What You Need To Know About Designing A Book Cover

book_covers_size8As much as we’re taught in elementary school not to judge a book by its cover, every adult knows that we all do exactly that when deciding on a new book to read. Even if all we’re looking for is the Oprah Book Club sticker, what goes on the front of a book is incredibly important and can be a useful tool for getting people interested in your writing.

Last week we told you about great places to get clip art and stock photography — this week we’ll gives you some tips on what to think about when you’re designing your own cover with that photography!

[image credit: The Wheeler Centre]

  • Make sure your cover is readable in a small form. Whether you want to put together an ebook version or a print version of your book, odds are that the image on your cover is going to get made into a thumbnail on an online bookstore, and you want it to be readable. If users can’t read the title of your book when browsing, they might move on without giving you a chance.
  • Pick a focal point. If you want an image to take center stage on your cover, then make sure that it’s not competing for space with the typography. Similarly, if you want your words to be the most prominent element, don’t distract your audience with a large image.
  • Choose something that fits the mood of your book. Are you writing a nonfiction guide to relaxation? Then you probably won’t want to put red or yellow on your cover, which are both too stimulating to the eye and might not evoke the calm and serenity that you’d need to sell your book. The same holds true for the imagery you use. Let’s say a swingset features heavily in the plot of your book and you want to put an image of one on the cover — but your book is a psychological thriller. You’d better find a very creepy swingset for your cover, or it runs the risk of misleading the reader and looking ridiculous!
  • Be consistent. If you’re publishing a series of books, you want all the covers to look similar to one another so that they’ll fit together as a cohesive unit. Just think — would the Twilight series or 50 Shades books be dominating bookshelves in brick-and-mortar bookstores if they didn’t look so polished as a set?
  • Don’t go overboard. Picking a focal point probably helps you here, but even if you have a strong focus, it might be tempting to add a whole lot of gradient effects and other nifty photoshop tools. Don’t. Less is more sometimes, and if you bombard the reader with too many visual cues, your cover will look busy at best and unprofessional at worst.
  • Be abstract. Sometimes a little bit of intrigue is great for getting readers hooked. To go back to Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey — the covers of those books are extremely striking, more so than they would have been if the designers had decided to go with images of vampires and handcuffs instead of apples and an elaborate tie, respectively (50 Shades apparently saved the handcuffs for a sequel, after the books had already gained some notoriety!). Choose an image for the cover that is related to your theme, but not too on the nose. Writing about medieval England? Maybe a single shield or coat of arms would be more interesting than a huge castle landscape.
  • Take your cue from other books. Particularly when you’re writing genre fiction, it’s important to take a look at what’s popular in the genre you’re writing in. Romance novels, for example, have a very specific style that makes them easy to spot in bookstores; the same holds true for mystery and for science fiction books. Figure out how you want your book to be categorized and research what some of the bestselling covers in that genre look like to get some ideas.

And, of course, if all of this seems like too much work, you can hire a freelance graphic designer to help you with your cover! Once the Bookworks website launches, you’ll be able to search through our curated resource list to find just the right designer for you and your book.

Good luck!