In this world, readers have to judge a book by its cover. Which means you need a kickass cover.
So what makes a kickass cover?
1. It has to look professional.
There are a lot of authors making their own book covers, which is super cool IF they know what they’re doing. But graphic design takes a lot of skill and training most authors haven’t put the time and effort into. And believe me, readers can tell. This is also true for cheap pre-made covers. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing up a pre-made cover that matches the book IF it’s professionally done. But I’ve seen a lot of amateur book covers being sold for $30 and the images are stretched, the font is plain and doesn’t stand out, and the resolution is terrible. Remember, you get what you pay for.
If you want to be taken seriously as an author, you have to come right out of the gate looking like a professional. You have to compete with thousands of traditionally published authors who have covers made by industry professionals with the help of a sales team. That means putting the time and/or money into a cover. It’s the very first thing readers see when they browse books.
2. It has to stand out.
Thousands of books are being published every single day. The market is flooded now more than ever. It’s awesome so many people are getting their stories out there into the world, but it also means there’s a lot of competition for yours to stand out. So how do you stand out in the crazy world of digital publishing?
Do something unexpected. Use a bright color for a horror novel. Or a dark color for a sweet romance. Stay away from trends. Or if you want to go with a trend, put your own twist on it. Or be a minimalist and make good use of dead space. Look at what’s flooding the market and avoid it. Change the angle, desaturate the photo, use a funky font, just do something different.
3. It has to project the right tone.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen authors make with their covers is trying to do too much at once. Your book cover doesn’t need to tell exactly what it’s about. If it’s a paranormal romance about a single mom who falls in love with a werewolf on vacation in Hawaii, you don’t need a wolf, a palm tree, a child, and a couple kissing on the cover. There IS such thing as too much of a good thing.
Think about the tone you want readers to pick up on. Prioritize. Remember, standing out is important but in a way that makes sense for the book. What’s the mood? What’s the genre? Is it funny and flirty? Is it dark and horrific? Is it a deep, emotional memoir? Each of these would use a completely different set of colors, fonts, and effects to create a tone that will give readers an idea of what they’ll experience when they open the book.
When you hire a cover artist, make sure you communicate clearly how you want readers to feel when they look at your book cover. And how they will feel when reading your book. A good cover artist should be able to match the inside to the outside and combine that with standing out and looking professional. With this formula, you should be well on your way to a successful career (in whatever way you define it).
Thank you for having me and I hope these points help you design (or choose a designer) the perfect cover for your book! Remember, pay for a professional (or take a class!), keep it simple but unique, and communicate clearly with your designer.