Have you spent countless hours writing a book but cringe at the thought of designing a cover? Here are some cover design tips and tricks.
Book covers sell books. Period<br
Whoever said, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” was wrong. Maybe it should go, “You know you do but you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”. Millions of people every year pickup books on bookstore shelves and spend about 15 seconds total looking at the spine, front, and back cover sections of a book cover before making the decision to put it back or to continue checking it out. The longer they have the book in hand, the more likely they are to purchase the book.
Don’t neglect or trivialize designing the cover.
Traditionally writers tend to put all their efforts into writing the book and ignore the cover. I’m not saying everyone does but many of them do and I’ve personally seen many books on bookstore shelves with horrible covers that testify to that fact. I can understand why though, after having spent massive amounts of time writing the content of their books, it almost seems like a trivial task for a writer to wrap it with a cover. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and a good cover takes care and planning and that attitude will lead to sloppy, poor covers. Really think about your book and who the target audience is. Take some time; don’t rush to go to print. Knowing who you want to sell this book to will give you some insight into how to sell it to them.
Practice makes perfect.
The cover is such an important sales piece for your book that it is worth spending your time and, perhaps, money to get it right. A good way of doing that is to make up some test cover sheets on your computer. These include the front cover, spine, and rear cover information like a single wrap around cover. Print these out and you can wrap them around any book like you did in school to see how they look. Here is a brief list of tips for what to include when making a test cover sheet:
- Front cover: Choose a good working title and subtitle. Do not get too wordy with the title. Keep it short. Make the subtitle as descriptive as possible without going overboard. Choose a very highly regarded member of your books field of interest and list them for the foreword. At some point later in the process, you will try to get them to write the foreword for you (see endorsements below in the back cover section). Make sure any graphics on the cover are crisp, clean, and preferably related to the subject manner somehow otherwise make them neutral. Make sure all text is readable if overlayed onto background graphics.
- Spine: This is, most often, the very first thing a potential buyer in a bookstore sees about your book. It needs to be very readable so choose a bolded sans-serif font. Make the font readable in a vertical format since people don’t like to strain their necks to read book titles.
- Back cover: Typically, this is where a potential buyer spends the most amount of time looking before making a decision to put your book back on the shelf or not. Even then, they only look for about 8 – 10 seconds. Your back cover really needs to be hot. Graphics here should follow the same advice I gave for the front cover although there is generally less space for large designs on the back cover as there is on the front. More about art a little later.
- Title: This is the first thing on the back cover that “grabs” a potential buyer. Do NOT repeat your title here. That is way too boring. If someone has picked the book up, they already know the title from the spine and front cover. Make sure it is somehow related to the content however. i.e. “Looking to make millions of dollars?”
- Sales pitch: This is basically up to a max of four lines of description of what your book is about.
- Promises: Right below the sales pitch, put a bulleted list of what the reader will get from reading your book. Don’t lie, of course. Make sure you are targeting your readership with these. i.e. You will learn all about how to do something…increase your websites hits by…Master the basics of…etc.
- Endorsements: Pick two or three top names in the field of interest for your book and stick them in here. Later you’ll track them down and ask them to write them for you. Much has been written about getting endorsements so I won’t cover it here but keep this in mind: giving endorsements has almost as much positive effect as getting them. What that means is its free advertising for the expert who writes your endorsement so don’t be afraid to ask: they’re getting something out of it too.
- Author! Author: Put in a few lines, no more than four, about yourself and why you’re a leading authority on the book’s subject. Don’t go overboard but don’t sell yourself short. You’re an expert in the chosen subject almost be default for writing a book about it unless you made everything up.
- The closer: Just short of the ISBN number, barcode, and price is the closer. This is a single line statement in bold typeface telling potential buyers that they need to buy this book…to enable them to…or will allow them to….etc… basically; you’re asking the potential buyer to buy your book.
- ISBN: Lastly, at the bottom of the back cover goes the ISBN & barcode along with the cover price. Don’t worry about the ISBN and barcode, just make sure you leave enough room for it.
A note about cover art.
Cover artwork over the years has advanced greatly due to the advent of powerful, relatively available graphics software that most people can use to some degree to put out attractive artwork. A lot of writers are not graphic artists or even good with stick figures but it’s my feeling that slick cover art plays a very important part in attracting a buyer and shouldn’t be neglected. If you stink at artwork, find someone who doesn’t. It’s worth the effort.
Make sure any artwork that will serve as a background isn’t too distracting as it will take away from the impact of the title. You can incorporate your title and subtitle into the artwork as long as they remain legible. Make sure you resist the temptation to use artwork from the internet without first knowing what the licensing for the artwork allows. It wouldn’t do to send your book off to print only to find out 1,000 copies later that you are being served with a cease-and-desist letter or worse, a lawsuit.
Try to make the artwork related to the books subject in some way. Otherwise, make sure it’s totally neutral i.e. abstract patterns, solid colors etc… Don’t pick artwork that has cryptic meanings or relations to the subject matter as your readers aren’t likely to get it.
Ok, I made a test cover sheet. Now what?
Try several different versions of your test cover sheets. Mix up the graphics and wording (i.e. different titles, subtitles, colors, artwork, patterns, etc…) and have people, preferably not related to you or your best friends, look at them all and pick the ones that grab them the most. Go to the large bookstores and book websites and really look at other books in your same category to see what kinds of covers styles they’re using but more importantly, see what keywords they’re using to sell. Don’t be afraid to poke around on the internet to get advice from publishers and authors alike. They are almost always willing to help.
So that’s it for now. Not a definitive guide to creating book covers by far but rather just a little helpful advice. You spent so much time and effort writing your book, spend as much time and effort putting a cover on it. It will pay for itself.