Cover advice: The Blissful Plague

Updated: Jun 9

Apropos of this thread on Covercritics.

The current cover is put together with technical skill and looks attractive. However, though it somewhat matches a standard of 'sophisticated literary fiction cover', unfortunately that standard is one that belongs to 2015!

The cover employs some design tropes which were very on-trend in that year. The Casual Optimist wrote about flipping images on a 90° axis. And the trend of combining vintage imagery that has a lot of texture with bright modern neons was also very popular at this point:

I wouldn't rule out any technique just because it's been around the block necessarily; but with the 'literary fiction' look the whole point is to seem cutting edge and fresh in design.

But there are issues beyond the tropes just being outmoded. The crucial point here is that the cover doesn’t actually do the job cover design is there to do – communicate anything about your book.

It’s hard to be sure by the synopsis exactly where this book sits in terms of genre and audience. It sounds like it could be more ‘medical thriller’ or more ‘near-future SF’. By the current cover choices I’d make a stab at it being more a literary novel that includes some such genre notes, a la Murakami or David Mitchell. So I'll proceed with that assumption.

It’s true that book covers at the more literary end of things pull further and further away from being literal in their imagery. They affect a kind of casualness about selling themselves.

But in fact they do still signal their broad setting and/or topic, and they do get across an atmosphere and tension. They use metaphor and allusion a lot to get across a broad feeling, or sense of topic, or theme.

The imagery on this existing cover doesn’t speak to the content described at all, though.

The use of a vintage image implies a historical setting or at least some theming to do with history but that doesn’t seem to be the case for the text.

There’s nothing at all that hints at the actual major ideas (according to the synopsis, medicine, dilemma, pandemic, near future, memory, realistic apocalypse). It’s possible that the image chosen makes sense once one has read the book but of course book covers needs to work upon people that haven’t yet!

I wouldn’t even be quite be confident that the cover belonged to a novel. If I had to make a guess at content given only the cover with subtitle/tagline eliminated my best guess might be for a non-fiction history book about some past epidemic.

So this is a cover that will need a rethink to get to packaging that actully speaks to the right readers.

Here are some covers that are worth checking out for some inspiration, that either have similarities of content or nail the ‘literary SF’ vibe: