Among the many factors that affect book sales, the almighty book cover is near the top of the list. The importance of investing in a designer that understands your genre, and working together as an effective team, cannot be underestimated. All too often, a writer will invest hundreds of hours writing what is otherwise a great book, only to send up with a cover design that is a poor fit with the target readership.
Effective book covers are not just critical to getting sales- they can also help you get attention from reviewers. Each month, we here at BestThrillers.com get far more design queries than we can handle. While we try to focus chiefly on strength of story and genre fit in deciding what to review, cover design is sometimes a factor in the tough choices me make.
With that in mind, we asked top book design firms – all of which have created killer mystery and thriller cover designs – one simple question: What’s one thing your most successful clients do/don’t do that enables you to design a winning book cover?
Here’s what they said.
“One of the most important things for writers to communicate to their designer is their book’s genre and target audience.
There are countless visual cues your designer can use to draw in readers of your genre. Even if your book crosses genre lines, it’s best to emphasize your dominant genre rather than muddling your message by trying to cover everything.”
“I love it when authors provide genre-specific examples of covers that they love.
This helps designers visually understand the aesthetic that they are after and the mood they are trying to communicate in an instant, instead having to try and describe it with words like “pop”, “shiny”, “sharp”, or other ambiguous terms.”
A great designer needs freedom to create. Designers spend their life practicing everyday the process of creativity and coming up with new ideas so they can tap into that visual realm easier than others. What I suggest is that the author be open to giving a short synopsis of the book to the designer, be ready to give the overall feel of the book and characters. After that, I ask for the author to give me a few ideas they have had for the cover and search online and send me 3-5 covers in their genre of what they feel are good and and bad designs. This helps me dial into their mind of what they may think is good or not so good design.
I then ask the authors if, when I’m done with their idea, are they open to see a few more concepts and creations of the cover from my point of view? Eight out of 10 times, the author will pick an original creation from the designer. My advice is to put all ego to the curb, and allow the creative process to happen with the designer. When the designer has fear to explore, it can block an idea to be born for a possibly amazing cover. Simplicity and concept is everything in a world full of attention grabbing covers.
The one thing my most successful clients do to enable to me to design a winning book cover is communicate well. You must feel comfortable to offer – and accept – constructive criticism, and remember that you’re both on the same team going for the same goal.
They lend me their ideas, give feedback about my own, and the process evolves organically.
The most commonly requested thing authors ask is to feature too much of their story on the cover.
Our advice is to always keep it simple – after all, a cover is only around 6 x 9″ or thumbnail size when displayed on Amazon, so it must make a good impression quickly. Writers should make sure the cover conveys the genre the reader is looking for when viewed in just a split second. Many potential readers decide it they like the look of a book in a second, so the cover must communicate the mood very quickly. It is less important that every detail of the story be conveyed.
The job of the cover is to grab the potential readers attention. Your story can do the rest.
Embrace the themes of your genre. There is an argument against using a somewhat formulaic cover, but in some cases, it works in your favor to be predictable.
We challenge you to first embrace the patterns in your genre’s cover design, and THEN try to differentiate your book so that it stands out in a sea of books.
The sweet spot is between fitting in with books in your genre and standing out enough to be distinctive is where sales happen.