Many people use the idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” to remind others that people should not prejudge the value of something based solely by its outward appearance. Yet when it comes to actual books, few heed that advice.
The simple truth is that today, nearly everyone judges a book by its cover. Covers matter. A lot.
Fierce competition has made standing out from the crowd incredibly difficult, especially for indie authors. Smart indies know that a striking book cover design can help to differentiate in a noisy marketplace, particularly when competing against traditionally published books. In fact, it’s entirely possible today to create self-published book covers that are impossible to differentiate from books released by traditional publishers.
Below, we’ll offer 10 smart tips to help you get an amazing book cover design for your upcoming book. But before we get to the tips, let’s be sure you understand why book cover design is more important today than it has ever been.
Traditionally, when books were purchased at retail, a striking book cover was necessary to get the reader’s attention when placed on a shelf next to hundreds of other books. But because most retail stores displayed just the book’s spine, it was impossible for authors to differentiate unless the prospective reader picked up their book or the book was displayed in a more appealing manner. Great book cover design has always been necessary to get the attention of retail merchandising managers if you wanted your book featured – and that remains true today.
Today, however, particularly for indies, the vast majority of sales occur online. This has allowed indies to compete against traditional publishers but has also made it clear that to get the readers’ attention, a great story must be matched by a great book cover design.
A typical reader will do a search on Amazon and will look at a handful of books. Sure, content and reviews are important, but the book cover is the first thing a potential reader sees and the cover can either make or break that initial impression. This is not surprising. Great images create an emotional reaction in people. Because images are processed by our brains 60,000 faster than words, a great cover is critical to make an amazing first impression. A poorly designed cover not only fails to create the emotional reaction you want to create in your readers, but also implies that the contents of the book are also sub-par.
Covers can lead to more (or fewer) sales, can allow you to price your book higher (but underscoring the message of quality), and can lend you credibility as an indie author.
Don’t just take my word for it. Smashwords founder Mark Coker tells a story in his ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success about R.L. Mathewson, a romance writer, who went from selling five or six copies a day of her romance novel, to selling over 1,000 simply by updating her book cover image.
The creatives on crowdSPRING (nearly 200,000 from just about every country on earth) have helped many authors and both non-traditional (CreateSpace, among others) and traditional publishers (Random House, among others) with amazing book cover designs.
Here are 10 smart tips to help authors create an amazing book cover design:
1. Be sure the design looks professional.
Whether you create your own book cover design (some authors are talented artists and can create effective covers without professional help) or get professional help on crowdSPRING or elsewhere, the most important element of an amazing book cover design is that it looks professional. Great book covers are easy to read – typographical elements are distinctive and clean. Images on the cover are connected to the story and audience. A book cover for a thriller shouldn’t be confused with a romance novel. We’ll offer plenty of examples below and you’ll find other examples in our recent look at some great book cover designs of 2016.
Look at book cover designs of other books in your genre. What color palettes do they use? What kind of imagery do they have? How are they using type in the design? Don’t copy – but look for examples as inspiration for what works.
Here’s a good example from a recent project on crowdSPRING for the book Bogeyman. The book is about a serial child-killer and the lawmen who tracked him down. This book was to be published through Amazon’s CreateSpace, so it had some special requirements (which are easy to accommodate on crowdSPRING). The winning designer, faucetana, did a nice job capturing the drama and the dark elements of the story.
Often, even if you can design your own cover, consider whether you should. A great design doesn’t need to cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Focus on your strengths – writing – and let professionals help you with the other critical elements that will help your book succeed.
Advanced Tip: When you’ve created a few variations of a book cover design, send these out to trusted friends and colleagues for their feedback. It will help to have some objective feedback from someone other than you. This is one reason we include free focus groups in every project on crowdSPRING, including all book cover design projects – so that authors can easily and quickly survey their friends or others (privately or publicly), to get some feedback to the cover designs being considered.
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