Some months back—heavens, in April—I wrote a post on my own website (www.booknook.biz) entitled “Cover Design Calypso,” in which I discussed “what makes a great book cover?”At the time, I likened it both to pornography (“I can’t define a great cover but I know it when I see it”) and to frozen dinners (“People buy frozen dinners based not upon the actual content of the bag or box or TV-Dinner-Tray, but, rather, based upon which company has put the best picture on the cover of the box.”) In other words, as painful as it is to those of us who believe that the words rule the book and its world, the truth is that covers, absolutely, irrefutably and indisputably, sell books--particularly eBooks.
So, having accepted that shocking truth, how do we mine for great cover design?It’s been my experience that authors, in general, envision their book covers as if they are watching a movie in an IMAX™ theater…a grand rolling epic, sprawled across a massive screen, with THX sound, telling the awesomeness contained within. Or, even when considering space, thinking of it on an 8½x11” sheet of paper. But the reality is that 99% of the viewing (and buying!) public will only see your book cover the same size that it is displayed on Amazon.com, (or Barnes & Noble) which is a whopping 88x135px (1.2 inches by 1.88 inches), or on the book page itself, a whopping 160x240px (1.75 inches by 2.5 inches). That’s not a lot of real estate in which to grab someone’s attention and hold it.
So, what to do? Remember THIS: one, single, strong central element. Don’t make a cover too busy, and don’t try to tell your entire story on its tiny little face—that’s what the book is for, to tell the tale. When you find yourself thinking, “I want a vampire and a heroine with a bloody neck and a knife and the magic cup and an amulet and a wolfpack in the background and…” JUST SAY NO. A cover is supposed to catch the eye; to pique curiosity; to impart a feeling. It needs to reach out to people and make them want to pick up that book (literally or metaphysically) and read it. If you need to remind yourself what BAD cover design is, roll on over to Fixabook and check out both good and bad covers. If that doesn’t convince you, simply tootle around Amazon.com, and find one—just ONE—busy cover that you love. Can’t do it? Remember that when your next cover comes around.Seth Godin, chatting it up at The Domino Project, has issuedbooks that have no title text whatsoever on the covers—neither title nor author name, although the spines have both—and argues that there are compelling reasons not to have either. Of course, not everyone has the clout—or the hubris—to simply put their last name on the spine as a tell-all/signature/branding. I don’t love his cover, myself; but Godin’s a guru, and what he says does carry weight. Will your next book have text on its cover?
Lastly, on the topic of covers, just for fun: this is a hoot. I laughed my patooties off. That's it for today, gang!