What a good book cover should do depends on your primary objective. For example,
- If your main goal is to interest relevant readers in your book, then the cover is effective if it attracts your target audience.
- If your main goal is to create fashion for your book, then the cover is effective if readers appreciate its style.
- If your main goal is to please your family, then your cover should be geared to them.
I will focus on cover design geared toward attracting the target audience. This is what most authors and publishers strive to achieve.
The Importance of Cover Design
100% of readers see your book’s cover before they open the book. Some won’t open the book unless it looks inviting.
There are several ways that an effective cover may help to inspire interest or deter sales:
- Customers see thumbnails in search results. Most covers have just a few seconds to catch the shopper’s attention and appeal to the shopper’s interests.
- People see your cover in your various marketing endeavors. Your cover is a big part of your branding process.
- Your cover makes the first impression on a buyer. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.
- Books are read on airplanes, in trains, on park benches, and left on coffee tables. The cover is a marketing opportunity.
- A readers will set the book down periodically. A good cover helps to renew interest in the story.
Designing the Cover
Focus on attracting the target audience:
- It’s not just to grab attention. It needs to appeal to the specific target audience.
- It needs to clearly signify the genre and content. Three seconds or no deal.
- The cover must look professional. Buyers expect it to reflect the quality of the content.
- The text must be easy to read. Key words should be especially clear.
- The colors need to work well together.
How to Do It
Here are some tips:
- Research and study the covers of top-selling books similar to yours, especially those which aren’t selling because of the author’s or publisher’s name recognition. This is what your target audience is accustomed to seeing. When they see covers like these, they ‘know’ (in three seconds) that these books are a good fit.
- The main image (and cover as a whole) must attract the target audience and signify the genre and content. This image can make or break the sale. If your book has highly marketable content, it’s well worth the extra time or reasonable expense to find the ‘right’ image.
- Don’t make the cover too busy. One central image sends a quicker, clearer signal.
- Placing the main image according to the rule of thirds may attract more interest than placing it in the center of the front cover.
- Many top covers follow the three-color rule: 60% primary, 30% secondary, 10% accent. Study color coordination (there are many free online resources) to find colors that work well together. If designing a paperback cover, note that colors often print much darker than they appear on the screen.
- Select a font that fits the cover, genre, and content well. The font style plays a more pivotal role than most people realize. Buyers themselves often pass up a book based on font without even realizing it.
- Get feedback from your target audience. This may also help you create a little buzz for your book.
When your cover is finished, remember your main objective. What matters most is whether or not it will attract the target audience.
Look at the thumbnail that I included with this post. It’s for Cursive Handwriting Practice Workbook for Teens by Julie Harper; the cover was designed by Melissa Stevens (www.theillustratedauthor.net).
I’ll admit that when I first saw this book, I wondered if the artist and author had taken a risk with this cover. Then I realized that I’m not in the target audience. I think the art does appeal to teens. Especially, if you consider what typical educational resources look like, this might be a ‘cool’ alternative. The cursive element might be a little subtle: You see this with the first word in the title, a few words of the title written in cursive, and less obvious in the background. Most handwriting workbooks emphasize the handwriting element with a few very large handwritten letters or words. This cover went against the grain, which generally can be a risk. But the most important thing is if the book appeals to the specific target audience. This book does a good job of saying, effectively, “If you’re looking for a handwriting workbook that isn’t geared toward small children, check me out.”
Let me emphasize that this cover wasn’t designed (that’s my impression) to go against the grain. It was designed to attract the specific target audience. Focus on this element of cover design. It might also break a couple of the ‘rules’ of cover design. Remember, what matters most is how the cover appeals to the target audience and signifies the proper genre and content. Everything else is just a guideline.
I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:
Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers