Sunday, September 20, 2009

How to Design a Cover that Sells

Publishers have known for decades that book cover design can be instrumentally connected to sales. Professionally designed book covers draw the attention of potential readers. The visual appeal of a book makes it more likely to be purchased. One that is poorly designed will most often end up remaining on the shelf.

There are a number of ways to ensure that your book’s cover looks great. Traditional publishers rank this topic high in the publishing process. Their goal is to print books that will produce sales, which is why design is crucial. For this reason, most publishing companies have entire departments dedicated to the designing of book covers.

The design department doesn’t haphazardly choose a font.

The font style of titles and subtitles are chosen with direct purpose. They are not lazily chosen for individual book designs. Fonts are selected for two basic reasons. They are to demonstrate the forcefulness of the wording itself. If the title is bold and to the point, a font will be used that illustrates that feeling. Softer topics are shown through the use of more relaxed fonts and colors.

The other important consideration is the book’s subject matter. Books that focus on specific themes often have complimentary fonts. Lettering is used to accentuate the book’s overall subject.

Color also plays an important part in the process of font choice. The color of the letters has to match the rest of the cover’s design. Title and subtitle colors don’t have to be the same as the entire color, but it doesn’t usually clash. If the colors do clash, be sure that it wasn’t an accident. There was a marketing and strategic purpose for the choice.

Cover design takes the theme of the book and brings it to life.

It is common to see a book of a certain subject matter, displaying as much on its front cover. Books that focus on sailing will most likely have some form of a sailboat on the cover. The graphic designs of covers are used to complete an entire theme through the pictures that are used. How the cover is set helps later on in the marketing phase.

What will the book look like spine out from 3 to 6 feet away?

When someone is browsing through a section, they will be looking at your book spine out. Have it designed with that in mind. The title needs to be clearly legible on the spine.

Concerning the front, the title needs to catch the attention enough to get the potential buyer to read the subtitle or turn the book over to read the description and bio.

If you use a subtitle, which I highly recommend for non-fiction. It should clearly define what the book is about in 5 to 7 words.

The description on the back should have one powerful sentence at the top that entices the reader. The paragraph following should be 6 to 10 sentences that sells the book. I recommend an author bio at the bottom.

The title, cover design, and bio are important tools that assist in producing book sales. They are paramount to the whole marketing process. If any of these are poorly designed or placed, it could result in low sales.

Here is an example of a perfect cover design: All the Way Home

If you need help with cover design, call our office for a free consultation:


  1. All that you said. But one more and the one book you specified does come through with flying colors; you just did not mention the point. What will it look like as an Amazon thumbnail (or any other, such as in the New York Review of Books).

    I make the points in a different way at and going back from that shows some of the covers I've designed. I've now given up that kind of work, so this is not an attempt at an ad.

  2. Gordon brings up an important point I am very aware of, but failed to cover. How the front cover will look as a thumbnail is extremely important. Thank you for your input, Gordon.


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