I was recently asked to judge a contest for the best book cover. It was not a huge list of books but the covers ranged in quality and style greatly. Some common themes appeared and eventually I settled on one winner and 2 runners up. It made me wonder what makes one cover more successful than others. Read on to learn some tips for when you design your book cover.
It’s impossible not to begin this article by using the “don’t judge a book by its cover” cliche. But the reality is, with the millions of books available at consumer’s fingertips in today’s market, the only way they can initially judge your book is by its cover.
Because of this overwhelming competition, it’s more important than ever to have a book cover design that speaks directly to your target reader in a way that makes them want to learn more about it.
The vast majority of books are bought through Amazon. Your cover is what will entice a potential reader to click through and research more about it, which is the first step in today’s consumer buying process.
The same holds true on traditional bookshelves. If a buyer doesn’t get past the cover, they’ll never discover what’s inside.
Let’s take a look at 7 tips for designing an effective book cover. Don’t launch your next book before you read this.
1. Give Your Readers a Peek at What’s Inside
Your cover needs to do an outstanding job at quickly framing the book’s contents while instantly building a connection with the reader.
If you’re wondering just how much your cover should “give away,” think along the lines of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” — not too much and not too little. Try to make it just right.
The moment a reader looks at the cover of your book, they need to get an overall idea of what’s to be expected inside. That means your design needs to give hints of the plot or overall theme without giving away spoilers or major plot details.
When you give readers a sneak preview, you’re instantly directing them to the info they’ll need to make a decision on whether your book is one they want to invest their money and time in.
2. Creatively Reveal the Genre of the Book
Beyond giving buyers a quick preview of the book’s contents, you want your cover to clearly reflect what genre your book fits into.
Most people enjoy a decent variety of books on their shelves, but typically stick to two or three different overall genres. If someone takes a look at your cover and expects a self-help book, only to find out it’s a sci-fi thriller, there’s no chance they’re going to buy the book.
Similarly, if they’re looking for a compilation of funny essays and you’ve designed a cover with a dark cityscape, they’re going to overlook your book at “not being their thing.”
3. Introduce the Protagonist
Give your readers a chance to instantly feel a connection to your protagonist when you design the cover. It’ll compel them to want to read the story.
When you’re able to establish an emotional connection between the reader and your protagonist prior to a single page being read, you’re a step ahead of the competition.
Think of ways you can use your cover design to build that connection at first glance. Whether it’s subtle or overt, this approach will attract the audience you’re looking for and they’ll want to find out what’s inside.
4. Set a Tone
Every book ever written has it’s own dominant tone. Perhaps you’ve written a thriller, a comedy or a tear-jerker that will leave the reader crying in their pillow. Either way, you need to convey the tone of the between-the-pages experience right there on your cover.
Spend time with your design to make sure it accurately matches the contents of the book in order to ensure it hits your target audience. It’s easy to overthink a design, crowd it with too much detail, and end up leaving a reader confused by what’s inside.
You know best what tone is inside of the book, and it needs to be shown on the cover.
5. Follow Your Genre’s Rules of Design
Truth be told, outstanding cover design isn’t a great mystery. Much like designing a website or an apparel line, you want to follow specific design rules for your book cover.
Always use recognized fonts that are appropriate for your genre and easy for a buyer to read. Utilized text hierarchy in order to highlight the most important cover text, such as your title. Creatively create contrasts between text and background colors so the entire design pops off the page and pulls the reader in.
Employ known color psychology to bring out the desired emotional response from those you’re trying to appeal to.
The reason there are design rules is simple. It’s because they’ve been proven to work. When you start using them in your own design, trust that the rules will do the same for you.
6. Don’t Ignore the Details
One of the most important book cover design tips is to pay attention to detail. This makes all the difference between looking like an amateur and making your reader assume you’re a professional.
While you may not be the best at graphic design Windsor has to offer, it doesn’t mean that your graphic design techniques should look un-detailed and sloppy.
Elements like image arrangement, treatment, shading, lighting, layering and text hierarchy will take your graphic design from average to spectacular.
The last place you want to cut any corners is on your book cover design. Make sure every ounce of your book cover design conveys the amazing author that you know you are. If you’ve put everything into it that you’re capable of, another graphic design Windsor professional should take a second look and make sure nothing was missed or could be improved.
After all, you want as many readers of your masterpiece as possible so you want your graphic design to be as perfect as possible.
7. Create a Distinctive Style
If you want to attract as many readers as possible, don’t design a book cover that looks like every other one you’re competing against. How many romance novels have we seen with a cover featuring a heavily muscled man kissing a beautiful damsel? That’s a big, cliche yawn.
It can be a bit of a trick to stick with the book cover design tips we’ve already talked about, while also featuring a distinct and unique graphic design. But think of terms of the romance novel we just mentioned. What if, instead of the standard oil painting-looking muscle man, instead it was the same image that looked like a cave painting? That would be a unique attention-getter.
Think outside the box (or should we say, outside the cover) to find your unique voice while still conveying the genre you represent.
This type of book cover design is sure to be a winner.
The Book Cover Design Is Your Final Masterpiece
You already know that you’ve written an absolute masterpiece that countless people would love to read. But if you fail at your design, your masterpiece will soon look like a dud — nobody will buy it.
Even though you can’t wait to get your book to market, don’t make the mistake of rushing the cover design. Cover all of the details we’ve just discussed, then unleash it on the world!