I’d like you to imagine your favorite snack. It can be a nice chocolate bar or perhaps some delicious crisps. Now imagine what the wrapping of the treat looks like. You’ll probably be able to recall the colors of the package. You’ll know where the text is placed and what is says. But, you might not be able to remember all of the small details, and you probably won’t be able to draw an accurate image of the package if I asked. However, I’m sure that when you’re in the store next time, you’ll immediately recognize it.
Now I’d like you to see your book cover the same way. The cover is a wrapping for your book. It’s a sales pitch. The point of a book cover, especially in the indie world, is to grab a potential reader’s attention and turn that potential reader into a customer. In order to do that, we need to understand reader behavior and how a book’s cover design can affect it.
When people go to Amazon or to a similar platform to look for a new book, they will look for something they know they are going to like – just like how they look for that familiar chocolate bar. Most of them will not want to take much risk. They will want to buy a book that they know is going to be a reliably good read.
How do they do that? Chances are that the readers already know what type of books and what genres they enjoy. Based on their experience, they will look for covers that are similar to covers of the books they liked before. So, if your thriller book cover is pink and has a bunny on the front, they’ll probably give it a pass.
Here are a few good rules and examples to remember when it comes to book cover design:
Your book cover should always meet the standards of a specific genre. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be unique. There are a number of ways to make a book cover stand out that even work well across genres. Let me give you a few examples.
- A great way of making your book cover more appealing is to give the reader a taste of mystery. A silhouette, a face which is partially cut off, or a back view of a person… All these things spark the reader’s curiosity and leave an opening for their imagination to fill in the blanks about the book’s content.
- Simplicity is another good example. I often get requests from authors to include a lot of details which they think are very important to their story. They might ask for a cover which includes a parrot dressed in a swimming costume, flying over a city full of skyscrapers while watching a pregnant woman with blonde hair wearing high heels. First of all, these requests might make the design difficult to accomplish, but in the end, they will make the cover look too busy. A good cover design shouldn’t tell the story. It should create a curiosity in the reader which can only be satisfied by reading the story and in order to read the story, they have to buy the book.
The second rule I’d like you to remember is that a book cover is not about you as the author (unless you’re writing an autobiography), but it’s about the reader. When you start working with a cover designer, it’s very important to leave your biases behind. Maybe you don’t like the color red, but if you are writing a horror story, you simply can’t have blood splatters without it. Think about what the reader is looking for, not what you prefer as the author.
I’d like to wrap up this article by saying that the idea is not to reinvent the wheel but to add your own flavor to what already works in the genre. Always keep your reader in mind, stick to the genre expectations, and maybe include a little twist on those. Your cover designer can help you with that. Finally, when working with a book cover designer, remember that while your suggestions are valuable, it’s important to allow your designer the flexibility to create concepts based on their design experience, knowledge of your book’s genre as well as book publishing industry standards.