You pick it out, you try it on, you iron it. Then you put it on and you wear it to your interview. The rest is up to the success of the interview. But if you show up dressed in holey jeans and a mustard stain on your blouse, you probably won’t be taken seriously. The same can be said about a book cover. You can write a great story and an enticing blurb, but if the cover is unprofessional and ugly then you probably won’t sell your book.
No pressure, right?
This is not to say that a well written book cannot sell itself regardless of the cover, but we are a very lazy society. We want to be visually stimulated before we spend the energy to flip the book over and read the blurb. So what are readers looking for? Well the answer to that question changes daily, but I have broken it down into three elements: content, layout and readability.
Content: Make a list of everything you want on your cover. Keep it simple, if there’s too much going on the result will be cluttered and confusing. If you are publishing an ebook, consider how small the icon will appear in the online bookstore. Also, there’s something to be said about the single-image background. It may seem lazy, but the carefully chosen single image can be very effective in portraying your book’s theme.
Layout: Sketch out your cover. Place your title, your name (if you are the author) and any other content necessary for publication (publisher’s logo, series name, i.e.). Now decide how your content will fit it. Size your elements, decide what will stay and what has to go and make sure there is enough space between your elements for them to breathe. When you are done with your sketch, set it across the room and look at it from a distance. When your cover is laid out the way you want it, you are read for the final step.
Readability: Once you’ve translated your sketch to the computer, you will want to play with fonts and colors. As tempting as it is, do not use the frilly font you just downloaded and have been dying to use. It won’t translate well on your cover. Trust me. Same goes for your favorite hot pink color. You will give your readers a headache from staring at it so long because they can’t read past the loopy font. Here’s a tip: Google Fonts has a collection of gorgeous fonts that will work on the computer or in print. As for your favorite color, ColourLovers is a great tool for picking colors that will not hurt your eyes.
Even after you planned and sketched, you still may decide that something isn’t working. Go back to your content list. You may decide that one element doesn’t look as great as it did in your head. Take that element out, resize the other elements. Go back to your sketch and resketch it. Go back to the computer and make changes. Wash, Rinse, Repeat until you are completely happy with your final cover.
I hope I’ve given you some good advice today. If you are designing a cover for someone else remember this: if the author ain’t happy, ain’t no one gonna be happy. This means that the above tips should only be used as a guide. If the author still wants the lime green unicorn with the Sanskrit font and fifty other elements to be include in their cover, then guess what? That’s what you are going to give them J
Keri Neal is a native Californian who calls Texas “Home”. She is the author of Split (Self Published, January 2013) and Torn (Still Moments Publishing, February 2013). She was the cover artist for Still Moments Publishing from September 2011 to March 2013. Now she has a freelance business called Book Covers by Keri. She lives near Austin with her husband, two children, two hamsters and a snake. She crochets, sews, reads, paints and loves all things artsy and craftsy.