Like it or not, we all judge books by the cover. Part of the reason behind this is simple: certain genres follow certain guidelines in the way they present their books. Everyone can spot a harlequin romance a mile away, if only because of the explicitly sensual characters portrayed on the cover. Self-help and how-to books often showcase full color photographs of the projects contained in the book – a sneak peek, if you will, of its contents.
Get right down to the nitty-gritty of it, and it’s easy to see how the cover will sell a book. As a self-publisher, this little fact can become a terrible realization – especially if you’ve already gotten boxes of printed volumes stored in your garage. The importance of taking time to design – or have designed – a really good cover for your book can’t be underestimated.
Why the Cover?
With a few exceptions, your readers don’t get to read your book before they purchase it. Even if they do get to read it, that will consist of the preview you have uploaded to a site or the quick thumb-through that they do while standing in the aisle of a bookstore.
Dig even further into the cover issue, and you’ll learn that the industry itself relies heavily on cover art. Sales reps will only carry the book covers and jackets when they approach bookstore owners and buyers. Wholesalers and distributors will often say, “Just send us the cover copy”. In short, every element of the buying decisions surrounding your labored-over work is made on the illustration, design, and sales copy outside your book.
A good, strong cover design will not only give you a bit more pride in your work, but it will give the book’s contents a huge boost in credibility. It helps your book to sell.
Putting a bit of imagination into the title of your book, and your advertising budget into cover design, gives everyone what they need: a compelling cover with art and sales message that encourages buying decisions in your favor.
Elements of Good Book Cover Design – Do It Yourself
If you have the courage (yes, gulp a few times), the patience (of a saint), and the perseverance, you can save yourself a lot of money by designing your book cover yourself.
Even if you decide to go the other route and pay someone else to design your cover for you, you need to know what the process is. That way, you know exactly what you’re looking at, and looking for.
Use Cover Templates
A ton of sites online offer cover templates, both for free download, and for sale. If you’re going to design your own cover, go for the free downloads. Seriously, you can gain enough inspiration by browsing the shelves of your book collection or visiting a few online bookstores. Links to the most accepted layouts are provided below, and contain free downloads.
Don’t forget to check with the publishing company you choose to work with, though. Many companies, like lulu.com, provide templates of their own to design your cover art with. These will always be better to use, because they’re designed specifically for the printers that will be used to print your book.
Also note that these templates should only be used as guidelines to help you position images and text. Avoid placing any text or images within the safety zones, and remove the “template” before saving your final work.
To use these templates, right-click the link and choose “Save Target As” (or “Save Image As”) to download them to your computer. Then, open the template in your image editing software (like Photoshop, PaintShop Pro, etc.). Add new layers to create your design and add text. When your design is complete, remove the “template” layer. For best results, your final image should be saved as a JPG or PNG file.
4.18 x 6.88 Mass Market Paperback Download
5 x 8 Standard Paperback Download
6.625 x 10.25 Comic Download
7.5 x 9.25 Technical Manual Download
8.5 x 11 Letter Size Download
Back Cover Treatment:
If your front cover has caught the reader’s interest, they will immediately turn to the back cover to decide whether this is indeed the book they want to buy or not. While it is the job of your front cover to catch the reader’s eye, it is up to your back cover to actually sell the book.
Add testimonials, quotes, or review “blurbs” to help sell your book. When readers turn to the back cover and see quotation marks, not just more writing from the author, they immediately see the book as being more reputable. If you can include a small photo of yourself and a brief bio, this helps the reader connect with you on a more personal level – which in turn adds into selling power.
Book buyers visiting most online bookstores have the option of enlarging the view of both front and back covers on the books they find, so don’t waste this opportunity to turn interest into a sale!
Sans serif fonts (fonts like Arial and Tahoma, with no extra “lines”) are typically used for book covers, while the contents of your book are going to lean toward serif fonts (fonts like Times New Roman) for readability. Remember that your cover fonts have to be very, very clean and precise.
On average, a bookstore browser spends 8 seconds looking at the front cover, and another 15 seconds scanning the back cover. This isn’t much time to make a sale, so you should pay close attention to making your text stand out and be read quickly and easily.
If your book will be sold online at all, test out your cover fonts on a thumbnail image (about 110 x 120 pixels) to make sure that it can be read just as easily as the full-size version.
Always, if in doubt – ask questions. The company that you choose to publish your book will have their own guidelines for what format your cover should be submitted in, what fonts need to be embedded, and what size the covers should actually be. Most sites are great about providing authors all the information they need beforehand, but if you can’t locate the information you need, use their contact link.
Take a Break – Have Someone Design for You
Much as the feeling of creating your book from cover to cover – literally – is satisfying, sometimes it is just too much to ask for. When so much is riding on the cover of your book, it is sometimes the wisest choice to take a break and get some help.
When looking for and working with a book cover designer, keep the following points in mind:
1. Provide Research – Take a few minutes to browse online bookstores, and provide links to book covers that you especially like, and ones you do not like. This thoughtful research will help the designer know your style, and makes the design process run smoothly and much more quickly.
2. Provide Content – If you have been able to gather testimonials, reviews, or know of several compelling bullet points that should be included on the back cover, give this content to the designer before they get going. This is such an important part of your book, the input you give the designer will help them create something you can actually use.
3. Get Proofs – It is extremely seldom that the first idea a designer gives you will be the one you really want. Make sure that the designer you choose will give you several “mock-ups” – ideas of what they think the cover should look like – as part of your total cost. You should never have to pay more to get the cover you want.
4. Look for Knowledge – Just because someone has really great graphics, or can design some really cool websites, does not make them the best candidate for a book designer. A good book designer should be able to show you examples of previous work, and you should be able to look at that work and say – yes, that’s professional!
5. Share – Any photographs or artwork that is specifically designed for your book might make a good addition to the cover art that your designer creates. Share your favorite pieces with them, and share links to the guidelines of the publishing company you’re working with. All of these things add up to crucial elements that will make your design process a real success.
Book Cover Designers
I’m not going to leave you searching on your own – below are links to some of the better book cover designers available online. They have proven track records and examples of work that is nothing short of brilliant. This should give you a good head-start in your quest for the perfect cover design.
Karen Ross – www.karenross.com – With 25 years of experience, this woman knows what it takes to turn a book cover into a promotional tool. Her portfolio is stocked with some really smart designs, and she provides full support throughout the design process.
Sam Wall – www.samwall.com – Providing freelance illustration and cover design services, you’ll find everything on his site from samples of his work to testimonials from previous clients.
Judith Arisman – http://www.arismandesign.com – This woman’s work, and site, definitely live up to her slogan: “Designs that Inspire, Engage and Endure”.
Fiona Raven – http://www.fionaraven.com – Both cover and interior design is provided by this artist, with such acclaim that her site’s front page is stocked with glowing testimonials from previous clients.