I had the pleasure of speaking on The Art of Book Cover Design panel at the Historical Novel Society conference last June with Emily Victorson from Allium Press, Sarah Johnson from Reading the Past, Anna Michels from Sourcebooks, and Kris Waldherr from Art and Words. We each presented on different aspects of designing historical fiction covers, and my task was to discuss my approach and trends in the genre. In case you missed it, or if you attended and would like to have a copy of your own, here is my portion of the presentation!
|L to R: Anna, Kris, myself, and Sarah|
The first thing I do when working on a cover is determine the genre or subgenre and the target audience, and then I spend some time browsing through the bestsellers to see which covers are selling books and what they look like. It’s important that you pay attention to cover trends when creating yours. You may think your cover is going to stand out because it’s so different from others in the genre, but that approach can often backfire. Cover trends exist in the first place because they sell books. Readers of a genre are used to seeing a certain style of cover, and if your cover doesn’t even come close, they may very well skip over it, thinking it’s not the type of book they like to read. So the trick is crafting a cover that falls within the trends in the genre while standing out and catching the eye of your target reader.
So with that being said, I want to briefly touch on some popular trends in today’s historical fiction covers. A significant portion of the historical fiction market is targeted toward women, so that’s where we’ll begin.
So let’s start with the trend readers either seem to love or hate: The Headless Woman. This trend is popular because the heroine in a reader’s imagination rarely matches a real-life depiction on the cover. So it gives us a chance to envision what her face looks like and also adds an air of mystery. (Check out Sarah's portion of the presentation for the original headless woman cover that started the trend!)