Designing Eye-Catching Book Covers

by Mack E. Smith and Sara Freeman Smith

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"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do " - John Wooden

Make no mistake about this fact. Your book will be judged by its cover! If someone sees your book on a shelf, you have less than 30 seconds to sell it. Thatís right. Your book cover is a significant sales tool. Often, it is your most important sales aid in a bookstore. Since you only have a few seconds to impress the customer, you must invest time, energy, and/or money on this sales effort. If you have the budget dollars to afford this, a graphic artist experienced in designing book covers is recommended.

Front Cover Tips

The front cover title of your book should stand out from the rest of the print. A subtitle should be used to further describe the subject matter of the book. For example, our book Turning Stones Into Gems could be confused with a book on jewelry or science. However, the subtitle, An Inspirational Self-Development Syster, clarifies the purpose of the book by describing the subject matter of the book. The front cover should also include the name of the author and couldhave a strong endorsement or the name of a prestigious award.

Use Contrast

Contrast helps to get your book noticed. Examples of and suggestions for contrast are as follows:

  • Use lighter background with darker color type or darker background with lighter color type.
  • Use different type (font ) and styles for the title and subtitle.
  • Use combinations of upper and lower case letters.
  • Use regular type, italic and bold type face combinations.

Back Cover Tips

The back cover should contain the benefits of the book, endorsements and/or testimonials, the book subject category, bar code, ISBN, name, address and phone number of publisher, price of book, and website address (if available).

Spine

For many books, the spine is the first thing a consumer will see on the shelf. The title and the authorís name should be bold and easy to read. Use a simple and easy to read font. No need to get too fancy here because the human eye may not focus on it well; you just lost a potential buyer. If your publisher logo is eye catching use it. It is not necessary to print the full company name here, depending on the thickness of the spine.

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Other Tips

Research other books in your category or genre

Visit a bookstore to browse different books for ideas. Some printers have design templets or samples that you can review and select. For a fee, some also may have custom design services. The extra time and effort you spend on your book cover can mean the difference between success and failure

Design your book to be noticed

Try using different sizes, graphics, font, colors, and etc. after researching other books in your genre. If you have a great endorsement, award or review, consider putting it on the front cover. Your book usually should be compatible with other books in same genre. For example, a paperback romance novel has a standard format, size, front cover, and etc. You would not expect to see a paperback romance novel without a picture on the front or in a size 8.5x11. However, sometimes an odd size will get your book noticed and enhance sales. Our point is you have to use good judgment but donít be afraid to test the waters. If you are trying sometime totally radical, you might start with a short run of books first. If you are satisfied with the response, then you can print more books the next time. You will spend a little more money this way, but you could save a lot too if the response to your book idea was not favorable.

Use full or four color process covers

Color attracts attention and thatís what you want. Although color is more expensive, this can be money well spent. The difference in sales can more than justify the additional expense of full color. Sometimes a black and white or two-color cover can work just as good as a full color cover. For example, if you are selling your book in seminars, people may be more interested in the information than the packaging.

Keep it simple and avoid clutter

If your book is on a shelf, the title should be easy to read from a distance. The theme of the cover should be easy to understand. Loading the cover with too many graphics and words will probably prompt a browser to move on to another book. So keep it simple but make it grab their attention.

Design a cover that fits your audience

If you are producing a cookbook, your cover should have food. If your book is on fishing, it might help to have a picture of a fish on the cover. If you are writing a romance novel, a sensuous picture of a man and woman on the cover would not hurt. Our point is you should use common sense. Get a feel for book covers in your bookís genre. Look for ideas from some of the bestsellers. Also, remember women buy the majority of books, whether for themselves or for a man. Make sure your cover grabs the attention of a women if you want them to but it.

A good book cover designer is worth the expense

Donít take lightly the value of a book cover. Expect to pay from $500 to $2,000. Some publishers have oil paintings done from which they run prints for the cover. Expect to spend five figures when you get this elaborate. Self-publishers donít need to spend this kind of money to be successful. However, using Uncle Willie or Cousin Pookie to design your cover may not get you the results you need.

Our graphic designer listened to our ideas on a cover concept. She also read our galleys before she designed drafts of the cover. She knew what size font to use on the spine based on the number of pages in our book. She knew which printers were good with color separation. She had the latest software and an arsenal of graphic tools. She saved us a lot of time and trouble because she specialized in book covers. She was well worth the investment we made in our book covers.

When you are proud of the appearance of your book, it shows when you talk about it. People can see and hear your enthusiasm. You may have a great book, but if you hate the cover you may reflect your dissatisfaction or frustration when you are promoting your book. This is not to say you are guaranteed success because you have a great cover. However, great covers sell books. What's inside the book counts more but a well design cover gets the reader to pick up your book from the self. If you plan to sell your book in bookstores, you need to take the book cover seriously.

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