What do you look for when you go book shopping? How do you know which book is "the one"? More often than not it's because you shopped with your eyes first and fell in love with the cover. An eye-catching design, bold fonts, and stellar images can set your book apart in a sea of other competitors. But if you aren't traditionally publishing, the responsibilities of creating a competitive cover falls on your shoulders as an Indie author. That can be a lot of pressure, particularly if you don't know where to start or don't have a degree in design. To avoid the extra stress here's 5 smart tips to keep in mind while designing your own.
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Do Your Research
You wouldn't buy a car without doing the research first, right? The same rule applies to designing your book's cover. Researching the stylistic elements behind Best Seller's is not only helpful, but drawing inspiration from books that have already seen success gives you a starting point. Bottom line there's a science behind what sells and what doesn't.
Before you design your cover consider the following:
To hire or not: There's a reason that professional book designers exist. They have extensive knowledge of the industry, years of experience, and statistics on what sells and why. If you have the budget for it, it's always a good idea to consider a professional. But if you don't have the budget there are ways to ensure your book can be competitive in the literary market.
It's not about what you think is "cute" or about your own stylistic preferences: Remember who your book is for. It's for readers. While you may have wrote the book for yourself, you're not the one who is ultimately going to buy it. This, unfortunately, means that you're going to have to make some tough decisions somewhere in your book designing process. Maybe that means you hire a professional. Maybe it means you choose another more marketable font over the crazy one you really love.
Quality control should be your first priority: There's a reason certain design elements work for certain genres. Bold aggressive prints and flashy covers work well for Mystery Novels, but the figure of a couple in a romantic embrace wouldn't, just like dark colors and suspenseful blurbs wouldn't work vice versa. You also shouldn't have a dog on your cover if your book isn't about dogs. Your cover should reflect your genre, your intended audience, and of course accurately reflect your the contents of your book.
Professional formatting standards matter: Like quality control decisions, another group that matters is formatting. It's never a good idea to go against the grain when it comes to the basics. Things like font size, symmetry, and what is supposed to go on a book cover has been tried and true, which means that messing with what works won't bring you success. It's not "edgy" or "creative" to use a larger font than what's recommended, nor is it "cool" to put character profiles on the back cover where a book blurb should be.
When In Doubt, Ask
If you're not sure whether your book cover design will sell, or if you're stuck between different versions and can't decide on which you like better, it's time to take a poll. Show it to your friends, family, and writer friends. Ask them their opinion! There's no one better to help you decide what will work than potential readers. Make a survey on your social media accounts and see what people like and respond to the most. You can repeat this as many times as needed and it'll help you gain further insight into how certain design elements will help your book sell once it hits bookshelves and Amazon. You can also use tools such as PickFu, UsabilityHub, or Playbuzz to aide you in your comparisons. Hired a professional? You can still use this method! Simply have your designer create several different mock-ups for you with slight differences in design.
Keep It In The Family
Writing a series or a sequel? Consider keeping your book covers unified in both cover style and title font. This means using the same tone and overall aesthetic for all the books that belong together. Packaging them this way will help boost their appeal and can make for higher sales during holiday seasons and sales when you would typically bundle books to try to boost profits. Giveaways also use themes, so tying your design elements together would also be helpful for this as well. Carrying elements from your book covers into your overall branding can also help make your work easily identifiable to readers, meaning they will keep buying your work because they know it belongs to you as an author. A two fantastic examples of this from different genres are James Patterson and Danielle Steele. If you pick up any of their books, they all look very similar. This is the result of the above principles in action.
Canva To The Rescue!
Looking for a free editing tool for creating book cover mock-ups? A great one comes from Canva, a free online graphic design platform, used to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents and other visual content. The great news is that they now have book cover design tools. There are different subscription levels (including a free one) where they provide everything you need, from design elements, copyright-free images, fonts, templates, and more! Check it out here.
Second Time's The Charm
Not seeing the sales you expected? It may be because your book's cover doesn't attract enough attention. This doesn't mean your book isn't good enough to sell. It means it needs refreshing. You see this time and time again in bookstores. Whenever a series gains a movie contract, one of the first things that happens is the book gets reprinted with the actors playing the characters on the cover. All of the classics like Shakespeare, Jane Austen's novels, and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby experience a new cover annually to help keep them in the limelight. Sometimes when there's a lull in sales, fancy new packaging inspires excitement for readers and collectors alike.
Whether you're designing your book's cover for the first time or looking to elevate it, these tips are a list you should keep in your mind as you go through the process.
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