Great book cover design has to fulfill many roles for the author, there is the obvious one (and what the cover was originally designed for) which is to protect the pages within. This is highlighted when you look back at any early book, the cover and body were normally put together by book-binders whose skill and craft resulted in books which even though timely to produce were works of art in themselves.
The modern book and the process in which it is created has come a long way since then, the time scales for production have decreased dramatically along with the cost, you also see the normality of ‘Print-On-Demand’ services, while an author would have been able to print their own book (without the need of a publisher) via a vanity press, this has become more mainstream and ‘indie publishers’ are now commonplace.
The book cover still protects the pages of the book (both in paperback and hardback) but the role of the book cover design has become more about the advertising and representation of the book itself.
Advertising is not a dirty word and one that any new author certainly needs to embrace, this is especially the case if publishing as an Indie Author, without the backing of a large, medium or even small publishing house it really is down to the individual author to do all of the hard work in getting the book known to the general public.
The very first touch point in the book’s promotion will of course be its cover design, and as with any other form of advertising you only have a split second to grab the attention of the reader.
Subconsciously we also quickly dismiss or are intrigued by books we look at upon the shelf (or more commonly, upon the screen of the online store), we prejudge the contents of the book based upon the way it presents itself to us, if it looks amateurish then we’ll assume the same about the contents within, make no mistake, we ALL judge by appearances (and we’re hard-wired to do so).
So, we are quick to judge a book by its cover (as we do everything), now you need to take into account the huge number of books that the viewer can choose from, did you know that there are over 1,600 books published in the USA alone………DAILY!!! This gives you an idea of competition, but more importantly it should make any author realize that with great choice you need to be the one that stands out above the rest.
Your book cover needs to give a clear message to the reader: what genre it is, the location, time period, fiction/non-fiction, it’s title (in a way which is readable when the book is made into a thumbnail for the eBook), target audience and hook to make them pick it up. But, at the same time it shouldn’t be too busy, give too much away or confuse.
A professional book should make your work shine and become the face of your manuscript, it should be something you’re proud of and show off your book for the excellent body of writing that it is.