6 Secrets to Maximize Your Book Cover Design

You only have a few seconds to grab the attention of readers. Those seconds are priceless. Each cover component matters.

  1. Intriguing title

  2. Beneficial subtitle

  3. Color contrast

  4. The “Z” still matters

  5. Suitable unique image

  6. You’ve got one inch

Intriguing title

Book titles always come to me before the rest of the book. I’ve been told that is rare. At any given time I have ten titles rattling around in my head begging to be written.

Here’s the thing about a title, it has to catch the attention of a reader in a matter of seconds and hold it long enough for the rest of the cover to do its job. When I shared the title of my first book prior to having my subtitle nailed down, most people loved it and were intrigued. One person told me that no one was googling butter tubs and that I should let it go.

It turned out to be the metaphor for the entire book. It is memorable and stirs up the right amount of nostalgia. Sure, I could have filled my title with searchable key words, but hey, isn’t that what metadata is for?

My title catches the attention and makes people wonder what the book is about. The subtitle fills them in.

Beneficial subtitle

If you have a catchy or one word title, this is where you get to share the benefits. Share at least one, if not three, benefits you readers will get from reading your book. Keep it simple. Remember you only have seconds. Save the longer explanation for the back cover copy. It is also common in America to use Title Case here. If you don’t know what that is … google it. Professionalism matters.

Color contrast

This lesson, unfortunately, I learned the hard way. I was up against a deadline and didn’t print out a color copy of my cover for Save the Butter Tubs!: Discover Your Worth in a Disposable World prior to approval.

I first realized my flaw when I had a three foot by seven foot banner printed with my cover on it. The red wording in the title and the blue background suddenly looked muddy. I was so disappointed. I had actually changed it from white to red to give it more punch. Mistake!

See the difference?

See the difference?

The big mistake was not printing it in color. Instead, I trusted the backlit computer screen to determine my choice. Always, always print your cover in color before approving it. I suggest sending it to your local photo printer and getting the true results. This is what will be reflected on the book and all of the promotional materials.

It only cost me $50 to change my cover lettering back to white, but it will cost me more in promotional materials down the line. Be sure that your colors are high contrast from the start, and you will save time and money.

The “Z” still matters

Many moons ago in a marketing class, I learned that they eyes naturally scan or read from top left across to the right, down diagonally to bottom left and across to the right. This “Z” pattern is something that happens naturally.

If the components of your cover don’t follow the “Z,” it better be on purpose. Disrupting the norm can be a good thing sometimes, but be purposeful in doing so. Make sure you have a good balance in your placement of the text and images. Font sizes need to be appropriate as well.

Suitable unique image

A common mistake I’m seeing these days with covers is people using stock photos and not making any adjustments to the image. The problem with this is that anyone can use that same stock photo.

Using stock images are fine, but use a professional designer that knows how to layer images and make them personal.

Take extra care in using images that are popular or trendy. If it is associated with a book that tanks or has negative press, this could hurt you in the long run. Readers might never pick your book up thinking they’ve seen it before.

Now is the time to stand out in a good way.

Author Nicole R. Smith testifies about changing the stock image for her book, Game On, in the video below.


You’ve got one inch

Most new authors dream of how their book will look on the bookshelf at a big chain store. The problem is most new authors are blessed if they get a big chain store to carry their book, but the likelihood of them getting front facing space is rare. So in a book store you might have less than an inch. You have a spine. Use it wisely.

The inch is online. Amazon is the largest bookseller and you get a thumbnail. If the reader can’t make out your cover in the thumbnail, they might never give your book a chance. Make sure that it catches the eye enough to get the click.

Did you learn something new?

If you’ve made it this far and have learned something new, share this post with in your writer circles as well and let’s end the bad cover movement! Many thanks and happy cover designing!