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Judge these books by their covers

Local book designer helps authors sell more with compelling artwork

No one likes a weak handshake or a grip that leaves a bruise. It needs to be just right—solid yet also inviting. 

According to bestselling author Erika Robuck, the cover of a book is the “handshake” of the story that waits inside. It’s that crucial first impression someone gets when they walk into a bookstore or view a thumbnail online. 

Eric Wilder of Rochester knows how important these “handshakes” are because he’s the one designing them. Wilder has created more than 100 book covers since he first started in 2014. His work is highly sought after, and he is known for designs that communicate the message of a book to potential readers quickly and effectively.

Rachel Del Grosso of Wolfpack Publishing says that Wilder’s work is “clean and simple, two things that, to me, really make book covers stand out.” Wolfpack is so happy with his work that it has had Wilder create thirty-five book covers.

Del Grosso isn’t the only one impressed by his talent. His covers boosted sales of Resa Nelson’s books beyond what she could have imagined. After learning that her first book series wasn’t selling as well as she wanted, she regained the rights from the publisher and re-released them as self-published books with new covers designed by Wilder.

“Now that Eric is designing covers for my books, everything has turned around. These books earned more in their first three weeks on Amazon than they had in the first year of publication. And that was without advertising or promotion on my part. I didn’t even tell anyone I was self-publishing them. The sales just happened, and the only difference was the book covers.”

Book cover design isn’t as straightforward as drawing a pretty picture to fit a story. It’s a multilayered process requiring skill and an artistic sensibility that often combines photography, illustration, and computer graphics. Wilder has committed himself to doing his best for each author because he knows that they have worked diligently to create their books. He wants his covers to have meaning: “Covers have to represent what the author has spent years doing in one little thing. This is the entirety of their work in one small space,” says Wilder.

Wilder’s literary citizenship extends beyond his book covers. He is editor of Spine magazine, a publication devoted to the creative art of book design with a particular emphasis on covers. He also cohosts an annual Rochester “Literary Party” with area writer Robin Flanigan. Writers and other members of the literary community (think designers, professors, journalists, publishers) gather not just to share a glass of wine but also to share ideas and make new connections. 

Wilder is excellent at creating community, especially through his active social media presence where he shares literary news and the latest in book design. In fact, it was through Twitter that he met Flanigan, Nelson, Del Grosso, and Robuck. He has also successfully used Twitter and other social media outlets to boost readership of Spine.

His literary life has other dimensions as well. After taking a class on short story writing with Gregory Gerard at Writers & Books in 2012, Wilder embarked on a literary journey he didn’t quite expect. The story he produced for the class was a tongue-in-cheek tale about Humpty Dumpty that soon turned into the popular Grimm Report, a satirical “news” site about fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters. The project grew by leaps and bounds, and writers from around the country, including Nelson, contributed stories. In 2014 he published his book, I, Humpty, a collection of stories from the Grimm Report.

Wilder is currently teaching a design class at RIT. His latest cover can be found on Robuck’s most recent book, #hockeystrong.  


Christine Green is a freelance writer who lives on the Erie Canal in Brockport with her family.

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