Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Choosing a book cover: relevance is a necessity

There are a lot of perks to being a self-published author, including having the freedom to decide every single aspect of your book. Though that control can make an author feel overwhelmed at times during the publication process, I've yet to meet an author who, at the end of the day, didn't love having total and absolute control of their work. 

The problem with all of that control, though, is that, sometimes we're so invested in the micro details, we aren't the best at stepping back and looking at it from a macro perspective. 

Last February, this arrived in my mailbox:

Seeing it small like this, the theme is probably a lot more obvious to you than it was to me as I walked back into my house; but for the sake of this example, take a gander at it for a moment, please. 

What stands out? Is there an overall theme or idea you pick up on almost immediately? Does the cover excite you and make you want to open it up and experience what's inside?

Here are the first things that went through my head (keep in mind I was holding the magazine with my left hand at the time):

1) This is a clothing magazine. M-o-o-c-h? What does that even mean?

2) Is... are... what does this have to do with Valentine's Day?

3) I don't understand the point of these mylar balloons...

4) What does the random balloon at the top stand for, this is delias... oh... it's an S...

5) S...mooch? Was this supposed to be Valentine-y? 

6) The backdrop is lavender. I don't get what's going on here. Is this for spring, then? What exactly are they trying to say?

Maybe I'm overanalyzing this, but at first glance, this very well could have been a magazine selling party supplies, not clothes for teenaged girls. I mean... delias carries some really adorable stuff (even dresses) and out of everything in their inventory, they choose those outfits? If I didn't find them exciting, imagine how my teen daughters were going to feel when they saw the cover! It was like someone threw a few different elements onto the cover and had better things to do, so they were like, Yeah okay... and called it a day.

Self-publishers, this is so important to remember: Your writing could be amazing, but the cover is THE first thing a potential reader sees. You need to make a good first impression and, not only that, but it's imperative that you draw on their curiosity to make them want to know what's beyond that cover picture. If done correctly, the title, readability of the font, focal point (the center, or mooch, for me on the magazine... though maybe some of you were first drawn to the S that I noticed way later?) and even colors that are your cover's theme can entice not only readers who normally read that genre, but readers who want to check it out simply because the cover has them intrigued.

You've spent a lot of time on that novel. It deserves a chance to be read. Do it justice by representing it properly. 

There are a lot of posts regarding book covers in self-publishing, but here are four I found interesting:

The Best Selling Covers in the Book World

23 Creative Book Cover Designs and Their Story

14 Tips for Good Kindle Cover Design

We've Got You Covered: 9 Authors' Tips for Brilliant Book Cover Design


  1. Such a timely post Jessica! I'm going through the cover process right now. ;) You nailed it with your If I Speak True cover -- the contrast of the yellow flower against the blue draws my eye to your book every time.