Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Judging Books by Their Covers (Come on...You Know You Do!)

With the big cover reveal for my upcoming book, Defy, on my calendar for the 29th, I've got book covers on the brain. It thus occurred to me that I should write a post about this topic. Why not, right?

Authors, I don't think it's possible to overstate the importance of having great covers for your books. Why would you go through all of the toil and trouble to write your (totally amazing) stories and then not invest in a spectacular cover? That would be akin to wrapping the perfect gift in crumpled and torn newspaper and tossing it carelessly at the intended recipient.


If you're like me, the extent of your book cover design experience extends to, well, absolutely nothing. (I mean, I did personally craft the ballet slipper-shaped cover of my fourth-grade story The Dancing Spider, but that's not what we're going for here). Thus, you'll want to hire someone to design your cover. The cost for this ranges quite a bit, but you can safely expect to pay between $300 and $500 for a custom design.

Yes, it's an investment...but if you have a great cover and a totally amazing story, the cover will more than pay for itself. Trust me on this! I was so green when it came to social networking, book promotion and marketing when my Daughters of Saraqael trilogy came out that it's a miracle I got any sales. But the fact is, I did. And the reason for those early sales was my covers.

Some items of note when it comes to your book's cover:
  • Browse bookstores and identify a selection of 5-10 books that have covers you love. Your cover designer will want some direction to be sure she creates a cover in line with what you envision, and providing these examples will help.
  • Make sure your cover design suits your genre.
  • Be open to suggestions by the designer.
  • If you have a website or blog, carry your author brand into the cover design. You can do this through font and color choices.
  • Opt for a cover design that looks just as good in the mini-version that appears on Amazon.com and other websites as it does as a paperback.
  • Request multiple file sizes from the cover designer so that you have them for promotional and printing needs. Most established designers do this without you having to ask.
  • Review any contracts you sign to ensure you retain the rights to the final cover design.
Designing the cover for a book you've written is by far the most fun part of the publishing experience. There are a number of points I could make about cover style, but they vary a lot by genre and even individual taste. The bottom line is that if you have a beautiful cover and a well-written story, you will get sales!

Readers, what do you like in a book cover?


  1. Great post, Raine. As much as I try not to, I do judge books by their covers.

    I always think about the first time I saw the cover for Becoming. I immediately wanted to know who the girl was, and thus, a fan-girl was born ;).

    I'm so thankful I know how to use Photoshop :), but I may call on your designer's services because your covers are always stunning.

    1. Thanks, Janice! I can't wait to see the cover of YOUR book when the time comes. :)

  2. This was awesome info, Raine! Thank you! I definitely will pick up a book based sometimes solely on the uniqueness of the cover, if browsing a bookstore or library shelf... (Yes, I still love the old-fashioned feel of a book.. each with its own distinct character and voice!) The cover can get the book in my hands and I'll then read the back cover copy to see if the story draws me further. One thing I recently realized while walking down an aisle at Books a Million is that most books only show their spine out.. that should definitely be considered in design!

    1. That's an excellent point, Craig! Designs that wrap around into the spine are great, as they help give "character" to that part of the cover. Thanks for contributing the tip!