Have you ever been ‘grabbed’ by an outdoor billboard? I certainly have. In fact, I can remember a couple of billboards I’ve seen that were so striking that I nearly crashed my car…
We may not want our books to cause traffic accidents, but we do need to give them something that creates this ‘billboard effect’. Something that grabs the attention of potential new readers.
In fact, the ‘billboard’ I’m talking about is actually a part of the book itself…
Book Covers Are The ‘Billboards’ Of Our Books
It’s crucial that a genre-fiction book cover is well designed if you want it to be noticed in a book store or on Amazon.
The right book cover can ignite sales for a book that would otherwise be unnoticed. Mass book sales happen by reader word of mouth, so you must do everything you can to ignite the process.
The key point is to attract a prospective book buyer and give them a clue as to your story theme – what your book is about, in both Title and Image. When I located these three covers, each one took my breath away because of their sheer beauty:
But there’s far more to it than looks alone. So I’ve mapped some guidelines to ensure that your next book cover ticks all the right boxes for attracting your target reader.
There’s both imagery and title text, each of equal importance. In fact, the title can largely drive the choice of imagery.
A powerful, effective book cover needs to achieve four goals:
1. Instantly make it clear which market genre your book belongs to. E.g. Historical Fiction, Romantic Historical Fiction, Thriller, Fantasy, Paranormal, YA Adventure etc.
2. Uniquely convey the essence of your theme and story, in both title and image to trigger an emotional response so that it persuades a book buyer to look more closely. In particular, an image of a person will massively increase the emotional communication power of the cover. (See the 3 book covers above.)
3. If your book is part of a series, maintain and build your book series brand, so readers know one when they see one.
4. Beauty. Sheer beauty, simplicity and attractiveness of design has a major bearing too, the same enchanting effect of the outdoor billboard. And remember, simplicity means looking good at postage-stamp size on Amazon.
Linda Hilburn’s ‘Paranormal’ vampire book cover achieves all four goals, as does the Philippa Gregory cover which is unmistakably ‘Historical Fiction’.
Sometimes the rules can be bent a little if the author is extremely well known, so the author’s name can take center stage, because the reader is buying the author first. Such as these covers for books by famous authors Nora Roberts, George R.R. Martin and Jackie Collins:
Creating A Great Book Title:
‘Naming’ your book is an equally important part of your book cover ‘billboard’.
Your title text is a key part of achieving the 4 goals for your book cover, and it needs to fit hand in glove with the visuals – they work together.
Tactics for creating great book titles:
1. Convey your story and theme:
What you are attempting to say with your book – to convey? What is your theme? What is the essence of your story? These will draw a potential reader in, along with character and setting. Keep this at the front of your mind while musing over your title.
2. You can simply describe the main character, which may convey sufficient information.
- The Other Boleyn Girl
- The Vampire Shrink
3. The most powerful element in the book can be the source for your title
Writers approach a story by focusing on the main protagonist, and also often place key importance on the associated settings or story icons – even the setting alone can be highly relevant. The book title can be drawn from all of that.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- The Lord of the Rings
- The House Of Seven Gables
The Magic Of A ‘Movie’ Styled Book Cover
Another more specific strategy for book covers is to make them look ‘Cinematic’ to attract the attention of movie makers.
This book jacket for the children’s story ‘Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes’ was deliberately designed with the title done in hand-crafted type suitable for a movie.
There’s far more ‘behind the scenes’ work in producing a selling book cover design than you may realize. You can view the extensive evolution of this book jacket here:
Another resource that will help you brain storm a title is this beautifully written article with examples about book titles by author Sarah Baughman – on Suzannah Freeman’s “Write It Sideways” blog.
Be Sure To Hire A Professional Cover Designer
The difference between doing it yourself and a having one created by a professional can be as clear as day versus night.
It’s tempting to cut costs by designing your own book cover using images downloaded from an inexpensive photo library, and applying type in Photoshop. But ‘doing it yourself’ probably won’t produce the powerful sales-communication required.
A great cover design is well worth the investment, so if you’re self-publishing an eBook, be sure to locate a good quality freelancer. The most immediate way to do this is look through covers in your fiction genre on Amazon, seek out the cover that you like, and contact the author to discover who the designer is.
It’s possible to multiply your Amazon book sales with a great book cover. It captures attention, and helps to ignite the ‘word of mouth’ effect that gets your book on a roll.
But not on the Kindle itself of course, where covers are in black and white.
Will Book Covers Ever Disappear?
The whole idea of needing a cover at all on such devices as the Kindle has recently been called into question in this article from The Altantic. But the article misses an important point. Book covers have never been inside books. (i.e. Inside a Kindle book.) A cover is simply a form of EXTERIOR advertising.
Books will always need some type of visual cue to identify them when they are being advertised. We see this for music albums being advertised on iTunes, and on Amazon to sell eBooks.
The ‘covers’ are often postage stamp sized on first view, but larger when more detail is searched for by a prospective buyer. So it may require a more iconic form of cover design to be effective at that size. But whatever precise form they take, covers will always remain a key part of selling books – including for example the new, highly popular idea of featuring your covers on Pinterest and developing boards there of beautiful genre-related images.
Book designers I admire: Jon Paul, Carl Graves and Kim Killion at HotDamnDesigns (The name is absolutely accurate.) Also Aep Book Covers and Mars Dorian. And here’s another group recommended by Joanna Penn: Creative Indie Covers.
What say you? Have a favorite book cover? Already have a great cover yourself? Please do leave a comment below.
Article written by Jonathan Gunson
Author / CEO Bestseller Labs
Notice: This article is copyrighted material. Reproduction of brief snippets of this article with a link to this site are permitted, but it may not be reproduced in full anywhere without the written permission of Jonathan Gunson at BestsellerLabs.com