Beyond the Page-First Steps to a Great Cover by Kate DeHart

Before getting more serious about my writing, I’d never put much thought into book cover design. Of course there were covers that caught my eye, but I never dug much deeper into why that was true.

As I got further into my first novel, I began to think about what kinds of things I wanted on my own cover. I started on a design with the help of a friend, and actually ended up really happy with it. The cover got great feedback from those I showed it to.

In full disclosure, I’ve studied photography, and have dabbled in graphic design over the last 15 years. Digital design was something I was familiar with.

As one of my close friends entered the world of cover design, I was intrigued. I discussed my interest with her, and she encouraged me to explore designing covers myself.

I was skeptical. I’d been told many times I had a good eye. But I wasn’t confident I’d know what made a book cover good, and didn’t know if I would have any talent at creating them myself. I’d only practiced with my own covers and some other book graphic promotional items. And yet, I couldn’t put the idea out of my mind. And apparently neither could my friends.

Several months later, two of my close friends began talking to me about creating a pre-made book cover group featuring all three of our designs. Both of them were writers, one of them having a background in photography and design, and the other having some photography background and web and graphic design skills.

They both had faith in me, and I had faith in them. Despite my initial fears, I was anxious to be a part of this with them. We spent hours discussing our plans and ideas, thoroughly researching the book cover world. I began downloading stock photography and practicing in my spare time.

What I quickly learned was that I loved creating book covers. I also learned that my previous photography and design skills came in handy.

Not everyone can be a book cover designer. Many of the skills I’ve been using have taken me years to learn and use well. But even if you’re not designing your own cover, you will probably be giving a lot of input and thought into what you want your cover design to be. Here are some of the design elements I’ve learned along the way.

Less is More

Often, when writers first start out trying to explain their story, their first instinct is to sum up the entire thing. In my experience, I often lose people by the second sentence. That’s when I learned to keep it concise. Suddenly the same people paid attention.

When thinking of a cover design, you might start off trying to fit as many elements from your literary masterpiece as you can. But, your cover isn’t a shelf with everything important from your book displayed on it. (Though now that I said that, I’m intrigued by the idea of a white cover, with a shelf in the center with symbolic knickknacks.)

Your cover is a place to give readers a feel for what kind of story lies within. Most of your readers’ imagery is going to come from your own words. Often single or simple elements can create more impact than multiple elements that might be distracting.

Font Choices

Like the images for the cover itself, font choices can easily become distracting. Despite knowing this, when I first began designing covers I often tried to do too much with fonts. I thought I was scaling back, but I was often unhappy with the results.

Fonts can be used to tell the style of your story. They can be used to create feeling through color, design, and style.

The trick is to keep them in balance with your other elements. The busier the cover, the more plain fonts can stand out. The same goes for very simple covers with single elements as the focus. You have more room for fancier fonts and stylized design. Mixing too many styles of font can take away from the rest of your design.

Color

Colors are a great way to create mood. They can make your cover eye-catching, especially when thumbnails make it hard for you to stand out. Too many colors, unless the rainbow itself is the theme, can distract focus, especially when your cover is in tiny form. If you’re using an image full of colors, monotone lettering might be the way to go. If your cover is more monotone itself, adding color with font is a great way to add pop. If you’re somewhere in the middle, selecting a color from another element on the cover is a great way to tie in your design.

Image Choice

Whether you go for original artwork or photography, the images you decide on for your cover is one of the most important elements in your cover design. Good quality images are very important. Everything that goes on your cover is introducing your reader to the quality that goes within. People do judge books by their cover. Unfortunate in some cases, but true.

Something clear and eye-catching helps get readers’ attention. If you’re using stock photography, combining more than one image is a way to make your cover unique.

 

All of these elements, you may or may not have full control over. Especially when you’re using a designer. But often you’ll have some input, and looking for these basic elements can help you decide on the cover that’s going to make your book have the most success.

If you’re interested in my designs, you can view them on the Facebook group, Premade Cover Cafe in my album, Beyond the Page. This month my fellow designers and I are giving away three full cover packages. All you need to enter is be a member of the group. We draw at the end of the month!

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