In our book, The How to Write a Book Book, my husband Tom Collins and I talk about the power of a visual world as we discuss book cover design.
Alex Lickerman, M.D. writing in Psychology Today, August 2012, said this:
The wrappers in which things come not only powerfully affect what interests us but also how we react to the contents we find inside.
This means, yes, Virginia, or Sue, or Maryanne, or whomever, people do judge a book by its cover.
Today, let's talk about that cover. What makes a good cover? What goes into creating a good book cover? What do you need to consider, even before hiring a designer?
A book cover is more than the pretty picture people see on the front of your book. If you've traditionally published, you may have a paper cover, over the actual printed book. This is where the pictures go; yours on the back, and a design on the front. If you're already wildly famous, if you're Taylor Swift, for instance, your picture would be on the front cover, not the back. In that case, it's the fame that sells the book, not the book content.
On paperbacks, which many people are fond of, and I am one, the cover image on the front is relative to the book's content. I will say more people are putting a professional photo of themselves on the front cover and I like that. Many of us are not Taylor Swift or Simon Cowell but we are important in our own circles. Having our picture on the front is a draw, when it's done properly.
If a photo of the author is not used, the image on the front cover should be compelling enough to show the would-be read what the book is about. The eye is drawn to color, design, and texture. As the eye perceives something interesting, it then moves to the title to see exactly what this book is about.
Titles are imperative. Titles have to mean something. You don't write a book about hiking and call it, walking around on a sunny afternoon. You call it, Going Up the Mountain, or something that tells me immediately what the topic is.
Titles need to also be in a larger font. Color will depend on the design of the book, which in itself, must follow the content of the book.
Once the new reader sees the title, likes the design, is now interested, she will read the subtitle. Today, subtitles can be lengthy, but for the most part, being succinct works best.
The reader will now turn the book over and look at the back cover. Why? Does she hope to find a treasure there? Yes, of course. First, in many fiction books, the back cover is an extension of the front cover image and it's fun to see how the two relate. In non-fiction, the design and color scheme stays but the content consists of testimonials and blurbs about the book, with a small, lower section reserved for 'about the author.'
Wonderful! We've now come full circle. The reader likes the design and colors. She is interested in the content because she read the title and subtitle, and she checked out the back cover to see what people have said about the book (and sometimes, she's looking for who said nice things; it's great to get even a minor celebrity on your back cover). Now we're done.
But, are we?
No, we are not.
You must never, never, never forget the spine.
Your spine - your book's spine - is often the first thing people see in the library or on a bookstore bookshelf.
The spine must match color and design of the front cover. The spine must say something to the reader. It includes the ISBN and the publisher's imprint. Along with the title. That's a lot to fit in such a small space.
In our book, we have cover images and details on what works and what doesn't.
The power of a visual world is more than pretty landscapes, beaches, mountains, and other beautiful things. It's the power of color and design to move an individual to do something - like, buy your book?
Yes, just like that.
Get your copy of our The How to Write a Book Book today! Buy it now, and learn how writing a book is just like building a house.