Title Envy

hidden title 120x177Author, oh author, why is your title so tiny? Don’t you want your book to have a big title, like the other books do? I know you do. And I know you know that size matters.

Then why, oh why, are you not using the space on your book’s cover to better display your title? What, exactly, are you trying to accomplish?

This perplexes me. This drives me up the wall. This makes me want to scream.

When you post a book to Thrifty Thursday or Print Book Party, do you just leave? Do you not come back to see your spiffy book cover looking all happy on our pages? Because if you did – you might see that no one can read your title.

The majority of what I’m seeing lately looks like this:

hidden title 1That’s a little difficult to read, even in full-size, because of the fancy font. But odds are, unless someone buys a print copy, they’re not going to see it full-size. They’re going to see it in thumbnail, which is going to look like this:

hidden title 120x177

Can’t read that, can you? But that lovely blue sky is perfectly preserved, isn’t it?

I’m going to nickname this cover Mr. Blue Sky because heaven forbid I have any idea what the real title is. That’s not going to sell books, now, is it?

So how about we give this puppy a makeover?

hidden title 2Okay, that’s a better font. For certain. But what about thumbnail?

hidden title 2 120x177

Yeah, not so much, eh? Why all the blue space still? Did your mommy take that picture and you don’t want to encroach on it? How about we give it another shot?

hidden title 3

Oh my. What are you afraid of? That someone will notice the title of your book? Are you not happy with your title? Are you and your title not on speaking terms? Do we need to come up with a new one? No? You like your title? You’re proud of it? Well, right on! Okay, then how about we let people SEE it?

legible title

Good job! Now there you go! Let’s check it out in thumbnail now…

legible title 120x177

BOOM! Aren’t you happier with that? It doesn’t hurt the picture at all now, does it? And it looks very professional! Good job! Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it. Now tell your friends, okay? We want them to have have legible titles, too. Because title envy is an ugly thing. Literally.

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director and administrator of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is currently a photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two NE Washington newspapers.  She teaches self-publishing and writing topics for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page.

40 thoughts on “Title Envy”

  1. Great examples, lately I’ve been seeing a lot of very long titles. The best so far was 22 words with 180 characters. It’s as if some authors are worried readers won’t ever make it to the first chapter, so they put it on the cover. I would love to see your example of 180 legible characters on a thumbnail:)

      1. K.S. I love this post. I don’t know the names of fonts, but I argue with my cover artist every time to get the fonts right! I insist fonts have to show up in thumbnail. I get snarky comments back–“I’m the graphic artist.. I know what I’m doing. My cover designs are on bestsellers.” I have sent covers back to the artist time and again. I don’t look for cheap. I don’t ask for cheap. I want a cover that will stand the test of time and thumbnails. I just saw a cover where the first three letters of the title are faded into the artwork. Huh? By an award-winning, degreed graphic artist… How does that happen? So many cover artists appear to prefer to flaunt their own talents, insteading enhancing the story inside the pages of my book–which is what I hire them for in the first place.

        1. Thanks, Jackie. I am surprised by the large number of designers who forego legibility in favor of the “design.” Good for you in standing your ground. Many authors don’t.

          1. I agree with you 100%. Your designer should work with you throughout every stage of your journey. Comments I have read can only be made by those who are not willing to learn. Any designer should never let pride get in the way of their design. I am always willing to listen and interact with the author. If you send me your email address, I will send you my ‘revamped cover’ of Alpenglow Cover that is on display. I would love to read your comments.

  2. Right on, Kat. I recently helped to judge a book cover contest, and this is one of the things we saw the most. If you can’t read the title in the thumbnail, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

    1. Thanks, Lynne. My publisher saw this trend many years ago – and always advised to make sure the title was legible in thumbnail. But the problem seems to be getting worse.

  3. Just amazes me. One the most common book cover fails. If you just HAVE to have some artsy teensy-type on your paperback, doesn’t mean you have to have the same cover on your ebook.

  4. Nice rundown. 🙂 This is indeed one of the things that makes a difference between a book that looks pro, and one that is clearly designed by an amateur. Makes a HUGE difference in sales.

  5. You’re so totally right! Design matters so much. The first book look so amateurish that I wouldn’t even pick it up and I’m not even very demanding about covers.

  6. All good points. It was my designer who first pointed out that things need to be seen in postage stamp format. She did a great job.

    One thing I find… well… distasteful, is the current practice of putting the author’s name in larger print than the title. I know, I know, “branding” is the all important thing, but it just seems vain to me – part of our current obsession with the cult of personality. To me, its the book and the book alone that is important. Personally I couldn’t care less about an author’s personal life, their favorite colour, or the name of their dog.

    1. Aw, John – you don’t want to know what kind of tree I’d like to be? 😉 I agree with you wholeheartedly. I don’t even care if my name is legible, as long as the title is and I’ve done a good job with branding my covers.

  7. Nicely put. Fancy font and small print stop people seeing. Contrast can be another problem Make your title, AND you name stand out.

  8. Great post, Kat, and well illustrated. I love fonts so will happily browse a free font site for hours, but it’s amazing how many cool fonts are simply unreadable. Design is wonderful, but if it doesn’t let your reader know what the title is, it’s useless. Excellent reminder.

  9. Lynne, I would like to know who designed the original cover you posted as I would like to pummel them about the head and shoulders and place small, sharp rocks within their shoes. 😉

    Repeat after me, people — NO ALL CAPS WITH A DISPLAY FONT! *cringe*

    1. Alan, I just copied the style of about 20 of the covers I’ve been seeing lately. I’m amazed by how many people are doing it. You’re going to need a lot of rocks. 😉 – Kat

  10. Great post, can’t be said often enough. I’ve worked in design most of my life, there are more bad designers than good, and very few pros. Being a pro designer means being of service to the project, which requires understanding the problem. I would add that, if you’re going to print, you need to pay attention to the spine too. That’s what most people see in bookstores and libraries.

  11. In my single experience, without the benefit of this discussion, I put the title in the hands of the puiblisher’s “professional designer. The cover was great, butthe title illegible in script. I had one free chance to make changes, and insisted that the title be larger and more legible, and to delete a reviewer quote which cluttered the cover. The result was a great, eye-catching presentation! I couldn’t agree more with the comments.21

    1. Hello David, I read your comment about the cover. I did a revamp on it too. Hope we are looking at the same cover! If you are interested to what the difference is, I can send it to you. Would like to see what the ‘professional designer ‘did with your one chance to make a difference. Clive T.

      1. Clive,
        I’m not sure what you mean about seeing the differences. I know about my cover, I don’t know how to send it to you, and no longer have a copy of the first try..

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