Keep the design simple. What you leave out is just as important as what you put in. Don’t add extra text. If you start throwing in too much, the eye doesn’t know what to focus on and the cover becomes an unprofessional mess. Unless you've built a huge fan base over a number of books, make sure the title is bigger than your name. In the interest of keeping it simple, avoid the special effects on the image and the fonts. Just because your graphics program has these funky filters, doesn't mean you should use them. This includes bevels, lens flares, distortions, and so forth.
|An example of a good design and a bad design|
Research cover trends. Does the trend lean toward photos or illustration for your market? Does it lean toward images of people or objects? These trends can change over time, so if you think you know, then double-check anyway. This is not to say you have to copy what's out there, but it is to say you want the genre of your book to be easily recognizable. The cover must communicate the book's genre.
The power of fonts:
The choice of font is as important, if not more so, as the images you choose for your covers. Don’t use too many different fonts on your cover. It will look messy otherwise. Use easy-to-read fonts. This might sound obvious, but I’ve seen so many authors choose a font because they like it, not because it’s readable. And if the font itself is readable, make sure there's a strong contrast between the font color and the background it's on. Do your research and make sure the font fits the genre of your book too. Below I’ve put together three different examples of font usage without an image behind them. Through the font treatment and style, it’s easy to work out what genres the covers fit into.
Another point on readability: Don't be afraid to break up a long title onto a couple of lines. One long title across the book's width often means being forced to make the title too small. Look for balance in the design. Below is an example:
The power of the images:
When choosing an image, or multiple images for your work, there are many factors you should keep in mind. Don’t go with fussy imagery, or pictures with many different colors. Too many colors become distracting. The eye won’t know where to focus and the title, and entire cover, will become lost. A simple image can speak a thousand words and will stand out far better than an intricate one. If you want to use multiple images, make sure you know how to blend them first. If you don’t then avoid this. If the chosen image is too busy to allow your title to stand out, then create a block space behind the title to tone the busyness down. See the sample below:
It's also important to understand how colors work together. If you've chosen an image that's predominantly blue, then it's not wise to use blue text as well, even if it's a different blue. Complimentary colors offer great contrasts while working well together. Looking at the color wheel below, the colors that sit opposite each other on the wheel are the complimentary colors.
Cling to God, my devotional book that was recently released. While the final of my cover was done professionally by my publisher, I still wanted to see for myself if it stood out. And it definitely did!
Which are your favorite book covers? What are your thoughts on do-it-yourself covers? What has your experience been with covers?