We’re all guilty of judging a book by the cover. As authors, we appreciate the elements of design, the intrigue a good cover can create, and the story that it tells… up until we have to do it ourselves. It’s like we’ve forgotten everything that we need to do.
We have an idea but we need to confirm a few things before moving forward. Mastering your book cover is a critical step in the book development process – it’s the first thing a potential reader sees. Your cover gets them in the door. It tickles their curiosity, creates intrigue, and pulls them in to find out more. It’s the first impression a reader will get about your book.
Whether you’re going to ask someone else to design your cover, purchase a template from some website, or do it yourself, make sure you check these steps before pressing the print button.
1 – Make sure your cover is on genre
This is one of the easiest steps in the process. All genres have a general theme with their book covers – it tells a potential reader what they’re going to find inside. If you aren’t sure about this, just scroll through Amazon’s top lists per genre. You’ll have a good idea of what you need to do to fit into that category by book cover alone.
Determine your number one category for what you want your book to trigger in a potential reader’s mind. Consider how your cover will convey genre while still being unique and drawing attention rather than blending in with the crowd.
2 – Font styles
I love a fancy font as much as the next person, but there are some fonts out there that are not meant to be on book covers. Not only should your font convey genre, you also need to think about whether that design is readable.
Take a look at the top categories on Amazon again. Understand what types of fonts are used consistently, or at least what style of font is used, and make sure you’re telling the reader through visuals what your book is about.
3 – Images or colors
The next step is finding an image that sticks to genre. There are a ton of DIY or simple photo resources out there to pick your own, but carefully consider what your capabilities are if you choose this route. If you have a fantasy book but can’t draw or create magic or fire or creatures, you might want to look into hiring someone to design your cover or finding one that is already created.
Colors are a huge piece of the puzzle too. Consider the romance genre which is full of bright colors and popping scenery. Horror will be darker and bleaker. Young Adult fantasy and paranormal often involves dual or tri-tone themes with a character featured.
4 – Think icon-sized
While your cover blown up in great detail looks amazing, that’s not typically the first thing people see (obviously, that is the first thing they see in a bookstore, but consider where people are shopping at the moment). When a reader is scrolling on Amazon, they’re only going to see a small icon. It’s important that you convey genre… and that it’s readable. If the font (or graphics) are too small to accurately determine the image or title, people are going to pass. Make sure your book cover looks good in all sizes.
5 – Think consistently over a series
If your book is going to be a series, or there’s a possibility that some day in the future you’ll want to continue the story, it’s crucial to find a designer that has a package of book covers. Creating a consistent theme across your books helps tell readers that you have a series and that they are all related.
If you’re doing it on your own, make sure the cover model you’re using has multiple photos that can be used in the future. You can be consistent through images, design, font, and even color, just make sure it’s replicable yet distinguished from the other books in the series.
6 – Test with your readers
Hey, they’re the ones buying your book. You might consider option A as your favorite, but if your readers are begging for option B… you might want to listen.
Give your loyal readers an option to vote on a cover or provide input. Test out covers on social media, share with your newsletter or Patrons, or find a site to AB test each cover. There’s a bit more marketing strategy involved, but in the end you’ll be providing a cover that your readers really want.
Even better, if a reader or follower feels like they’ve contributed to your project in some way, that connection will increase the chances that person will buy your book.
Share some of your favorite covers in the comments!
Laura Winter is a self-published author dedicated to helping your authorpreneur journey. She has launched her books on little to no budget to prove you don’t have to invest an exorbitant amount of money to be successful. Find her fiction work on Amazon, Patreon, and join her tribe.