Quick Book Cover Tip

by | May 15, 2009 | Book Marketing Basics

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Remember the old rule of thumb was that your cover had to be viewable from twelve feet away and while that’s still true there’s another thing to consider when getting your cover designed. Complicated, intricate images, while they may translate well for the actual cover size, they don’t work well for the smaller images you see on sites like Amazon. With the ever-shrinking window of placement opportunity in bookstores more and more shoppers are going online to find their books. Consequently, if your book cover doesn’t translate well into a thumb nail image you could be losing sales. People do judge a book by its cover and if a potential reader can’t see it, they likely won’t buy it.


  1. Saoirse Redgrave

    Very good point about cover design. I’ve told folks to try to imagine people at a venue they’d like to sell at–as the potential buyer approaches in a crowd. What does the author WANT the first impression of their book to be and will it look clear to someone scanning tables at a convention? Often in book covers, clear = simple. This, too, translates to the title and book spine. In bookstores, most books really get spine-only attention. Is your title sharp enough (and smart enough) to look clear, professional and get someone to tug it free from the shelf of its competitors?

  2. Penny

    Great point Saoirse! Thank you for sharing it with our blog readers!

  3. Loretta

    I’m working on my hubby’s book right now and haven’t done the cover yet… good points to consider here. I’m curious about color on the cover…. are there any colors that we should avoid?

  4. Penny

    Hey Loretta, I think a good rule of thumb is to find the color scheme for your market. There are certain colors that do best depending on the genre – yellow for example is perfect for reference but not so good for fiction. Lavender/teal/sage tend to be strong New Age colors, but too soft for a biz title. Make sense?

  5. Rekaya

    I appreciate the reminder.

    Thank you.

  6. Vickie Mullins

    I keep seeing book stores come up as the ruler to use when designing a cover. Remember, not all books are meant for book stores. Back of the room sales, special market sales and boutique retailers are all distribution channels as well and may, or may not need to have the covers designed by the same criteria.

  7. Penny

    Good point, Vickie!

  8. Tina McAllister

    Great point! It goes without saying that book covers should appeal to your reading market…but the point of it being viewable as a thumbnail is definitely a good one! And, as Vickie points out – there may be different sales situations…A good cover designer will think of these things – where it will be sold, to what audience, etc. and design the cover with those things in mind, but many writers are designing their own covers these days and may forget to take these things into account.

  9. Michelle Hartz Armstrong

    I followed this advice and my cover of the book I’m doing has really turned out well. The author and I went back and fourth a few times on what to do and after reading this I just did what I felt was best and we both loved it when I was done. Thank you so much for the advice. I’m new to the illustration world, this is only my second book so I love all the advice I can get.

  10. outpost101

    Excellent advice. I will keep it in mind. Thank you Penny.

  11. Penny

    You’re very welcome – good luck with your work!

  12. Bobbie Hinman

    I have found that with children’s picture books, it’s not only crucial to have the main character appear on the cover, but this character must be so appealing that children will fall in love immediately. Young children can’t read the title, so you have to rely on the cover to make children want to read the book.

  13. Penny

    hey Bobbie, that’s an excellent point!

  14. Bernie

    Penny, just had this conversation with a client this week. Her designer made a “Cool” cover that was unreadable unless the book was blown up to poster size and you had a magnifying glass.

    The images may get the attention, but the copy drives desire to purchase. You have just a few seconds to make your case.


    Bernie Malonson

  15. Phyllis K Twombly

    My self-publisher designs the cover but asks for author input. We took the first ho-hum design of ‘Martian Divides’ and turned it into eye candy by changing the day sky to a night sky with a galaxy swirl. We got rid of the toy spaceship too, although somehow Amazon and a few other online retailers got the wrong thumbnail. They’ll make the correction, we just don’t know when. There’s also an eagle on the cover which is almost unnoticeable in the smaller size.

  16. Mary Jane Hurley Brant

    Right on with this one, Penny, that’s why I choose such a powerful angel for When Every Day Matters. She makes her statement big and small.

  17. Penny

    Good choice, Mary Jane — stunning image!

  18. Jennifer L Hart

    This is so valid! I’m super glad Wild Child Publishing put the Laundry Hag cover in all the neons of Vegas! Burns right into the ol’ crebral cortex!

  19. Lisa Pelto

    Excellent points, we routinely shrink the cover down to about 1-1/2″ while designing. I also suggest converting it to black and white to make sure it will work in the newspaper… and finally, remember that a white cover on the backlit background of a website such as Amazon will require you to put a border on it (otherwise, it will just be a design floating in thin air.

  20. Penny C Sansevieri

    Great ideas Lisa, thanks for sharing them on our blog! Penny

  21. Lanette Ziobro

    Wow… Really interesting post! I do believe that having a great book cover design is paramount to any business’s success!

    Have a fantastic day!

    PS: Keep these great posts comming… (By the way… I had just subscribed to your newsfeed)



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