Even before you are ready to publish your book, you have likely thought about how you want your front cover to look. However, before you can decide on the right book cover design you should have a complete and polished manuscript in front of you. Whether you design the cover and select a binding type yourself or work with a professional, you might want to become familiar with industry standards and guidelines, and take advantage of free tips offered by the experts. After all, the ultimate goal is to get your book into the hands of receptive readers who will be watching and waiting for your next book!
How to Create Front Book Covers That Sell Books
Understand Your Genre
You wrote the book or at least know exactly what you're publishing for someone else. You know which category or genre the book you're about to publish fits into, but you also need to understand the myriad and minute differences between overlapping genres, and how some books share elements of various genres. For example, thrillers and detective stories could potentially be marketed either way, but one way will sell more books than the other.
Know Your Audience
Make sure your readers know they will find what they're looking for inside your book by looking at the outside—especially the front cover. Historical fiction and romance may seem similar, and perhaps your book is a bit of a crossover between the two. However, readers looking for epic stories about historical moments or eras will be disappointed if your novel about Hitler's reign is really more about Hitler's relationship with his niece Geli, a woman he purportedly said he could marry. If your book is based on Hitler's attempts to take over the world, don't put a picture of Geli and Uncle Alf holding hands on the cover of your book! Make sure your book cover accurately reflects what your book is about so readers get what they're looking for.
Follow Industry Standards
The "rules" for book covers pertain to font, text hierarchy, contrast, and the like. Design more than one front cover and set up a reader poll to help you select the final design. You don't have to use the cover that wins your poll. However, if you do conduct a poll, you'll receive valuable feedback about what you're trying to sell, who's most likely to buy it, how to reach your intended audience, and ultimately increase sales.
Include Subtle and Not-So-Subtle Details
Subtle design elements include hints about your book's plot, characters, and tone. Use dark colors and ominous images for your horror tale, or spare images and simple fonts for a literary novel. The not-so-subtle details are what create that "WOW!" factor and make people want to buy and read your book. Think of Jack Nicholson's grotesque face splashed on the cover of Stephen King's blockbuster The Shining; wow! Right?
Work with a Professional
Consider collaborating with a design professional. Look for someone with a proven track record who has designed front book covers that appeal to you. A good book cover designer will attempt to combine designs they already know sell books with cutting-edge artistic elements to attract 21st-century readers. They'll also listen to you but override you if your ideas are just not right. Don't be offended; we can't all be good at everything!
Now that you have a few tips for designing your book cover and selecting a binding type, check out The Pocket Guide to Publishing for more information about covers, bindings, and overall production and design. This FREE, downloadable, PDF guide contains a wealth of tips and instructions for publishing your first—or your next—book.