You Absolutely Can (and do!) Judge a Book By Its Cover

So, book covers. Who cares, right?


My debut novel hits the market later this year, and in this whole process of birthing my story to life with many laborious hours of love, I never once considered what my baby would look like.

And then I had to give some ideas to a designer to hammer out a compelling cover. First, I was all over the board. My book is a bit complex in that it takes place in the present and in the past, is a love story but also contains some urban fantasy components. Oh, and murder. I wanted to capture all that, and my very sweet, talented, and accommodating cover designer made up a few mocks around the ideas I sent her way. The final product was beautiful, and I was tickled pink that it conveyed every component I wanted it to.

Then I showed my critique partner. She brought up a few concerns, which got me thinking. Sharing those thoughts with my designer, we decided together to start over. The final product is miles away from my original concept. It hints at themes I initially wanted to be more overt about but is clean, crisp, and conveys just enough mystery to (hopefully) make it catch some eyes. This process took place over a couple of weeks, and I remember spending a great deal of mental energy stressing over it. It’s amazing that I get to have so much say in its design, but it’s also a huge responsibility.

This process, along with most every experience I’ve had since stepping out and pursuing publication, has been highly educational for me. I wanted to pass on three key considerations when thinking about what goes on the cover of your beloved book:


1.  Has it been done before?

This requires a little research, both when considering the title and the picture on the cover of the book. I found myself perusing Amazon for books that shared a genre with mine as well as the book aisles of various stores to see what all is out there. I took note of bestsellers and what elements their covers captured. I observed what caught my eye and which ones produced a negative reaction in me. I kept in mind my own concepts and paired them mentally with what I was seeing both online and in stores in an effort to make sure it would stand out. Chances are, if you have a great idea, someone somewhere in the world has had it too. Just make sure when it comes to the cover of your Precious, the concept is fresh and original.


2. How will it look at thumbnail size?

Say waa? This was one of those I never even thought about. If it’s attractive and original, people will click on it when they’re shopping online, right? Not necessarily. When books are displayed on Amazon or other online purchasing sites, typically the thumbnail size is shown. And think about when you click on a book and it takes you to its page. At the bottom there are always suggestions and those are smaller than thumbnail size. My original concept included two hands, interlocked romantically. One of the valuable pieces of feedback my CP gave me was that, when it was minimized to thumbnail size, it looked like a pair of legs spread open into the air, which would have denoted a completely different kind of book than mine is. And even when we reached the final concept, we had to add some shading and increase the font size of the subtext so it was all visible. Thumbnail size is how most potential buyers for your book will first see the cover, so make sure all the essential components are visible.


3. Does it target the right audience?

Some books are straight forward as far as genre and target audience. Others (mine included) may blur genre lines. It’s important first to know who your target audience is, and then to create a cover that will entice that audience. I hope my book will appeal to romance lovers since that’s a heavy component, but it’s really an urban fantasy, so I chose to highlight the fantastical part of my book with a very simple image. If your book is a sweet romance, an erotic image will attract a reader looking for something a little different than what your book will deliver. Make sure whatever is on the cover-the picture, the title, the font-will draw in the right readers for your particular brand of book.

Ultimately your cover should tell your potential readers what you want them to know about your book in such a way that compels them to pick it up and read it. And better yet, buy it.

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