7 Elements of a Great Book Cover

You have only a few seconds—a quick glance across a shelf or scroll across a webpage. You have to make the most of that moment. The first pitch for your book comes on the cover. Great book covers give a hint of the journey within the book and make you want to investigate the book further. As an author, you have to be able to evaluate what will show your identity, give visual to the heart of the book, and speak to a reader’s curiosity. Below you will find the elements that distinguish a great book cover.

1. Keep It Simple

Minimalism is always a good choice. A simple, thoughtful design distinguishes itself in the sea of busy artwork. Want proof? Walk through a bookstore. The books that you will see the most of, and will find yourself most drawn to, are the ones with clean, simple book covers. A cover with intricate artwork or a cover with lots of characters, settings, or pictures are seldom on display. Not only does a simple design draw the eye, but it has staying power. You don’t want to be the hit 90’s single that is quickly forgotten; you want to be the Jackson, Bowie, or Presley that lasts for generations. Your cover design needs staying power.

2. Guide the Viewer’s Eye

Gravity is a natural constant, and just as it pulled Newton’s apple, it weighs on the eyes of your potential readers. In design, the idea of “reading gravity” shapes the flow of a page. The Gutenberg Layout (pictured below) shows a common instance of the eye’s path across a page. The things you want to highlight should be placed in spaces where the eye naturally falls. For example, if you are a notable writer, you might put your name in the Primary Optical Area and the title in the Weak Optical Area.

3. Be Legible and Readable

Choosing a typeface could be a blog within itself, and it is a surprisingly controversial field. Between the Comic Sans evangelist the Times New Roman till Death party, it can be easy to get a little lost. Here is what you should remember. Pick something that is cohesive to the overall design and is readable from a distance. This is often the time to avoid intricate calligraphy or loopy cursive.

4. Convey Values/Themes/Morals

When a potential reader looks at your cover, they should get a sense of the inside. You shouldn’t divulge all your secrets on the front—that would be like a movie trailer with all the best parts of the movie already spent. Give a hint about the book and leverage your reader’s curiosity. If potential readers can’t work out what might be on the inside based on the cover, they will likely pass it up for another book that tickles their curiosity a little more.

5. Fit the Genre

Your book cover needs to dress the part. If your cover doesn’t take some notes from other successful books in the genre, it might run the risk of being overlooked or misplaced. It is not always bad to fit in—if readers are confused about your genre and target audience because of your book cover, they’ll probably pass by the book.

6. Appeal to a Target Audience

If you have been on a Lucid Books blog before, you have probably heard about finding a target audience. From the first word of your book until the final page, you need to be thinking of your target audience. Find out what appeals to the people you want buying your book, and integrate that with your cover. If you are looking to snag a millennial, shoot for something a little more rustic or abstract. For a baby boomer, appeal to their nostalgia (or perhaps mock millennials). Know your audience and speak to them through your design.

7. Design for the Sale

Keep in mind where you are going to be selling the brunt of your books. Are you looking to be primarily in brick and mortars? Design a cover that will stand out on a shelf. If Amazon or a personal website will be your book’s main platform, plan a cover that will translate well to the digital space. Either way, make sure that your design translates well to your selling platform.

Your cover should be something that calls your readers in. Make sure you don’t settle for something subpar. Follow the guidelines laid out for you so that your book cover can have impact and staying power.

Want to connect with one of our designers? We have designers available to connect with you to get started on designing your book cover. Send us an email to “Get Started Today!”