4 steps to designing a great book cover
A book's cover does a huge amount of work selling a book. It sets the emotional tone for the experience that the reader is about to embark on. It must motivate the reader to click the button to "buy." Authors, however, seem to think there’s a big mystery behind choosing the “right” book cover.
As a Book Marketing Manager and an author, I help authors and graphic designers create book covers. There’s no voodoo in picking the right book cover for your book if you follow these 4 steps.
1) Define the mood of your book
Write down, on paper, how you want your readers to feel when they’re reading your book. (Note: how you want them to feel should match how they really do feel at least in one part of your book. You have to be authentic here.) Does your book make people laugh? Is it eerie? Romantic? Intellectual? Make a list of the adjectives. Set it aside in a special place. You will come back to it in step (4).
2) Decide which character and objects represent the spirit of your book
Do you want to feature the main character? List his/her age and defining physical characteristics (big blonde beehive hairdo? Converse high-tops?). What objects (musical instruments, a car, a palm tree) are key physically or aspirationally in your book? These may provide great ideas for visuals.
3) Prioritize the title, author, series name, subtitile, etc.
If you’re already famous, your name should be bigger than the title, unless your name is really long and the title is really short. If your book is part of a series, maybe the series should be written in the biggest letters. Decide this first, and ALWAYS make all of the words on the title easy to read when the whole image shrinks down to one-and-a-half inches. Too many book covers are illegible onscreen. What good is that?
4) Create the titles and test them with unsuspecting audience members
If you’re writing a kids' book, find some kids. A romance, find some young women. A sci-fi book? Bring your book cover comps to a Star Trek convention. Show your book covers to the members of your audience, sit back, and LISTEN. Let them describe what they think the book is about, how they think it will make them feel as they're reading, and whether they’d want to read it. Ask them what they think the book is about. Listen to the feedback. Take out the list of adjectives you wrote in step (1) and see if what your audience members are saying match the list. If not, go back to step 3 if the adjectives you’re hearing, do not match the adjectives you listed or if the answers aren’t enthusiastic.
How to interpret the cover of Izzie's Lucky Clover
The book cover you see in this article, from my middle grade novel, Izzie's Lucky Clover, is clearly about a girl who is a bit of a tomboy (see: floppy hat). It's a realistic fiction book (becuase it's a photo). It's for kids (because of the age of the girl). The expression on the girl's face is ambiguous, she's smiling but has a thoughtful look in her eye. This expression, combined by the title that uses the word "lucky" communicates the fact that the main character wants something different to happen. What she wants to happen requires luck. Will her wish come true the way she wants it to? You have to read it to find out.