It’s all very well being told not to judge a book by its cover, but we’re going to do it anyway.
And with good reason. A book cover tells us what sort of story it is, what sort of mood and style will be contained within the words.
There are millions of books out there and we only have a short lifetime to read as many as we can – there’s no spare time to be wasted on reading things we don’t like. By ‘reading’ the visual information contained in a book cover it can help us avoid disappointment and find books that will float our boat.
If you’ve got an agent and / or publisher, there’s a good chance you’ll have very little say when it comes to the cover of the book. They will get their designers on it and they will know what will work in your market (you’d hope).
But if you’re self-publishing, or if you’re putting a few short stories online while you build up your reputation and skills, you may be called upon to create a book cover (or avatar) for your work.
So here are three tips to get you on your way…
Tip #1 – Target your audience effectively.
Remember that it’s not about attracting the largest number of people, necessarily. Doing that will result in a large percentage of them being disappointed – not because your story is no good, but simply because people have so many different tastes. Some people love romance and hate horror. Others are horrified at romance and want to get hooked on a good sci-fi. Others yawn at sci-fi and can’t wait to sink their teeth into a decent horror. You get the idea.
The book cover should give an indication of the genre of story, so that people can make an informed decision. If you accurately target readers in this way, more of them will enjoy the book and that will lead to the purest gold of marketing – word of mouth recommendations.
Tip #2 – Keep it Simple
There’s a temptation to try to include a lot of detail in the book cover, including a load of the characters, settings and visual representations of the plot twists. But this results in a fussy, amateur looking cover. Good covers make a simple, single impact that intrigues the reader; they don’t try to tell the story – that’s the job of the novel.
This also goes for fonts and colours. Never use more than two fonts (one for the title, one for the author) and be aware of your colour palette. Make sure the colours complement each other and that they aren’t too garish or varied.
Tip #3 - research other book cover designs
The best way to find out what makes a good book cover and also what is suitable for your genre is to see how the pros do it. Browse Amazon or visit Waterstones and cast your eye over the shelves. See what catches your eye, and which ones make you want to pick the book up and read the back cover. You’ll soon see what kinds of conventions are applied to your genre and how designers have used space, colour, font and imagery to evoke ideas and emotions.