Tap, tap, tap on the keyboard.
Last paragraph dissected, pen down, gulp of cold tea….
So, your book is finally finished. And now you have the not insignificant task of commissioning a cover to do all your hard work justice.
So where do you start?
Try a DIY photoshop job, or pay for a professional book cover designer? Whichever route you decide, there are a few key things to consider. Lets go through them.
Keep it simple
We all know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. But the fact is that the cover will sell the story. If people don’t find your cover eye catching enough to pick it up off the shelf, or click the image on Amazon, they’ll never know what a great story is inside. Readers will only spend seconds browsing online at a whole page of covers, so make sure yours is the one that entices them to find out more.
These days, your book cover needs to look great both as a life size paperback, and as a thumbnail image on-screen. So pick one or two key elements from the story, which will also translate well as a thumbnail sized image.
Striking colours and bold images work well. When your design is complete, reduce the size on your screen and see if you can still read the title and author name clearly.
It’s been emotional
Connect with the reader’s emotions. Whatever the genre of your writing, your cover needs to convey the emotions associated with it. So a romance cover should get us in the mood for love. A horror cover should feel chilling and creepy. A business cover should feel intelligent and informative. Your potential readers will be attracted by the mood your cover creates.
The devil is not in the detail
How many times have you read a book, then watched the movie that was based on it, and been disappointed? Does the actor/actress live up to what that character was like in your mind?Avoid trying to show a specific character-image or scene on the front cover of your book. Click To Tweet
Your reader might feel the same if you’re too specific with the elements you depict on the cover. So avoid trying to show a specific character image on the front cover. A suggestion is great, dark flowing hair maybe, a silhouette of a cape or dress, a piercing eye. But don’t get too hung up on the tiny details.
It’s best to avoid anything too fancy or cliched when it comes to the font you chose. Make sure the font is appropriate for your genre. If your story is a crime or thriller novel, obviously you don’t want a frilly or feminine typeface, you want something bold and strong. The typefaces used on covers in your genre will almost certainly be in a similar style to each other. Think carefully before using something radically different to this, as it will make it hard for your readers to understand your cover at a glance.
There are also lots of tricks professional designers do with fonts, like adjusting with the tracking (horizontal spacing between the letters) and leading (vertical spacing between the lines). This is often why amateur cover designs don’t look as polished as a professional design.
Prim and polished
If you decide to design your cover yourself, try to keep it professional and polished. If your cover looks homemade, people will assume that the writing too is second-class, and may even doubt your credibility as an author. If you can’t commission a professional cover designer, then look at successful covers, and try to emulate this as much as possible with your design. You can probably pick out one or two things that make these design successful. If in doubt, using a single strong image often works. There’s no need to worry about blending and shading, and if it’s a photograph, often the photographer will have taken the most impactful shot. Just make sure you get permission from the photographer before using their work.
Put yourself in your reader’s shoes
Think about what your reader will be looking for. Most people will be browsing a bookshelf or online bookstore with a genre in mind. They’re not looking for something to surprise them, they’re looking for something they recognise as the genre they like.
Communicating the genre of your book to your readers is easier than you think. We all know imagery that is accepted as belonging to one genre or another. Dark colours convey the mystery and intrigue of a crime thriller or horror story. Soft, bright colours and sunny skies convey the hope of a romantic fiction. These elements will be recognisable to your target readers and will draw them in, encouraging them to read the blurb which will ultimately sell them the story. That’s what the cover is there to do – get readers to pick up your book, read the first few pages, and find themselves hooked!
Take a look at the bestselling covers in your genre to find out what type of covers other authors are using. Or speak to your friends and family who have read your book. Ask them what sort of cover they would expect to see.
Blah, blah, blurb
You’ve gone to all the trouble of designing a great cover, so make sure your blurb really hooks the reader once they’ve picked up your book. Usually between two and four paragraphs is enough. Introduce your main characters, and simply outline the plot. Then entice the reader with an emotional hook, and allude to the journey the characters will go on – what they stand to achieve or lose.
Make sure the blurb conveys the tone of your book; if it’s humorous, readers will think your book is too.
Above all, the blurb should be easy to read and get a feel for the story. If it’s confusing, readers will put your book down and move on.
Readers also like to discover something about you the author. So consider including a brief Author Bio on the back and a photo so people know who you are.
Place your trust in our hands
Trust your designer – your craft is the story, their craft is the design.
Some authors will have an idea set in stone about how they want their cover to look, right down to the size and positioning of the text. It’s near impossible for a designer to match exactly an idea that’s in someone’s head. And if your designer hasn’t used the typeface you requested, there’s probably a good reason why.
You wouldn’t employ a private chef for a party, and then tell them the exact ingredients to use to cook your meal. You would let them come up with the ideas for the food that tastes the most amazing. Give your designer the space to come up with a fantastic concept born of their years of experience and training. You wouldn’t ask your designer to critique your writing, so try to trust them when it comes to what works best on your cover.
We’re Peter and Caroline O’Connor. Creating beautiful book cover designs for authors all over the world is our passion. Every author should be able to benefit from a beautiful book cover design (not just the lucky few who get signed by a big publisher). We design, podcast, and coach authors full-time so we understand your struggles. Currently accepting new clients.