Five Things You Need to Know About Designing Your Book Cover

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William Tanner

Intern @ GoneWithTheWord

The book cover is probably the most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal. Managing it is about more than just choosing a good cover model or stock image. In fact, it is not about what you choose but rather how you use it. 

Answer these questions to decide if you have thoroughly planned out your cover for the best shot at success:

  1. A picture is worth a thousand words. But try to sum it up in less than 100 words. If someone points at an element on your cover (e.g., the city horizon in the background) could you explain in a succinct sentence why that city skyline is important to the story? If it is just set in that city, but the setting has minimal impact on the plot or characters, why does it deserve to be on the cover?
  2. Color my world. Is there a dominant color on the cover? If not, why not? Color can be in terms of the imagery done in black and white, color, or sepia. It could be a dominant feature (e.g., blood spilling over the artwork for a murder mystery), or it could be the title or author name. But if someone asked you why this color for those elements, could you give them a valid reason?
  3. Typeface. What is the font you have used for your title and author name? If it’s more of a script font, that presents a certain feeling, whereas if it is more of a block font, that suggests something different. Why did you choose the font you have used?
  4. Name versus title. Which is bigger? Which is closer to the top of the cover versus the bottom of the cover? (Typically, if the author has reached the success level of name recognition, then the author name will be uppermost and larger than the title.)
  5. Is there any white space? (White space doesn’t have to be white in color. It merely means unused space where there is no graphic, image or type and is typically utilized to space out the elements on the page to give the eye a visual breather before the next word or image is picked up.) If you have used it, why did you use it in that particular location? If you haven’t used any, why not?

If you can answer all the above questions and have a thorough understanding of the elements of your cover and why they were chosen and positioned as they appear then you have the makings of a success. 

Remember when designing your cover—or working with a designer—that the eye naturally moves in a “Z” formation: The gaze begins in the upper left corner, travels to the upper right corner, slides horizontally down to the lower left corner, then over to the lower right corner. Those are the power positions so use them well. 

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