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  • LV Ditchkus

How to judge a book by its cover

So you’ve finished writing the best book on the planet. Now it’s time to design a cover that potential readers can’t resist. Besides the overall concept of “eye-catching” what else do you need to think about? Here’s a few ideas to consider:

  • Ties to the story

Some of the best covers I’ve seen include a simple photo shot or graphic. These unpretentious elements capture the story’s plot, tone, and genre.

  • Intriguing focal point

Well known authors make their name the focal point (i.e., without a lot of other visuals to detract from that great marketing hook) but lesser-known authors might need to highlight the title or a graphic element that captures the story.

  • Clear title and subtitles

Don’t make it difficult for readers to read your title. Use right-sized fonts and colors that keep the words distinctive. Your cover fonts should be consistent with those used in the book text (i.e., not necessarily identical but be sure they complement each other).

  • Good balance

Be sure the top, bottom, spine, and back cover are in balance. Making any portion too busy or too plain can turn off potential readers. Tip: Do not create a box for your book spine as it must fit perfectly to look good and if you need to subsequently increase or decrease the page count the box will be off center and a pain to fix.

  • Let the reader know the genre

Readers looking for a specific type of book (e.g., fantasy, sci-fi, western, thriller, romance) should be attracted to your cover design. This can be tricky. So before you pick a spaceman for your sci-fi novel or a haunted house for your horror story, check out other books in your genre. You might not want your book to look like the rest of the competition. However, this advice does not commonly work in the romance category – romance readers expect to see steamy covers with an element of the subgenre (e.g., historic, pirate, vacation, western).

  • Back cover text tempts the reader without giving away too much of the story

My advice about back cover copy is to have LOTS of people read it and give you feedback. While you know your story backwards and forwards, you may be too close to the plot and characters to effectively write this material. The text must balance summary information and intriguing language, but first and foremost it must be honest. Don’t make potential readers think they are picking up an action-packed thriller when they're getting a character-driven mystery.

I’d be interested to know which book covers have piqued your interest and why. Let me know what you think.

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