Use the full power of the book cover to your advantage. Every aspect of the book has the ability to attract your ideal reader to buy your book and, more importantly, become a valuable fan and evangelist for your author business. The message on a book cover doesn’t need to be an overt sales pitches to have a positive and powerful impact. Hold your potential reader’s hand from front to back cover, through the book to the final pages where they have the opportunity and the undeniable need to reach out to you for the solution to their problem.
The Front Cover
Title and Subtitle
Brainstorm a title that grabs the reader’s attention. Use keywords that describe the reader’s pain point and allows the reader to identify himself in it. Well placed keywords help with discoverability when a reader searches the web or Amazon. Discover which books currently make the top of the search list about your subject or genre and note the title and description. The subtitle, if using one for nonfiction, is the promise to the reader. If you are writing a how-to book, you’ll show who benefits the most and describes how you’ll solve their problem. For biographies or memoirs, you’ll share your angle on the topic. For instance, A Woman of No Importance is an intriguing title, but add the subtitle, The Untold Story of an American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, and you’ve got readers.
Any graphic designer will tell you that choosing the right font will attract the right reader. Use complementary fonts (no more than 2, in general) and vary the weight (boldness), color, or use italics to bring interest and contrast to the cover. If you feel restricted by the default font choices on your computer, check out FontSquirrel for free fonts. Creative Bloq provides a few good choices for font combinations.
Whether you use a stock photo, custom illustration, or solid background, strive for a relevant and tantalizing cover. The cover design is the storefront of your effort. Don’t clog it up with unnecessary adornment or leave it so plain that it bores people before they reach for it. Research covers in your genre so readers can identify it when they see it. Clever is good, but genre-specific is better. Use free stock photo sites like Pixabay or paid sites like CanStockPhoto, iStockphoto, or Shutterstock. Read the license agreements before you purchase or download them. Never use a picture or graphic from the web without permission from the owner.
Before you slap your name on the book cover, search for it on the web and on Amazon. Consider whether there are too many people with the same name or if there is someone with a less-than-stellar history that would tarnish your perfectly good name. Your author name is with you for your writing career. Choose wisely.
The Back Cover
Even before your book is published, three things will be at the forefront of all of your book marketing materials: the book description, your author bio, and your headshot. Take the time and effort to make these the best they can be. Do it once and they will serve you in the long haul of book promotion. Sitting prominently on the back cover, this marketing trifecta entices readers to take action.
The most important piece of the back cover is the book description. This third-person account of the book or story is the billboard upon which you draw the reader in and don’t let them go. With less than 150 words, engage the reader with the hook, the underlying premise for the book, that is so compelling, the book can’t be ignored. On the blog Books and Such, Mary Keeley encourages authors to use active verbs in the hook along with strong nouns. The description should lay out the main pain point the reader faces and the outcome the reader wants to achieve. The reader should have just enough information to lean in and beg for more. Blogger Catherine Ryan Howard interviews Mark Edwards who encourages writers to read other book descriptions in their genre to get an idea of the tone.
Your author bio is a peek at you through a professional lens. Discuss your writing credentials, any honors or awards, and any personal background information that sheds light on your expertise or perspective on your particular story. Heather Hummel’s article on HuffPost, instructs authors to write 3 bios. “Write an extended bio for your website, proposals, interview sheets, and media kits; a medium length bio for queries, guest spots on other websites, and shorter marketing material; and a brief bio as a byline or for limited character social media websites.” If this is your first book publication, words like debut author and freelance writer are good places to start. If you are having trouble coming up with your own, ask a friend to describe your writer persona. A bio is always written in the third person. The bio on the back cover tops out at about 100 words.
One of the big mistakes I see from new authors is the failure to grasp the importance of a professional headshot. Cropping your head from a group photo or using a photo with bad lighting or a random background won’t cut it if you want to be viewed as a professional. If you think about all of the places this photo is used in your marketing, the cost per use is relatively low. Check out the portfolio page of photographers to get an idea of background, poses, and appropriate attire to portray the image you are seeking.
If you have reviews prior to publication, add one or more to the back cover. Nothing sells books better than social proof. Readers may choose book covers with reviews more than those without. You probably wouldn’t go to a restaurant with no reviews, right? To get the most valuable reviews, ask those who are well-known and respected in your field well in advance of publication, are authors, or your biggest fans.
The design is best when it is handled by professionals. If you choose to use a graphic designer, they should ask a lot of questions about the book prior to designing the cover. Give them the table of contents, an excerpt, and a detailed description of your book and target audience. As you bring clarity to your vision, the designer can bring the cover to life. You can find designers on Fiverr.com or Upwork.com if you are tackling book publishing yourself. Self-publishing services companies will also design just the right look for your book.
If you choose to tackle the design yourself, search Amazon or Barnes & Noble for books in your category. Get a sense of the mood and design of other covers. Find where other cover designs are lacking or take a direction that helps your book stand out. Create a cover that makes you proud to hug it to your chest or hoist it high in the air like a newly crowned literary champion.
Do you have a compelling book cover? Please share the link in the comments.