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

Interested in publishing your book but unsure where to start or what is even involved? Tell us about your project and we will post you a copy of our:


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Big Publishing Tips.


In just a quick 8,000 words, this little book will equip you with the knowledge you need to successfully publish your book.

The Little Book of Big Publishing tips goes into the essentials of self-publishing a book, outlining the business and financial side of publishing, legal issues, design, editing, sales and marketing. There's even a section on how to identify a vanity-publishing scam.