Denny’s Daily Zinger: Current Book Cover Design – Art With a Capital F

As an author, I adore Amazon:

  • It is easy, quick and cheap to get a book printed.
  • A book gets its own landing page.
  • A title never goes out of print and is available 24/7.
  • Amazon promotes the hell out of the books it sells.
  • Reviews are right there to help with the buying decision.
  • Amazon’s patented one-click ordering makes it a breeze to order.
  • Prices are terrific.

Where the Process Falls Apart: Cover Design
A cover—whether for a book, white paper, special report or anything else—has two purposes. It should be immediately readable and inviting in any environment:

  1. From across the room (or from across the aisle at a convention).
  2. When reduced down to one-half inch square or smaller on a digital screen.

Illustration No. 1 (in the media player at right) is a screenshot of an Amazon email to me announcing new titles I should be interested in. Amazon knows what I buy and, yes, several of these are of interest.

Thank you, Amazon.

But the Harper Lee cover is unreadable.

Illustration No. 2 contains book cover design perfection—the 1937 cover for the surprise best seller, “GONE WITH the WIND.” It is immediately recognizable in print from across the room and also teeny on the digital screen.

Alas here, too, are the covers of 10 books in the Amazon promotion—all unreadable.

Takeaway to Consider

  • If your designers break the above rules in order to express their little selves, fire ’em.

Denny Hatch’s new book is “Write Everything Right!” Lopaze Lasane writes, “[Denny Hatch] dedicated an entire chapter to the usage of words. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. It provides solid advice on making better word choices. Denny said, ‘If you use a word your reader does not know, you have interrupted the flow of writing. As a result, you make the reader feel like a chump or uneducated.’ ” Click here to download (opens as a PDF) and read the first three chapters FREE. The title is also available on Kindle. Reach Denny at

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • Robert Bly

    I despite Amazon with regard to book publishing for the exact same reasons that Denny who, like me, grew up in the age of traditional book publishing, loves it! Kindle has destroyed the book publishing business and caused an explosion in content polluton from which we will never recover.

  • Carol Worthington-Levy

    Hi Denny,
    That Harper Lee cover contains one of the many faux pas that heavily populate the world of design today: the font that was chosen is almost illegible!

    Every year i pray to heaven that some brilliant art supervisor somewhere will make a very special book required reading and put into use: “Type and Layout, are you communicating or just making pretty shapes?’ by Colin Wheildon When you think about it, much of what is learned in that book, or even in my chapter of the Direct Marketing IQ book ‘Design & Formats for Boosting Direct Mail Response’, is common sense after you see it in action. But for some reason there is little to no interest in true scientific design, among designers.

    I present this information in consulting and coaching session at client offices, and when i see their next efforts, I find that they’ve changed nothing. The designers refuse to change the way they’re working, and clients for some reason won’t call them on it. The result is a load of type in pale green and orange (low response colors, measured in studies), messaging reversed out of color or even photographs, and blocks of all-caps type.

    Why there is such resistance to this is a mystery to me. If i have a choice of making my client’s cash register ring by using best practice design, versus feeling sooo good about how creative i am and watching the package fail, I’d put money in the client’s pocket through intelligent design every time.

    The ones designing these book covers are obviously not being paid based on whether the book sells well or not… and my guess is that they’re choosing to be oh so creative because it makes them feel good. And yes, i can’t figure out who’s approving this stuff and why they let it through!

  • Reg Doherty

    The best example of a consistently dominate book cover is the Dummies Series. Yellow & black, the very best proven visual color contrast, with a title that’s always, “So and So For Dummies.” However, Denny, don’t give secrets away! We still need people to wash our cars and serve our meals, while they try to figure it out for themselves.