Book cover feedback needed (badly)


Stibolt cover31Remember when we had a survey/book-giveaway and helped choose photos for Sustainable Gardening for Florida by frequent commenter Ginny Stibolt?  Well, it's in the design phase now and this is the cover design proposed by the publisher.  Ginny sent it along to see what we think.  So, what DO we think?  Me, I really, really don't like that graphic.


  1. Not that I’m an expert …

    But the cover is supremely disinteresting. Frankly the 3R’s arrows have been overdone & here they are way too big ( but I like the graphics inside of them ). Maybe if the flowers could be integrated with the sketch-graphics …. Or a more eye-catching photo ?

  2. It looks a bit like a green swastika, which I’m sure is not the intension. The photo underneath seems pretty and appealing. Does the publisher think just is not enough to convey what’s in the book, hence the working drawings? If s/he feels those need to be on the front rather than the back cover, I would consider a more straight forward photo montage. It may seem boring, but I think it would be prettier and easier to understand.

    Congratulations on the book! I love gardening books that are region specific.

  3. I think there’s too much going on.

    My suggestions are go with *either* the flower photo or the line drawings inside the arrows (the two together compete) and make the recycle arrows smaller and in the form of a more subtle watermark over the main graphic. And I’d use another font for the title like Verdana or Times New Roman. The comic font doesn’t really convey authority.

  4. If I picked it up off a bookstore shelf, I’d put it right back. Doesn’t work. Too busy, too green. Don’t use the cover of a book to teach, use it to make people want the book. I’d be scared of this one.

  5. Plus the font doesn’t work. Screams textbook or worse – “remaindered”. I hope she’s able to get them to try something else because I agree – region specific gardening books can be soooo helpful.

  6. It’s too busy and not at all enticing.

    The diagram belongs in the body of the book, not on the cover.

    It’s needs more of a feel good cover which the photo may go some way towards doing so, but it needs to be more ‘sunshiny’ to convey a good, successful way of doing things.

  7. It would be hard to come up with a design that was more un-fun AND un-Florida. Couldn’t the cover have a picture of something beautiful, sustainable and distinctly Floridian, and the title (in a much nicer font or combination of fonts, if you want to get racy) and leave it at that? The graphic leaves you confused as to whether you should be focusing on the positive space in it or the negative space.

  8. I like the IDEA of the graphic, but I think the edges should be rounded out a bit, except for the points of the arrows. And I know it needs to be green, but getting some blue in there would be good. Green is actually a color the brain “doesn’t take seriously” while blue is recognized by the brain to be “trustworthy.” Also, a tad more yellow, which is the color the brain recognizes/acknowledges first.

  9. The “recycle” arrows look way too technical to be enticing or interesting; the author’s name is (a) hard to read against the background of flowers and leaves, and (b) is too small and (c) the typeface is boring.

    More flowers, more colour, more “Florida!”! If I saw this book with this cover I probably would think “boring diagrams book”.

  10. It looks so earnest (but — in the preachy way, not the sincere way). More than anything, I think it’s hurt (as far as my consumer dollar goes) by the use of Comic Sans (or whatever that font is: it looks a lot like Comic Sans). Like Valerie said.

    Most of the books I’ve seen or bought lately have been going with a fairly simple image on front, or no image with the title and author names in a large, “modern” sans-serif font. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with a garden image on a garden book, but an image that’s less intricate and more quickly absorbed seems like it’d be better.

  11. i am guest blogging on ilona’s garden journal, and am sort of new to the friending and following thing…i like reading your stuff, anyway. i am a collage artist, and photographer…would like to offer help with book cover design. have spent much time in fla.panhandle since 1978- apalachicola and the paradise that was st george island. have many many photos, and am obsessive enough to make collage, both “real” pix,and imaginary constructs. i love the north fla. pineywoods so much. i would be glad to help without any financial consideration at all. just get with me if you want,
    i am pretty good at album (cd-duh) cover design, its fun to play with garden images,

  12. Big no from me too. All the people make valid points but the fact that it looks too militant and reminiscent of swastikas is going to be a big subconcious turn off to a lot of browsers.

    I’d got with something extremely simple in tune with the way things are now in ideas. Or the flowers top and bottom with a simple green panel with the title.

