Do we really judge a book by its cover?

Yes, of course we do, which makes its design a major marketing and branding decision. I put it second only to the content on the pages. After all, someone might buy a book based on an attractive cover, but if the stuff between the covers isn’t all that good, he won’t recommend it to anyone or buy your second book.

I commissioned artwork for the illustrations in The Murder in Skoghall, including the cover. What I got back is great, but not cover material. My artist is an illustrator, not a cover designer, and the artwork looks like it belongs on a graphic novel, not a ghost story/mystery. As much as I liked the picture, I couldn’t use it as my cover.

Genre conventions and reader expectations count for a lot. Learn that now and hire professionals as needed.

Skoghall first cover

This is the cover the illustrator did. Some of it is exactly what I want and some of it…not so much. Overall, it just doesn’t say ghost story/murder mystery. And the font is all wrong.

I’m obsessed with fonts. I love them. If I knew I was going to live a few hundred years, I’d enroll in a typography course and start designing my own. Given that I’ll probably live less than 300 years, I need to pick and choose how I spend my time, so I satisfy myself with admiring and buying other people’s font creations.

I’ve found some great font packages at

Because Skoghall is a series, the choices I make now will affect multiple books to come. I’m building a brand with this design. I want a special font for the cover that I can also use inside, for the chapter headers for instance.

The thing is, once my designer puts the title in the fonts I like onto the cover, they look too busy. Or they transform the carefully laid out ghost story/mystery cover into another genre entirely. It’s surprising how much difference a few letters can make. And it’s not. That is why this entire profession of typography exists, after all.

Each typeface has a different feel to it. Besides having to work with the cover art, it has to evoke the mood of the story. I rejected a font because it said “horror.” Another font that I loved on its own said “faerie folk” when it was placed on the cover.

It’s surprising how the shape of a few letters can completely change the feel of the cover.


See what I mean?

Here are a couple of examples of my new mock up from my designer, Rene at Phycel Designs.

Great font. Wrong colors.

Great font. Wrong colors.

Says horror. Wrong genre.

Says horror. Wrong genre.

This font makes me think faerie folk are going to come out of the trees.

This font makes me think faerie folk are going to come out of the trees.

This simplified font looks clean.

This simplified font looks clean.

We’re getting close. What do you think?

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