Your book cover is your first impression. It’s your marketing, your advertising and your promotion all rolled into one and if your cover is poorly done or unprofessional or even if it doesn’t match the current conventions for the genre you are writing in it will most certainly impact your sales. If your book isn’t selling the way you had hoped, then the very first thing you need to do is take a hard look at your book cover.
If anyone ever says to you, “It’s art, there are no rules,” they are wrong. It’s not art, it’s your book cover design and there are rules and guidelines that should be followed for every book, for every genre, to get the results you need to get from your cover.
Keeping it simple
Nothing will confuse your readers more than a cover designed around a concept or symbolism from your book that only you understand. You shouldn’t need to explain your cover to people. The goal of your cover isn’t to deliver a message it is simply, at its cover, supposed to get people to pick up your book and want to know more. If they need to read your book to understand your cover then your cover isn’t doing its job. Your cover doesn’t need to tell the story, that’s what the book is for. It doesn’t even need to make them wonder what’s going to happen, that’s what the description is for. Your cover simply needs to be beautiful enough to get people to pick it up (or click on it), flip it over and read the description.
Stick with a style that people will recognize as a genre or type of book they like to read. If you go to Amazon right now and look at the bestselling books in your genre you’ll notice that the majority of the covers all have a particular style. Whether the reader knows it or not, that style becomes a visual cue that that is the type of book they enjoy reading. If you try to be cute, unique or quirky with your cover you are going to risk the chance that people won’t recognize it as the type or genre of book they enjoy and therefore they won’t even bother picking it up to see. Keep your cover recognizable. Do some research before settling on a design idea so you know and understand the style of other covers in your genre.
Your cover should immediately evoke emotion from your potential readers. It should convey the overall mood of the story and/or genre of the book. If your book is gothic and dark and full of angst and drama then a photo of a happy, smiling person on a bright sunny day is hardly an appropriate cover and will mislead people into thinking your book is about something it isn’t. Think about the setting, the emotion and the mood and not a specific scene when you’re coming up with ideas for your cover.
You don’t need to beat your readers over the head with information. Most readers are intelligent people. It’s not necessary to repeat themes or information on your cover, in fact this wastes valuable space that can be used for other things. If, for example, your book is about a werewolf, it’s not necessary for the artwork, title, subtitle and tagline to all have “werewolf” in them. If your subtitle is “The Werewolf Chronicles” people will understand that this book is about werewolves. Make your cover beautiful and compelling but don’t get stuck on the theme to the extent that it takes away from the cover’s job of making people pick up the book. Many authors get so immersed in their original idea for a cover that it’s hard for them to see past it. Always keep an open mind and listen to your designer. If you’ve chosen the right one they will know what the best cover for your book is better than you do. It’s their job, they have the experience and the knowledge, and if they don’t, then don’t hire them in the first place.
You’ve probably heard people say that your cover needs to read at thumbnail size. In this case “read” doesn’t mean that the title and author name need to be readable at that size, what it means is your cover has to have the right amount of pop and contrast for people to see it and be compelled by it at that size to want to click on it to read the description. Unless you have a following of readers that are looking specifically for the title or name (and if you do, chances are they aren’t searching Amazon for it, they already know it’s out and how to get it), it doesn’t really matter if they can read your title at that size, or your name.
Remember that no one has read the book yet when they see your cover for the first time so it doesn’t matter to them that the dress described as pink in the book is blue on the cover (unless it’s a major plot point). Hair color, eye color, those types of things should be as close as possible to the character you are portraying but by the time people have read your book to find out that the heroine is wearing a blue dress not a pink one on the cover it won’t matter because they will have already bought and read your book. And isn’t that what you are going for?
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!
Joshua Jadon is a book cover designer for New York Times and internationally bestselling authors. His mission is solely to create eye-catching book cover designs that significantly increase the amount of copies each author sells. This aim is accomplished by ensuring that there is always something special in each book cover that catches the interests of potential readers. Find out more at http://www.joshuajadon.com.