How to Create Tantalizing Book Covers

Intriguing cover. I see a young man and an old lady. Something tells me they are not related. The woman is blind. (see cane) Right away when I saw this cover I knew that they were unlikely friends. BTW, it turns out this is the best book I’ve ever read!

Nine Tips on Creating your Book Cover when self-publishing. There are dozens of platforms to create a book cover. Most publishing platforms have a ‘cover creator’ that you can easily use. This post is not about building a book cover. These tips are about  content. Images and titles that attract your reader. Making them want to pick up your book.  The ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ by example.

  1. A book cover is the very first thing a book buyer is going to be attracted to whether it’s in a book store browsing the shelves or surfing the digital pages on the web. It is the first and most important step in marketing your book. 
  2. Your cover should tantalize, intrigue, and compel the buyer to pick up the book or stop scrolling (on the Internet) and delve into your book.
  3. Your cover image should not be obscure. It should represent what’s inside. But just a tease.
  4. Park your ego at the door. Don’t be artsy, egotistical, or have a “I’m the author” moment when designing your book cover. Step back and try to objectively visualize what a reader might be attracted to. Represent your story with the cover image.
  5. There is a fine line between being clever and being stupid about the design for your book. 
  6. The artwork (find yourself a good graphic designer) should be as good as you can afford. The title should be in the largest font. A tag line is nice on the front cover and absolutely mandatory on the back. The author’s name is the least important.  Yep, that’s what I said. Unless you are Nora Roberts or Stephen King with enormous name-recognition, your name should take up the least amount of space. 
  7. The artwork (images) should tease; suggest what the story line is; make the buyer curious about the story inside.
  8. The image should suggest but not be specific; leave something for the reader’s imagination.
  9. Here are some samples of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ covers in this blogger/reviewer’s opinion: 



    Say Goodbye For Now
    . Looking closely, it appears to be a younger Caucasian boy and an African-American boy. The dog looks like a Shepard/husky mix or a hybrid wolf. The cover is tantalizing; are the boys friends? how does the dog fit in? Who is going to say goodby? I give this a strong  

     

     

    The Orchid Sister. Too artsy and too dark in tone. The font is hard to read. The Cover doesn’t say anything except that there is a sister.  The vibe I get from this cover is it is probably about the occult. Which it was not. Poor decisions all around.
    I give it a                                  

     

    The Oysterville Sewing Circle. This cover is too obscure. It’s a deeply rich story but the cover short-changes it and  implies that it involves a bunch of women in a sewing circle which it is not.
                                                                                             Have to give it a

     

    Dance of Murder. I give my graphic designer (David White) all the credit for this one. So I can use it as an example. Over the years, I have developed such a relationship with him that I can give him a synopsis of the story and what I envision and let him loose. This is what I got.  I’m going to rank it as I had little to do with the creative side of things. This cover tells the buyer/reader that the story is about strippers who are murdered. The neon color of ‘Dance’  emphasizes that the story is around a strip club. The art work teases just enough to intrigue. It gets a

     

    It’s Getting Scot in Here. I’m of the school that you should never show specific faces of the characters on the cover. The reader wants to have their own idea of what the characters look like, especially the heroine and hero. Why a gazebo on the cover? They were in one for a total of 3 seconds in over 300 pages of this book. While I was caught up in this fine story, my imagined lovers looked nothing like the people on the cover.
                                                                                                                                  This is a sample of what not to do:

    My Own True Duchess. This is what you should do. This cover represents exactly what the story is. A period romance. The reader can barely see what the lovers look like and leaves it to the imagination.  I give it a

      

     Blue Hollow Falls. I prefer that authors leave me to imagine what my favorite characters look like. This cover tells me that there is a single woman, probably in conflict. She appears to be discovering this conservatory or greenhouse for the first time. Her dress and the wild flowers tell me the season. I’m curious.  I give this a


    The Colonel and The Bee
    . This cover teeters between being too obscure or being just about perfect. The story is wonderful with fine writing. But the cover doesn’t tantalize like the story deserves so I have to give it a Only until after I read this fantastic story did I understand the cover. That’s a bad thing. I had never heard of the author. Something about the title made me purchase this book. But nothing about the image attracted me.

     

     

    SEE ALSO PROOF. This is one of the worst covers I’ve seen in a while.  The Title makes no sense and doesn’t present even a clue as to the story. I read the book so I can say the 5×7 note card has no relevance. And I dislike a plug for another book on the front.  Too bad because I really like what this author offers. The tag line, while a little long, is acceptable. But a very poor cover over all.                              

     I give it a

     

     

    Women Outside the Walls. Yep, this is mine. But it’s a good example of what you want your cover to achieve.  The three women speak of how different they are in social status and education. There’s rebellion and grief in their expressions. The title makes the reader wonder; are they outside prison walls? Probably. But how did they get there?  Again, the value of a graphic artist.  I give it a

    I want to emphasize how important the cover is. If you can, invest in a good graphic artist. My experience has been to give them some room to create. The front cover should be simple as far as text:  title, author’s name, a tag line. The back cover is where you put the synopsis, some reviews, another tag line (if you want) and a short bio of the author with a small photo. 
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