15 Tips for Great Book Cover Design

After their book is written and editors sign off on the final rewrite, authors often turn their attention to what will become one of their most agonizing tasks in the entire process – deciding on a book cover design.

One reason the task becomes so daunting and painful is that authors too often wait until the end of the process, instead of nearer the beginning, to think through book cover design.

As a book publicist and book marketer I cannot caution authors enough – do not underestimate the importance of a book cover’s design.  Not only do potential book buyers judge a book by its cover but so do members of the media.

I have personally seen a major book reviewer for a large magazine hold a client’s book, run her fingers over the cover and say, “I’ve not heard of this author or publisher, but this book looks very nicely done, tell me more about.” Conversely, I’ve heard a reviewer quickly respond “We don’t review self-published books,” because the cover screamed cheap!

While we often hear “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” everybody – book buyers, reviewers, media and consumers alike – most certainly do judge a book by its cover.

Here are some important items to consider when making decisions on book cover design:

  • Use a subhead to create more description. If you have a 10-word title, you have not properly named the book in the first place.
  • Check with Google on the words that are most searched on your topic. To do this, type in the word that best describes your book in the search box and then see what the next most important or popular words are in that list. That ranking is very relevant marketing- wise so try to use those words in your title or subtitle.
  • Visit book stores and look at the covers of all types of books. What catches your eye? Look at the book face and look at the spines. Which ones are readable and why?
  • Will it play on Amazon? Go to Amazon.com, BN.com, Borders.com and search on competitive books in your space. Notice the book covers that catch your eye and the ones that do not. If your cover does not show up well in an Amazon thumbnail then you are going to lose sales.
  • Contrast. Don’t let your graphic designer get started without keeping contrast in mind. The reason black ink works so well on white paper is because it produces the best contrast possible. Yellow ink on green paper in a small font simply does not work.
  • How does your book look in black and white? Not every publication will be printing it in color.
  • Font size. Many designers are young with great eyesight. But your buyer may not be able to read the tiny font some designers insist upon using. Be practical.
  • The spine. Can you read it from five feet away? If not, neither can browsers in a book store.
  • Blurbs. Keep them relevant and short. The best highway billboards are 5-11 words because motorists are driving by at 70 m.p.h. Guess what? Consumers are driving by your book sitting on a table at the same relevant speed. The human mind cannot comprehend too many words at a glance. So give them short, sweet blurbs. If you are in love with your blurbs, than print them all in full on the last inside pages of the book.
  • Consider including a mention on the cover of a foreword written by a famous person. “Foreword by Barack Obama” or “Foreword by Oprah Winfrey” or  “Foreword by Best Selling Author John Grisham.”
  • Do not overlook creating content on the back inside flaps because consumers pick up a book after looking at the spine, front cover and back and then open the book to find the price or more information.
  • Print your cover out on a laser printer. Don’t just review your cover on a computer screen which will make it look considerably better. Print it out actual size and make a determination using that printed version.
  • Pictures are worth 1000 words. Use photos and illustrations to describe what would take too long to explain.
  • When choosing a book design ask yourself how the cover will look on your website home page. Consistency and redundancy are important so you’ll want to use the same design elements on your website that you do on your book cover. For this reason, I suggest using the same designer for your book cover and for your website if possible.
  • Show your cover designs to as many people in your target group of potential readers. Get their reactions and opinions. It costs you nothing and you’ll likely find out something you did not realize before.

Bottom line: Get involved early in the entire book publishing design process and get at least three creative concepts for the front cover, back cover, and spine. Don’t let it be the ‘last thing’ you do.

And finally, the most important rule in book publishing and marketing – Know Your Reader! All books have a target reader and in all genres there are varying degrees of readers. Targeting the reader who is most likely to purchase your book is critical.  Authors who know the demographics of their readers are equipped to assemble the fonts and graphics best able to grab the reader’s eye and instantly convey the message that “this book is for you.”

When you work with your graphic designer on the book covers and spine, your chances of success are greatly increased. If your designer does not welcome your participation, hire another designer.

Scott Lorenz – Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few. Learn more about Westwind Communications’ book marketing approach at www.book-marketing-expert.com or contact Lorenz at scottlorenz@westwindcos.com or by phone at 734-667-2090.