partially obscured models
No girls dying/dead (that includes drowning, falling, burning, etc etc)
No luxurious, fancy dresses
It has to actually represent the book, either the book's theme, a particular scene, or the general feel
It can't look like anything else on the market

I'm not a professional designer, so don't expect miracles. What I am is a fan of the genre and a fan of design and a writer and reader who would earnestly like to see some changes in the industry.

Check back in the next few weeks for the first installment and wish me luck!


  1. Oh, goody! I can't wait! Do you take requests? MONSTROUS BEAUTY

    For fun you might want to check out Travis Jonkers's series "Covering the Newbery" over at his blog, 100 Scope Notes.

    1. Woah woah woah, some of us aren't so lucky to have such a gorgeous cover! Seriously, I would be at a loss to improve on the one you already have. That said... Maybe...

      That series is totally awesome and I guarantee my own attempts will not nearly be as well done.