Uncovered: Ordinary Objects

Mar 21, 2016 | Uncovered

Today I want to talk about another aspect of book cover design that I run into a lot.

Authors, you don’t necessarily need a custom, complicated illustration for your cover.

A lot can be done with a well-chosen photograph. It doesn’t even have to be a scene mashed together in Photoshop, or something that requires a special photo shoot with models and the whole works. It can be a simple everyday object, or small group of objects. Use it and frame it in the right way and it can make just as stunning of a cover as a custom illustration (and will likely cost a lot less).

A lot can also be done with a type-only cover, but that’s another post for another day.*

Take a look at these covers that feature photos of simple, ordinary objects:

A boot. A shell. A tie. Marbles. None of these objects would’ve required an expensive photo shoot. Some of them may even be stock photos. But the way they are framed (cropped or zoomed), combined with any photo effects and the type treatments, elevate them from ordinary objects to cover-worthy photos.

It’s not a choice limited by genre, either, as we have everything from explicit romance to dystopian horror to nonfiction represented here. And I’m sure you’ve heard of and seen some of these, so going with a photo-based cover is clearly not a barrier to bestseller-dom.

Here’s what to consider to see if an ordinary object photo would work for your book:

  1. Does an actual physical object that appears in the book have significance? (i.e. the hiking book for Wild, the tie for 50 Shades)
  2. Is there a strong thematic element in your book that could be easily and clearly represented by an object? (i.e. the marbles for Outliers)
  3. Does your title directly reference an object? (i.e. the flower for The Language of Flowers)

If an answer for one of the above immediately comes to mind, it’s worth exploring as an idea for your cover.

What do you think? Do photo-based covers with ordinary items grab your attention?

Need more help brainstorming cover ideas? I’ve got a list of questions for you to work through and talk about with your designer. Check out 50 Questions from Your Novel’s Cover Designer.

*I did in fact write about this another day, see my post on type-only covers.



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