A book cover, like a website’s home page, needs to sell the contents of your book. It serves as the reader’s first impression as well as a direct channel of emotion. So, how a book cover matters? What is important about a book cover?
Book covers are important because they catch the reader’s attention first. The cover design, cover images, and back cover are essential to grabbing the attention of potential readers and making book sales.
A book’s success, especially a book written by a new or self-published author, may hinge upon the book cover design. There is a lot of work, research, and thought that needs to go into the covers of books. Even in the digital age, where you can publish your work online, the cover art is still important.
This article will explain why book covers matter. The story that your book tells is important, but to sell a good book, you need a good cover design, good typography, good blurbs, and so much more. This article will go through some of the most important aspects of book covers.
The Book Cover
The book cover is the first thing you notice about a book at a bookstore. It is also the first thing you see when you scroll through titles on your e-reader. Having an attractive book cover matters.
Think about your favorite book. You can probably picture the cover of it in your mind immediately. Think of classic novels like The Great Gatsby. You can probably imagine the book cover in your mind pretty quickly, as well.
The covers of books are about more than just art and a brief description. The cover is where the title is, which is also a critical factor in a potential reader deciding whether or not to purchase your book.
The cover is where blurbs are, those short little descriptive phrases and celebrity endorsements. There is also usually an author biography on the back cover jacket that tells readers who you are, with a photo of you as the author.
A book’s cover is what most people judge, regardless of that old saying that we shouldn’t.
Indie Published Book Vs. Traditionally Published Book
How your book is published will make the process of book cover design look a little bit different. Traditional publishing houses usually contract or have artists on staff. For e-books and even books in print, they usually have a graphic design department as well.
You may not get much freedom or say in your book cover design when you are with a traditional publishing house. They use the cover art that they think will sell.
They use cover designers, add the visual elements that they want to target readers, make your work stand out, and make sure that the back cover is the way they want it.
Traditional publishing houses know what sells well, so they think a good book cover sells books. They are far less interested in creativity than they are in marketing and book sales.
When you self-publish, you get a lot of creative freedom with your book. However, this can make for some challenging issues.
Unless you are an artist or a graphic designer, you’re going to have to hire out for the extremely important job of book cover art.
It is important never to use stock images or a blank book cover due to a lack of artistic talent. You want to draw people to your book cover because it makes the first impression.
Researching what works best for art and other book cover elements is key if you are self-published. Color theory, book design, and how the words will be arranged on the cover are all things to think about before you put your book out into the world among other books with higher budgets and traditional publishers to finance and back them.
It makes sense to anyone to create an attractive cover for your book, but where do you start?
When you think about the imagery you want to create or the aesthetic you want for the cover, remember that most people don’t stop, pick up the book, and spend much time trying to make sense of the images on the cover.
It needs to be simple. For example, if your book is a murder mystery or thriller, you may want to have a bold colored book cover with the title in large print at the top and nothing but an artistic rendering of the murder weapon featured in your book on the cover.
This will help you sell books because it draws attention to the book, and it gives the reader an idea of what the book contains without making them guess too much or giving them so much to look at that it becomes cluttered and confusing.
Simplicity in everything from the cover to the title is key to attracting the reader. Make them want to read the story based upon what’s featured on the cover. Create a slight air of mystery that will draw the reader in.
Your cover needs to be clear, with cover images that are indicative of some major elements of the book without giving too much away. Your cover needs to have the target audience in mind as well. Make yourself want to read your own story based upon the book cover design.
Genre is essential when it comes to covers. A good book cover lures the right readers in because it caters to the genre the book falls into.
For example, a romance novel will need some sort of romantic or sexy imagery on the cover to get fans of romance to pick it up.
A good rule is to ask yourself if you’d pick up the book if you were shopping or browsing for a book in that genre, based solely on the cover. If you wouldn’t, you need to work harder on figuring out what your cover needs.
Science fiction does well with slightly busier covers. Spaceships, alien or fantasy weapons, and other elements in this vein attract readers.
Researching the audience you want to attract will help you. A lot of science fiction fans also read comic books, and comic books are image-heavy. It stands to reason that you can get away with a busier book cover if you write sci-fi.
Horror needs very little imagery to get someone to pick it up. You can sell a horror book by simply having the title, a murder weapon that gives an inside look into the premise of the story, and dark, intense colors. Often, these are all that are needed for horror.
The genre of books matters when you want to put them out in the world and get people to pick them up.
It can be a good book, but many people won’t read a single word if the cover designer didn’t do an excellent job on the book cover. The cover presents the story first. You have to reel the reader in using just the book cover before the book’s story matters to them.
Cover design is something that used to rely heavily on artists and illustrators. Now, cover design is done with graphic designers at the helm of the creative ship. A book cover that is well done by a graphic designer can look very realistic and customized so that readers will feel an attraction to it immediately.
If you plan to hire a cover designer rather than working the cover yourself, be sure to meet with the designer and discuss the idea you have for the cover at length. Don’t be upset or offended if the feedback you get is contrary to what you want to hear.
People who design book covers for a living usually know the reader likes to see and can help give you ideas or meet you in the middle in terms of negotiating the terms of a good book cover.
It often applies that if you can find an artist that you trust, you should stick to your role and write books, and let them stick to what they’re good at, and you’ll get a good book cover.
