Like most people, you’ve probably got a certain ‘look’ when it comes to your personal style. Whether it be that trademark leather jacket, a go-to hairstyle, or your characteristic if questionable sock and sandal combo (no judgement here), you probably have a few fashion cues that people associate with you, consciously or not.
These things are identifiers. They help people, for better or worse, compartmentalise you. If you’re a long-haired skater dude, other long-haired skater dudes can pick you out in a crowd, and search you out to talk about how both long hair and skating are as mad as they are hectic*.
*I am not a skater. Obviously.
The same should go for the books you write. Ideally, you want your work to be identifiable to your loyal fans, so that they can instantly locate it in a bustling bookstore, or while scrolling on Amazon. This is even more important when we are talking about a series of books, as it is vital that your readers recognise that one standalone book is part of a larger, overarching narrative.
This is where the cover design comes in.
It is important to ensure that a series that you’ve written, or in some cases, your whole back-catalogue, has a coherent, unified style. This not only increases the readers’ awareness of your other titles, but also their collectability. How good is having a full set of something?
REAL. It’s real good.
So, how do you go about collectively styling your books? What options are there to tie them all together?
Combine the Spines
If you’re not a HEATHEN, you’ll store your books in an orderly, upright and spine-out way. It is the perfect combination of legibility and space saving.
That being the case, why not theme your books by playing with the design of their spines? If it’s a series, you could have your books create a larger image when stored next to each other. Or you could simply have an underlying element – a striking colour, a certain shape, a unique text arrangement – that seemingly drifts through each aligned spine.
Do you have an artist or illustrator whose style you love? Would they be open to producing some artwork for your books?
Using a signature style of art or illustration can make your books super easy to identify, and can give your work an unmistakable calling card. If you have a good relationship with the artist, this will also result in you getting the exact design that you’re after – something that fits with the feel of the book.
Keep in mind though – while the artwork is the domain of the artist, how it fits on your book cover is best left to an expert cover designer!
A tenet that pervades all aspects of good cover design, a simple yet striking looking cover can make for a strong theme when it comes to tying together your back-catalogue or series.
Whether it be a bold graphic that can be serialised, or the use of a particularly badass colour combination, hitting on something striking will not only help with sales, but will also take a bit of the pressure off of coming up with a brilliant new cover idea for the next book.
Pieces of a Puzzle
I can’t stand puzzles. But some of my best friends are puzzlers. And while ‘some of my best friends are…’ is usually the prelude to a particularly off-colour remark, this time, it’s quite the opposite.
An offbeat approach to serialised cover art, how about making the covers of your book pieces of a puzzle? Individually, they may simply be great cover designs, but when arranged correctly, they could combine to create something even grander. A whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Just as the whole of your narrative is greater than the sum of its individual books.
Look at me quoting Aristotle. Are you proud, Mother?
As always, a cover designer is the best person to guide you through the foggy maze of serialised book covers. A good book series will have the reader wanting more, a good book cover series will have the reader feverishly collecting and proudly displaying them.
Don’t force the literary equivalent of socks and sandals on your books. By being creative with your design uniformity, your readership will be all the better (and larger) for it.