As an avid book reader, I fully admit I do judge a book by its cover. I am constantly aware of this, but I’ll admit I do it anyways and usually follow it by an excuse of “I’m a designer; it’s my job.” However, most customers do too; even if they don’t admit it or don’t realize they are doing it. Good cover design can grab the attention of the reader. Just the same, bad design can turn them away. After all would you trust a barber with a bad haircut? Most of us aren’t conscious of these decisions, but they happen regardless. Think about it, what is the last book you read? What made you chose that book?

The bookstore or library is full of competition, literally around every corner. Online it’s even worse, so it’s imperative that your book can hold its own with the cover alone. With that said, what makes a book stand out of the crowd?

1. Avoid what is too obvious.

You want to capture your audience, yes, but this can be done without using the most obvious images. For example, if your book is about finance would you use a picture of a piggy bank or a sharply dressed man? The piggy bank is the most obvious, but by using a man who is dressed to impress, you give your reader something to strive for. After all, the target audience in this case would be someone who wants to learn how to succeed financially, and a man who obviously has is a better image than a piggy bank that does nothing emotionally to the reader.

2. Keep your focus on the topic.

Contrasting to the above, it is important to keep your focus on the theme of your book. You don’t want to stray too far away from the topic or you confuse your reader and lose that important trust. For example, let’s say your book is about cooking. It is obvious to have food on the cover, but in this case it’s the focus, and therefore successful. The book’s focus is food, so using an image of a beach, for example, would be distracting and confusing. Unless of course, the book is about beach food.

3. Keep it to the imagination.

One of the best parts of reading is creating this whole world in your head from the descriptive qualities the author creates. You create your own character, and the world they live in. Very rarely will two readers have the same pictures in their head, it’s part of the magic created when reading. If you give away too much on the cover it takes away from the imagination. This is one example that less is more.

4. Think like the reader, not the author.

One of the most important parts to remember is first impression. Your reader decides if they want to pick up your book and explore it more in only a few seconds. You want them to connect to the book, but you also want them to be curious. Sometimes curiosity can lead to confusion if the design is contradicting to the title or theme of the book. It’s a fine line between the two, your designer will help you walk that line.

5. Hiring a professional.

Seems like a no-brainer, but many people feel hiring a professional is a luxury instead of a necessity. However, there are so many components to cover design that the average person doesn’t necessarily realize. Wouldn’t you say the same about being an author?