You’ve written your book and are nearly to the finish line of your indie publishing project. There’s only one thing left to complete: your book cover. You breathe a sigh of relief, certain it’s a simple detail you can wrap up in a few days. Silly you.
Your book cover is one of the most critical elements of your book. It’s the advertisement for your story, the sizzle that sells. When properly executed, it attracts the eye and tempts readers to look inside. But hitting the right note takes thought, discussion, revision . . . and time.
At BlueInk Review, we’ve reviewed more than 6,000 self-published titles—which means we’ve looked at nearly 6,000 covers. We’ve seen the good, the bad, and the exceedingly ugly.
Four Important Book Cover Design Tips Learned from Experience:
1. Be sure all type is clear and easily readable.
Creativity is great—as long as it doesn’t get in the way of clarity. Avoid fancy type fonts that hide the title and other information in a cloud of swirls and other flourishes. Also avoid dark backgrounds, particularly on the back cover; they can obscure the type, sometimes making it completely unreadable.
2. The cover should reflect the book’s genre.
Is your book a thriller? Romance? Science fiction? Readers should be able to understand the genre at a glance. Through the years, publishers have developed distinct looks for various types of books: for example, silver, red or yellow covers with the author’s name in large black type denote suspense novels; navy blue and green signal business books. And so on. To attract your target readers, you must follow this unwritten code. Head to the bookstore to study the books in your genre, and then design a cover similar in style to those successful titles.
3. Put the story description at the top of the back cover and the author bio at the bottom of the back cover. The back cover is just as important as the front. It tells readers what the book is about and if the author is qualified to write the story—and in that order. Readers are trained by traditionally published books to expect the story description first, the author bio second. Don’t frustrate them by deviating. Equally important, keep the story description snappy and the author bio short. Resist the temptation to tell readers that you own four cats, love to scuba dive, won a 4-H award in high school—and other irrelevant information.
4. Hire a professional. This is the most important point of all. We think it’s great that your niece is a wonderful artist who gets As in art class and impresses all the relatives. That's great, truly! But we can’t say this strongly enough: Resist the temptation to ask her to design your book cover. Sure, it might save you money upfront to use a relative, but will cost you dearly in sales down the road. Good book cover design takes someone who knows publishing standards and traditions. It also takes someone who can understand the core message and tone of your book and turn that into a single compelling image. This is very difficult. Hire a professional who can make your book look like it belongs on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, not an amateur who will mark your book as such.