“Books may well be the only true magic.” Magic that’s real? Maybe that’s borderline oxymoronic but you couldn’t blame Alice Hoffman for insinuating such a thing when she has raked in thousands of dollars for her bestsellers and ended up with a modest sum of money as much as any other author who made it big, if we don’t count the likes of J.K. Rowling who is quite frankly on another level thanks to movie adaptations of one Harry Potter book after another.
Elements of A Great Book Cover
You’ve got to consider how many rejection slips it must have took them and their writer’s pride in pieces before they hit the jackpot and got any major publishing house to notice their stories. If you have dreams of making it to print and having copies of your book restocked in bookstores all over the country and probably the world if you’re lucky, you must have a winning cover with the following elements:
1. Message: Sure, text and graphics would probably make up the most of your book cover design but you have to think about the one message you want to convey to your target readers in that the limited space, in a matter of seconds, which is set to be one of the biggest challenge of a book cover.
2. Title: The most iconic books have titles which people remember for ages and recognize well when they think about the cover of their first editions. Think of a title that will be easy to remember, something unforgettable and relevant to the message of the overall design, otherwise, your title will mean little, and that could be visually frustrating or disappointing, especially if you’re offering a real good story. Don’t spend too much time thinking about your title when something subtle but at the same time straightforward will do.
3. Focus: Your cover is the visual representation of what your book is about, without giving away too much. The idea should be reflected clearly and should dominate a good part of the attention and emphasis on the layout so try not to have too much going on. You should also make it your goal to catch the attention of your target audience as fast as five seconds which means the book should be able to tease them with the slightest hint of what it offers, and draw them in.
4. Cover Design: For children’s books, the graphics and illustrations would usually dominate a large part but every element should be relevant and fits together to make up an idea which the reader would learn more about through reading the book in full.
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Steps to Design an Excellent Book Cover
If you’re lucky, the reader may pick it up from the pile. If you’re luckier still, he or she may read the content on the back cover and proceed to buy the book. Here are some steps for designing a book cover that would sell your books from the shelves:
1. Send a message, tell a story but not all of it: Generally, the most hardcore of bookworms would be able to differentiate fiction from nonfiction considering one speaks to the heart and the other to the brain. This is what you should remember as an author or designer. Book covers for novels are most effective when appealing to the emotions while nonfiction portrays witty and often intriguing design that sells well. If you have selected a title, you probably already have a good idea of what message you want your cover to send.
2. Choose The right picture: Simple is better, contrary to what most people would tell you. The most iconic cover designs are as simple and as visually provoking as they come. You shouldn’t experiment with too many color schemes and make sure your cover does not end up looking like an abstract painting with too many things that doesn’t really convey anything clear. Remember that the image you choose should stir the right emotions in your readers when they look at it or pick it up, such as suspense, intrigue, even lust, shock or horror to some extent.
3. Use free book cover images: If you’re having problems getting your own images or shooting for your cover, fret not. The internet, because of the aid of different creative social media platforms, is a haven of stock images that you can use and manipulate to your heart’s content. Just make sure that you don’t miss out on citing credits for photos that include guidelines where artist, owner of the image or website page should be credited
Tips In Designing A Book Cover
You write books to get your stories to the reader’s shelves and hopefully to the shelves of a thousand, maybe million readers more. Use the following tips to make sure you end up with a cover that gets the interest of potential readers:
- Covers work as your book’s billboards: They serve as the tool that lures potential readers and for a certain part of the publishing industry, this also means staying on the safe side, where you’re giving a certain demographic exactly what they expect to see. Playing it safe is playing to their expectations. Think about a mystery or horror novel. That’s where you’ll need a cover with a black background and a splatter of blood. Think of Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” where there’s a backdrop of a house in black. With the right typography, playing it safe works to a great extent.
- Keep it subtle: It takes a certain type of reading to design a cover that sells and everyone would remember. According to Mendelsund, designer of a great many books ranging from reissues of book covers from authors such as Kafka and Dostoevsky among other literary icons to the most modern such as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, it’s tempting to just pluck an image from the story and be done with it, but that’s really tricky and would almost always fail to pinpoint the most important messages or idea of the book.
Types of Book Covers
Self-published or otherwise, here are the most common types of book covers you can use:
- Stock Image Manipulation: A wide majority of book cover designs are largely dependent on the available stock images the internet offers because who says you can’t? There are so many professionally-shot, top class images that are cost-free but just because they are already there for the taking doesn’t mean the designer doesn’t have to do anything anymore. Your job is to make it stand out and turn it into something phenomenal.
- Illustration: The main advantage of using this type of design is the style that the artist brings since it can differ from being as simple as a single illustration of a little girl to something dark and creative or intricate and oddly suggestive and intriguing.
- Original Photography: Due to lack of budget and probably time as well as resources, book covers with original images are not really common although not unheard of. This becomes a great option when the first two cannot turn the author or the designer’s concept into something visual.
Book Cover Sizes
Standard book sizes can vary depending on your genre but they usually fall under the following:
- Mass-market paperbacks: 4.25” x 6.87”.
- Trade paperbacks: Trade paperback sizes can range anywhere between 5.5” x 8.5” (a size that’s called digest) to 6” x 9” (also known as US trade).
- Hardcover: These book sizes tend to range from 6” x 9” to 8.5” x 11”.
Book Cover FAQs
Why is a book cover design so important?
Whether you like it or not, the cover is your book’s major selling point. It’s what gets the buyer or your target reader’s attention when they browse the shelves of hundreds of other titles in the bookstore.
What’s the best concept for a book cover design?
You need to stick to your genre expectations. When you browse through Amazon or Barnes and Noble’s bestsellers in the genre you have written, try observing the common patterns in color schemes, types, images, and general layout.
What is the role of graphics and text in your book cover design?
Whatever the manifestation of your concept is you have to make sure that each part of the message, from the image or illustration you use to the color, text, and type can support it. They should go together and every element should be relevant.
First impressions matter and this is never more true in marketing books, especially if they are self-published and haven’t made it to the bestseller’s or critic’s list yet, so make that first impression count (and last) by making sure your book cover design is as good as compelling as the story inside the pages of your book.