Writing in the New Yorker, Tim Kreider explains why he thinks that high end book cover designs are in aesthetic decline. He suggests that the field is afflicted by a degree of conformity probably exacerbated by the Internet. "There’s clearly some brutally efficient Darwinian process at work here, because certain images—half-faces, napes, piers stretching into the water—spread like successful evolutionary adaptations and quickly become ubiquitous". He gives examples and harks back to the inventiveness and frequent weirdness of covers designed for pulp science fiction. Other culprits include the decreasing popularity of hand lettered titles (making something of a comeback, in my opinion). Children's and young adult titles are lauded as an exception to the general malaise.
Catherine A Wilson and Catherine T Wilson (head to their website for an explanation of that unlikely pairing of names) write entertaining and well researched historical sagas set in medieval times. They have built up a dedicated readership for their "Lions and Lillies" series, and are excellent at building up reader expectations and involvement. We wanted their covers to convey a cinematic sense of excitement and immediacy.
Besides being one of the most positive and useful institutions in Australia, public libraries are also major book purchasers (in this time of bookstore bloodbaths), so authors should pay attention to them. Jerry Bell, author of Lighting Up Australia had this to say:
I found that librarians rarely responded to the written word. It seems that those doing the ordering are young, and live on the email, so once I began to email the librarian responsible for the ordering at libraries all over Australia, I got very positive responses. It also helps to stress if a bit of Australian history is involved, as that is seen as desirable.