The Writer and the Book Cover

AT 2 Back

The old adage, “Never judge a book by its cover” no longer applies to today. Someone once said, “A person will spend just seven seconds looking at a cover.” So how does an author keep someone interested for longer than seven seconds? An appealing cover!

 If you’re not a famous author…

It seems to me that no matter what Stephen King, Anne Rice, or John Grisham pick for a cover, they will always sell books. Even if they were nothing more than a blank white cover with the name of the book and author’s name, they will still sell thousands of copies. Why? Because they’ve been storytellers for so long, they don’t really need a fancy cover to attract your attention. But for those of us who do, here are some suggestions of what will get your book discovered.

Vibrant colors

Nexus of the Worlds

Colors of the rainbow and those in between will really set off your book cover to make it stand out. Just be sure that your color scheme doesn’t clash to the point of causing someone to drop your book and run. We want to attract readers not cause eye damage.

(Here are some examples of bad covers for classic literature.)

Main Character and Support

For the picture itself I would recommend the main character either alone or with a sidekick or assistant. If you look at the Doctor Who novels, The Doctor himself is almost always on the cover, since there are currently eleven different incarnations of the character, and sometimes his assistant or companion. In regards to the First Doctor and the Fifth Doctor, each had at one time three companions.

AT 2 Sibling

Too many people on your cover would appear very busy and may distract from the rest of the cover including the title of the story and the author’s name. I would suggest no more than two and at the most four. If your main characters are a Fantasy adventuring party, perhaps the group’s logo or a map of their world would be better suited.

Main Character and Villain

This would be an interesting idea if you have a recurring villain in a series of books. Again, referring to Doctor Who: Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels and The Master are recurring villains and would help sell more copies since they are the fan favorites. How interesting would it be to see The Doctor and The Master on the front cover shaking hands as allies? Copies would fly off the shelf!

Story Title

Naturally you will have the title of your book on the cover but how will it appear? Font size and style are very important. You want something simple so people can read it. I personally recall several occasions where I pick up a book but can’t make out the title because the font was too fancy (Calligraphy) that I had to look at the spine to read the title. Of course, if it were in the same font, you would have to go to the title page and pray that it’s legible. But a lot of people wouldn’t waste time to go that far just to read the title. If your title can’t be read on the cover, your seven seconds is over.

In addition, make sure your title is catchy enough to draw someone to your book. There have been times when someone tries to be clever and use a really big word as part of their title to appear smart or creative and I scratch my head. If I have to run to a dictionary just to read your title, I won’t bother with the rest of the book.

(Here are some examples of Bad Titles and Cover pages)

Limit your word usage as well. We understand if it’s book two of your series, but make sure your not getting carried away with many words. Here’s an example of my series.  Always Darkest before The Dawn, book three of The Askinar Towers. I feel that is an adequate number of words for a subtitle on any book series. For books two and three, I had put the subtitle first as it is what will draw people to look at it further.

Author’s Name

Everything listed under story title can generally be followed for the author’s name with the exception of font size. If you are Stephen King, Anne Rice, or John Grisham chances are the font size of your name will equal or be slightly larger than the title. It’s the author’s name that will see the books.

As for your name itself, you don’t necessarily have to use your real name. People have been using pen names for a long time. Or you can simply use your initials and then last name, like J.R.R. Tolkien.

My Book Covers

AT3 Darkest

Although the actual artwork of my books are not yet available, the examples I used here are from when I previously self-published them. Since I didn’t have access to money for stock photos, cover art, or Photoshop I decided to use my daughters as models since the main characters were based on them.

The first two covers were shot out on a trail near the Superstition Mountains and the third was shot in our own backyard. The girls both have dresses that they wear out to the Renaissance Festival and, since it is the focus of the early part of book three, I thought it would add to the cover. Shooting it in black and white added to the era feel plus it goes along with the title of the book.

What about you? What do you think makes an book cover appealing? Do you agree with the seven second rule? Share your opinions and comments below. If you like this article, check my one for bonus material or about tweeting your novel. Please subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss any of the articles posted here. Plus follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Happy Adventuring!


10 responses to “The Writer and the Book Cover

  1. Pingback: Judging by the Cover: Proper Formatting for Manuscripts | A Novel Adventure

  2. Sheila McGlarry

    Hey. I wrote a non-fiction book and for me my title is profound so I needed/wanted my cover to be. I wanted the cover to reflect the title so it would stand on it’s own and speak volumes. The title is, In Mourning…The Loss of a Living Child. Most people get it. There are a few who do not hence why I needed the cover to speak.
    Sheila McGkarry

    • Hi Sheila,
      Thanks for the response. You’re right about non-fiction book and their covers. I unfortunately overlooked that aspect in doing the article. The title you chose does indeed speak volumes. I hope you are successful with it.

  3. Chris – Love your photography and your covers grab the attention. Just for future info, I considered using a photo of one of my great granddaughters instead of clip art, for “the alternate safe world of Sanctuary” but the family was against it. Do you think there is any danger of photos of people on cover?
    I would consider it for 24 HOURS.
    thx mucho, Mariam

    • Hi Mariam, Thanks very much for the comments. I really don’t think there is any danger of putting photos of people on a cover provided that you get their permission. If it’s a shot of people out in public and you’re not having them pose, I don’t think there is an issue. If using friends and family you might tell them that you’ll put in a mention of them in your acknowledgements page or on the copyright page where the cover is usually listed. There are also website which make stock photos available for public use.

      I chose the photos of my daughters because I was working with a budget of $00.00 and did what I had to do to give some realism to the covers. The black and white photo was taken in our backyard at sundown near our orange tree. You wouldn’t know it if I hadn’t said so. 😀

  4. whoops, old lady mistake. I left the wrong url for reference. sorry for any confusion.

  5. Pingback: Cover Reveal–Ciara Ballintyne | Tales From The Fifth Tower

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