Judging a book by its cover

As a marketing agency where one of our specialisms is graphic design, we’re privileged to work on a wide range of projects, from product packaging, the design of marketing literature, wedding stationery and everything in-between.

One of our more recent projects was the redesign of a book cover. Whilst we have designed book covers before, these have been for brand-new books; this project involved redesigning a book’s cover that had already been on sale for a couple of years. The task felt weightier, somehow; improving an existing design is sometimes more difficult than creating something from scratch.

Original Cover

When designing book covers for authors, we take the time to understand what the book is about. Not just the genre and its typical audience, but the actual plotline and what makes it special from similar books on the market.

The book in question was ‘From Highlights to Lowlifes’, the true story of a middle-aged housewife and mother-of-three in dire straits.

She was ‘groomed’ and ultimately led to smuggle drugs into the UK from abroad. As the owner of a busy hair salon and an upstanding member of the community before getting involved with the gang who pushed her to commit a crime, the lady in question had never even had as much as a parking ticket. She also had a seven-year-old at home to worry about.

The book doesn’t glorify her crime whatsoever; it also gives the reader a gritty, no-holds-barred depiction of life inside prison—something she had to endure for almost five years after being caught at Dover with the drugs around her tummy.

The original cover emphasised the pun within the book’s title. ‘From Highlights’ is the reference to the author’s career as a hairdresser, whilst ‘To Lowlifes’ details her transition, her fall from grace if you like, to being amongst hardened criminals in prison. When we say ‘hardened’ criminals we’re not being inaccurate or facetious; the book may describe women’s prisons, but as you would learn if you read the book, the female of the species can be just as violent, depraved and cunning as their male counterparts.

New Book cover

The original cover featured a pair of hairdressers’ scissors as well as an image of an older female behind bars (as suggested by the clothes she’s wearing in the picture). The font used was cursive, in an attempt to appeal to women, which is the book’s primary audience. The design wasn’t without thought, and the ingredients all seemed to be there.

However, it’s easy to understand the intention behind a design when it’s explained to you. When you don’t have any context to go with a cover image, the visual is all you have to help you decide if that book is for you or not. And as a complete image, the first design may have been appropriate, but it wasn’t very enticing, and this had an impact on the book’s sales.

Novus initially researched covers within the true crime genre and understood that the ‘visual language’ for a true crime book needed to be much more hard-hitting. The colour palette was diluted, and the white space of the original cover omitted; the prison cell image of the new cover took precedence instead. There’s now no doubt what this book is about nor which genre it belongs to. The new cover has an atmosphere…it suggests a chilling, almost brutal encounter, which certainly crop up within the story.

What do you think? Do you agree that the new cover is an improvement and much more fitting to its genre? We’d love to hear your thoughts; tweet us at @marketing_novus

To buy a copy of this book, visit https://www.hallgoodbooks.com/product-page/from-highlights-to-lowlifes

Contact Us

Novus Marketing Solutions, 

Kelham Street,



Telephone: Brett on his work mobile 07983575934

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