Since the cover is the first impression most people have of your book, it’s also the most important one. When browsing hundreds of books online or in person, potential buyers glance at each cover (or even just spines) for only a fraction of a second. You want YOUR cover to jump out and scream “BUY ME!”
Self-published authors should spend the money, time, and effort on covers created by a professional—a graphic artist who has worked with book covers before.
The more professional the cover design, the more attention the book gets. It also lends credibility to the author; no one wants to buy a book from someone who didn’t put the effort into a decent cover. After all, what does that say about the effort you put into the writing?
No one wants to buy a book from someone who didn’t put the effort into a decent cover.
All of the following attributes are important, but together, they make a potent package that will help you sell more books. Click the covers to see them on Amazon.com.
Titles should be large, easy-to-read, and should contrast with the background.
The following cover follows all the rules and looks great. The text is large enough to be read at small sizes, is easy to read, and there is plenty of contrast. The choice of typeface is even applicable to the topic, which is an added bonus and likely to appeal to the target audience. [William Willis; Aundrea Hernandez, cover designer]
The typeface will be simple and spaced correctly.
You can see that this classic typeface has been carefully spaced on the page and kerning between letters is obvious and effective. What might not be evident in this smaller size is the very subtle map in the background. [Greenleaf Book Group LLC]
The background and/or images should be appropriate for the genre and should reflect the content and mood of the book.
This could not be better illustrated by the following cover. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is obviously about the southern way of life. It reveals the tone of the book perfectly. [Carole Townsend; James Dempsey photo]
There should be a focus on theme, not just a jumble of images pasted together.
The design elements should coordinate and convey a message about the tone of the book.
The beautiful cover below combines five different elements of design to efficiently convey the theme: a vintage photograph, an illustration of the building, the typeface, design elements like the border and corner flourishes, and the choice of color to further emphasize the time period. [St. Martin’s Press; Thomas Dunne Books]
There should be enough information on the front cover to give some idea of the contents.
Subtitles are underused, in my opinion, even with fiction. This is a great example of a novel with a subtitle that adds more attributes, thus helping the potential reader make a choice about whether to buy it; this is especially important when the book is online and the buyer can’t read the back cover. [HarperCollins Publishers]
If you are publishing a series of books, it’s important to keep the covers coordinated.
Your readers will recognize the books are part of a series and it will help with sales. You can do that with color, design, typography, and images, and your graphic artist can vary these for each volume.
This series by Dave Duncan is a perfect example. The style is harmonized and the volumes are clearly related. I love these covers for several reasons, but they demonstrate this concept exceptionally well. [Dave Duncan; Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy]
Even if books are not strictly in a series, some authors can be recognized by their covers. Debbie Macomber is one of them. None of these covers is part of a series, but all are similar and her readers know (and love) them.
Avoid white covers unless you have a specific border around it.
White covers fade into the background of white web sites (like this one) and most printed publicity material, which makes them look weak and washed out, even the otherwise beautiful covers below. This isn’t a problem with a physical book, but it will be everywhere else.
More for Do-It-Yourselfers
For those who consider DIY, there is more to creating a cover than coming up with a photo and a cute font. In fact—and sadly—I have a Pinterest board where I’ve collected examples of badly designed book covers. It’s a private board to avoid shaming authors, but I use it to show authors what to avoid and how much of a difference good design can make.
And remember, the cover is for your readers, not for you.
If the book is going to be printed, the cover will need to be ‘print quality’ (high resolution), back-spine-front layout for paperbacks, include extra flaps for a hardcover jacket, and be the correct size for the folio, number of pages, and type of paper to be used. The elements must sometimes appear in specific locations, too, like the ISBN, bar code, and price. It’s quite complex and must be exact for the book to be printed correctly.
For an e-book, the cover must be large enough at the beginning to use in many different sizes later (you can make it smaller and keep the quality, but not larger), and to submit to the distributors (Google, Amazon, B&N, etc.), and each demands and/or displays a certain size cover. I would recommend a starting width of not less than 1600 pixels (1600 by 2400 is a great size).
However, the average viewer is first going to see this e-book cover in a very small size when searching or browsing online, which makes it extremely important to keep the cover simple with high contrast. No matter what it looks like when filling the screen, it must look good when it’s the size of a thumbnail. Smashwords, especially, has small thumbnails and many covers just don’t appear well.
Ask me how I can help you find the help you need to create a fabulous cover for your work.