Professional Book Cover Design

woman designing a logo

Why is a Professional Book Cover Design Important?

For self-publishing authors, why is it worth investing in an engaging, high-quality professional book cover design?

It is quite possible to get a cover designed for your book for a low price. Yet, major publishers regularly opt to spend thousands on a single book cover. Why should self-publishers dedicate their limited resources to cover design?

Ultimately, you get what you pay for when opting for a cheaper, usually less capable designer, or even a do-it-yourself approach, which many independent authors consider.

As the first impression given to potential readers, dynamic and evocative book covers go a long way towards communicating the content and quality of your book to the right customers.

Quality Professional Book Cover Design

According to Smashwords founder Mark Coker:

“Our brains are wired to process images faster than words. When we see an image, it makes us feel something.” Covers “help the reader instantly recognize that this book is for them.”

Likewise, a bad cover design can instantly turn off readers who would otherwise be interested. Even readers who look mainly to the description to choose books often still consider a bad, or poorly designed cover to be a deal-breaker. Naomi Blackburn, top Goodreads reviewer and author of the business advice column The Author CEO, explains:

“If the cover seems to be nothing more than a catalog photograph with block lettering, I bypass it. If the author didn’t care enough to dedicate time/effort to their cover, I wonder how much time they put into the book itself.”

Professional Book Cover Design and Sales

The link between quality cover design and sales is often fairly direct. At Smashwords, Coker has seen books go from selling just half a dozen copies each week to more than 1,000 each day, just by updating and improving the cover image. A quality cover design can also draw the attention of retail merchandising managers, which can greatly improve sales.

“When ebook retailers select books for special merchandising features, cover design is paramount. A great cover combined with great reader reviews is a killer combination,” according to Coker.

Kris Miller, a designer from Saima agency with two decades of book cover experience with top publishing houses such as Penguin and Random House, cautions against the temptation for independent authors to take on cover design themselves with an application like photoshop.

Miller advises:

“I try to educate them that Photoshop, like a paint brush or a pencil, is only a tool—what’s important is who wields it. A designer with over two decades of professional experience is going to do a far better job designing your cover than your well-meaning friend who happens to have Photoshop Elements on their laptop. It’s an old adage, but you get what you pay for.”

Rise of eBook Covers

Don’t assume the rise of ebooks has made quality cover design any less important. Even without a physical book, online retailers use covers in much the same way as traditional bookstores. The first thing readers see is the cover. Graphic designer JD Smith points out that even when retailers like Amazon display books in list form, “the main thing your eye is drawn to is the cover, because the list of titles and authors are all presented in the same font, size, and colour. The new cliché today is ‘Does it work at thumbnail size?’ as online sales rise.”

Make sure your cover will stand out at a small size. Coker points out, “On an iPhone, the front jacket cover will be merchandised at a size of ½” wide by about ¾” tall. When people refer to this as a thumbnail-size image, it really is.”

Elements of a Quality Book Cover

What makes for an engaging cover? According to Miller, memorable author branding and quality cover art top the list. “No awkward Photoshop montages or generic stock art.” She says that in a good cover, “there is harmonious cohesion between design elements and market. The art shouldn’t fight the typography. A romance novel shouldn’t look like a thriller or visa versa.”

Coker emphasizes the need for professional yet simplistic design, with a good use of color, readable text, and targeting to reach the right set of readers.

Create a Relevant Cover

It is also important for the content of your book to have some bearing on the design for the cover. Not only is it important to not mislead readers, but an honest representation of your story or content will help to attract readers who will enjoy, and ultimately recommend, your book.

Often, authors will stick with a recognizable theme throughout their books, even if they are not part of a series, as a memorable trademark to help capture and keep the attention of readers.

Professional book cover design is important for all authors, but most of all for independent authors just starting out. If readers have never heard of you, a good cover design can be your foot in the door. There are many great ways to save money when self-publishing your book, but taking a budget approach to cover design may not be the best approach to doing so.

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