Covers are the visual your reader sees when they see your book on a book site. In addition to being an author, Stephannie Beman is also a cover designer. As for me, I’m just an author. So she’ll take the viewpoint of the cover artist while I take the viewpoint of the author.
Here is the first of many tips–stay-tuned for more–we have come up with while talking about cover design…
Tip #1. At a glance, your cover should tell people what your genre is.
Ruth’s thoughts as an author: The average person will only glance at your cover while searching through books. So the first thing you want to do is tell them “The genre for this book is….” Some people buy books based on the covers. They don’t go through and read the description first. Whether or not you think this is the right way to do things, the fact is some people choose to buy books this way. This is why it’s crucial to have a cover that tells them, “This is a historical western romance” or “This is horror novel where the protagonist is a kid” or “This is a paranormal about a werewolf” or “This is a science fiction novel that takes place on another planet”.
Just by saying the “This book is…” I bet certain images popped in your head without even realizing it. For the historical western romance, you might expect a cowboy, a woman in a long dress, a couple embracing, fancy fonts, and a happy feel. For the horror novel with the kid, you probably visualize a dark background with a kid who looks scared. The font will probably have a creepy feel to it. For the paranormal werewolf cover, you probably will get a man and the image of a wolf or a couple and the image of a wolf somewhere. It’ll probably have a little bit of dark feel to it, though not as dark as a horror novel. For the science fiction novel featured on another planet, you probably expect a scene from outer space with space shuttles or spaceships (perhaps ones ready for war), maybe a planet or two, and maybe a bold font.
You might want your cover to stand out from the crowd, but people are so used to seeing covers in all the genres that it’s a good idea to make sure your cover is similar to the others. That doesn’t mean you take a cover and make the exact same one. But what you do is take the elements (the common themes) and use it in your cover. For example, if you have a thriller about a serial killer who is a man, you might want bright red letters in a bold font with a gray or black background where a man is standing in the rain holding a gun and looking like he’s ready to kill the next person who talks to him. I bet all of us could take that idea and we’d all come up with different covers because the way I’m visualizing this cover in my mind is different from how you do. But it’s the same idea and the same genre and will tell readers the same thing: this is a thriller about a killer. This message in a single image can reach the right person to your book and tell the wrong person to go elsewhere. (For example, if someone would rather read a medical thriller, they will probably look for something like a needle or a medical instrument.)
Steph’s thoughts as a cover designer: I agree with everything Ruth said above! 😀
Readers, like most consumers, are drawn to the packaging of a product. Like Nike or Pepsi that design needs to be memorable and catch the attention of a passerby because that is where the bulk of your readers will come from. Your cover is your foot in the door. It’s usually the readers first glimpse of the book. That first glimpse needs to tell them a story that makes them want to hit buy. Otherwise they’ll wander away to another shiny book.
Now that book you’ve slaved over for months might be your baby, but to everyone else it’s entertainment. And book covers are your marketing tool. They tell the reader what they are about to purchase. Which means they need to tell about the story and the genre in a single glance. If you don’t know how a cover in your genre should look, your cover design may not work. So do your homework.
Research what is trending in book cover design in your genre. Take screenshots of books that stand out in a good way, with designs and fonts you like. Check out The Book Designer’s (http://www.thebookdesigner.com/tag/awards/) ebook cover awards to see some of the good, the bad, and the plain ugly covers. The Book Design will even tell you why they are his pick for good and bad design. Pay attention and you’ll learn a lot.
So for fun I thought I’s post a few cover designs for you to look through. Can you guess their genre?