    Can you get them to re-do it? It really does look awful.

  13. It is ugly and not very appealing. Gardeners are drawn to pictures of gardens. The graphic is about reusing and recycling — NOT sustainability. You might get away with it making sense if the book was entirely on composting. The flowchart/sketch is ??? –supposed to indicate planning?
    Good luck but tell your publisher NO!

  14. I’ll add my no vote to the rest. Looks amateurish, IMHO.

    I’d suggest a photo of the author doing some of that sustainable gardening for the cover.

  15. UGH. This cover complete turns me off.

    On the other hand, if I saw a close-up of a lovely flower or fruit ith a beneficial bug crawling on it, I’d pick it right up.

  16. Yep, it’s terrible. Can’t believe a publisher actually put that forth (?!) Won’t go into that. The photo is cut off. The solid green looks terrible and sustainable does not equal the recycling symbol. So binary. I think they should go with something clean and fresh. Simple text and a nice fresh photo of a garden that gardeners can appreciate by visually exploring. More of a “scene” patio, grass, and garden, that the eye can move over rather than the “field” effect that is less visually interesting.

  17. What draws my eye is the big patch of dark green that looks like a mutant triangle, then the recycle arrows, then the flowers, then the line drawings. I feel like a good book cover should have about three less attention getters than that. One big one should be it. And the arrows are overused and I can’t even tell what the line drawings are of.

    The Planthropology book is my idea of a good cover – ONE thing. One very graphically simple and eye-catching thing.

  18. This thumb down, also.
    The cover image doesn’t communicate “Florida” or “Sustainable”…or even “Gardening” for that matter.

  19. Yeah, this really sucks. How hard would it be to fill the cover with a breathtaking photo of a plant or a garden, with the title in clear and lovely type? My first reaction to this cover is “self-published.” Meaning: amateurish.

  20. Where to begin?

    Bad font. Dated drop-shadow effects. The graphic (if you keep it) is way out of proportion to the plant matter below. The background images in the arrows look like they’re out of some anatomical textbook on the colon. And the overall amateurishness that some folks have commented on floats to the top of my impressions as well–It looks like a middle school powerpoint project.

    Did the publisher give her the cover for an April Fool’s Day joke?

  21. Is it a textbook? That’s how it reads to me. A book for students and scholars of sustainable gardening. I am all about reading about sustainable gardening as a layperson and a librarian, but that cover reads “dry boring text enclosed”.

  22. It sucks.
    Here is what I would do, ask the local HS art teacher or journalism teach to give this assignment. Book Cover Design, Any medium. The one who comes up with the best design, gets published. And a free autographed copy of the book.

    An then the exhibit of art work is one more media opportunity for your book signing part.

  23. Hideous. This isn’t a book cover for 2009! It’s a 1970s self-published terribly earnest pamphlet. In other words, something one would find in a musty box under a wobbly card table at a garage sale.

    Beg them to change it!

  24. Wow, you guys are great! I’ll wait until Monday, and then pass this link on to University Press of Florida. Yes, they publish text books, but also lots of general interst books. I’d bet that they don’t usually receive such honest feedback.

  25. Terrible, yes. Perhaps the graphic designer is neither a gardener nor an environmentalist, and the recycling symbol and a photo of flowers are the only images she/he associates with this concept.

  26. blech. . . . you’ve already got a ton of great feedback – I’ll just say I’m one of the many who (i) wouldn’t pull this off the shelf (ii) thinks it looks like a text book (iii) a BORING text book (iv) from the 60’s and (v) thinks you need a complete redo. I see nothing redeemable in this. And the ‘graphic’?

    Perhaps the less said about that, the better. . . .

    What’s wrong with a nice simple photo of something growing? Something ‘sustainable’?

    Perhaps remember the k.i.s.s. principle [“keep it simple, . . . .”]

  27. Too busy, title not prominent enough (and if it is info that can be used outside Florida why isn’t that noted where I – the potential buyer- can easily see it?)

    The flow chart arrows make it look like a technical manual for a machine shop or a computer user, NOT a gardening book

  28. I’ve been a graphic designer for 15 years and retired to become a gardener! I’m impressed with the critiques, very insightful and professional. It shows how creative and cool gardeners are. I agree with everyone, we DO judge a book by it’s cover! I’ll spare you designer lingo but I don’t think it was designed by a professional designer. I hope we get to see phase 2!

