Why Is A Good Book Cover Important?
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Book covers. They’re the next biggest thing authors talk about after they write the manuscript, right? But, what goes into a good book cover? Why are they so important to get right? Some of the obvious answers probably come to mind at this point—they get people to stop at your book, they sell the book, and you want your book to look good. There’s more to it than that, though. Let’s take a stroll through the things to consider when designing a book cover.
Book Cover Judgement Day
People judge books by their covers all the time despite what that old adage says. The cover gives potential readers their first hints at the story they will find in the pages behind that cover. Good covers will hint at and tantalize people without overdoing it while also sharing enough detail not to be boring. Good covers also need to blend in enough with the genre to be clear yet stand out enough from the genre to get readers to notice them.
Blending In-Standing Out
Yes, covers need to do two opposite things at the same time. They need to fit in with genre expectations for a critical reason. It is about communicating the genre to potential readers. If readers get frustrated by expecting one thing out of your book because of the cover, but get something else when they open the pages, you’ve lost any future sales. Plus, people will not recommend your book to others, and may even steer potential readers away from your book. Yet, the cover needs to stand out enough to catch a potential reader’s attention, which means elements that stand out from genre norms to pique curiosity. If your cover can do this, you’ve just increased your chances of selling not only this book, but future books, too.
Cover Competition Publicity
Covers also provide an interesting avenue for publicity about your book through cover competitions. Take a moment to search the internet. There’s almost always a cover competition going on somewhere. I know, at least some—I’m not going to get into how many—are more popularity contests more than a true judgement about the best cover. In the end, though, your book cover is out there, which means anyone interacting with that competition will see it. And that means free advertising since you’re never sure who’s interest you might catch, even if they were there for someone else’s book. Take a look at this listing of cover competitions to see what I mean.
Ingredients to Good Covers
So, we’ve talked about at least some of the reasons book cover design is so important. But, how does someone accomplish all this? Anyone with a computer, a free graphic design program and access to free stock images can put something together. It can look good, though sometimes it’s not as good as the designer wants it to be, but is it enough? Without some training and understanding about the specifics to covers, probably not. Nancy also discussed some of this in her article here.
This is another one of those things that, whether we like it or not, colors communicate things. Think about it, blue generally goes with cold, ice, sadness, down, etc., right? People rarely think about blue as a happy color. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but the point is any colors on the cover need to be used with thought and intention.
Cover fonts are critical to the success of a good book cover. Yes, the creative license allows for playing with fonts to some extent. However, what good does that perfect creative font do when it is not legible? And don’t just think paperback copy in a reader’s hand, many people buy books online. This means that font needs to be legible when it is reduced to a thumbnail. The font will also be one way to communicate to a potential reader your genre and hint at themes in your story. Mismatch these things and you’re risking upsetting the reader.
We’re talking the actual pictures on the front of the book. This spot gets a little trickier and more complicated. See, this is a chance to give the readers a glimpse into your universe through art rather than words. The danger, though, is that you create too much of a preconceived notion that ends up discordant with your readers’ imagination. The images on the cover need to tie into the story without giving too much away. And, again, the images set the tone for the genre, mood, and possible plot points of your book. Remember, close does not cut it here. Close, but not quite it, will likely lose you sales now and future books.
One final aspect to consider in creating book covers. Culture. I know, that’s always for somewhere else, not for here. I hope in today’s world we are all understanding there are many types of culture everywhere. We need to be sensitive to that when considering cover language and art. The Harry Potter books are a perfect example of how the publisher adapted the title and cover art to better fit specific markets. As indie authors I understand we don’t have the same kind of money and ability to pull that off like a Big 5 House, but we can consider how we create our covers. For example, the scantily clad woman on a sword and sorcery novel is dated and offensive, unless you can put a different enough spin to get the reader to overlook that trope. In that case, the book inside the cover had better sell the concept more thoroughly than anything else in the book. No, we cannot possibly please everyone, but we can take steps to ensure we’re not being naïve enough as to create an offensive cover without realizing it.
After looking over this list, it can be intimidating to consider doing your own cover art. If you are still set on this option (I get it, I’m a broke indie author as well), take time to continue your research into good cover design. Here’s a good article for a beginner’s list of how to create a good cover. Another way of doing it is through small press services, like what we here at OWS offer. Good graphic designs completed by artists who get the industry for affordable prices and some flexibility to pay in installments rather than all up front. Curious about our services, check them out here.
I hope this has helped you develop an appreciation for the work that goes into a good book cover. Next time you pull a book off a shelf, take a moment to study the cover. Can you see how they put together the things we talked about here? As always, any questions, please ask and let me know how it goes for you!
Stacy Overby is a child-chasing, teenager-wrangling, author and poet who hangs out in Minnesota with her family when she’s not writing. She, her work, and her social media links can be found at www.thisisnothhitchhikersguide.wordpress.com.
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