While we’ve been told the opposite since childhood, a book’s cover is going to be heavily judged. As an author, this should both terrify and excite you. A well-designed book cover can sell a teen romance novel to your grandmother, whereas a poorly designed cover can prevent the world’s next bestseller from ever being read. We’ve all seen book cover ideas that are laid out poorly or have illegible titles, but even those who are cautious to avoid these mistakes must ask themselves one question: what the heck are you trying to convey about your book?

There are three specific things you must take into consideration when you are planning your book’s cover. Whether you are trying your hand at creating the visual yourself or enlisting the aid of a professional designer, this mini-checklist will help ensure that you are not marketing your memoir as a murder mystery (unless, of course, you’re a murderer).

1. Choose colors for your book cover ideas wisely.

This seems to be the simplest of suggestions, but is so often overlooked. A color scheme can make or break the cover of a book. Have you written a coming-of-age novel about a teenage boy during the prohibition era? Blood red text on a black background is probably not a suitable color combination. Is your science fiction story about interspecies political battles on war-torn Jupiter ready for a cover? Perhaps pastels are not for you.

A properly chosen theme of colors can really help to convey the message and mood of your book. Colors translate immediately to the human eye, long before images and text are registered. Gentle, subdued tones can express sentimentality, while more contrasting colors can imply conflict. Obvious associations may be drawn as well, such as shades of blue to imply water, though these can read as trite if overused.

2. Choose imagery that suggests your content.

This issue is twofold in cover design. First, we’ll tackle the obvious: don’t use images that fail to represent what your book is about. If you have a collection of anecdotal dating advice, even the most beautiful photograph of an empty beach does not efficiently represent your subject matter. Choose photographs and graphics that are directly associated with the written material.

On the contrary, many authors decide to be too “on the nose” with the imagery on their covers. A story about a troubled clown need not include a sharp illustration of a juggling, white-faced character. A better choice in this case would be a soft-focus circus landscape or an abandoned make-up table. The idea here is to suggest your content, not illustrate it literally.


3. Choose a font that is clear and appropriate.

Again, this issue has two aspects worth addressing. Legibility is the primary focus, of course. If you cannot read the title and author of the book, why would you ever choose to open it (or click the link) and learn more? Make sure that your font weight is heavy enough to stand out against busier background images and that any “fancy” fonts used are still easy to read from a distance (or as a thumbnail image). If the title isn’t clear when the cover is reduced in size or read at a distance, you may as well not have put a title on your book at all.

The second mistake many authors make in designing their covers is choosing a font face that does not accurately reflect their book. A swirly, majestic font could be great for a medieval romance, but it is wholly inappropriate for a tale about street punks in the ’70s. Authors should also be wary of fonts that are too decorated, even if they seem to suit the content. This decreases legibility and will often look silly as an end result.

There are numerous decision to be made when planning out the cover for a book. You’ve spent countless hours writing, so why scrimp on time when it comes to packaging? While it may not be ideal, the cover of your book will inevitably decide whether or not a reader decides to investigate further. With all the work that already goes into self publishing, it makes sense to take a little extra time and care to make sure your cover properly represents your work.