  29. Can you not call it Sustainable Gardening “FOR FLORIDA”.

    Sounds like a stutter. For Florida.

    How about Sustainable Gardening Florida or Sustainable Florida Gardens or Gardening Sustainable Florida.

    This is a Florida specific book.
    How about a graphic of the shape of Florida since that is the most prominent aspect of this book beyond sustainability (which we all know is hard to identify visually). Its also a state shape most of us can identify immediately. Fill the Florida graphic with garden plants that look delicious.

  30. Wow –

    Nothing about the cover suggests Florida and that state brings up lots of images when I think about it.

    If I glanced at the cover in a book store, I would think it was book about business flow charts.

  31. It’s not the least bit “garden-y.” Plus, the negative space (the green stuff) hearkens to the cover of “Atlas Shrugged” — and I’m guessing you don’t want your book to be associated with an Ayn Rand novel.

    As a graphic designer myself, and a lover of books (‘specially garden books), I agree with others that the recycling symbol is trite and overused. And even though, as a Vermont gardener, I’m unlikely to purchase your book, I might at least leaf through it if it had an attractive cover.

    Tell your publisher to go back to the drawing board!

  32. Ginny, if I were you, I would do two things: first, send them links to covers you like. Amazon is a great resource for this. Just say, “what about something like this, only with a hibiscus instead of a rose?” (or whatever)

    And–consider either hiring a designer (on eLance, or maybe you know someone) to mock up some covers, or just literally get out the scissors and tape and mock something up yourself. Don’t worry about whether an image is available for use, just assemble the cover image and text you think will work, with some ‘comparison’ covers of successful books to back it up.

    The important thing here is that an amateurish cover implies that the content is also amateurish and unprofessional. You need a slick, professional, beautiful cover that speaks to the quality of the writing and the plants themselves. I mean, I just got back from Florida and was overwhelmed by the gardening possibilities there. The cover should be utterly intoxicating.

  33. Maybe the publishers WANT it to look like a high school textbook? Maybe they DON’T want the author’s name to stand out? Maybe they DON’T want people to almost automatically realize it’s a book about gardening in Florida? I mean, think how many books they could sell in Minnesota or Pennsylvania or New York if the Florida slant is removed. Perhaps they’re thinking about a whole series of books, by state or region, that will have the same basic cover?

  34. Yes to what everyone else is saying. Busy, bad font, trite image. The solid green is so heavy and dominating. And it’s recycling bin green, not living-growing-plant green. I get that it’s a sustainable thing, but gardening book covers shouldn’t make me think of plastic, even if it is plastic for a good cause. 🙂

  35. Show a gorgeous sustainable garden. So gorgeous everyone will want it for their home. Then, they can buy the book and recreate their own sustainable garden.

    Sell the beauty not the science.

  36. oh—really bad font…and I think the recycling arrows make it much too technical seeming. Also the graphics are laid out so rigidly…try taking a lesson from photography and using the rule of thirds and perhaps vary the color a bit…some thing more modern.
    I have to agree with all the comments– looks v. amateurish and self published. I do hope the person who designed this isn’t taking this all personally…

  37. Looks like the cover of a bad e-book. Ginny deserves better. I agree with others – a nice closeup of a bug on a flower would do the trick. Something that brings to mind why we garden sustainably.

  38. I think it’s terrible, and agree with Michelle. There’s no aesthetic nor interest. What does it say to the reader other than, “We couldn’t afford a good cover or a top graphic designer.”

    My first book had the worst cover in the universe, and the sales reflected it!


  39. Looks old and dated for such a now and happening subject. Looks like a hort textbook from the 70s. Couldn’t have look much less like FL if they tried.

    Why is it that the unimaginative types can only think of the arrows when it comes to sustainability?

  40. If you are going for the textbook look, you got it with both the title and the cover. Who is your audience? Is it home gardeners or students? The word sustainable has been so overused. I’m not even sure most people understand what it means. I would suggest you simplify–say exactly what you mean and to invite people in to read the book put a glorious picture of the end result. Think about “Working with Mother Nature” a guide to a sustainable garden, or some such.

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