What’s going on with book covers?

As the cover is the first part of your book that potential readers encounter, its importance as a promotional tool can’t be overestimated. Whether you’re working with a publishing house or taking the self-publishing route, choosing an effective cover design for your book is one of the most important decisions you’ll make.

Crucial to your book’s success

In order to increase your chances of choosing the best book cover for your needs, it’s worth considering the cover’s purpose and what makes an eye-catching design, as well as familiarising yourself with current trends.
In a nutshell, the role of the cover is to persuade people to buy your book. The design therefore needs to capture readers’ attention and stand out from the crowd. An uninspiring cover won’t market your book effectively, leading to poor sales.

The pressures of a crowded marketplace

The boom in digital publishing has made the market for books more crowded and competitive than ever before. Covers need to work harder than they once did in order to ensure that readers don’t overlook books.
Challenging market conditions have led many authors and publishers to play it safe with cover designs; hence the current trend for falling back on tried-and-tested ideas. The covers of historical romances written in the vein of Catherine Cookson’s novels are prime examples of this trend. They almost invariably feature attractive women in old-fashioned clothing, surrounded by fields or cobbled streets.
The popularity of buying books online has also affected cover design. When browsing books on retailers’ websites, you’ll notice many covers now rely on giant, bold text. One advantage of this trend is that books’ and writers’ names remain clear when covers are viewed as small, low-resolution images in search results. The drawback is that it leaves little room for creativity.

Balancing familiarity and originality

It’s refreshing to find some authors and publishers are still throwing their weight behind inspiring cover designs. Penguin’s recent edition of George Orwell’s dystopian classic, Nineteen Eighty-Four, has an experimental, memorable cover. Its censored text perfectly captures the intrigue at the heart of the novel.
Evidently, if you want your cover to be as effective as possible, you need to strike the right balance between familiar and innovative ideas. If your cover looks just like the majority of others in the same genre, your book won’t stand out. If your cover is too unusual, it won’t give potential readers a clear idea of your work.

Designing an effective cover

The key to an effective cover is to ensure that the design clearly indicates which genre your book belongs to, while also arousing people’s curiosity by suggesting that the book makes a fresh, original contribution to that genre.
Your cover needs to reflect not only your target audience’s preferences, but also your book’s essence. What is its central theme? What does it offer readers (for instance, lifestyle advice or humour)? What message should the cover therefore convey?
Answering these questions will help you to choose relevant, compelling images, etc. Keep in mind the principle ‘less is more’. The cover should suggest key aspects of your book without giving too much away or looking cluttered.
Minimalism is a powerful trend in cover design – it has the power to surprise and stop readers in their tracks. The cover of Michael Skerker’s Ethics of Interrogation features a bare light bulb, while the cover of Eric G. Wilson’s Against Happiness is even simpler: a plain background and the suggestion of a frown.

Great designs on tight budgets

If you don’t have much money to spend on your book cover, you might think a great design is unattainable – but that’s not necessarily the case.
Today, many authors are crowdsourcing book covers (i.e. requesting designs from numerous people) via DesignCrowd and similar websites. You can have access to a wide range of talented designers, even on a small budget.
Crowdsourcing has taken self-publishing by storm and may one day be a service used more by publishing houses. The future of book cover design looks bright!

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