Creating a Show-stopping Cover

Guest Post by Beth Lottig

You know your cover needs to be engaging enough to stop someone walking by in a bookstore or get them to stop scrolling through the Goodreads or Amazon listings, but what is it exactly in a cover that makes someone stop in their tracks and pick up a book? It’s a combination of things, actually, and a good designer knows how to maximize these selling points. Let’s take a look at a few of the basic building blocks for a show-stopping cover.

#1 Great typography

The typography, or font style used, tells volumes about a book’s genre. Bolder, san serif fonts make a statement for non-fiction, while more stylized fonts work well for fiction genres such as romance, YA, thrillers, and westerns. Whatever font is used, the both the title and subtitle, if applicable, should be easily readable. Sometimes the typography alone is all that is needed to convey the proper tone and mood for a cover. Get creative, but stick to one feature font for the title and one supporting font for all other content, such as the back cover text and author bio.

#2 Keep it simple

Nothing makes a cover look more unprofessional than when there is too much going on. While some genres are expected to have a lot of imagery—sci-fi or fantasy, for example—most genres benefit from a simple, cohesive theme. Use one or two central colors and an image or artistic rendering that conveys your book’s setting or features your protagonist (be sure you have permission or have purchased a license for reuse). There’s a reason your art teacher always repeated the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle: Simple and clean is always better than cluttered when it comes to design.

#3 Use the Rule of Thirds

As any designer worth their salt can tell you, a basic tenet of print graphic design is the rule of thirds. Any canvas—including the front cover of a book—should be designed to achieve balance and visual interest. If you were to mentally divided your book cover into thirds, a reader’s eye naturally starts at the top left section, moves down to the bottom left, back up to the top right, and then finally the bottom right. Your most vital information for the reader, then, should be in that prime real estate on the cover, and every other element should be used strategically to achieve balance.

Using these three simple cover design principles will help you be more informed when working with a professional cover designer or even designing a cover yourself.

Beth Lottig is the founder and president of Inspire Books, She has been coaching writers through the editing and publishing process for over 13 years. As an editor, she cares deeply about great content, and as a publisher, she cares deeply about how YOU as the author share that content. It's not enough to have a message. You need to bring it to the world with a killer presentation and a solid publishing strategy. "NOTHING brings me more joy than supporting writers as they bring their book to the world." -Beth Lottig