How to Design a Book Cover: 3 Tips for Eye-Catching Book Cover Design

marketing self publishing
How to Design a Book Cover: 3 Tips for Eye Catching Book Cover Design

We’re all familiar with the advice to “never judge a book by its cover,” but whether you like it or not, we all judge books by their covers. Aside from recommendations by friends and family, book covers are what readers use to determine whether or not to pick up a book when browsing through a bookstore.

If you're a traditionally published author, you may have little, if any, say in what the front cover of your book looks like. If you're self-published, however, it's up to you to design a cover that will stand out to potential readers.  So how can self-published authors design a book cover that will grab readers’ attention? That’s exactly what we’ll discuss in today’s post.

Why does book cover design matter?

Whether your novel is a print book or an ebook, its cover is your most important and powerful marketing tool. They can make or break your sales, so it's important to have a cover that's well-designed for your genre and the type of book you're writing. It's not about just putting a pretty image on the front and creating a cover you find appealing. While there are some design software programs that can help anyone create a book cover, if you are not familiar with the process, then your best option would be to hire a professional.

How to design a book cover

Your book cover design should match the book's genre

Consider genre and subgenre expectations. If your cover doesn’t accurately portray the genre/subgenre of your book, readers are not likely going to pick it up, even if your book is amazing. Research and look at other books published in your genre. What do the covers look like? Think about popular trends you’ve seen in books and what elements were included. What are the reader’s expectations for these books? For example, most romance novels have a couple on the cover, usually gazing into each other’s eyes. When readers–especially romance readers–pick up a book with this cover, they’re expecting a love story to be the central plot, not a gruesome horror or a murder mystery.

Another thing to keep in mind as you research and work with a designer for your book is to make sure your cover clearly shows the genre your book is in. If your cover is confusing and readers cannot tell at a quick glance what genre it belongs in, they’ll likely pass over it and not pick it up. Even if your book contains elements from multiple genres, think of the main genre your story falls under and make sure your cover aligns with that.

Hire a professional book cover designer

In order to make your cover as effective as it can be, you’ll want to hire a professional designer. Once you’ve done your research and are familiar with the genre expectations for your book, you can look for designers on sites like Reedsy or 99 Designs, or ask for referrals from other writers. Look through the portfolios of potential designers to see if they design covers in your genre and if you like their designs.

When working with a cover designer, a few things you want to think about before hiring them to design your cover are:

  • Collaboration: Can you communicate and work well with this designer? Do they share your vision for the design? Are they open to feedback and making changes?
  • Experience: How much experience do they have working with authors or creating covers? Designers with less experience tend to be more affordable, but you may end up working with someone without a proven track record yet, so weigh your options carefully.
  • Price: Can you afford them? Do they have any packages or services in your budget?
  • Timeframe: Are they available to complete the project by the time you need the cover? Many designers—especially ones with more experience—have busy schedules and are booked months in advance, so try to find one several months before your book’s release. Once you find a designer you like, try to get on their schedule as soon as possible.

Keep your book design simple

For a more professional look, you’ll want your cover to be clean and simple. If there are too many things in the image or too many competing elements, your cover will look cluttered and messy. Don’t try to create a specific scene from your book as this can be difficult or near impossible to create without it feeling cluttered, even for the best designers. Instead, use the cover to capture and convey the tone or theme of your book. And don't forget, your book's back cover is also a part of the design!

When shopping for books online, your cover image will be smaller. Your front cover needs to look good as a thumbnail and in full size. You want to make sure the text on the cover is still legible in the thumbnail size and the cover doesn’t look too busy or cluttered. This is especially true for ebook covers!

Bonus tip: Collect feedback on your cover

Before you finalize your cover with your designer, it’s helpful to get feedback from other authors and also readers who read your genre. You can create a small beta test group of readers online who will see the cover early and give feedback on their initial impressions and whether the cover fits your genre. Consider asking subscribers in your email newsletter if they’d like to be part of the beta group. If you use Facebook, there are cover design groups that you can post in and get feedback from as well, but be careful not to post the cover in a public forum, group, or social page online. You want to keep the cover a surprise for the general audience until the reveal day.

Ready to create an eye-catching book cover?

One final thing to remember, especially if you’ve already published a book with a cover that doesn’t quite portray your genre or tone of the story, is you’re not necessarily stuck with that cover. Books and series get new covers all the time, whether in traditional publishing or self-publishing. Even when a book series does very well, sometimes the covers get redesigned to draw in new readers that the new covers will appeal to more than the old ones.

If done well, your book cover will become your most effective marketing material. If you use the tips above to find a good cover designer and collaborate with them, you’ll end up with an eye-catching cover that readers will love.

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