Publishing, Talent
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Authors: How To Help Decide On The Best Cover Design For Your Book

By now you would have heard that traditionally published or not, a professional should handle your book cover design. This is important because it has been statistically determined that cover design is one of the six major factors that influence the success of a book. But that does not mean that as an author, you cannot influence how it turns out.

If you’re traditionally published, the designs are usually sent to you before your work is sent into print. If you don’t like what you see, you can speak to your agent (and I emphasis, ONLY your agent) about it. Tell him/her exactly how you feel and let them take it from there. If you’re self-published, it is much easier. You will be dealing directly with the designer, and it is important to follow the progress of the design at every stage so it turns out exactly the way you believe it should.

Whatever you do, do not leave everything in the hands of the designer or publisher. Be very much interested in how your cover turns out. This does not mean that you should make trouble. There are professional/ethical ways to negotiate.

No one knows your story like you do, and your story has a direct impact on how your book cover will turn out. While the designer is good at his job (otherwise he wouldn’t be handling your work), I assure you that as the author of the book you have an eye unique to you to view things in a way that no one else can. Whatever happens though, keep an open mind. Sometimes it may not turn out like anything you expected, but really good nonetheless. Do not insist on specifics. There are other ways to contribute.


  1. Emotional Connection. As a rule, if you cannot have a reader emotionally invested in your book, then you haven’t succeeded in satisfying that reader. What most people fail to understand is that this connection begins with the cover of the book. This has a lot to do with strong and powerful graphics/imagery and mind-blowing colors. If you feel the entire design or some part of it is holding out on the emotional strength of your book, say so. Try to explain the intensity of the story until your designer can fully comprehend what you’re saying so that he can display it in his work. Graphic designers are usually very good at capturing emotion in paint or ink, virtual or not.
  2. Make A Promise. A cover MUST be able to promise the reader a good read. This promise should tell the reader what to expect from the book. And keep in mind that your book MUST deliver that promise. Humans are visual beings and can easily connect and interpret a work of art. Keeping that in mind, if you think that the design is promising what the book isn’t offering, say so. Remember that you are trying to build a readership. If you disappoint your readers by misleading them with a cover, they might not trust your next book. At the same time, if the cover isn’t promising all that the book has to offer, that is, it is holding out on your story, say so and say what you think is missing.
  3. Tell The Whole Story. I’m a book reviewer. And sometimes while reviewing for publishers, book reviewers are asked to rate the cover. One criterion I use is if the cover told the whole story of the book in one picture. I should be able to see a romance cover and know that it is. Or a mystery, or fantasy etc. But it doesn’t stop there. The design should go further and tell me if it is historical, contemporary or prairie. It still goes further. Certain elements should tell me in a visual sense what to expect from the story. I recently reviewed the book Be Still My Soul. And the down-cast eyes and meek expression on the girl’s face told me she was a shy character just as the back-cover copy suggested. And the young man’s back turned against her as he walked down the mountain suggested they had a rough relationship. Also, the mountainous environment on the cover told explicitly about the setting. See? That’s how it works. That cover summarized the story in one picture and I gave it a five. You can read the review here, here and here (if you’re a book blogger for WaterBrook Multnomah, feel free to rate the book). Take a critical look at your cover and ask yourself, does it tell the story or not?
  4. It Must Be A Wower. Of course it must! If after every said and done from numbers one through three and it defects in not wowing a potential reader, then all your work is [almost] all for nothing. Remember this is important for the success of the book. Most writers are avid readers, so here you will have to appeal to your reader side. Be very honest with yourself. If you walked into book store or surfed the internet, would this cover wow you? The best thing about this question is that the answer is a quick yes or no. A cover either wows you or it doesn’t. Any in-betweens is a consideration on your part to give the book a try, after considering other factors like the title, author, back-cover copy, blurb and others. Try as much as possible to understand first, what it is about the cover that you don’t like. Don’t just say, “I don’t like it.” That’s not professional or constructive. Be patient in explaining not only why you don’t approve of it, but also, why you think it is not helpful to the book. That way your designer will most likely agree with you and gladly take your advice.

So there. Just a few ways you can contribute to getting the best cover design for your book. I hope you can see now the strategic position you occupy in bringing about the best book cover. Remember, don’t be shy, rude or unprofessional. You can work with your designer, or agent/publisher if you give it your best shot. And yes, keep an open mind always.


What other ways do you think as an author you can contribute to a great book cover design? If you’re a designer, how would you like an author to be helpful to you while you design their cover? Click here to comment.

1 Comment

  1. monkeyfacekim says

    Great! I’m coming out with a book myself and I was having a little difficulty about my book cover. Thank you for the amazing tips! 🙂

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