Color Is the New Black

The interior walls of my home are white. By choice.

Too many of the clothes in my wardrobe are black & white. With touches of blue. Again: my choice.

I love black & white photos. I adore black & white line art.

Is there something a little off with me? What is this black & white fetish?

I’m guessing you can see where this is going! When it came time to design my book covers, I chose the ravishingly beautiful black & white illustrations by Kay Nielsen for the art. Unfortunately for me, not everyone shares my predilection for black & white. More specifically, readers often prefer images with more color.

“The art is so dark!” says one. “Almost dingy.”

“I couldn’t tell what it was, really,” says another. “It’s incomprehensible!”

“But your stories are so vivid, and your landscapes so stunning. The black & white covers don’t do justice to either.”

They made excellent points. Enough so, that I opened up Photoshop for another try at the cover for Troll-magic.

Two covers for Troll-magic

What do you think?

I continue to be entranced by the black & white one, but I like the colorful one (art by Victor Candell) as well. Yet I remain on the fence. B&W? Color? B&W? Color?

I’ve uploaded the colorful one to Amazon to appear as the cover for the ebook. Changing the print edition would be a much larger project, so it remains black & white (with a touch of gold) for now. I’m curious to see what will happen. Will more readers decide Troll-magic is for them? Fewer? The same number? I’ll let you know some time in August. Grin!

In the meantime, I’m very interested in your opinion. Please leave your vote in the comments!

Update: Thank you so much to each of you who shared in the comments. I have a better understanding of how my covers strike readers, because of you! “What was my decision?” you wonder. Black & white. It is unique. I’ll stand out in a crowd. πŸ˜€

For more about my book covers:
Cover Creation: Perilous Chance
Building Star-drake’s Cover
Creating Livli’s Cover

For more about how to design book covers:
Cover Design Primer



16 thoughts on “Color Is the New Black

  1. I like the black and white cover best, but I also already know the author and would therefore be interested checking out the book no matter what the cover. I feel that there is a prejudice against black and white–that it’s somehow cheaper or not as good because it doesn’t have color. The cover of a book is often the “grabber” and color is more grabby…

    • So, I’ve got four who prefer the black & white cover and four who strongly prefer the color version. Yikes! An even split! I need a tie-breaker to arrive and vote! πŸ˜€

      (Some of the votes are on my Facebook page, some from my writers group.)

    • Well, I like the black and white better. But I think for your audience, the color is more likely to make people pull it off a shelf…or download it.

      • Hmm. I’m seeing a trend here. Quite a few of you are saying you prefer the black & white one, but think the color one will attract readers better. :: putting on thinking cap :: πŸ˜€

  2. Well, maybe I’m old school, but I prefer the Black & White version. I love the simplicity and the dramatic effect.

    It also allows my imagination to do the work, filling in the colour with your incredible, detailed, descriptive writing.

    But this is all after having read the novel, so I’m not sure how the cover colour would have influenced my purchase decision.

    Looking forward to hearing the results of your research!

    • Well said! And you raise an intriguing question. How does the cover strike readers who have read the story? And how does it come across to those who have not? It might be hard to get answers to the latter. Many of the folk frequenting this blog have read the book.

      Hallooo! Hallooo out there! If you’re just passing through and haven’t read Troll-magic . . . which cover piques your readerly interest more? Which one would make you click “look inside” to check it out?

  3. I must say, when placed side by side like that, the B&W looks more tasteful. The right one looks like a children’s book.

    • Oh, i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-i-n-g! You’ve articulated something I felt, but hadn’t yet put words to. Yes. This needs some thought. Especially since I just encountered an old acquaintance who was interested enough in what I was up to that she checked out my books. Her first question, after seeing the new color cover: could I read this story to my child? Obviously the color cover is sending that message – this is for kids! Except that the story really is not for kids. The readers who enjoy Troll-magic are young adults and adults. Hmm.

      Thanks, Shantnu! πŸ˜€

  4. Hmmm, I hadn’t thought of the colorful one being more child-friendly, but I can see it now.

    Well, I have to say, I don’t mind the black and white colors, although I do think colorful will gain the reader’s attention. But, in many ways, black and white goes with your story – which is thoughtful and classy.

    The problem I have with the black and white one (you asked!) πŸ™‚ is the picture more than the color. I have difficulty telling what it is – the only reason I know it’s a woman on a bear is I read the story…..

    My feedback fwiw! πŸ™‚ But I trust you’ll make the right decision for you! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Mira! I appreciate your frankness. My plan is to keep the color version up for 2 months and see how the sales go. Then I’ll switch back to the black & white version and see how the sales go. And then I’ll decide. Of course, I hope readers will keep “voting” in the meantime. πŸ˜€

  5. Both have a classic feel to them, but I prefer the color cover. It has a “children” feel to it, but an adult children’s book, if you know what I mean. Like George MacDonald might write – fairy tales for the child-like. I guess the true test is if the cover is attracting buyers or not. Can you tell yet?

    • Summer is typically a season of slower sales for books. If fewer readers purchase Troll-magic during July, will it be because of the color cover? Or because it’s July? Marketing is a tricky business! πŸ˜€ Thank you for sharing your opinion. I do want to hear from absolutely every reader who has an opinion.

      And, perhaps, the thing to do is keep the color cover for July, then try the black & white one for August. Both summer months. The resurgence of sales occurs in September.

  6. Just hopped over from TPV to see your books and saw the question. I’m late to the party here but if you want another opinion I’ve never been accused of being shy.

    I don’t know your books, sorry, just not my genre. My first question would be what age group do you write for as I would be most likely to label them adult or maybe late-teen based on the covers alone. The color one would lean more to the younger side.

    The black and white is unique. I don’t think it will speak to the broader audience that you’re looking for though. It’s a dilemma. You want a cover that you yourself love, but it also has to speak to the masses to generate sales.

    Out of all your covers the Dragon jumped out at me the most. Grabbed my attention immediately. The image, colors, and your choice of typography really work on that one. If it were my choice I would use that as a theme for the rest of the books.

    Maybe use the black and white covers for limited editions/signed copies?

    Anyway, my two cents. Good luck.

    “When in doubt, use the force, Harry. Love, Gandolf.” πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Randall. Your perspective is helpful. Very much so. I think some older teens would enjoy my books, but I’m really writing for a more experienced reader. Which means the color cover is sending the wrong message. And I suspect you are correct that the black & white one – much as I love it – does not speak to the majority of my potential audience. I’m still mulling over a snippet of advice I read in one of Mark Coker’s blogs. He said: if everyone who reads the story loves it (good reviews and such), but sales are slow, then you’ve got something wrong with either your cover, your blurb, or your categories. That’s Troll-magic. Readers love it, but sales are slow. I’m still working on my blurb, which could be stronger. But I think the real problem is my cover. Slowly, clarity is emerging. Thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated.

  7. While the black and white line art is beautiful – at a larger size – I must admit it did not work at all for attracting my interest as a reader as a thumbnail. When looking up your books on Amazon, after deciding I like the way you write on TPV, I couldn’t tell what the line drawing was from the thumbnail, and so it ended up looking cluttered and undecipherable to me. (I finally figured out it was a person on the bear, and it made more sense after that. But I had to see a blown-up picture first.)

    So it’s not Black & White vs. Color for me, but the level of detail that’s clear at thumbnail size. Color’s only major advantage is that it makes smaller details easier to distinguish.

    • Thank you so much for sharing that! That’s exactly the sort of information I’ve been hoping to get. What does a prospective reader see, how does he or she respond, when encountering the cover to Troll-magic for the first time. Now I know. Excellent!

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