By Michelle Antus, Bookmasters’ Media Design Specialist
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
While one of our culture’s favorite idioms is nice in theory, the reality is that it occurs more frequently than we may want. As consumers in a visually driven marketplace, we are constantly judging the contents of a package by its appearance. Think of the last time you bought an unfamiliar product brand. What made you pick it up? Chances are something on the outside of the package caught your attention. A book cover should be no different. It needs to stand out from the thousands of other books in the market.
The cover is the face of the book and is what will ultimately be used to promote the book. People shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest: it happens, and that means the cover needs to be designed well. Humans are drawn to a solid, eye catching design, whether or not they can articulate why. Having a true professional design the cover is worth the investment. A good artist will know how to design a quality cover that displays the emotion and theme of the book. The more information and inspiration the designer is fed, the better the cover will be.
Like any piece of good artwork, the cover needs to look good in a variety of situations. A printed, full color cover is only one of the aspects. It can be viewed in both color and black & white e-Readers, print publications, and websites. It also has to pack a punch when it is only 70 pixels wide. When a book is listed online in a search, 9 times out of 10, it will not have a description alongside it and it will be a much smaller version of the cover.
The cover has to be the magnet to pull in the potential readers and quickly and accurately tell them why they should give your book a chance. However, an overly complex design or overly minimalistic design does not always equal a solid cover. A potential reader will only look at a cover for a few seconds before he or she decides if it is worth picking up. If the cover is a mess or fails to engage the passerby, it will be looked over without a second glance. Exceptions to this rule are authors who have sold millions of copies and are a household name, such as J.K. Rowling or William Shakespeare. Once an author has made a name for his or herself, it is easier to bend the rules of design.
Do a bit of research before you jump in to designing your cover. Look at other titles and see what they did, and then don’t look at them again during the design process. Pushing the other cover designs aside makes sure that you avoid copyright infringement on another artist’s work and puts the focus back on your cover and book, and not imitating what others have done. Cover design is not always about having the flashiest and most trendy cover on the market. Let your book’s content dictate the cover. It is obvious when someone tries to force a certain type of cover on their book that doesn’t fit.
The key is to create a cover that fits your target audience and the book’s overall tone. Don’t have a dark, sullen, dreary looking cover if your book is a lighthearted photo collection of fawns frolicking in fields with fedoras. The cover also needs to be engaging to give potential marketers something to work with. The design of marketing material can only go so far to promote the book and the weight of the promotion cannot fall completely on the shoulders of the marketing team. Marketing designs and layouts should complement and enhance the cover, but should not be the focal point. The book cover is what really helps the design shine and is what people will remember most.
Just as the contents of the book are an extension of your brain, the cover needs to be an extension and reflection of the book. Since you can’t physically tell every person why they should buy your book, the cover needs to do that for you. A designer can help you give it a strong voice and let your book shine.
- Browse other titles in your genre. Look at what makes them succeed or fail. Just be sure not to copy a cover directly.
- Tell your designer what you like and don’t like about covers you have seen in the marketplace. The more you can articulate your wants and tastes, the better the cover will look.
- Don’t be afraid to shop around for a designer. Each designer has a set of strengths, so don’t settle for one that doesn’t fit your needs.
- Engage with a cover that fits the target audience and overall tone, but most importantly, acts as your voice to tell potential buyers why they should purchase your book.
- A minimalistic cover can be engaging; it just has to be designed well.