1. Know your audience and what sells
With hundreds of thousands of books to choose from, understanding what visually catches your readers’ eye is key. Why should someone pick up your book over so many others out there? Yes, a strong concept and a beautifully polished blurb are very important, but if your cover doesn’t entice your target audience to do anything but move on to the next book, then it doesn’t matter what you’ve written, they aren’t reading it.
What does your audience expect? Are they looking for a lighthearted cozy with a humorous cartoon cover? An edgy romantic suspense with a dark design to match the mood? Or maybe they want to read a fun flirty contemporary. A good cover reflects genre and tone with ease and appeal.
Edgy Romantic Suspense?
Fun, Flirty Contemporary?
Also, do your research. What sells in your genre? Look at the bestselling authors not only for what and how they write, but also how their books look on bookshelves and digital format.
2. Choose your Graphic Designer
This step might not be for everyone. There are some amazing indie writers who are also talented graphic designers. For them, designing their own cover makes sense. But writing a novel and marketing it on your own can be very overwhelming. And if you don’t have graphic design skills, or simply don’t have time to take away from writing, hiring a professional is crucial.
Find covers that appeal to you as a reader, then research who designed them. Does that designer have a portfolio that either matches your genre or is diverse enough to take on your cover needs? Are they accepting new clients? If they are, does their cost fit into your budget? If it does, wonderful! If it’s too pricey, but you LOVE the artwork, perhaps consider your return on investment. Sometimes spending less up front means making less in the long run. Remember, this is a business investment.
Also, keep in mind the time it takes to create the perfect cover. Some graphic designers can be weeks to months out on new projects. Make sure you have enough time before your release to get on your designer’s schedule.
3. Incorporate Brand Consistency
Just as author branding tells your audience who you are as a writer through tone, setting, and other such ways, series branding shows the consistency of your series visually. Both are very important in creating reader loyalty.
Some vital elements that establish a cohesive brand include font, layout, tone, and color. Does the series stay consistent with each new installment? Can your audience tell your books belong together with one glance? If you’ve only got one book to publish, but plan on making it a series down the line, will you be able to brand future installments? It’s easy to see a brand with your cover designer if you create several covers at once. But visualizing your brand may become difficult if you choose to do one book at a time. So keep the future of your series in mind during the design phase. Ask your designer how they will incorporate branding to your future books.
4. Design for Both Large and Small Scale
After your designer has given you multiple concepts to choose from, make sure the design you pick is legible and interesting when viewed at full and, more importantly, small scale. When potential readers scroll through pages of digital books, you want your novel to catch their eye. The best way to do this is with text that is clean and easy to read. Take your concepts and make them super small. Does the design still achieve what you want? Would you pick up that book if you were scrolling by to find a great read? If your answer is no, it might be time for some revisions.
Does your cover work on small scale?
Keep in mind, a beautiful cover is an author’s greatest marketing tool. Is your cover giving your book it’s best chance?