8 seconds. That’s the amount of time a potential buyer views a book cover before looking away or looking deeper into the book. Since the cover conveys the first impression to the world, you must put on its finest face. Unless you are a graphic designer, this is not a do-it-yourself project. It’s best left to the pros.
In a Huffington Post article, writer Anis Shivani chose 25 outstanding book covers for 2010. Analyzing the covers and reading the discussions of the designers is like an entire course in book cover design.The top artists had this to say about cover design:
- The cover design goes hand-in-hand with the interior design, in particular the typography. In fact, some designers create the interiorbook design before the cover, to ensure compatibility.
- The cover is an abstract window of the book that should be part of the relationship between the book and reader—and as such should attract and be memorable.
- The design should stand out and be different from other covers. As such, the designer must be aware of current trends and be willing to go against the grain.
- The designer needs a deep understanding of the book to design all elements in concert, including the cover, typography, color of the headband (bit of cloth where the pages meet the binding), etc.
You don’t have to spend big bucks on a graphic designer, but you DO need to work with one for your cover.
1. Choose your cover designer carefully. Go the website to look at the portfolio of book covers. Make sure the feel and design are appropriate for your book. Contact the designer for details about pricing, schedules, and specifics. For example: For the price quoted, how many rounds of designs? How many design changes? How many editing changes? At a minimum you will want high-resolution and low-resolution marketing jpegs of the front cover and full cover for web use and printing. Have a realistic budget in mind. Book covers range anywhere from $350 to $1200+ depending on the complexity of the design. Figure a two-four-week turnaround. Ask for references-and be sure to check them. better yet, get names of designers from a trusted source. At AuthorAssist, we work with several different cover designers, depending on the genre of the book.
2. Determine your title and subtitle. This seems obvious-but it’s one of the first elements to grab the eye. The importance of your title and subtitle cannot be overstated. It is vital to the promotion and sale of your book. A fiction writer can take more license with the title. A nonfiction writer must be clever, yet clear-so the topic and benefit of the book is readily apparent. Brainstorm with friends, family, and colleagues to generate title options. You may wind up with a mix of words from several ideas.
3. Know your genre and audience-and what they expect to see on a book cover. A historical romance will look a lot different from a pre-historical science fiction novel or a Christian spiritual memoir. Take account so that your cover appeals to your audience age and gender.
4. Have an image in mind. Go to Amazon.com to see book covers in your genre and make note of those that appeal to you. What colors grab you? Do you like a particular font? Do you want to use a photo or use custom graphics and artwork? What look and feel do you want? Use screen-saver software to capture jpegs of images to show your designer-for ideas (not for copying). It will save time and money if your designer has a general idea of what you like. Don’t worry about closing off options. Your images will spark lots of creative new ideas with your designer. If your book is nonfiction for use in promoting your career, be sure to keep your business logo and colors in mind so your book is complementary to your business web site. Consider how to use elements of your cover design for your web site/blog, business cards, bookmarks, postcards, and other promotional material.
5. Keep it simple. In today’s world where so many books are sold online (especially self-published POD books) a simple book cover is best-especially since it will be shrunk to a thumbnail for online sales. Perhaps include just one or two design elements in addition to the title and author. If you are using a photo make sure it is of adequate quality for printing and be sure to have rights to it, along with the necessary credit information.
For ideas and explanations about book cover design, check out the 25 best book covers 2010 in the Huffington Post. Remember, the cover is the most important representation of your book so make sure it reflects your work in a light that shines.