We all know the importance of a book cover.
It’s the window to your book’s soul. The thing people will judge your book on in a split second.
But don’t forget it’s main job is to get people to buy your book.
NOT to convey accurately the small freckle on the left ear of your heroine.
NOT to show the exact shade of sandy brown of your leading man’s hair.
NOT to depict a purple octopus with yellow spots and the wings of a dragon, attacking a troll with rainbows for eyes, all set in a post-apocalyptic backdrop complete with high-rise buildings and flying cars.
You get the idea.
First and foremost, the purpose of your book cover is to make people pick up your book, or click on your virtual book.
That’s what should be at the forefront of your mind when you create your book cover. Many authors get really hung up on the details, to the extent it delays their publishing.
Here’s what you should ask yourself about your cover:
Does this cover create intrigue?
Your cover, and in turn your back cover text, need to give enough away about your book to create a ‘brain-itch’ in your potential readers. You don’t need to give away everything. You don’t want to give away everything, otherwise why do people need to actually read the book?
Does it get across the genre and tone of my story?
It’s hard to be objective about your own book, as you know it so well. So think in more general terms. Does the cover sit well with other books in the same genre, and does it get across the overall tone of the story, whether dark and dangerous, or upbeat and lighthearted.
You need to make sure the expectations your readers form when they view the cover are met by the book’s contents.
Are the cover images clear?
Is it easy to see what the images are, both as objects, but also in terms of the colours used, and positioning of the text over the images?
We were looking at a design the other day, and somehow a close-up image of a person’s hand looked more like the legs of an elephant to my eyes! It can be easy to misinterpret an image without the context of the rest of the story. Try to view the cover in the eyes of someone completely new to your story.
Is all the cover text easily readable at a thumbnail size?
This is key. Can your reader clearly see the title and author name at thumbnail size.
Does the cover stand out against other books?
While you want your cover to fit in with other books in its genre for your reader’s expectations, you also want it to have impact and wow factor, so it stands out as one of the best in its genre.
Don’t try to add too much detail, or too many elements to your cover, as you’ll just confuse your reader. A confused reader is much less likely to buy your book, and much more likely to walk away.
Have you ever read a book, and once you’ve finished it, gone back and looked at the cover and felt cheated because the cover didn’t show exactly what was in the book? Nope, didn’t think so.
I recently read a fantastic trilogy of books, where one the key features of the main character was her striking curly red hair. The covers for each book in the trilogy show an image of a woman, presumably the main character. A different model is used on each cover, and none of them has red hair at all! Does it matter? Did it ruin my enjoyment of the books? Do I feel cheated? No to all three.
Take a look at the cover designs of lots of the big authors:
Think about what they all have in common:
- Strong images and colours.
- One or two key elements of the story on the cover designs.
- Easily readable text.
To recap, there are a few key things your cover needs to have to make sure you’ll sell books. Is the cover clear and easy to interpret? Is the text readable, even at a small size? Do the colours, images and layout convey the tone of your book, and fit the genre you’re writing in?
These are what make a successful cover design sell books.
What are your views on what makes a great selling cover? Share your comments with us below.
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.