PROFESSIONAL DESIGN THOUGHTS

Design Blog

How professional book cover design can make or break your launch

Book cover design is more than artistic expression—it’s where art meets marketing.


Your book’s cover needs to communicate the essence of what’s inside. It also has to be uncluttered, eye-catching, and attractive. When it does both of these things well, the right readers should be intrigued enough to pick it up and dive in.


Jon Gray has designed book covers for big-time authors, including Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace, and Jonathan Safran Foer. In a 2019 interview for the podcast On Margins, Gray shared this description of a book cover, “It’s the front door, basically. It’s an invitation into another space, I suppose.”


I love this description. In a sea of books, we gravitate toward the ones that make us feel something—the ones that draw us in with a clear point of view and a strong first impression.


That’s why after months (or more likely years) of pouring your heart and soul into your book, it pays to hire a pro to get the cover design right.



For the love of the Tease - Book design for Alicia Williams completed in 2020


Making Your First Impression Count


As cliché as it is, our brains are wired to judge books, even digital books, by their covers.


Much like a logo is the first point of connection people have with a business, your book’s cover is the first thing potential readers will see. If it’s bland, people are far less likely to pick it up, check out the summary, add it to their cart, or read what you’ve written. In an A/B test of cover designs done by 99designs, redesigning book covers increased book visibility by 50% or more in all test cases.


In a single design, your cover needs to evoke the feeling of the overall story.


Elements like color, typography, and graphics should set the tone for what the reader can expect. But understanding how to make those elements communicate the right message is tricky unless you have a background in design. A designer can help you make your book stand out while keeping it firmly within your genre's parameters, so potential readers don’t get confused.


What Professional Designers Know


While it can be tempting to use a templated book jacket or design an e-book cover image yourself, there is no substitute for the knowledge of a pro.


Graphic designers understand how to make the overall layout clean and uncluttered, choose the right imagery, select the perfect font, and more.


Here are some things I consider when approaching a book cover design project:


Making the Title Stand Out

Choosing the right typography and correctly sizing the title is crucial in any design, especially a book cover. To make the title prominent, I select or hand-draw a clear, genre-appropriate font in a color and size that will easily stand out from the background.


Choosing Powerful Imagery

From symbols to patterns to hand-drawn images, there are plenty of different directions a book cover design can go. I love to bring several options to an author based on their book's tone, genre, and themes.


Simplifying to Make an Impact

It's crucial to keep the design balanced and avoid overcrowding the title. Book cover designs must look good even when scaled down to thumbnail size online or viewed on a Kindle!



How to Prepare Before Hiring a Designer


The information you share with your designer will prepare them to create a book cover that communicates your book’s message well.


Ideally, your designer will read your entire book before their design process begins. Regardless, before you start reaching out to professionals, be sure to have the following details pulled together:

  • Book title

  • Book genre

  • Brief summary

  • Information about your target audience

  • Some words to describe your book’s tone

  • Examples of covers you like and dislike (a tool like Pinterest or Milanote can be great for gathering these images)

  • Visual elements or symbols that you want to consider including in the cover art

  • Any other written elements that need to be included on the book's front, back, or spine in addition to the title (including author's name, reviews, summary, etc.)


Are you ready to get your written work out into the world with the help of a strategic and attractive cover design? I love working with authors across various genres and would love to hear more about your book.