Monday, February 13, 2017

Tips to Create Book Covers that Sell Books

With the changes to the publishing industry in recent years, more and more authors are choosing to self-publish. Unfortunately this has also resulted in a high percentage of those authors attempting to save costs by slapping on a quick DIY cover, without knowing what it takes to make a good cover. Remember, the cover is the first impression you give potential readers. Make sure it’s a good one by giving your book the best chance for success. Below are some tips that might help.

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:
Important: keep in mind the copyright on your fonts. Not all fonts are free, and this includes many of the freeware fonts. Often they are only free for personal use. If you plan to make money from the use of fonts through the sale of books, then that is a commercial venture and no longer falls under the rights of most freeware. Microsoft fonts are not free for commercial use. Always check the license of every font you use. The same goes for any images you use. Remember: You can't use anything you happen to come across.

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:
Understand how colors work.  There is a whole psychology behind colors. That's why you'll often see gloomy images and stark red or white titles on horror fiction, and you'll see muted, soft colors on historical romances. There is a plethora of websites that offer in-depth information on this. It's worth doing some research.

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.
How to check if your cover stands out: Turn your cover into the size of a thumbnail. This is often the size potential readers will see first when they browse Amazon for a new book. Is it still recognizable at that size? Does it still stand out when it’s small? To double check, a great trick is to take a screenshot of the Amazon page with books in your genre, then paste the cover of your book in among them. It’s the fastest way to see if it stands out from the crowd. I did this with 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!
And lastly, design the cover in a high resolution—300dpi is preferable for a sharp image in print. It's then easy to scale back for web images (72dpi).

Which are your favorite book covers? What are your thoughts on do-it-yourself covers? What has your experience been with covers?

23 comments:

L. Diane Wolfe said...

There is a whole psychology to cover art. And a good artist doesn't always translate to a good cover designer.

Poor font design is a big problem. It really does mark a book as self published.

Really happy you were pleased with yours.

Natalie Aguirre said...

These are great tips on cover design. I'm not artistic and would probably hire someone to do one for me, but it's good to know what works and doesn't. I had no idea some fonts are copyrighted.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Great tips! I prefer covers with artwork that depicts a potential scene in the story, but that says more about the genres I read than anything else. I have seen some covers that were so crowded that everything on them was lost.

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah, I've had some crowded covers that I gave a wtf look too and then got a new one.

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic tips! I've seen some covers with hard to read fonts or bad photoshopping. It takes a lot of work to make covers.

Bish Denham said...

I think the KISS principal (keep it simple stupid) is applicable when it comes to book covers.

Sandee said...

There is so much to know. I'm amazed at all the things you need to know. Thank you for sharing.

Have a fabulous day. ☺

Terri Tiffany said...

I just created my first book cover for my first indie.Your ideas are going to be very helpful to me in the future for my next book as I was pondering what to use. Thank you!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Can't remember who the author was, but I once saw a few of the same novels on a store's shelve and because of the way the edge was created, blended together they formed a picture. It was quite impressive. Thanks for this Diane. Luckily for me, I have a publisher and illustrator who are very professional in their approach. You can't see, but I'm smiling widely.

Jemi Fraser said...

Bad fonts can make a cover look amateurish! I didn't realize that about the Freeware fonts! Thanks for the tips :)

Denise Covey said...

Good advice re copyright. It's so hard to contact artists though. I'm putting together a mock up now and struggling to make decisions.

Juneta Key said...

I know cover as a reader caused me pause and look so know it is important. Thanks for all the great advice.
Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

Michelle Wallace said...

The cover is the first impression...and first impressions are lasting. Great tips, thanks Lynda.

Robert Bennett said...

Fantastic tips. As a rule though, I'm just gonna feed this to a graphic designer that I trust. Because I've accepted I know fuck all about making good covers.

baili said...

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i truly loved reading about your home that you made by your own hands .it was my dream to do so but i could only paint it !
wishing you more success and peace in life

Karen Lange said...

Excellent, excellent tips! We do often judge a book by its cover, at least at first anyway, and putting your best design foot forward is so important. Cheap design options are often not the best ones. "You get what you pay for" often rings true with covers too.

Jenny Baranick said...

This is great advice. The thumbnail check is such a great idea. There's really so much to consider.

J.L. Campbell said...

Thanks so much for this article, Lynda. Wonderful tips.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lynda - couldn't agree more ... simple is definitely best and yes I've picked up books because of their cover ... great and useful post - thanks .. cheers Hilary

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I admire people who design their own covers. Some do a great job, but I've seen others that aren't so terrific.
My publisher does all my artwork. 9/10 times I'm very happy. Once I asked for changes and they were made. I am grateful I don't have to take the time to do it.

DMS said...

What a thorough and fascinating post. I learned a lot. I had no idea that some fonts are only free for personal use. I also think the thumbnail idea is awesome! Thanks for sharing. :)
~Jess

Tyrean Martinson said...

Excellent tips! I've designed a few of my one and had some designed for me and I can agree with all of the above - especially the ones that I've personally messed up on in the past.

writeorelse.com said...

Oh there are so many, many things people have to know about covers.

One thing that gets me is the sheer number of covers that are just white text over a stock photo. They look lazy, like you're trying to pass off an internet meme as a book cover! You can hire a good cover designer - look around, it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.