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        7 Essential Elements of a Book Cover Design

        • calenderAug 30, 2022
        • calender 7 min read

        One deciding factor in making a book a best-seller—out of the thousands available at a bookstore—is its book cover design. Some classics can be recognized to this day by their iconic covers alone (for example: The Godfather by Mario Puzo). So, what ideas for book covers can you use to captivate the attention of any reader who comes knocking?

        Why is book cover design important?

        A book cover tells your readers what to expect from your book. It makes readers stop their stroll through the bookstore and pause in front of your book. It directs them from various corners of the internet to your Goodreads profile or website, or your book’s Amazon retail page. So, a book cover is also an essential marketing tool!

        But before you begin to dream of bestselling book cover designs, you need to find a designer. Before you go looking for this designer, you need to learn how to brief one about a particular design. And before this, you need to be well-versed in what the basic parts of a book cover design are.

        Let’s get straight to it, then. Here are the seven essential elements of a book cover design:

        A man looks at an open book cover design with its parts displayed: 1. Title 2. Subtitle 3. Cover Design 4. Spine 5. Author Bio 6. Endorsements and Reviews

        1. A riveting title for the book

        You may have googled “ideas for book covers” in hopes of design inspirations, but things like the title, the subheading, and author bio are essential parts of a book cover! Take any book cover example: aren’t your eyes drawn to the title first?

        Your book title is the first text piece a reader will look at when they stop to consider your book. Obviously, it needs to be cleverly devised.

        A title should be easy to read and easy to remember. Remember, you’re designing a cover for potential readers, which means you need to be as direct and straightforward in your title as possible. This gets even more important for a nonfiction book cover.

        In a book title, clarity and directness are often as important as wit and intrigue.

        Let’s take a look at some book cover examples:

        Four books with evocative titles, namely: "The 4-Hour Workweek", "A Game of Thrones", "The Korean Vegan", and "A Brief History of Time".

        2. An evocative subtitle

        In the book covers above, do you notice how the title is always accompanied by a smaller line of text? That is the subtitle. It provides additional information about your book through a clear line that complements the book title.

        If the title is the hook that draws eyes to your book, the subtitle should finish the job. It should make people want to pick up your book and study it further.

        A great subtitle gives more context to an otherwise obscure title and adds some new information to it. In Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies, for example, the title is intriguing but obscure. It is the subtitle that offers a short but effective clarification, in the phrase “a short biography of cancer.”

        The front cover of "The Emperor of All Maladies", where the subtitle reads "A Biography of Cancer".

        You can also observe how the subtitles for A Brief History of Time and The Korean Vegan Cookbook provide more information about the books.

        3. Interesting typography

        Typography is the part of book cover design that highlights your title and subtitle, making them stand out. Great ideas for book covers always translate the central theme of the book through the typography.

        It helps to keep the genre in mind while deciding upon the font and style for your book. Nonfiction and self-help books benefit from a modern font while books in the fantasy genre can afford elaborate fonts. Let’s take a look at the following book cover examples:

        The typography of two book covers on display: "To Asia, With Love" and "Dune".

        As you can see, words can also be turned into shapes. The mark of a great cover designer is their ability to combine cover art and the words on the cover into one coherent whole.

        4. Coherent cover design and layout

        Book cover design layout is the perfect blend of typography and imagery, the most important parts of a book cover design. It communicates the single message you want to give your readers when they buy your book. For this, it is crucial that you have a perfect understanding of your target audience. You need to know exactly who you’re selling to, so you can determine how you’ll be selling to them.

        A good cover design layout will leave a clear idea of your book in the reader’s mind. Once you know what this idea is, you can decide on colors, images, and font types that complement it. If you’re crafting a mystery, a large, foreboding title with shadowy images is a fairly standard cover prototype. In the case of romances, bright colors and happy images are the way to go. No matter your specific case, you need to make sure that all elements on the cover work together.

        Here are a few self-explanatory examples as to why the following cover design and layouts work in the book’s favor:

        Three examples of cover design and layout: "Flowers on the Moon", "In Bibi's Kitchen", and "Sapiens".

        5. Endorsements and reviews

        In the digital world, reviews and ratings appear right alongside your book’s entry, on any retailing service. But in the case of printed books, you don’t have scores of reviews readily available. Here, reviews are printed over the front and back cover as a mark of quality. 

        “Blurbs”, as they are called, go on the front and back of the cover. These are the reviews by prominent critics, authors, or newspapers that help you sell more copies. Positive comments made by these reviewers can be printed on the cover. They act as social proof to validate your book.

        Usually, the shorter reviews appear on the front cover of a book while longer, detailed ones appear on the back. Here’s a handy back cover example:

        The front and back cover of "God of Small Things", displaying endorsements and reviews.

        6. A well-placed author bio

        Whenever they’re looking at a book, readers instinctively want to know the author. The author bio is printed on the back cover to serve this purpose. It tells your future readers about who you are as a writer. It’s usually about three sentences long and is accompanied by information on where the readers can find you online, such as your blog or website address.

        What you mention here also depends on your genre. If you’re a fiction writer, it helps to establish an author persona. If your book is nonfiction, you’re better off presenting yourself as an expert in your subject. Mention your credentials and other work in this specific field.

        An author bio helps you market yourself and establish an author brand. While selling your book, you’re also selling yourself as a talented writer.

        Book back cover examples featuring two author bios.

        7. An eye-catching spine

        It’s a luxury to have your book extensively marketed and stacked tall in any given bookstore. Sadly, this is not the case for self-published writers. Your book will probably have to share space with its genre rivals on a bookshelf, with only its spine for display. If this small space is to capture the readers’ eyes, it must be striking.

        The spine is cohesive with the design and theme of the entire cover. The choice of text here is particularly crucial. Remember, the spine of a book only features the title, the author’s name, and maybe the logo of your publishing company, if you’re going the traditional route.

        Here are some interesting examples:

        Spines of "Spring Moon", "Bad Food Britain", "The Bay of Noon", "I Have a Dream", "In a Dark Wood", and "The Great Alone".

        All the great ideas for book covers use these seven parts to make up one brilliant whole. Be sure to use them well, because having a great book cover design is an essential step to book marketing! Go ahead then, be on your way to brief your designer!

        If you’d like to know the cost of book cover design, read this article.

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        Prasanna Linkedin

        Prasanna is on a little break from academia and spends his time compiling fiction writing tips. He enjoys poetry, mythology, and drawing lotuses on any surface he can find.

        One comment on “7 Essential Elements of a Book Cover Design

        1. Teresa Flores says:

          Informative article and a great choice of book cover examples!

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