How to Decide on a Cover Design (and Feel Good About It Too!)

I admit it: We’ve put a lot of stress on authors about their book covers.

Over the years we’ve preached endlessly about the importance of book covers. Yes, books are judged by their covers, YOU are judged by your cover, your cover must be professional and measure up to best sellers in your genre, it has to stand out on the bookshelf and on the Amazon page, etc., etc.

Did we mention that in its brick-and-mortar bookstores, Amazon is displaying books, you guessed it, with their covers facing outwards rather than the spine?

Pressure!

So, we understand you’ll want to be sure that you’re choosing the right cover design and that you want as many opinions as possible. That’s why we wrote this blog post on how to decide on a cover design.

To give you something to choose from, your designer should provide you with separate cover concepts, not just variations on the same theme.

Feel free to take a couple of days to get comfortable with these cover options. When you have chosen your favorite and have specific, actionable feedback to share, let your designer know your thoughts without reservation. Your designer will want you to be delighted with the final design so that it not only meets, but exceeds, your expectations. To that end, the designer should work back and forth with you until you are 100 percent satisfied.

Involving Your Friends, Family, and Colleagues

No doubt you will show the cover concepts around to your friends and colleagues and get their opinions. Unless they are publishing professionals or graphic designers, please take their revision ideas with a grain of salt.

Sometimes, when folks are asked for an opinion, they feel compelled to say SOMETHING, ANYTHING, even if they have no design experience. If you listen to everyone BUT the designer, you’ll destroy your cover.

We suggest you ask, “Which would you buy?” as opposed to, “Which do you like?” The first question elicits more objective responses; the second question elicits subjective preferences which may not align with industry standards for books in your genre.

Talking to Your Book Designer

As we said above, when you have chosen your favorite cover concept, be sure to share specific and actionable feedback with your designer. Here are some examples of what we mean by actionable feedback:

  • Please make the title larger and change the color to blue.
  • Please change the background color to green.
  • Please make the image larger and move it down a bit.

Here are some examples of feedback that is not very helpful for designers:

  • The cover needs to be punchier.
  • The cover isn’t properly executed.
  • I can’t tell you what I want instead; you’re the experts.

Keep in mind that, once book buyers get past your fabulous cover, they will look for specific information about your book: what is it about, what will the book do for them, who is the author? While a well-designed cover is important, no one will say to themselves, “I’d buy that book if the diamond were closer to the subtitle and if the subtitle were yellow.”

Questions Authors Ask Their Book Designers

To head you off at the pass, so to speak, here are some answers to questions often asked by authors:

What do you think?

The cover is a result of the trained and experienced judgment of a designer. Any of these covers would work very nicely for your book or we wouldn’t have sent them.

Do you have a favorite?

Certainly, but it’s your book, so your choice is the most important.

Can the title be larger?

Possibly, but please understand that the designer has given considerable thought to the aesthetic balance of the elements to lead the eye to the most important information first. When every element is large, nothing stands out.

Can my name be larger?

Yes, but unless you’re very well known, your name isn’t going to sell your book. The title makes buyers stop and want to learn more.

Can the colors be changed?

Sometimes. It’s important for a cover to have complementary colors, again pleasing to the eye.

In summary…

There is no “perfect” cover, just a nice cover design that attracts a potential buyer’s eye and piques their interest. Rely on your designer’s training, expertise and judgment. Compare the cover concepts presented to you with bestsellers in your genre. By all means run the options past people whose judgment you value, but treat them as potential book buyers, not design experts. Ditto for posting your book covers on Facebook and asking for opinions. And finally, be sure to hire a designer who specializes in book design; designing a cover takes an entirely different skill set than designing a brochure or a website. Ask for references, look at the designer’s previous work, and assess whether or not you will be able to communicate honestly with the designer. Cover design is a collaborative effort!

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