Do young people look for different things in book covers?
March 9, 2009 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Can you point me to any specifics about which book cover designs or designs in general appeal more to people aged 18 to 34? I have an author with a book she feels will appeal to that demographic, and she wants to optimize the book cover design to best attract that group's attention. Barring that, are there any best seller lists that are broken down by age, especially self-help/career types of books?
posted by willnot to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The lists that exist essentially break down books into adult (late teenage and up), young adult (anywhere from 11ish to late teens) and childrens (anything before that). I doubt you'll find a list that will specifically target the group you're looking for. Most self help books that I have seen specifically targeted to that age group through their cover design are books for women, and they tend to have very specific styles that vary from book to book (books like—I kid you not—Vaginas: An Owner's Manual, The Knot Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World, and Domino: The Book of Decorating).

A good way of researching this might be to go to your local library or bookstore, and ask them about books like your friend's book. They'll be able to show you a variety, which can give you an idea of what's on the market now.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:07 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

There was an article about this phenomenon in the Jul/Aug 2006 Issue of Print magazine, and luckily it's online too: "the girls’ guide to writing and publishing."
posted by kidsleepy at 12:33 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

That age group is really broad- it kind of encompasses high-school kids all the way up to new parents, so it would be harder to draw broad conclusions.

But a few generalizations that would hold true, for instance, it's likely that this is a group of people who tend to:

Had computers since they were at least teens,
Played videogames in childhood,
Watched MTV growing up,
Generally own iPods today,
Tend to have a fair bit of disposable income,
Watch lots of movies and TV,
Think it's kind of ironic to shop used & vintage,
Totally "get" reality TV (even if they don't like it),
Consume a fair amount of celebrity gossip (way more than, say, our parents did in the 1970s)
Voted for Obama,
Know the names of at least 5 different typefaces (because Word has had that drop-down menu since we were kids typing our first school projects)
Use email, Facebook, instant-messaging, online dating, and Google.

So I'd expect this demographic to be pretty up on their typography and aware of rapidly-shifting style trends as far as colour & texture go.

My friends and I are in your age demographic (most of us grew up in a good-sized city and have arts-related jobs and interests) and we all love:

browsing great book jacket design on,
book-jacket designer Chip Kidd,
the beautiful simplicity of Apple design,
and Obama's campaign art.

We have mixed feelings about the self-conscious sexy hipsterdom of American Apparel ads but we like their use of Helvetica and various chubby 70s-style fonts. In fact I'd wager most city people in their 20s and 30s are kind of nostalgic for anything 1970s-ish, even those who weren't alive in the 1970s.
Hope that helps!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:27 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I remember when "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" came out in 1999- that book caught my eye from across the room and I could not WAIT to read it. The blinding chartreuse cover, all that negative space, teeny tiny title, and funny popped-up descenders on the author's name- I'd never seen anything like it before.

A couple more books whose covers I gravitated to:
WorldChanging (with that awesome punched-out cover sleeve)
Watchmen (the newer, yellow cover)
White Teeth (I bought the pink & blue cover. I liked the big, clean sans-serif typeface, and the mixture of shiny and matte on the cover.)
The Lovely Bones (I loved that serene blue and the simple, clean cover.)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:41 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

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