Friday, December 20, 2013

Dressing for Success -- choosing the right cover design for your book

[A solo post by Kym]

Whether you like it or not, strangers judge you all the time by your outward appearance. But does the same hold true for your book?

Apparently so. 

Let’s look at some of the numbers published from a 2010 survey. Verso Advertising found that 28 percent of Americans average more than five hours a week reading. More than half of those are females. About 62.4 million of us are considered “avid” readers who each buy more than ten books a year. Nearly one-fourth of those base their purchases on cover alone. 

Get the message? No matter what kind of dazzling words fill your pages, it’s essential your novel be dressed for success, whether you target print or e-reader audiences. Particularly if you’re a new author and find yourself short on spectacular reviews. Since our brains almost instantly process images and assign them meaning, the art on your jacket is the first impetus to picking it up and scanning the teaser blurb.

And you want that jacket to scream, “Pick me!”

Your cover makes a first impression on a reader. It not only conveys content, but also your style of writing. In a bookstore (real or online), customers have a huge selection of books to choose from. It helps if yours stands out from the crowd. The better the design, the more credibility you have as a writer. That said, you might take a psychological approach before you decide on its appearance. What type of audience will you try to reach? If it’s young adult, go with a jacket appealing to that market share. If you hope to target romance readers, well, you know the type of hunky guys and fem fatales who attract that kind of attention.

Give font some consideration, too. It should mesh with the overall design and your story. When I worked with author Bob Puglisi for his novel Railway Avenue, he explained that his story involves a murder but also leaves the reader with a sense of nostalgia. We hammered back and forth with possible design elements to tie them together. We finally settled on an old torn photograph and blood splatters. I chose Tosca Zero as the font because it complemented the theme and looked like scratched-in words against a concrete wall background.

Spines generally use the same font as the title on the cover. A nice touch is bleeding the art from the front of the book around on the spine and, if possible onto the back. Sometimes reviews, story summary and author bio prevent that if the art won’t allow easy visibility. In those cases, most designers will choose something that carries through with the theme, or they will simply use a solid color.

Cramming in loads of imagery can backfire. Too much can give your reader expectations the book can never live up to. A well-crafted jacket only hints at story rather than tells the whole tale. 

Getting it right is a huge task, but more on this next time.

Feel free to stop by our website,, to see other sample covers.