According to various researchers, the average amount of time, writers take to complete a book varies between a month to several years. Renowned author J.K.Rowling took almost six years to write her first novel Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It took Harper Lee more than two years to pen down the iconic book To Kill a Mockingbird. The process of writing a book consumes a lot of effort and time.
A book cover is responsible for the first impression, your months or maybe even years of hard work is going to make on a prospective reader. The jacket of your book is a shortcut for a reader to gain insight and make an appraisal of the content of the book. It is the most important brand asset a writer has. It informs the reader of the genre, tone, content and even relative quality of the book.
In fact, our minds process a book cover just like it would process a piece of art. It uses distinctive cognitive protocols to make an appraisal. Although our predisposition for the aesthetic appeal of any piece of art varies, however, symmetry is a common element across all groups as it is perceived as more beautiful by our minds. Simplicity, is another such factor, as it indicates a sense of organization regarding the contents of the book. Various researches conducted on the correlation between colour and mood, suggest that the colour schemes must be in correspondence with the genre of the book to maintain clarity.
There are many such factors that influence how a prospective reader will perceive a book cover. Here are some points one must keep in mind while designing a book cover;
1. Image is the Hero
On a shelf filled with books, the idea behind finding the right image is to have a book cover which stands out. Our minds more often than not seek cues that draw our attention to things that separate themselves from what forms the background
The primary responsibility of the image is to draw the reader in, by building relatability. For this purpose, it is important to choose an image that has a focal point. The focal points can be placed in a manner that the reader’s eyes move in the order of the placement of the elements. For example, it can move from the title to the author and then to the image, in this sense the focal points are primary, secondary and tertiary. However, these focal points must not compete with each other, rather they should work in tandem with each other.
Fiction books require an emotional approach wherein the image excites the reader, it has to narrate the essence of the story. Whereas, for non-fiction books, one must follow an intellectual approach by focusing on incorporating visual puns and metaphors in the covers. All forms of visual communication need to create anticipation and expectation.
2. Genre Appropriate
The genre of the book should act as the blueprint based on which the cover will be designed. People tend to have stable likes and interests throughout their lives. Although this is common knowledge, it is effective when designing a book cover since people who adhere to a certain genre will seek a book based on the same genre.
Thriller and mystery books should focus on covers that don’t give away too much information but it should also relay deep perspective and meaningful elements. The colours have to be valid, avoid using bright neon colours as the base since they are associated with happiness and clarity. To create mystery in the form of an image, many thriller novels partake in using blurred silhouettes to incite excitement within the reader
When it comes to the romance genre, the cover needs to be attractive as it must suggest passion and love. Romance novels often show people on the cover in order to portray a strong bond and create a dreamy state of mind.
Fantasy and sci-fi genres play on abstract images that contain elements that seem out of this world. It must comprise of a combination of dramatic actions that scream science fiction.
Many people confuse the genre of thriller with horror. However, horror books are more intense and powerful than thrillers. Covers for this genre must create an atmosphere that creates tension in the reader. Use colours that belong to a gothic palette such as red, dark brown, black or dark purple.
3. The Z Pattern
Although the pattern for the optimal cover layout often depends on how a writer wants the elements placed, however, the ‘Z’ pattern is found to be more effective. This pattern allows the reader’s eyes to move from top left to top right and from up to down in a diagonal manner and back to the right again forming an imaginary ‘Z’. It is a prevalent strategy because it captures the reader’s eyes identical to how the text in the book will engage them
Manipulating eye flow in an image gives writers the chance to ascertain what the reader will see first on the cover of the book by placing the title, subtitle and author’s name in the ‘Z’ pattern.
Typography as an element of a book cover must compliment the title and the image. It must amplify the tone set by the latter. There are three branches of typography that can incite an emotional and cognitive response; serif or sans serif, modern or script, and monospaced or proportionally spaced. The combined effort of these three elements helps create the desired response within the reader.
When deciding the typography, one must take into account the different personalities fonts have. Serif fonts are viewed as comforting and traditional whereas san-serif is considered to be minimal and objective. Modern fonts are typically perceived as strong while scripts are more creative and elegant. Monospaced fonts are regarded as vintage and ethereal while proportionally spaced font is considered as conventional.
The font you chose must mirror the tone of your book for readers to associate specific connections with it. More importantly, the text should be laid out in an easy-to-read fashion which is aesthetically pleasing.
5. To Hire or Not to Hire a Professional
Although the most important aspect when designing a book cover is to know the difference between a good design and a bad design. However, it is important to take professional help to incorporate technical guidelines. Taking into account the monetary and time-based investment one makes in writing and editing a book, the same effort must be invested in making a book cover more appealing
In order to ensure your book cover is corresponding with the storyline it is essential to approach a professional to create custom artwork. Designing a book cover with a professional is a collaborative process. You must give references in the form of a mood boards or examples of covers from the same genre to ensure clarity and a polished product. A designer comes with an experience of not just how to go about designing a cover but also what visuals work better with different genres. This enable creating a book cover which is a unique piece of art and complements the book itself. More often than not books are purchased based on the cover. Hence, a million-dollar marketing campaign will go in vain if the book cover is not appealing. For the same, hiring a professional is highly recommended.
There are numerous variables which come into play when designing a cover. However, always remember a good book cover is one where all elements work in tandem to convey the genre, tone and emotional response of your story. First impression may not always be the last impression but you can always make sure that the first impression is the best one!