You CAN Judge a Book by Its Cover: 5 Ways to Make a Book Cover Stand Out

By Gwyn Flowers, GKS Creative

In these modern times, the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is rarely followed. What makes a consumer click or move on? In today’s war of thumbnail covers, get noticed by using core visual elements to create a thoughtful design that stands apart from the competition. 

Increase sales and boost visibility by applying these tips to your next cover design:

  1. First impressions matter.

Whether a book is thrilling, romantic, or reassuring, it should contain visual cues associated with the book genre. Self-help books should look and make readers feel much different than a romance or thriller novel. By researching other books in your genre, you will gain insight and cues on how to design a book cover that has all the right “feels” for the category and the readers’ expectations. It’s okay to be unique or different, but don’t stray too far from your target demographic. Catching the eye of the right audience and enticing them to read more will increase sales—the ultimate goal of any author.

  1. Layouts beckon.

The composition of the core elements comprises the layout. A balanced and ordered layout leads the eye through the core elements of the cover design, which should be eye-catching even at thumbnail size. Establish a visual focus that conveys what the book is about by choosing either typography or imagery to lead the way—using both could dilute visual impact. One visual focus is key. Using images in a more subtle role supports the impact of typography and vice versa. Be careful not to overwhelm the reader with too many design elements; empty space is just as important and improves readability.

  1. Images compel.

Draw attention to your cover with a compelling and memorable image that captures the essence of the book at a glance. Great illustrations, graphics, photography, or typography are just a few clicks away. Stock libraries are a great place to start. Be sure to research copyright and licensing requirements for all royalty-free, rights-managed, or free images. Get creative. Blend photos together or use them in unusual ways. Quality, attention-getting, memorable images may cost you, but the visual impact will be more polished and professional.

  1. Typography feels.

Typefaces generate feelings. Some feel antique or modern, feminine or masculine, sweet or salty. They also improve visibility, tell the readers a great deal about the content of a book, and create visual impact alongside the competition. Appropriate typography is essential to a cover design. and it should support the overall theme of the cover and the genre. Carefully consider the size, weight, and style of each typographic element. Unless the author is well known, the book title should be the largest ­­ typography element on the front cover. Avoid using more than two fonts, and always choose readability over fancy fonts or effects.

  1. Color conveys emotion.

Color conveys emotion, sets the mood, and can quickly communicate a message to the potential reader. The message depends on the color. Thriller novels often use red to convey urgency or danger, purple hints at spirituality or magic, and sunny yellow feels like a summer beach read. Color has the power to direct our eye and shows us where to look, what to do, and how to interpret something. The psychology of color usually depends on context. That “thriller novel red” could also mean love or romance when used in a different way. Make sure your colors represent the mood and genre of your book by doing a little research.

Book cover design requires all of these elements to work together to create a cohesive and compelling design with the message Pick me up and read me.  You put significant time, thought, and work into your manuscript, and it deserves to be noticed. If you’d like help creating a brilliant cover for your book, consider hiring a cover designer.

Gwyn Flowers is the owner of GKS Creative specializing in book design, logos, branding and corporate design. She lives in Nashville, TN, with her husband Julian, and dogs Ellie and Lizzie. Visit her at gkscreative.com.