We’re visual creatures, and we tend to judge the quality of something based on its appearance, even when we should know better! This means that we can’t rely solely on what’s inside our book to get people to pick it up and start flipping pages. The book cover design has to be intriguing enough to make it stand out, but still make sense to the reader.
According to Hobie Hobart, a top book cover designer, a bookstore browser typically spends about 8 seconds looking at the front cover of a book and 15 seconds on the back cover. This amount of time plummets when the reader is shopping online and is scrolling through search results. Therefore, there is very little time to capture the imagination of a customer and the information provided on the book cover has to work toward that goal. It should not feature something so abstract that it repels or confuses a reader, unless the genre demands it. And of course, it has to look good next to other books, which may have been professionally designed.
If you are not an artist or designer, it can be very difficult to accept the vision of someone you’ve hired to design the book cover. You’ve probably had a few images in mind since you began writing the book, but they don’t always translate to the page very well. One of the best ways to work with a designer and stay on the same page is to describe a scene in the book to them and make it the focus of the cover. Even if the result is not exactly what you were thinking, you will still have the benefit of knowing how another person interpreted your writing (which can make you a better writer in the long run!).
Every writer feels like what they’ve written is so different that the usual rules don’t apply. However, there are some general guidelines in choosing a book cover design that are wise to follow:
- Make sure that it fits in the genre. Look at the books lined up in your genre’s section at the library or a bookstore. Take notes on the colors, fonts, and images used. You don’t want to blend in too much, but also make sure that a reader who enjoys your genre will pick up your book.
- Your font MUST be easy to read. Swirling cursive and overlapping blocks can be fun to play with, but readers are so spoiled for choice that they will not spend extra time and effort trying to understand your cover text.
- If you are planning on selling mostly online, the book cover must be attractive and clear even when thumbnail-sized.
- Know the legal aspect of images. You may need to pay for a quality stock file, as much of what you’ll find in Google Images will come with licensing issues. Use your own photographs if possible!
- Understand your own message and be consistent. Whether you design on your own or you hire someone, your book cover must work well with the content of your book.
- Do not use a picture of yourself on the front unless you are famous or writing an autobiography/memoir.
- Get feedback! If your family and friends are not objective enough to provide critical insight, use Survey Monkey to get free responses (up to ten questions for free) from a targeted audience.
Choosing a book cover can be nerve-racking, like putting the final, fragile decorations on a beautiful cake. Just remember that if it gets to be too much for you, you can hire a professional or visit sites like Canva, which do much of the work for you. You’ve worked really hard and made a great book – just make sure it looks great, too!