Good art is in the eye of the beholder. This means it can be difficult to pin down a design that will meet the standards historically laid out by the publishing industry as a whole. Many writers do not think in visual terms as well. These factors can make book cover design a source of lament for some authors. Quality book cover design is a combination of elements that must come together to relay the appropriate meaning and emotions to readers.
A good book cover should be a visual representation of the subject matter and provide a sense of what the reader can expect. This is not to say that every technical aspect of the story needs to be pictorially shown on the cover but rather condensed into one powerful image that will make complete sense to the reader by the time they finish the book. Before reading the book, however, the potential reader should look at the cover and receive an instant subconscious glimpse of what is to come and a mental association with the intended genre.
- The best way to start this process is to go into a bookstore and look at books in the same genre. Does your cover concept fit in with the rest of these books? If not, then go back to the drawing board. The shopper should look at the cover and without reading any words, or even looking at the title, instantly know whether the story is mystery, horror, science fiction, etc. If this seems overwhelming, one tactic to try would be to gather or create a collection of images that conceptualize the major concepts in the book. This will get the creative juices flowing and before you know it all sorts of ideas will arise as to how best visually illustrate the content of the book.
- Font is another element of this puzzle that is often overlooked. Though just text, font choice can make or break a book cover. Clean, solid fonts represent technology and science. Elaborate fonts such as Old English obviously project classical connotations, perhaps appropriate to fantasy. Whimsical fonts may be best suited for a children’s book or fairytale. Fonts that appear handwritten often allude a sense of femininity. The hard part about font choice is the huge selection. The easy part is the ease with which fonts can be switched out, thereby making experimentation a breeze. While some creativity is fine here, the best advice is to not break the mold. Stick with what works.
- In addition to the subjective elements of design, there are also a few objective aspects to cover. Make the title stand out. Remember that in the Internet age, the odds are that most of your sales will come online. This means your book cover will be a thumbnail on a webpage with many other books. Even at this small size the shopper should be able to judge the core concept of your book with only a glance. The image should be recognizable at this size as well.
- Consider how the front cover will tie into the spine and back cover. Will they be three separate images or will the image wrap around? Once again, look at other books to get a sense of what style will best suit your needs.
- Avoid clutter. Follow the Navy Seal KISS (keep-it-simple-stupid) model. Your book only has a second to grab attention, so don’t blow that chance with a cluttered cover.
- Be sure to adhere to technical specifications. We won’t go into specifics here, but just be sure to check with your printer for any requirements such as file type, size, resolution, etc.
- And finally, don’t be cheap! If there is one aspect of the book to not cheap out on, it’s the cover. If you are not a competent designer, then let a professional handle the job. You may pay anywhere from $300 to $1000, but if you want your book to sell, it’s well worth it.
Unlike people, a book should be judged by its cover. The cover is the first impression, and just like with people, first impressions count. Most avid readers can confirm that the cover of a book does usually correlate to the quality of the book. Spend some time on Amazon, and you’ll soon notice that most of the worthless books written by people solely interested in making fast money also have a very amateurish cover. It would be a shame to let all the hard work you put into writing the book go to waste with a lame cover that elicits a sense of laziness to the reader.
Think of a good book cover as a punch in the face. Make it simple and powerful.
James A. Rose is a writer for InstantPublisher.com, a full-service self-publishing company with 100% of all work performed in-house. The company has been helping authors publish novels, how-to books, manuals, brochures and every type of book imaginable for 14 years.
Image Credit: Dream or Destiny book cover, designed by Aundrea Hernandez of Oracle Design