10 cover design secrets that will
knock your book off the shelves
Download our free book cover template >  Book Cover Design

First impressions are important in two main arenas: In relationships, and in book sales. Your book may be a literary masterpiece; but if it's covered in shabby clothing, it will get passed on by.

A book cover is not only a marketing tool, but an identity. If designed carefully and properly, it entices interest and has the power to sell, almost completely in and of itself.

There are many components to designing a successful cover, and if you're already a designer, of course you know there's a lot more creative freedom to apply, and that's a bonus. However, this article is expressly for the design-challenged folks who want good results fast.
I've cooked it down to the 10 most vital elements that will guarantee sales, without a marketing or art degree:  
  1. Book Title: Keep it at 2-4 words. Any more than that should be worded as title/subtitle. Use a bold and large font (serif or sans serif) like Minion Pro, Helvetica Neue, etc. and stay away from script-y fonts in general. Rule of thumb-"nail": Reduce your cover image down to 1 inch. Is your title still legible?  
  2. Subtitle: If one is needed to clearly describe the book's title, use a font that's at least 36pt, and place just beneath the title, or beneath the image (see 4.) 
  3. Color: Stick to contrasting tones, and only use 2-3 colors. Black or dark type on a white/light background works best. Why? Some publications will display your book in black and white, so it needs to look good in both formats. 
  4. Images: One photo or graphic image, placed in the center or balanced with the title. Place the image in a thinly bordered rectangle for a tidy look.
  5. Author name: Placed at bottom. Suggestion: Reverse this on a colored bar. Ex: If your title is blue on white, reverse the author name as white on a blue bar. This lends contrast and interest.
  6. Spine: Use bold, block type (ideally the same as the front cover title) and if the title is short enough, center it vertically. Most of the time, the spine is the only exposed part of your book in a bookstore, so it needs to have much contrast and large type that yells HEY - pick me up.
  7. Back cover: When people pick up a book, they look at the front, then they flip it around to the back as they're assessing how interesting it is. Keep your design simple and tasteful, mimicking the front, and DON'T BE TOO WORDY. A brief, 2 paragraph summary of the book is fine. Rule of thumb: Keep the summary under a third of your book's length, type should be 11 or 12 pt.  
  8. Repeat your book title and subtitle on the back, a little smaller, placed at the top. Beneath that, put in the summary of the book, and below that in a new paragraph, include your bio, with the barcode at the bottom right. 
  9. Bio: Best placed on the inner flap, or within the last pages of your book. However, if you must include your bio on the back cover, keep it concise and pertinent. Do not ramble on about all your awards and how perfect your kids are. 
  10. You're going to hate me for this, but I'll say it anyway: If you aren't the Pope, God, or otherwise a household name, DON'T include a photo of yourself. Why? It will convey the message that you are conceited and may repel many people from buying your book. Can you include an image of something else that symbolizes the essence of who you are? Absolutely!
Sample book cover ...And there's my top ten in a nutshell. Follow these basic rules, and you will have a fabulous, well-groomed cover that will get the attention it deserves. For your convenience, I've set up a basic template in BookCoverPro that follows these elements, completely free to use. Click here or the image at left to download.

Questions? Contact me!
 Angie :)
Angie Underwood is a professional graphic designer with over 21 years in the business, 12 of those years expressly focused on book cover and book interior design. Back in 2006, she created and developed BookCoverPro™ software (www.bookcoverpro.com) to help self-publishers, book printers and designers around the globe create their own beautiful cover designs with ease and confidence.
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