A trip to the bookstore (Part 1)

We all get "stuck" in a void of inspiration sometimes. I find that my best ideas often come out of the blue when I'm NOT consciencously trying to think of something creative. When that kind brain freeze sets in, try just taking a break from even thinking about your own work. Go to a museum or a good film or the bookstore.
American and British publishers are the biggest users of cover art for books but you'll find ideas in bookshops no matter where you live. (Hey! While you are there, pick up a book and have a read. Exercise the left and right side of your brain!)
Remember the point isn't to copy what you see but to gather inspiration about the kind and type of images that work. Mainstream hardcover books have a very short shelf life. The publishers want revenue results quickly to pay back big advances and publishing costs. The pressure is on to create book covers that will capture the eye of the bookstore patron and get them to buy. The book's cover is its best advertisement.
At the local chain bookstore, I noticed this week that the most popular image on current fiction hardcover (three books) at the front of the store was a close-up of a woman's eyes. (Interesting since a Dreamstime competitor states that they don't want any more images of eyes and yet don't have nearly as many or as nice as ones as Dreamstime).
Intense blue eyes
Images need to have negative space available for title and author. Or be composed so that that space can be added in an unobtrusive way.
As you pass through the aisles on your bookstore field trip, notice how many book covers have evocative, rather dark images, especially in the fiction section. In fact when I first decided to write this, the first keywords I searched on were fog and person.
Alone in Fog
Morning walk.
Just plain foggy scenes with space for the book title are big too.
Heavy Fog
Note that these are "incomplete" images. Depending on the copy or the book title they could evoke mystery, murder, or imagine the non-fiction title: Global Warming on the image on the left. It works.
Another hot topic: exercise books. Cover shots: body images of buff men and women. Usually with the head cropped off. Is it so we can imagine our faces on that body if only we would buy the book? So far it hasn't worked for me.
And, of course, diet books abound. I heard a good one today from the bagger at the supermarket... He said he was on the "Chinese diet" and that is? I asked. He replied: I eat with only one chopstick!"
Diet time
Diet time
I was amazed at how many rows of books are geared to teen girls. And who said all young girls ever do is text and play on myspace? Somebody must be buying those books. Two types of images stand out in this genre: Illustrations like the ones below are in style. And photos of teen girls together.
Winter Couple
Girls shopping
According to a major research firm, a book is published somewhere in the world every 30 seconds. With that much information, this piece has to be continued. Next time we'll look more closely at the religious, cookbook, sports, mystery, true crime, romance and sci-fi fantasy genres.
Books only

Photo credits: Dndavis, Elena Miro, Fallenangel, Joe Klune, Kateleigh, Kurhan, Liv Friis Larsen, Richard Mcdowell, Popa Sorin, Thinkart, Vanda Grigorovic.

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November 02, 2007


Ellen, thanks again for sharing your treasure chest of tips and tricks. I love this tang of humor in your writings. Such a joy to read...

November 02, 2007


Very good tip! Appreciate it! Keep on writing, Ellen :)

February 20, 2007


i love these new tips. please go on!

February 19, 2007


Loved it! New ideas abound! Sandy

February 19, 2007


Loved your article! Very inspirational & informative! Thanks! I can't wait to enjoy more blog posts!

February 19, 2007


I love this new section... thank you so much Ellen, very useful and I'll be back dayly... Cathy

February 19, 2007


this is exactly what i'm talking about...a great guide for a beginner like. i'll definitely visit this whenever i need some inspiration before i go out to shoot...

February 19, 2007


Thanks Ellen!!!!! This section will be an invaluable resource for making DT number one in the industry. Hopefully contributors do their part. I know I am ALREADY motivated!!! Looking forward to the next blog post! ~Jay

February 19, 2007


What a wonderful section. Will check it daily. Thank you.

February 19, 2007


Thanks Ellen. I can see this is going to be a very good thing. A grounded point of view with points that open doors to inspiration.

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Bookstore related image searches