I recently began working with www.book-editing.com, and wrote a series of articles on book cover design for my profile there (soon to come). Here is the first.
Why Does Your Book Cover Matter?
1. You want people to pick your up book in the store, right?
Most bookstores have rows upon rows of shelves just packed with books, all grouped by genre and author. As customers meander by, glancing at an entire row in a matter of seconds, why should they pick up your mystery novel, rather than that mystery novel next to you, or perhaps the memoir across the aisle? The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” came about because the cover is how the book makes its first impression on a reader. If someone can’t get past the first impression, they’ll never discover how great your story really is.
2. So the cover gets noticed. Now what makes a reader open the cover?
If you’ve ever browsed a bookstore, you know you can idly pick up a dozen books before settling on one. The cover’s job isn’t done once it catches the eye. No, its purpose is deeper than that. A good cover should connect emotionally or intellectually with the reader. A pretty picture by itself isn’t worth much if it has no meaning.
3. Don’t give everything away just yet!
An effective cover should prepare the reader, and set the mood, for the story, without spilling the beans. Telling the whole story is what the rest of the book is for. The cover should allude to more than it gives away, because that draws in the reader to find out for themselves. Otherwise, what reason does anyone have to actually turn to the first page? Leave them wanting more.
4. But I pictured it looking different when I was writing it.
Is a good book cover simple or complex? Overflowing with imagery or text only? Is it pretty, gritty, elegant, edgy, dark, light, shouting for your attention or quietly commanding it? Trick question. What matters is what works.