Like it or not, people judge books by their covers.
We all know that we’re not supposed to… But we do it anyway.
And, honestly – how else can you really choose? In a store packed with books (or sitting at home browsing Amazon) your book cover design is the most effective way to catch people’s attention.
It doesn’t matter what’s between the covers if no one ever bothers to open them.
A shoddy book cover will make prospective readers question the value of the content within.
But, strong cover design will catch a reader’s eye, capture their interest and communicate what the book is about. These are the things that inspire someone to buy your book.
But, unless you are an artist or graphic designer, you probably don’t know how to create a powerful and professional cover design. And you likely aren’t following contemporary book cover design trends.
Let’s take a closer look at book cover design tips and best practices to help you create a book cover that makes readers want to crack the spine.
Make your title prominent
The title of your book should be the primary focus of your book cover and must be clearly visible.
Your title communicates the essence of your book and differentiates it from the other books on the shelf.
Imagine if a shelf in a store or your computer screen contained nearly identical titles or titles that a person could not read. How would they be able to distinguish your book from other books?
If you want to attract a reader, they should never, ever have to search to find the title.
In practical terms, this means:
- choosing a font that is easy to read,
- selecting a font color that stands out from the background,
- using a font size that is easily visible even when your cover is a thumbnail on Amazon, and
- positioning other text and graphic elements to avoid competing with the title.
Ben Sobieck points out in Writer’s Digest that many people shop for books online. This means that your book cover must be legible even when appearing at a fraction of its actual size.
Even on a small phone screen, your potential readers must be able to read the title of your book.
So, whatever you do, don’t let the cover design get in the way of your title.
Choose fonts and colors to make reading easier
Your book cover should be easy to read.
This may seem obvious – but it bears saying anyway.
If you let design choices get in the way of readability, you’re undermining your ability to communicate with your audience.
It makes no sense to share your title, summary, and reviews if no one can see them.
So, make font and color choices that support readability.
- Avoid color combinations that are garish or hard to look at for any length of time.
- Do choose font colors and background colors that contrast sufficiently for easy visibility.
- Select fonts that are easy to read (consider serif vs sans-serif)
Typographic consultant Ilene Strizver shared in an article for Fonts.com:
Serif typefaces have historically been credited with increasing both the readability and reading speed of long passages of text because they help the eye travel across a line…
This is why the print inside your book is most likely in a serif typeface.
You can and should choose a more creative font for your title and name on the cover; but, we suggest pairing it with a simple serif font for any reviews and the synopsis on the back.
And, limit yourself to only 2 fonts – more than that can start to look disjointed or busy. Speaking of which…
Don’t over-crowd the cover design
Staring at a page of solid text, it’s hard to tell which word or sentence (if any) is most important.
They all look visually the same. Just letters in the same size, color, and weight.
A crowded design will render it impossible to pick out the important stuff.
Readers don’t approach a book cover with the same engagement that they do when reading a page from your book. If they’re perusing covers, they’re simply browsing. They’re not ready to invest any deep concentration in your book yet.
But, that’s what your cover should persuade them to do! Briefly. Don’t make the reader have to work for it.
So, leave plenty of white space (a design term meaning blank space without text or design elements). This will allow the important information you share to be easily visible.
Your book’s title, your name, reviews, and the synopsis are all important. Keep your design uncluttered and readers will easily find them.
Embrace your genre
While every book is unique, honoring your genre is important.
Genres exist for a reason. They’re a shorthand for helping a reader to guess if they’ll like your book or not.
For instance, I like horror, supernatural thrillers, and comedic fantasy. If a book is well written and falls into one of those categories I’ll probably enjoy it.
And, each of those genres has its own design style. So, when I’m browsing, I can easily pick out a book in one of my preferred genres without even reading the title.
A horror novel looks like a horror novel.
So, when searching for book cover design ideas, start by browsing other popular books in your genre. What colors, layouts, fonts, and graphic elements are common in that genre?
Which of those elements make sense for your book?
Always create a unique book cover design that remains true to you and your book. But, do it within the larger framework of your genre’s design style.
Fans of your genre will be drawn to your book subconsciously, getting your foot in the door. Then your quality writing and fascinating story can take care of the rest.
The cover should feature a key theme from your book
If you’re looking for book cover design inspiration, look no further than your own writing.
The best path to a unique, creative book cover design is to visually represent a specific element or idea from your writing.
The cover should communicate as much about your book to your potential audience as possible.
But, you don’t want to try to overwhelm them with everything on one small cover.
Book covers have limited space in which to communicate. So, think carefully about the most important theme or element to feature.
Let’s say your story includes a paranoid android, mice, towels, and a spaceship shaped like a giant running shoe (this is a real book!). It’s a bad idea to cram all of that imagery into just one book cover.
Choose just one element – the one that communicates the most relevant information about the book.
And then use colors, imagery, fonts… and of course, your synopsis, to tell a visually compelling story on your cover that will grab peoples’ attention.
A book cover communicates what your book is about and if done right, motivates people to look closer at your book.
If you want to inspire people to pick up your book and buy it, you have to create a design that’s easy to read and visually appealing.