Start Writing a Book
In addition to providing the wrapping around the words, the purpose of a bookʾs front and back cover is to
make readers want to buy your book. An effective front cover will grab the readerʾs attention and incite him
or her to learn more. An effective back cover can cinch the deal.
Bad or cheap-looking book covers are a turn-off to most book browsers. When they see a bad cover, they
wonder just how much time the author put into the book itself and whether the interior of the book will be
equally bad--unprofessional cover, unprofessional writing.
A well-designed cover is the first assurance the reader has that the book is of a high quality, both in
content and delivery. The cover can scare away a customer or lure them in. If you want to test this theory,
just ask any reader how he chooses a book online or from a brick and mortar retailer. If he's a typical
reader, he'll look at the front cover for no more than a few seconds, and then if his interest has been
peaked, he'll read the back cover. Some will then read the opening paragraph. If he isn't hooked by then,
he's not likely going to buy the book.
Cover design--your bookʾs first impression--is crucial to the success of your book, and the right design can be your most effective sales
tool. After spending months, sometimes years, to write your book, you shouldn't shortchange your work by not spending time and money
on an effective book cover. When someone looks at your book, you want them to be interested in what lies beyond the cover.
Some authors think they can design their own covers, and you can generally spot these a mile away. Just as you should not be your
own final editor, my advice is to not be your own cover designer. If your book is professionally written, it deserves a professional looking
You can get a professional book cover for anywhere from $200 to $1,200 depending on the amount of illustration on it and whether you
require custom work. If you canʾt afford hiring a professional illustrator, there are pre-made covers available for under $50 that have
been professionally created. I personally think it would be hard to find one that appropriately reflects your story, but it may be worth
looking into. Here's the link to my cover illustrator's website www.TugboatDesign.net where you can see many professionally-designed
Here are things professional illustrators take into consideration when designing a book cover.
Title and Author Readability - Cover & Spine
The font size used for the title and author should allow easy reading from eight feet away. Picture your book on the shelves in a busy
book store. You want people to be able to read the title even if they aren't right in front of the shelf.
The font style should be easy on the eyes so the reader can read it quickly, especially on the cover. You know yourself that when youʾre
perusing books on the shelves, you look at the title first, and each one gets only a few seconds of your time.
The color of the font is also important. It shouldn't clash with the background color, the cover art, the theme of the book, or stand out so
much that itʾs obnoxious.
Distinguish the title from the author name with different font style, size, or color.
The title and author name should be placed on a plain background for easy readability.
You will probably use a thumbnail size image of your cover for various promotions, so make sure it is still readable when reduced to a
The human eye is drawn to images, so having the right image on your cover is important. The cover image should be a reflection of
whatʾs inside, giving the reader an idea of what to expect from the book. The last thing you want to happen is having the reader expect
one thing from the cover and getting something else from the book. You don't want disappointed readers.
An effective cover image will set the tone for the storyline and engage the reader into turning the book over to read the back cover. It
should be unique and stand out from the rest.
For book covers, less is usually better than more. Avoid clutter—it will only frustrate the reader and send him off to look for something
more concise and easy to interpret.
Know Your Target Market
What appeals to one group of readers may not appeal to others, so itʾs important to know who will be the likely people to read your
book. Mystery readers expect to see something intriguing on the cover. Romance enthusiasts expect something heartfelt or sexy.
Vampire lovers will expect to see blood...well, maybe. I don't read books about vampires, so I really don't know. Anyway, you get the idea.
Draw them in with an illustration with which they can identify.
Check Out the Competition
If you have an author you admire, one you would like to emulate, check out his or her book covers. Ask yourself what is it about their
book covers that draws you in.
Before discussing cover art with a designer, run some ideas by your friends and family who know your storyline and are avid readers--a
fresh look at your concept can't hurt. I know of one book cover designer who will not create a cover without first reading the book. What
an excellent practice!
Once you engage a reader with a fascinating front cover, they will flip the book over to read what it is about. You now have one page to
motivate them to buy your book. There are several elements to consider.
Headlines are immediate attention grabbers. Keep them short and tight. Consider two or even three short abrupt sentences.
- She thought she had met her prince charming. He had other plans.
- Most people would have called the police. Mary didn't.
- He treated her badly. She treated him worse. Revenge was sweet.
Keep the synopsis of your story on the back cover short, no more than 100-150 words. Make it long enough for the reader to understand
the basic story line, but short enough as to not exceed their attention span.
Include the setting for your story, time period, the basic plot, and what conflict the reader can expect for the protagonist. I include setting
because many readers clearly do not like certain settings. For example, I know someone who will not read a book that takes place
outside of the US, and I know someone else who does not like to read stories that aren't fairly current. Some readers look for this, and if
it's not clear from reading the back cover, they will not buy the book, or worse yet, they'll buy the book and be disappointed.
Keep it tight and make every word count. And never ever ever give away the ending,
Now that the reader knows what the basic story line is, focus on what they will gain from reading the book. Talk about the essence of
the book. What will they learn? What will they come away with? What emotion will they experience alongside the protagonist? Stir up
their emotions. Leave the reader wanting more.
Give readers a sense for what they'll walk away with, but never promise the reader something you don't deliver inside the book.
Positive reviews sell books. Include a few one-sentence excerpts from reviews you've received If you can. Readers like to know what
others think. I generally don't have any bona fide reviews before my books are published, so as soon as I do, I pay a small fee to have
the back cover revised to include them.
If you donʾt have reviews before your book goes to print, you may want to include your bio and photo on the back cover instead of on the
last interior page of the book. Readers like to have a visual image of who wrote the book, and what better place to put it than on the back
Put time into creating the back cover copy--it's as important as the front cover and inside of your book. You could have an excellent front
cover and masterful novel, but if you throw together a back cover without careful thought, it could mean your book doesn't sell.
Visit your local bookstore or e-store and read the back covers. Learn from the ones that grab your attention.
If you're a self-published author (or even a traditionally-published
one), I have some bad news for you: Your book is being judged by
--Jeff Goins, author of The Art of Work
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