Don’t judge a book by its cover – that’s what they say. But when it comes to books, that’s exactly what people do. How else
are they going to make a judgement and reach for one book over another? Sure, they may be after a particular author, so that sale is based on reputation. However, the book shop browser goes by genre, then cover, then back cover blurb and finally, first page. Those are your key selling points.
Book covers matter. Ignore this at your peril, especially, if you’re self-publishing. Cast your eye over any number of self-published books and you’ll see a dismal array of covers. Anyone who bothers to invest in their book sleeve is one step ahead, because most don’t. If you can’t invest in your book, why should a reader? “I can’t be arsed, can you?” That’s what a shonky book cover says.
Here are my dos and don’ts, when it comes to book covers:
- Hire a professional: If you can afford it, it’ll be worth it. Shop around and you could get a design for anywhere from £30-100, but don’t expect lots of drafts. Go in with a clear, simple idea and give your designer samples of the kind of thing you want to cut down on the time they spend and therefore the cost to you.
- Think about your market: Is your book for kids? Then maybe bright colours and an illustrative design is in order. YA books err towards photographic covers with handwritten style fonts, like the front of a school exercise book. Don’t assume girls books are pink – the times are finally changing. Study the covers of books in your market and ape their style.
- DIY with caution: If you really can’t afford a designer, then do it yourself and keep it simple. Do create a mood board, collecting images and covers you like. See how the colours and fonts work together and try to replicate it. Also, take advice from friends with an artistic eye.
- Think thumbnails: When your book is online, the cover will spend most of its time as a thumbnail. Make sure your design works when it’s scaled down. The font should be bold and clear. Make your title and your name the most prominent things, not the picture.
- Never use default Windows fonts: Use of default fonts is my pet peeve. It screams amateur and slapdash. Most irritatingly, it’s so quick and easy to download a font with a commercial use license. There are literally thousands of fonts to choose from online. Choose the right one and it can make a simple design sing. Try www.1001fonts.com and look for the green dollar sign, which means that font is free for commercial use.
- Don’t steal images and fonts: Don’t just go on the internet, find an image you like and slap it on your book cover. The creator of that image (or those fonts) has a right to be paid, if you’re making money i.e. selling your book, from it. There are plenty of websites with stock images you can use under a commercial license. Creative commons won’t cut it.
- Use online design tools: There are actually lots of free online tools, now which make it easier for amateurs to make a half decent stab at a cover design. Fotor is good for editing images and making them look groovy. And I’ve just discovered canva, which provides templates for book covers, with fonts and licensed images, as well as some cool design tools.
Nothing beats the skills of a professional graphic designer, so if you can, find one and invest in your book cover. Here’s one I know, who’s brilliant: Design By Pie.