Everyone does it, you go online, or walk through a bookstore, if the cover doesn’t look interesting to you nine times out of ten you’re not going to take a second look. As the first thing the reader sees, a book cover has to grab his or her attention, and show and accurate portrayal of the story. If your book isn’t equipped with a simple, eye catching, masterpiece that adequately describes itself, most people will just walk by without even taking a moment to read the blurb on the back.
Here are a few tips to make that cover shine and intrigue those picky readers.
My Top 10 Tips to a Better Cover
- Keep it simple.
While your literary work of art may have several things going on, the cover shouldn’t. A strong, simple cover will catch the eye of a reader, where a complex or cluttered one may not. If there is too much going on, it can get confusing for the reader.
- Consider the e-book thumbnail.
Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, etc… All online retailers with books, show lists of what they have to offer. The reader will first encounter your cover in the small, thumbnail size. That thumbnail needs to be as clear and eye-catching as the full sized cover, to ensure the reader can see it, and will want to click on it.
- Don’t show too much of your main character.
How many times have you watched a movie based on a book and the leading cast is nothing like how you pictured the book’s characters to be? You risk doing the same thing by putting your character’s faces on your covers. You may know exactly what you want your main character to look like, but most readers want to use their imagination. By keeping some of the details off of your cover, you allow the reader to make their own determination.
- Don’t pick a specific scene.
As tempting as it might be to put that crucial scene as your cover, it’s usually not a good idea. Without any context, the cover isn’t going to have meaning to the reader or the entire story. The cover is the first thing the reader sees. Try to keep view of the story as a whole in terms of design.
- Consider the Fonts.
Stick with easier to read fonts that clearly show each letter. It can be print or cursive, and it can include little details, just steer clear of the elaborate fonts, while they are pretty to look at, most times, they are harder to read. Picking fonts without the extra details are more likely to grab the reader’s attention more than fonts they struggle to decipher, especially in smaller thumbnail views. (See number two)
- Branding your cover for a series.
If your story is set in a series, your covers need branded as such. A good rule of thumb is to keep the covers along the same theme. Each book will have differences but should have the same feel. Also, make sure you clearly indicate the series name and book number on the cover and it’s a good idea to place the series number in the spine so the reader can find it easily on a shelf. If possible, try to stick with the same designer throughout the series. Each designer has his or her own technique and view, so it’s difficult to get the same style when using more than one. If changing your designer is unavoidable, make sure to find a designer with a similar style to get a close match.
- Be picky. Find a designer you’re comfortable with.
The designer is the one person that gives a literal picture to your writing. It’s good to take your time and find one that you are comfortable with, not only to discuss ideas, but that you can be open and honest with.
Part of being comfortable with your designer is being able to communicate with them. If you don’t like something, you should be able to tell them. They need to know what you’re thinking in order to give you the great design you’ve been envisioning.
- Decided to do your own cover design? Invest in quality programs.
Even if you’re a whiz with the Paint program on your computer, cover design requires blending, being able to place layers freely so you can edit and move them as needed, and special effects that may not otherwise be available to you. If you plan to do your own design, invest in a quality program such as Adobe Creative Suite, and learn the features of it.
- Know the technical stuff.
There are a few technical guidelines you should take into consideration when designing your cover. If you plan to sell printed books, you will require a full cover with the front, spine, and back in certain formats for printing purposes. Images should be high resolution, and be wary when choosing them. Due to copyright laws, submitting images that do not belong to you can result in delay of production, or even legal action. To avoid infringement, use photo’s you’ve taken yourself, or purchase royalty free stock images which you can find on various websites.
These are my top ten tips. I hope you find them helpful. What do you look for in a cover when browsing for a new book? What are some good or bad things you’ve come across in your search or in your own experience?