Too many authors rely on the quality of their book and the story they’ve created to sell their book. That sounds strange, right?
Your writing may be incredible. It may be the best piece published in your genre in years. But it’s not going to sell without a quality cover to match. We say “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but what if the quality and thoughtfulness of a good cover are indicators of a quality and well-produced book?
Your cover is your first impression. It tells shoppers how professional you are, it also tells shoppers what genre the book belongs in, and like it or not — it tells shoppers whether or not your book is worth their time.
That’s why book cover ideas, brainstorming, and market research are all critical elements to prepping the book for retail sale.
A “good enough” cover isn’t passable anymore with the swarms of beautiful, well-crafted books hitting the shelves and popping up on Amazon every day.
Inspired by a piece published by Anne Carton on DesignHill, I want to share my perspective on current book cover design tips and must-haves.
I also want to be clear that I think the following tips are critical for both independently published authors and traditionally published authors alike. No matter how you publish, you have to be educated on your market, and you have to be ready to be your own best advocate.
I’ve seen plenty of ineffective and just plain bad covers from publishers, so don’t assume just because they’re designing it for you, that it’s going to be spot on. Be prepared to push back and request revisions until you feel you have a cover that will help you sell more books.
1. Hire an Experienced Designer
This may seem like an obvious point, but what’s important to consider here is that a designer doesn’t just pump out the cover files for you, good designers are advisors as well, and industry experts in their own right.
Hiring a designer to discuss book cover ideas is an investment in the life of your career as an author. It goes well beyond the current book you’re working on.
2. Develop a Unique Book Cover Concept
This doesn’t mean you should come out of left field with a design that doesn’t look like it belongs in your genre — it just means it’s really smart to come up with a book cover idea that incorporates unique elements of your story or brand.
It’s important to draw inspiration from other popular books in your genre, but it’s just as crucial to add your own flair and stand out.
3. Highlight a Single Element
Don’t let your cover get too busy. Go for the “wow factor,” but avoid making a shopper's eye try to process too many elements at once.
4. Use Size and Scale
We talk to our clients about this a lot because it’s a common problem. Title font that’s too small, or an author name that’s too small is the most common issue I see. Scale matters. A good designer or proofreader will likely catch these kinds of issues, but you want to ensure that your formatting is consistent and clear throughout.
5. Avoid Clutter
Too many colors, images, and font styles confuses the eye and no one has time for that. Don’t try to cram all your storyline concepts into one book cover idea, it never works.
6. Choose Typefaces Carefully
Typefaces, or fonts, are art all on their own. Different fonts convey different moods and vibes, and you’ll see this if you check out the most common types of fonts used for books on the thriller bestseller list versus the cozy mystery bestseller list versus the spiritual self-help bestseller list — you get the idea.
7. Consider the Cover Size
It’s easy to fall in love with a book cover idea when it’s taking up your whole computer screen.
But shrink it down to a thumbnail, does it still have the “wow factor” we’re looking for? Sometimes it does, and that’s a good design. But oftentimes it doesn’t do enough to make a shopper into a buyer into a reader. So, then you know it needs a few tweaks and likely what you need to do to draw in more readers.
8. Keep the Cover Design Simple
This kind of pulls together a lot of these tips into one, but it’s worth driving it home. You have two-tenths of a second to make a visual first impression.
So, if your book cover idea doesn’t immediately tell a shopper what your book is about and what genre it belongs in, the work isn’t done yet.
9. Consider Print and Digital Aspects
This is something that doesn’t get discussed a lot. There are still a lot of authors who release their eBook first, and I’m totally ok with this. I often recommend it, especially for genre fiction.
But don’t be so focused on your eBook that you forget your print cover dimensions and needs will be different, so plan for that.
10. Use Vector Over Pixels
This is more technical — but what it comes down to is not all files are created equal. A good designer will know what will work best based on the platforms you’re planning on using to list your book.
But again, you should know these things, take notes, be prepared to be your own best advocate.
11. Consider Visual Branding
Everything is your brand, from your book covers to your social media to your media presence. Book cover ideas should support your brand just like everything else you put out there. And brand consistency is important.
If you have a fiction series the covers should all be very similar, using the same style of imagery and the same fonts, so they clearly stand out as a series.
If you write non-fiction and have multiple titles under the same general topic, consistency is also key and your book cover ideas can help strengthen your brand. Simple details like using the same font size and style for your author name across each book can dramatically improve the perceived professionalism of your brand. It shows you’re paying attention, which naturally makes you more trustworthy.
Book cover trends are always changing, but the main point is consistency. A book cover is often your first chance to greet your reader, so let them know you care and you produce quality work with a professional, beautiful cover that introduces your story but doesn’t overwhelm.
Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a bestselling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She was named one of the top influencers of 2019 by New York Metropolitan Magazine.
Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Amazon visibility campaigns as well offering national media pitching, online book marketing, author events, and other strategies designed to build the author/book visibility.
She is the author of 18 books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, Revise and Re-Release Your Book, 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors, and From Book to Bestseller. She also hosts the top ranking podcast Book Marketing Tips and Author Success.
AME has had dozens of books on top bestseller lists, including those of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal.
To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.