Let’s be honest, if you don’t judge a book by its cover, well, there’s not a lot else to go on. A short blurb, some reviewers’ comments, perhaps reading the first line or paragraph or two will give you an idea. But ultimately, a well-designed book cover will help to sell your book.
Unfortunately, in a crowded book publishing market, many self-published books are easy to spot – from their poor covers. Having a professionally designed cover can really make a difference to how your book is perceived – does it look cheap and nasty and amateurish, or does it ooze quality? Consider your own reaction to a book – does the cover catch your eye; do you want to pick it up and explore further; does it convey what the book is about? If none of these things, the sale is already lost.
This same principle applies just as much to e-books as to printed books – it’s all about perceived quality and helping the potential reader make the purchasing decision. In some ways though, the popularity of the e-book concept has meant that printed books have to work that bit harder – if they are going to sit on your bookcase and take up space, they need to look good. This concept is taken even further with the coffee table-style book – its purpose is as much decorative as the relevance of the content.
Keep it simple
Some books work well with a strong image or illustration – others sit quite happily with a more typographical approach – with all though the aim is to encourage the potential reader to explore further, to pick up the book and/or buy it. Simple generally works best and can be really powerful – if the cover is too busy, there are too many competing ideas or themes that just end up crowding each other out. Avoid using too many colours, and don’t be afraid of space – space is what gives the elements of the book’s design room to work. Similarly, the title needs to be readable – don’t be tempted to use an obscure typeface that you think looks hip; it needs to be functional and also scalable – can it be read in a thumbnail, as this is how it will be seen online?
You will notice that the better book covers for novels tend to avoid specific photographs of people. This is because a novel relies on the reader’s imagination, and if you have shown what the main character looks like on the front cover, then it spoils the effect. Instead, go for something abstract or location based. Think also about the genre of your book – are you trying to portray your book as a thriller, romantic fiction, or crime novel – keep it in line with readers’ expectations.
But perhaps the best thing to do is to look at your bookcase – or go to a bookshop – and see what works for you. What catches your eye? Which book covers make you curious? Which ones just look so beautiful that you think ‘I must own that book’? Consider what elements of those book designs work and what you would like to emulate. It’s fine to communicate these to your designer – this will help them create what you’re after for your book.
A good investment
Ultimately a professional cover will make a real difference to how your book looks and the impression given to potential readers. It will probably cost less than you expect, but paying for a cover design may well be the best investment you make in your literary pride and joy.