That all-important eye-catching wrapper is the first introduction of your masterpiece to your reader. You never can make a new first impression. How do you put your best face forward? With a fabulous cover.
Whether you are using a photograph, original artwork or stark text, your cover needs to be a few things. Since 18% of readers claim the cover was the reason they even read the book description, let’s look at a few examples not to emulate.
After working for the perfect title, the reader needs to be able to read it. Your title needs to be:
- unimpeded by graphics
- in a legible font
- in a contrasting color to the background
- large enough to read at a glance
All of the above are equally applicable to your name.
On the cover to the right, the title and subtitle are difficult to read because they are the same color as the man’s hair.
A busy cover can leave a strange taste in your reader’s mouth. Collage covers need to stick to the content of the book and leave enough open space for the reader not to be overwhelmed by all of the parts.
If you are going to depict characters from your book, you may want to use snapshot candid photographs, portraits or a scene. Certain genres, like romance and fantasy, often show a scene central to the theme or in introduction of the characters.
Balance these so they do not interfere with the title and vice versa. Giving the reader’s eye some space sparks the imagination.
If you think about it, you can probably remember the cover to a book you read whose title escapes you entirely. The image was gripping or frightful or in some other way gave your emotions a shake. Like the melody of a song you cannot get out of your head, you remember.
Give this to your reader. By choosing a cover image which is central to your story line, you are making your story one readers will return to again to fill in the memory gaps.
Some common mistakes authors make when choosing what goes on their cover are:
Branding: Choosing an image indicative of the author’s lifestyle which is not reflected in the book.
Hooks: Excessive long spoilers to get the reader to buy the book, better suited for the jackback
Cluttering: Attempting to get a representative of every chapter on the cover
Color: Not enough contrast
Font: Something trendy which is not representative of the contents or something difficult to read
Headshot: Fiction really should not have the author’s picture on the cover, especially not with questionable photo editing.
Missing Information: Subtitle and series insignia are musts.
Over Shopped: Morphing images can go horridly awry when attempting a complex cover.
Details Wrong: If your protagonist wears a blazer, putting him in a hoodie on the cover is wrong.
Emotion Wrong: Evoking an emotion not supported by the text
Sex Sells: Is your book erotica or romance or contain sex scenes? Then, no.
My Friend, The Artiste: Get more than one opinion on the quality of the art.
Framing: When layering images, be careful with the impression you leave.
License: Just because you downloaded it from a “free” site does not mean you may use it for commercial (selling your book) purposes without paying for a license from the image owner, who likely is not the owner of the website where you downloaded the image.
The elements of a terrific book cover are:
- Easy to read title
- Classic font face
- Good contrast
- Image indicative of content
- Sufficient dead space
By keeping it simple, you can get a cover which will stay in the minds of your readers and draw them back to your book.
Just as you sent your manuscript to beta, test drive your cover with your blog audience, book club, beta readers and uninterested parties.
If you are going to do it yourself, remember your cover is going to represent the quality of the text beneath it. If it does not shine, pedestrian readers are not going to stop to see if your did a better job inside than out. Your cover is not a social media meme, yet. It will become your calling card.
When in doubt, contract an artist to do your cover. It is an investment in your book which can increase your sales more than 15%.
What is the worst cover? What is your favorite book cover? Do you have a book you remember the cover but not the plot? Have you ever bought a book solely because the cover was interesting?
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