“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” she said.
by Yvonne DiVita
He said it, too.
They all said it.
And, it was bad advice.
The world will judge your book by its cover. You have no control over that. People see a book and immediately form an opinion of it. If your cover is not professional, if it does not give the reader the right message about the book, right away, if the colors are off-putting, if they are confused by the title, subtitle, or design, they will look away. And then they will go away.
But I’ve got you covered.
Consider this, we are a visual species. That’s why the web is so popular. It’s a visual tool. People log on to social to “see” something. I know there are millions who are not sighted, who operate from that handicap, and the tools they use give them their ‘visual’ clue with words. So, I am not generally speaking to them here. I am talking about the rest of us. If you’re in agreement, I recommend this visual training info presented by Canva, a tool many of us use to create our electrifying graphic images online.
The truth is, a book cover can make you or break you.
Let’s talk about what makes a good book cover.
- Color. Generally, you need to stick to colors that help define your message. If you have a website (I say ‘if’ only because I’ve met folks lately who don’t have a website – I even wrote a blog post asking folks it they really think a website is necessary), I will expect that you have discussed color with your web designer. If your web designer is yourself, stop and have that discussion now. Colors mean something. Learn what colors mean and apply that to both your web design and your book cover.
- Content. Your cover has your title. Your subtitle. Your name. At the moment, we’re talking front cover. It’s what draws people to the book, whether the book is on a shelf at a bookstore or displayed on a page in Amazon, your website, or elsewhere. The title has to be catchy. Not kitschy. It has to be readable in a thumbnail size, which is what will display on many web pages.
The title font needs to be visible from 10 feet away. The title font needs to be readable from 10 feet away.
The subtitle needs to define the title. Often, the subtitle is what convinces folks to open the book and browse.
Your name should be spelled correctly. I know of an instance where a book was released by a traditional publisher, thousands of copies were printed, and the author’s name was misspelled. Whose fault was it? You decide. I share that story a good bit because I want my authors to be bulldogs when it comes to their content. And, I don’t want them to forget the content on their book cover.
When I think of good book covers, good titles, I think of current fiction writers like Stephen King, Caleb Carr, non-fiction writers like Debbie Allen, Brene' Brown, and my friend, Katherine McGraw Patterson, whose cover is amazing!
I am adamant that writers should look at other books, similar books, before designing the cover of their own book. Follow the links above and check out the cover design. In each case, each link, I promise you a great book cover.
But what exactly goes on the cover? When we talk about your cover, are we just talking about the front cover? No, no, no! There is more to a book cover than the pretty picture on the front.
A book cover includes:
- The spine. Your book will have a spine, even if you don’t. Yes, that was an LOL. Your spine is of no interest to me. But, the spine of your book is another story. It’s an important element in cover design. We can go into the particulars when we work together. I merely want to mention it here, because sometimes, in the heat of the writing, we focus on our front cover, forgetting that the title and author and the publisher need to show up on the spine. That's a lot of text for a skinny space. Unless you're writing rewriting War and Peace.
- Back cover. The back cover is as important as the spine. It displays your book subject and blurb, and a few, short testimonials. The color of the front should wrap around the book. That's carry through. Sometimes, in fiction especially, the image will also carry through. Once you understand that people who are drawn to your book in a bookstore by its amazing front cover design, and the title, they will then turn it over and read the back cover to determine if it’s really worth reading. Those testimonials count, and a blurb about the book counts, and a picture of you. Yes, a nice thumbnail picture of you.
Traditionally published books often come with a paper cover, so the image of the author is on the inside back blurb. For our purposes, we use print-on-demand and produce professional books without covers. Sometimes, we put the author's image on the front cover, negating the need for it to show up on the back cover.
- The front cover. We have already covered this a bit above. Let me say that I like seeing the author's picture on the cover, if it's a non-fiction book. If her picture is not on the cover, I turn it over to see if it's on the back cover. If you don't like that idea, of your picture on the cover of your book (yet, I suspect you will grow into it), make sure you pay close attention to color, design, and font.
Book as Business Card for Entrepreneurs
At Nurturing Big Ideas good cover design is a serious task. Tom, Lead Guide Dog from Old Dog Learning, studied design and takes pride in the covers he helped design back in the Windsor Media Enterprises days. That's our previous company, book development using print on demand back in 2005. Today, he is even more talented and experienced.
My claim to fame, for the uninitiated, is a book that generated a lot of attention, in 2005. The title of the book was, Dickless Marketing. The subtitle was, Smart Marketing to Women Online. The content is woefully out of date now, but at the time, no one was talking about marketing to women, so I did. The title refers to Dick and Jane, erstwhile kids who were characters in early readers of the 1950s.
The book launched my popular, to this day, blog Lipsticking, as well as inspiring me to start Windsor Media Enterprises. I received numerous speaking offers, traveled, became recognized as an influencer in the marketing to women space, and proved that a book really is a calling card.
Book as business card is a concept I believe in. You will hear me say this phrase a good bit. It’s because there is truth to it – business cards get lost or intentionally thrown away. Books? Not so much. A book is a treasure. Plus, a book truly demonstrates your expertise, your knowledge, your support for your readers' problems, and it tells the true story of you - not the canned one you put on your About page.
The Rise of the eBook
I won't cover eBooks here. They are similar but not the same as a print book. Many people are passing off PDFs as eBooks and when done well, it works. However, if you merely save a typed word document as a PDF and then call it an eBook, you are doing both yourself and your readers a big disservice.
The eBooks on my Books & Programs page were carefully crafted, then designed, with specific cover images (women I know who are successful entrepreneurs) to attract the right readers. Perhaps you are one.
One last note - if you plan on writing more than one book, and you should, be aware at the onset, with book one, that the cover design needs to carry through in color, font, and style. I did that with my eBooks, also.
I share more writing content and big ideas in my weekly newsletter Smart News. Come join us and learn how to write your book, this year.
p.s. there's a free eBook that demonstrates what I've told you here: What's Love Got to Do with It?
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