If you dislike the finished product, then you should address it, but by and large, most of these artists are readers themselves, and they understand what readers want to see.
Your book title is essential, and it can help set up the story and attract readers. Or, it can keep your readers from ever getting to the first page.
Think of some of your favorite books. They usually have great titles. You may be somewhat surprised to find out that the titles were changed just before publication to describe the story better, draw more readers in, or save on words used in the title.
For example, you may not have heard of Return of the Shadow, but we’ll bet that you’ve heard of Lord of the Rings. The title was changed just before publication to present the story better and give readers a better idea of what the book was about.
There are many examples of this. Before we knew the classic and incredibly popular Bram Stoker hit as Dracula, it was called The Un-Dead.
Your title doesn’t have to be long and overly descriptive, but it does need to be snappy and memorable. The title is important when you want to sell books.
The title of your work is something that people remember, along with the imagery on the cover. Give your readers a title that is worth remembering.
Back Cover Design
Your back cover design needs to be simple. A short description of the book or blurbs and short book reviews to attract readers are all you need. If you include a description of the book, make sure that it’s a teaser description. You don’t want to give away too much.
Imagine that you are writing a great article for a newspaper publication. You want to include the following:
You may notice that one of the “W’s” is missing. That word is “why.” The “why” of your book can often give away the plot, so it isn’t necessary or a smart move sometimes to include it in your description.
You should aim for a one or two-paragraph description if you are going to include one. Look at other books that have sold well, for example, or work up several different versions and then choose the one that you think works best and is most alluring to a reader who may be interested in the subject matter and genre of your book. The following is an example of a short yet effective book description.
Grayson Daniels is a 32-year-old private investigator who specializes in the bizarre. When Trudy Hartsfield, an elderly heiress, walks into his office one sunny spring afternoon and offers him three million dollars to follow her daughter and report all movements back to her.
Grayson knows that there is something more to the story. He takes the case, but he begins to suspect that Mrs. Hartsfield isn’t looking out for her daughter’s well-being. The client becomes the subject of the investigation. With the help of her daughter, Debbie, he begins to unravel a murderous and sinister plot that goes further back than either the detective of the millionaire’s daughter could have ever guessed.
The thriller/mystery genre may not be your cup of tea, but the description in the above example gives you the meat of the story without giving too much away. You may feel compelled to buy the book so that you can find out for yourself what the wealthy old lady is hiding.
You may suspect or assume from the description that the detective working closely with a person who is most likely close to his age may spark a romance, or at the very least, a close friendship, and you want to know more about it.
You don’t give these answers away in the book description. You make the reader buy the book to find out what happens. You’re setting the trap in the hopes that they’ll walk into it by investing in your book.
Something that is sure to help sell books are endorsements or blurbs by a celebrity, especially if it’s a well-known author in the same general area that you write in.
If you wrote a steamy novel full of romance, getting someone like EL James (bestselling author of 50 Shades of Grey) to read it and write a short review or blurb for your book cover would help you sell more books.
If you wrote a thriller or horror novel, having Dean Koontz or Stephen King write a blurb or review for you would also help you with marketing and sales.
However, these heavy hitters in the writing industry are hard to get a hold of, and they don’t and couldn’t possibly read every new novel by an unknown author that was sent their way.
It never hurts to try, though. You can follow them on social media and send messages or tag them in posts you make on social media to promote your book and hope for positive words of encouragement or acknowledgment.
Even though it is best if another author writes an endorsement for your book, they aren’t the only “celebrities” who can get you more readers. Keep in mind that in today’s world of constant marketing and branding, influencers are celebrities in their own right, and their followings can be absolutely massive.
If you reach out to a blogger and ask to be featured in a blog post about your book or ask for a mention in a celebrity YouTuber’s video, you can get fans from places and demographics you wouldn’t usually have access to.
Many authors include a short author biography on the back inside the dust jacket or cover of their books. This is done so that the reader can learn about the writer and put a face to the book that they purchased. It makes you more memorable and relatable, and readers like that in an author.
Reading someone’s book is almost an intimate experience. As the author, you are allowing the person inside your mind, and as the reader, you are investing in a fantasy concocted by a stranger and allowing your feelings and thoughts to be manipulated by the content of that author’s mind.
It is common to include a picture of yourself in your biography; the less busy and stuffy the photo, the better. You can use an image that is already in existence that you like, or you can ask a friend or photographer to take a simple headshot or candid photo.
For the biography portion, you don’t want to say much. Take a look at some other authors’ details in their books to get an idea if you’re unsure what to include. An example is below.
Max Crawford lives with his wife and two children in Texas. He has published two other novels and has won numerous journalism accolades and awards. He graduated from Texas A&M in 2004 and enjoys spending time with his family on his ranch when he’s not writing.
You don’t need to put a lot of information in the biography. Just enough so that the reader can learn a little bit about you and hopefully find you a little bit relatable.
Your Book Cover Can Bring You Success
Taking the time to really put in the effort and do the research on what will make a great book cover is essential to the success of your book. A good cover can help you sell more books, launch your writing career, and make you more memorable.
Put a lot of thought into what you want your cover to look like and what you want to see in a good cover when you buy a book. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and suggestions, and if you can, hire a graphic designer unless you have a background in computer graphics or art.