You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover—But Most People Do
by Roh Morgon
Book covers are the ball gowns of the party. Your cover design will make the difference between your book becoming a wallflower—or the belle of the ball.
When you meet someone for the first time, your instinctive social machinery kicks into gear. Instantaneous judgement occurs, sometimes before you’re even aware of it. Whether this person is dressed in dirty jeans, a ragged T-shirt, and has unkempt hair, or they are wearing a ball gown and diamonds, those first impressions do matter, and they matter for your book as well.
If you’re traditionally published, you may have little to say about your book’s cover, and in many cases, will be lucky if the cover relates to the story at all.
But if you indie publish, it’s up to you to provide the best cover possible for your book.
Many self-published authors, in order to save money, will have a friend design the cover, or worse, try to do it themselves. But unless you are a graphic artist, this is something best left to a professional who specializes in your genre.
Book cover designers can be expensive, but your book will not attract the attention necessary to sell more than a handful of copies without a professional looking cover.
The best analogy to cover design is to imagine that you’ve been invited to an elegant ball whose guest list includes famous authors, top agents, and premier publishers—the crème de le crème of the publishing industry.
This is your chance to shine, to meet those in the industry who can help you make that leap from little-known writer to bestselling author.
But what are you going wear?
Are you going to pull something out of your closet that you wore to your high school prom or your cousin’s wedding?
Or are you going to go shopping for something suitable to wear among the elite? Will an off-the-rack Walmart dress do, or should you grit your teeth and walk through the doors of a high-end retailer or specialty shop?
Will it be your pink prom dress or that elegant red ball gown you think you can’t afford?
Trust me on this—you want the red ball gown.
The most important preparation you can do to ensure that red ball gown fits perfectly is to create a cover description (aka cover brief) that includes elements of your story you want captured on the cover, such as:
- Genre (yes, each genre has a style)
- Character descriptions
- Setting descriptions
- Key elements
- Blurb (for the back cover of print editions)
And if you’re writing a series, you will need to provide this information for each book. In addition, it would be best to have all of the covers designed at the same time (if possible) to maintain continuity.
Once you’ve selected a designer and they begin work on your design, there are several factors you should keep in mind when evaluating cover proposals:
- Imagery should be striking and seamless. Most cover designs are a composite of several images, and they should blend well enough to appear as a single photo
- Title and author name should be in a font that is legible and large enough to be readable in thumbnail size
In fact, always preview the cover proposal at a size equivalent to how it would appear on Amazon. Because that is where your potential readers will discover it.
A cover may be beautiful in a 6” x 9” trade paperback format, but it won’t do you any good if it doesn’t jump out at you at thumbnail size with a readable title and author name.
So keep all that in mind, and do yourself a favor when you reach the cover design stage, and remember—you want that red ball gown.
Here’s a short blurb from the first book in Roh’s urban fantasy series, Watcher: Book I of The Chosen::
Sunny Martin’s been a monster – or so she thinks – since the night she was drained of her blood and left for dead. But when she falls in love with Nicolas, the mysterious leader of The Chosen, she discovers a startling truth behind her savage nature which may force her to choose between her heart and the last remnant of her human soul.
More about the Author
Roh Morgon is an indie author of “urban fantasy with a romantic bite.” She recently released two books from her series The Chosen—a second edition of Watcher: Book I of The Chosen with a new edit, additional scenes, and a new cover; and its sequel, Runner: Book II of The Chosen. When she’s not out adventuring in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and Yosemite, she can be found on her blog, Facebook, and Amazon.