It’s no secret that developing an author brand is important, but what many may not realize is that book covers, branding, and design can actually impact readers emotionally. Our latest episode features award-winning author and founder of Azine Press, Carol Van Den Hende, to discuss why and how branding can have such a powerful impact.
What goes into a visual brand for an author?
I think a helpful place to start is to differentiate the idea of brand versus visual identity, because sometimes they get conflated. Brand is really just a concept, and it can be as simple as your positioning or your promise, your promise to readers, your promise even to the professionals you work with. Whereas visual identity is that visual manifestation of that brand promise brought to life. Of course, there are tactical components of that brand identity. If you go down to the most basic elements, you can talk about the elements of logo typeface, color palette, and what images you use. But I think it’s really important to pause before getting to that tactical level to be clear around the strategy: what do you stand for? What is the personality? What are the different ways visual images can bring that to life? It’s worth giving that whole picture a thought before getting into the nitty gritty of colors and font. By being strategic and thoughtful from the start, you will create a more cohesive and consistent brand identity.
How do you keep your visual identity, as an author, consistent?
Often times brands will have a style guide which will list the fonts, exact color palette, etc. to be used consistently throughout their branding. Interestingly, studies show that readers and people in general see shapes and colors before they read letters and numbers. Therefore, the concept of consistency is very important, because letters and numbers will change throughout your project and branding, but the visual of colors and shapes should remain consistent throughout. That way, over time, readers become familiar with those shapes and colors and can identify your brand, apart from others, right away.
Consistency is also so important because it’s been proven that people’s attention spans have significantly decreased. We have less time to make an impression on people these days, so it’s important to make the most of the short time we do have by being quickly recognizable.
What is the best way for an author to collaborate with a designer?
So I think the magic is in really respecting the work of a designer and when the author is a great collaborator in that process. One of the workshops I teach discusses the five aspects to keep in mind when briefing your designer so you, as the author, can be the best inspiration and help the designer create their best work for your project.
When it comes to design, there is no absolute in what looks good or doesn’t look good. It’s not about what your personal tastes are. Sometimes people who aren’t that sophisticated when it comes to design might think that the best way to help collaborate with a designer is to tell them what you like and don’t like, but really it’s much more: having a clear strategic brief with the designer and then assessing what ways the design delivers on that (or not). But allow the designer to reconcile that.
Are there any trends we can expect to see in 2024 as far as visual identity goes?
I had predicted a few trends for 2023 that I think will continue to hold true in 2024: animation anytime, which is cartoon like images, the use of the pantone color of the year (which in 2023 was magenta, and we certainly saw an explosion of covers and visual identities using this color!), the emphasis on the title of the book and how much real estate that takes up on the cover, and lastly I predicted a trend called “light it up,” which is when covers that are 2D have 3D effects, bursts of light, etc. that really draw in the eye.
The common thread through all of these trends is that we are living in an increasingly digital world, so book covers really need to break through and catch the attention of people who are perusing books on a screen. But keep in mind that it’s also all about balancing breakthrough with meaning: yes, you want your book to be eye-catching and to “break through” the noise, but it’s also important not to stray too far from authenticity.
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Carol Van Den Hende is an award-winning author who pens stories of resilience and hope. Her Goodbye, Orchid series draws from her Chinese American heritage, and has won 30+ literary and design awards, including the American Fiction Award, IAN Outstanding Fiction First Novel Award, and Royal Dragonfly Awards for Cultural Diversity and Disability Awareness. Buzzfeed, Parade, and Travel+Leisure named Carol’s books a most anticipated read. Glamour Magazine recommended her “modern, important take on the power of love.” The International Pulpwood Queens selected Goodbye, Orchid as a 2022 Bonus Book-of-the-Month and Orchid Blooming as a 2023 International Book-of-the-Month. Carol is also the founder and president of Azine Press, one of the first B Corps publishers in the Northeast United States. As a Benefits Corporation, Azine Press has social and environmental goals built into its mission. Carol’s mission is unlocking optimism as a writer, speaker, strategist, Board member and Climate Reality Leader. One secret to her good fortune? Her humorous hubby and twins, who prove that love really does conquer all. Learn more at carolvandenhende.com and follow Carol on Instagram, X, and Facebook.