A book cover can make or break the financial success of your book. It is the first thing that people see, and they will judge your book by its cover.
Your book cover has one purpose: to sell your book. It is the primary advertisement for what lies beneath it. It doesn’t need to describe or be representational of the contents, but it should give potential readers a good indication of what they will find inside. You want the right readers to see your book, not just any reader. To do that, you need to meet the reader’s expectations. The cover needs to be consistent with the content of the book.
People categorize. We notice similarities and differences. The wise author uses this to their advantage. Look at books in your genre or any genre for that matter. Notice that there is a similar feel, similar colors, consistency in types of imagery and font choices. For some, there are very few differences between one cover and the next. And yet, a wide variety within the narrow confines of the genre.
You do want to stand out from the crowd, but not too much. Your book needs to look like it “fits on the shelf” next to the others in your genre. It’s this similarity that tells your reader that this is a book they will most likely enjoy. Give the reader what they want – this leads to good reviews and repeat buyers. You want a similar feel, similar colors, consistency in types of imagery and fonts.
If you have a series of books, you want to tighten up the similarities of your covers even more. You want people to recognize at a glance that those books belong together. Branding a series is done in a number of ways, but typically the covers are very similar with just a few differences. Fonts and their placement are typically one of the strongest ways to brand a series.
Your design needs to be cohesive and have a clear focal point. The reader’s eyes should be able to focus in immediately where you want them to focus, typically your title or one part of the image. Beware of trying to put too much on the cover. You have about 3 seconds to capture the reader’s attention. Once you have their interest, you can explain your book and why they should read it with the description and/or back cover copy. If the reader doesn’t know where to look, they will scroll on by.
Check the Thumbnail
Most books are purchased online in marketplaces such as Amazon. The reader’s first encounter with your book will be the cover at “thumbnail” size. Very, very small. How your cover design holds up at the thumbnail size is an important consideration. Most successful authors and designers will tell you that it is crucial for your title and image to be clearly discernible while very small. Some disagree as that information is right next to the image, but it’s a minority opinion.
Crowd-Sourcing opinions on your cover can be helpful. Other eyes can spot issues that you’ve missed. But, these can also be misleading and contradictory especially if those offering their views are not familiar with or readers of your genre. What appeals to a reader of sweet romance will be different than what appeals to readers of thrillers. Knowing who is in the crowd is as important as knowing what they like.