As a self-published author, you have to prove yourself in the marketplace in order to be taken seriously and have people actually buy your books. One way to accomplish this is ensuring that every book you publish has a great book cover. Serving as the first impression, book covers can pique the interest of potential window shoppers, turning lurkers into buyers. Most people really DO judge a book by its cover.

What makes a great book cover?

High Quality Image(s)

Do not snap a photo with your smartphone and turn it into the centerpiece of your cover. Unless the book is titled How to Take Bad Pictures or something similar, you’ll want to buy high resolution images that are available for commercial use. Several great places to look are iStockphoto and 123RF. You might also consider hiring a professional photographer or artist, if suitable for the type of book you are publishing.

Sense of Familiarity

Your book cover should immediately resonate with the target audience. It should have a feel similar to other books in the same genre, without sacrificing uniqueness. A great example is Ascend from Amanda Hocking, a YA paranormal romance novel. She chose a scene for her cover that definitely signifies what genre her book falls into, yet went with a completely unexpected (and original) color scheme. It was a home run! Another thing to keep in mind…even if a book isn’t part of a series, there should be a continuity that communicates who the author is to potential readers.

Relevant Visual Theme

Our brains are hardwired to process images faster than text. So it’s critical that the image or scene/setting that you choose for your cover has a relevant visual theme. What is your book’s value proposition? What is the target audience looking for—a little nudge or inspiration, success or achievement, romance and passion, knowledge or information? The visual theme should tie into the genre and storyline, while visually revealing the book’s value proposition.

Readable Display Fonts

Display fonts are entirely different from text fonts. Their spacing, set widths, and many other details differ. It is almost impossible to make a text typeface look good on a book cover. Know the difference or work with someone who does. Baskerville and ChunkFive are both good examples of display fonts used for book covers. Also, be sure to use the five foot rule. If you can’t read the text on the spine of your book from five feet away….neither can your reader.

An Edge (to stand out) 

In a sea full of books, you need to have an edge in order to stand out. Make sure your cover has an edge, something unique that makes it easy to remember and hard to forget. Like Amanda Hocking, choose a color scheme that is completely different from competitive books. Or place visual elements in a unique manner. There are many ways to garner an edge using your book’s cover.

Advice: Unless you have graphic design experience, don’t attempt to create your book cover on your own. This is a critical marketing piece and should be of superior quality. It pays to invest in a good cover!