books on shelfWhether people are browsing on Amazon or another bookselling platform or in their local bookstore, a book’s cover is the first element to attract them. That’s why a good book cover is vital to your book’s selling success.

Whether you are self-publishing a book or having it published by a publishing house, you’ll want to have some say on the cover design (which in the case of an outside publisher can be an important element in your contract).

For example, the first attempt at a cover for a book I ghostwrote was ghastly. The artist made the image cartoonish and totally out of keeping with the serious nature of the content. The author, book agent and I expressed our unhappiness. The publisher returned with an acceptable alternative.

If you are self-publishing, you can pay between nothing to $1500 for a good to great cover. Take charge of defining what you are looking for, showing the artist examples of covers you like. Ultimately, this is your book, and its cover, like the text, needs to convey your vision.
open book

Look At Many Book Covers

If, for example, you’ve written a book in the area of business self-help for people with small businesses, examine covers for other books in this area.

Go to Amazon, select “Books,” and in the search bar type “small business.” Please note that you could also type “entrepreneur,” “small business entrepreneur,” “successful small business,” or other terms.

I used “small business” as a search term. Here’s what I noticed:

  • The covers are basically very clean, meaning without a lot of distracting graphics.
  • Any graphics used are simple and don’t impinge on the title. In other words, the title is not placed against a confusing graphics background.
  • The titles are the clear focus of the design.
  • The font used is primarily sans serif. Serifs are little extensions of the type. Often, they are feet.

Some serif fonts are very complex and difficult to read. No frills here. This is a straight up and down typeface. This makes it very easy to read—and very boring for page after page of text. Most books use a serif font because for long-term use, it’s easier on the eyes.

For a cover, though, you want to catch the eye’s attention, not sustain it for hours, and sans serif fonts do the job.

Spend a Lot of Time Looking

I gathered the above information in a quick search. However, I recommend that you spend some time getting familiar with the covers for books in your area. The more you look, the more likely you are to see something that attracts you.

You’ll want your cover to be unique, but there’s no law against borrowing and combining design elements that you really like. Best of all, your research will help you when you evaluate the book cover a designer sends you.

Pat Iyer - Editor, author, ghostwriter, book coachPat Iyer is an editor, author, book coach and ghostwriter who helps individuals create books that encourages their expertise to shine and advances their businesses. She has written or edited 48 of her own books.