Stepehn wales Unbreakable self-published author

This book cover uses metaphor

What is a metaphor? Metaphors are undoubtedly a master communication tool and use in book publishing is no exception.

A metaphor can be described as:  a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn’t literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison.

‘Heart of stone’ and ‘heart of gold’ are two common ones. These present images that convey quite complex abstract concepts. Instead of saying ‘he is a very good person with good motives’ we say he has a ‘heart of gold’.  The first is long-winded, ‘heart of gold’ is interesting and colourful.

The fisherman book cover

A boring cover image for a boring book

Its not just about words – metaphors are a good cover design technique.

Some of the best book cover designs we have accomplished use metaphor. This avoids the book publisher’s curse – trying to convince authors not adopt a book cover with literal imagery. One author wanted this image on their book called The Fisherman – this was a literal title. Guess what the book was about? It was about a fisherman. The fisherman went to the river and fished for fish. The cover (according to the author ) needed to have a picture of a man fishing i.e. a fisherman. The result – boring, boring, boring!

When we conduct a creative brief where you the author and we, the book designer discuss how the cover design will play out –  it will pay for you to think about the designer using metaphor.

Here’s a little more from Grammarly:

  • metaphor states that one thing is another thing
  • It equates those two things not because they actually are the same, but for the sake of comparison or symbolism
  • If you take a metaphor literally, it will probably sound very strange (are there actually any sheep, black or otherwise, in your family?)
  • Metaphors are used in poetry, literature, and anytime someone wants to add some colour to their language


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