A book’s cover and spine have a great deal to do with whether potential buyers investigate a title further. A good cover design can be critical to your book’s sales success.Book Cover Design Basics

Cover and interior design go way beyond aesthetics. Design is a tried and true sales tool—a means of conveying information and getting the attention of buyers. When used properly, it reflects and elevates your message.

A book’s front cover (and sometimes its spine) serves as its billboard, begging you to pick it up. If it does its job, the buyer will flip the book over to scan the back. If he’s still interested, he’ll do a “flip” through the interior. If it’s not inviting and readable, he’ll put it back and buy your competition. The same decision-making process applies to online sales as well. In sales flyers, advertisements, and catalogs, the decision is usually based on a tiny front cover and short blurb, so your front cover had better be amazing!

Distributors, reviewers, and buyers see your cover and form an opinion about the quality of your writing based on that first impression. Joe Distributor thinks, “You cared enough to spend time and money on a great cover, perhaps you care about quality overall.” Reviewers are inundated with titles daily and use cover quality to decide which books to even consider opening. Your cover must present a professional attitude, appropriate for its content and audience. If you don’t care enough to dress your book well, is it fair to ask someone to assume the book has been written well?

What is Cover Design?

A book’s cover consists of the front, spine, and back, some also have flaps and the case of the hardcover. The front cover must grab someone’s attention within seconds. That’s asking a lot of something around 6″x9″ without sound or motion! Its creator must be resourceful with each element of the cover. A good design employs the creative use of type, imagery, color, size, and space to grab attention. It’s an art form celebrated throughout the ages and not one for the weekend hobbyist. I say this with your best interest in mind. Good book designers are in it for your success and have studied and created for years. If your book’s design fails, so do they.

Have you seen poorly-designed covers? Those stereotypical “self-published” covers? Don’t let your book become one of those! I know it’s tempting to spend a couple hundred dollars for a finished cover, but…Don’t do it! Do you really want the agony of finding out that your book hasn’t been produced properly and nobody wants to distribute, promote, or buy it? Do you want to then spend more time and another $1,500–$3,000 to get it done right the second time? It happens all of the time and breaks our hearts.

Designed for Books

Because your cover is so important, you’ll want to be sure you work with an experienced designer who specializes in covers. That designer should work with you—and your PR team and distributor if you have them—to ensure the final product reflects the writing properly and will reach out to its intended audience in a professional way.

Just as engineers specialize in different fields such as electrical or mechanical design, graphic artists usually have more experience with one kind of project than another. Be sure to work with someone who specializes in cover design. While most graphic designers could help you with at least some aspects of book design, one who specializes in book design will be able to guide you through the whole process and provide the experience and knowledge that can help you avoid hassles and save you both time and money.

A Word About Your Mother

And your friends. And your colleagues. Don’t trust them! OK, trust them a little. 😉 What will they likely say when you show them your initial cover choices? “Wow, they’re beautiful! I couldn’t possibly choose just one. I’m so excited for you!” That’s what usually happens. What do you need them to say? Something like, “I’ve looked at your choices and prefer #2. It grabbed my attention right away. The background’s tone makes the title and author easier to read than the other options. The title and circle elements pop out and have great contrast. I would also like to see what #5 looks like without the corners.” Now that’s feedback! What to make of this? Because your friends and family may represent potential buyer and they love you, by all means get their opinions. Because you need to know what will sell, augment (or start) your brand, and show that you are a respectable author, trust the publishing experts when making your final decision.

Making a Grand Appearance

In all, you’ll get better sales results and the respect you deserve with a good cover and a good cover becomes a sure thing when you hire a carefully-selected, experienced book designer who has your best interest at heart.

Author Bio:

Tamara Dever is founder and CEO of TLC Book Design, an Austin, Texas-based book design and author services company. Tamara is passionate about creating beautiful-yet-functional designs for publishers of all sizes and enjoys teaching about her craft. TLC’s dedicated team has brought books to fruition for over 25 years and shares more than 200 awards with their clients. She’s co-author of the award-winning guide and journal for authors, My Publishing Journey and recently released I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie, a quiz book that combines ’70s and ’80s music with the world of books.

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