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Romancing The Cover

Choose a book to read.

Choose a book to read.

This week I received the draft cover of Web of Lies which made me think about the technical aspects of what makes a good design for a book cover. Usually, the author’s traditional publisher designs and passes a draft to the author for comments prior to publication. If you are self-publishing, the responsibility lies with the author. Whether you are self-publishing or traditionally publishing, an author should have some idea about what makes a book cover appealing to their potential reader’s eye.

There are some basic principles to keep in mind before signing out on your cover:

  1. The overall design will be attractive to the eye by making use of at least four to six colours, (usually six is recommended). Strong colour contrasts, shades of light and dark. A dark cover suggests a bias toward a darker story.
  2. When choosing font size and colour for the title, tagline and blurb ensure it conveys the tone of the story.
  3. The cover is a visual shorthand of the book’s content and must be a teaser capturing the readers interest so that they turn the book over, read the blurb and open the cover to read that first sentence of chapter one. The idea is to hook your reader before they know they’re caught to read the rest of the book.
  4. Does the cover fit with your author branding? Check the font, the colour and the lines. Regular readers will notice these features as yours straightaway and expect your usual standard of work from the novel.
  5. The spine can be overlooked when the cover is displayed flat on the screen. In your mind take the cover off the screen in book format and think about how it will look on a bookshelf. What will the potential buyer see? Is your name and title prominent? Is it a colour that catches the eye in that seemingly never ending line of books on the shelf. Consider what attracts your eye in a book store and use that as your guideline.
  6. What do you like about the back cover? Check it’s not cluttered with too many images or a blurb that’s too long. Do you want your photo on the cover? Has your blurb captured the reader’s interest so that they can’t help opening the book.

When I choose a book from the bookshelf, my first contact is usually with the title. Does the title capture my interest? If it captures my interest, I take it from the shelf and look at the front cover, and ask myself if it’s appealing. If yes, I look at the tagline, and if I’m still interested I turn the book over and read the blurb. If my interest is piqued further, I open the book and read the first paragraph. This is the clincher. If I want to keep reading, the sale is made regardless of price. For any of these stages, if I lose interest I put the book back on the shelf. The cover is the most important decision for me in buying a book.

How do you choose your novel? Is it the colour, the font, the author's name, tagline, the blurb or first chapter that pulls you in to spend your hard-earned cash on a book? I'd love to hear your preferences, please leave a comment.