Stand out, but don’t stick out like a sore thumb
Elements need to be well-chosen for your genre and relevant to your readers. The objective is to belong in your genre. Standing out from the crowd doesn’t always equate to selling more books. Do some general searches of books in your genre and get a feel for the types of books that sell well and the common themes, colours, fonts, etc. You might have a beautifully designed cover, but if it doesn’t fit in the genre you won’t sell many.
Your choice of font has a huge impact on how we read words. Chose carefully and be prepared to take your time to get this right. Avoid well-worn, common typefaces such as Times and Arial, and avoid Comic Sans too – it’s something of a joke in the industry that this is the calling card of the novice cover designer. If typography is your main visual imagery (common in business books, for example) you need to pay careful attention to spacing between characters. Be prepared to design this typography and not accept the standard way text appears when you type.
The images you use need to fit in the genre. Yes, you can see the message is being repeated because it’s essential that images don’t conflict with what your target audience expects. They must obviously be within your rights to use on a commercial project. “I got it off the internet, so it must be free to use,” isn’t a legal defence. Unless you have permission in writing, don’t use it. Images need to be high enough resolution to print clearly, and unless blurry is part of your design, look for clean images to work with.
The text on your front cover will normally be succinctly written – if you can say it in four words instead of five, do so.
- Title (essential)
- Sub-title (if there is one)
- Series title (optional, if there is is one)
- Author name (essential)
- Quote, review, or endorsement (optional, but a useful element in the design of a cover)
- Tagline (optional, but on some genres it’s almost a requisite)
That’s a lot of information to pack into a small space, so look at other books in your genre (successful ones) and see how they have designed their covers, and which elements from the above they employ.
Some publishers put their logo on the front cover, and this might be a mandatory element.
The spine normally carries the following elements:
- Sub-title (optional)
- Series title (less likely)
- Publisher logo
- Imagery complimenting front cover (optional and best done on thicker spines where the visual element is obvious)
- Background colour
The back cover is often neglected. Now Amazon and other retailers preview this on its listings it’s worth designing it with care. The elements you might expect to see are:
- Description (also known as blurb)
- Genre (which shelf does it go on in a bookshop)
- Price in at least one currency (the one where the ISBN originates is most logical)
- Barcode for the ISBN
- Author bio and/or photo
- Secondary barcode for price
- Further graphic elements
- Publisher branding
- Social media / web links